Director, Writer, Producer Tackles Terrorism, Father's Rights, Outdoor Action-Adventure
The events of September 11, 2001 inspired a few Hollywood types to produce terrorism-themed content, but what separated New York native Richmond Riedel from the rest is Target Practice--his revealing film of how terrorism hits close to home from the most uncommon of corners. Interestingly enough, it only made sense for Mr. Riedel to pursue a film career, as the kid from Tarrytown, New York -- which is a mere 40-minute train ride up the Hudson River from New York City -- is the home of author Washington Irving (The History of New York) and the setting of his classic short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
“Yeah, it’s a real place,” Mr. Riedel said of Sleepy Hollow. “I graduated from Sleepy Hollow High School, and our football mascot was a guy who rode around on a horse with his sweater pulled up over his head. Very scary. I was a wrestler; we didn’t get a mascot because they wouldn’t let the horse in the gym.”
Just as “scary” is how Mr. Riedel pursued his film career, as the filmmaker went guerrilla-style in making some intriguing storylines.
“As a kid, I wrote a lot of short stories and started making movies with a camera that my dad got for me -- stories and movies about people getting killed by man-eating rats and crickets and sasquatches,” Mr. Riedel told Buzzine. “Then I evolved and started writing stories and making movies about people getting killed by other people.”
It was a motif that would soon define Mr. Riedel’s career, as is quiet evident in Target Practice -- a grim and dark film about how scarily close to home terrorism really is in the United States. Starring Joey Lanai, Eltony Williams, Eric Dean, Aaron Hawk, and Solomon Hoilett, Target Practice was named Action Film of the Year at the 2008 Action on Film Festival, among other accolades.
“I came up with the idea for Target Practice after reading a variety of reports about training camps for homegrown terrorists in wooded, isolated areas of the U.S. and Canada -- places like Marion, Alabama or Orillia, Ontario (Canada),” Mr. Riedel observed. “It’s a scary, important topic, but it’s also an uncomfortable one to deal with because there are PC considerations involved -- groups and religions that may feel you’re presenting them in an unfavorable light, or stereotyping, or profiling, and studios seem to be steering well clear of the subject matter.
“Target Practice is basically a bigger, more mature, more timely reworking of that short little film I started in high school. It wasn’t much of a leap to ponder the question, ‘What if a small group of average guys ran into one of these camps that have been popping up in the news?’”
Making movies based upon newsworthy events seems to be another angle Mr. Riedel is adding to his storytelling repertoire, especially with one of his next productions currently on deck. A reality-based tale about fathers' rights, quite the hot topic in legal circle for about a decade now, Mr. Riedel hopes the film will fully educate audiences on what is quite an important yet under-reported issue.
“It deals with a situation arising from a child custody dispute, inspired by a situation I was faced with myself,” Mr. Riedel told Buzzine of the planned film. “You think fathers' rights and family issues, you might be thinking lectures and pamphlets, but it’s actually more of a dark thriller/tragedy. “Think Kramer vs. Kramer meets Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with a strong dose of Fatal Attraction. And it’s not just concerned with fathers' rights; it’s about the rights of both parents and their children to have healthy relationships with each other.”
Mr. Riedel delved deeper into why the issue of fathers' rights and its related family issues is an important one to comprehend.
“If you’re going to split up and you’ve got children, that’s tough enough. But when one parent is relentlessly belligerent and tries to cut the other parent out of the lives of their children, making false accusations about abuse and violent behavior, it’s a poisonous situation,” he said of the planned project, which is entitled What Tigers Do. My children and I went through an extremely tough time with my ex-wife. I spent more than six years and vast sums of money defending myself against a barrage of false accusations. It took the court a long, long time to realize what was going on, to recognize the patterns of lies and manipulation, and to act, but I now have full custody of my children and I’ve remarried, and things are great.
“Sadly, that’s not the way it works out most of the time. I actually had to initiate Hague proceedings in the Canadian courts when my ex-wife refused to obey a court order to return one of our children from Toronto.”
Of course, Mr. Reidel is not solely about stories based upon terrorist camps and the Hague Convention. He is also a big fan of action movies underneath the big blue sky.
“I also wanted to do an outdoor adventure film -- something in the vein of Deliverance and Southern Comfort. I’d always been a fan of the genre, and in fact I shot a short film when I was in high school called Open Season about a group of hunters getting picked off in the woods by unseen gunmen,” Mr. Riedel -- who has collaborated or worked with the likes of Michael Mann, John Carpenter, and David Lynch, among others -- told Buzzine.
In that vein, Mr. Riedel is also working on a project that, while not a sequel to Target Practice, “is more of an expansion of the same themes and topics.”
Ultimately, Mr. Riedel is all about films that are well-written and well-told.
“I’m just interested in telling good stories. They don’t have to be ‘message’ movies, but they obviously have to concern subjects and storylines that interest me,” Mr. Riedel said. “I wrote a film called Charades about some friends that get together for a backyard barbeque. Things start unraveling when one of them turns out to be a psychopath and starts playing the others off each other. I’ve had a couple of other scripts optioned as well, (including) … Sonic Boom about road rage and the toll of career/financial/family stress on the American worker … Don’t think you’d catch me writing a musical, though.”
Officially released in November 2010, Target Practice is now avaliable on Netflix.