“Groove,” a feature film written and directed by Rockville Centre-raised Ryan McDonough that chronicles New York City subway musicians and the unique lives they lead, was released last month on various streaming platforms.
The 82-minute film’s April 27 release on Amazon, iTunes, Xbox, Vudo, Google Play and Vimeo came after months of screenings, during which McDonough and his colleagues were honored for their work. McDonough won Best Director at the Long Island International Film Expo, and “Groove” was named Best American Independent Feature Film at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
“We weren’t sure what to expect,” said McDonough, who grew up in the village and attended St. Agnes Cathedral School before graduating from Chaminade in 2012. “We just wanted to make the movie and then anything after that was a bonus.”
The idea for the film came while McDonough, 23, took acting classes in Manhattan one summer. He would frequently see musicians playing tunes in various subway stations, and the fictional story he subsequently created was based on the dozens of subway musicians he spoke with. He wrote the script before his senior year of college at the University of Michigan.
Sydney Shepherd, who plays one of the main characters, Melanie Matthews, is, in real life, in a band called Bandits on the Run, which jams on the subway, and has performed on Broadway, making her a perfect fit for the film, McDonough said. Other leads include Samuel Forrest, who spent years as the lead singer and guitarist of the British rock band Nine Black Alps, and Sha James Beamon, a musician born and raised in New York that performs at comedy clubs around the city.
In the film, the three main characters meet and try to advance their music careers with the opportunity to get out of the Subway and perform on a bigger stage: Groove, the coveted music competition held in Brooklyn at the end of the summer.
In addition to original music performed by the characters in the film, McDonough hunted down New York City indie bands to make up the soundtrack, he said, including the Post Nobles, a group with members from Rockville Centre, Oceanside and Island Park.
The Post Nobles’ Denis O’Leary, of Rockville Centre, said the band plans to release an album this summer. “We’re going to jump off the curtails of this release,” he said, “so hopefully we’ll be able to ride the wave as it goes.”
Gunpowder & Sky, a global marketing and distribution company, helped bring “Groove” to the various online platforms, as the film is expected to click with a younger adult audience.
“The first challenge is getting a company to want to help,” McDonough said. “…Since then, the challenge has been, OK, now that the movie’s out, how do you let people know?” In addition to word of mouth, buzz about the film is being spread through the musicians and crew involved through social media and other channels. McDonough said he hopes to have “Groove” ultimately land on Netflix or YouTube Red.
“Anyone with a New York connection or that has this kind of passion for music seems to be really enjoying it,” he said. “That’s what makes the movie special.”
McDonough, who had moved to Los Angeles to work at a talent agency, said he has most recently been writing stories for a Facebook site called TXT Stories. Though still publicizing “Groove,” McDonough has his eye on a new project: a comedy, also set in New York City, dealing with SantaCon, an annual pub crawl during which people dress up as Santa Claus. He said he hopes to begin shooting in December.