Get to know director Danny A. Abeckaser and ‘Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story’
Director Danny A. Abeckaser has been growing as an indie director over the years thanks to his first two features, Mob Town and First We Take Brooklyn. But when he stepped into the role of director for Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story, it was personal.
Growing up on the streets of Brooklyn with the basketball legend, and even playing him in pick-up games back in the day, Abeckaser knows his source material well. No one would have picked a better director for Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story. The film will debut October 30th on digital platforms and VOD.
We spoke with Abeckaser about directing Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story and his journey as an indie filmmaker.
Tell us about your journey into filmmaking. What did you do before becoming a filmmaker?
Before I became a filmmaker, I was working in nightlife. But I always had the desire to get into filmmaking and acting.
Is there any film or TV show that inspired you to enter the world of film?
Well, every Martin Scorsese movie inspired me. Those were always the top.
What was the first film you ever worked on, and what did you learn from it?
First film I worked on was Black and White. I helped secure some “cool people” to be in a scene for the producer. I remember how exciting it was to be on set. I learned a lot. Mostly that it takes an army to make a movie.’
Who are your current influences?
Anyone who’s out there making movies. I am influenced by so many things on a daily basis. My friends, my peers, iconic actors and directors, experiences growing up and as an adult, my family.
Walk us through your creative process.
My creative process is to stay in the moment. I do the work the night before and on the day I just try to stay calm and in the moment by talking to my team, and going with my gut and what feels right at the time. Being in the moment is exciting and I thrive on the energy. This way you do not overthink things and the result is more genuine.
Do you listen to any music to help you get in a creative state of mind?
I always listen to music. Music definitely helps me be creative.
Do you consider yourself an indie filmmaker? If so, do you ever see yourself not being one?
Yes, I’m 100% indie right now. This is the third film I have directed, and I have produced over 10 films through my production company. I have been a part of festival movies, and indie releases. And yes, if the opportunity came about, I would love to work with a bigger budget, of course.
What made you want to found your production company, 2B Films?
I started 2B Films so I could make the movies I wanted. There were stories I wanted to tell and films I wanted to make, and I do not ever take no for an answer, I find a way to get it done, even if I have to do it myself, which is usually the case. And I am very proud of that.
Do you have any experience with mentors? If so, would you recommend them for up and coming filmmakers?
I don’t have one particular mentor. I have so many. They don’t even know they are my mentors.
Have you always been a fan of Jackie Ryan and his basketball legacy?
Soooo I played against Jackie Ryan when I was a kid in my park in Brooklyn on Avenue O and East 12st. He was amazing and the impression he made always stayed with me. So yeah, I’ve always been a fan and wanted to tell this story in my own way and do him the justice he deserves.
What drew you to be a part of Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story?
I love basketball and movies. It was a no brainer. My two favorite things.
What was your experience like on Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story?
Making Blackjack was the hardest movie I ever made to date. So much happened against me, and every time I thought we had something solved, another issue arose, but I still pulled it off. I am very passionate about this film and everyone involved was so incredible to work with. I had a great team and was surrounded by great, talented people.
Why was important your vision for Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story to be featured on screen?
Well, a few of my favorite movies growing up were Rocky and Raging Bull. I love a great underdog story. People can relate to Jackie as he’s your everyday guy with a dream, and that element was important to me. I wanted to show that anyone can have a shot if you put the work in.
Do you think your film properly captures the story of Jackie Ryan?
Yes, and I believe he will agree. Jackie was on set all the time, almost daily, and gave input on different scenarios for accuracy. He is a great guy. The movie shows the story I was looking to tell, and the characters highlight the elements of the storyline I wanted to portray to the audience.
Is there a part of the filmmaking process you prefer over the other steps?
I love all of it, but definitely shooting the scenes and being on set is my favorite. I just love it. I love being on set.
What’s your five year plan?
To keep making movies – directing, producing, and acting in them. I have a ton more movies I am looking to create.
What is next on the docket for you?
Well we have Blackjack coming out October 30th, so right now I am focused on promoting this film. It will be on Amazon, iTunes and VOD, and select theatres (Covid-19 permitting). Next on the acting front I have the film Lansky coming out, which I acted in.
What advice would you offer a younger version of yourself?
I feel good about many of the choices I have made. I would just remind him that as long as you gave it your best, that is all you can do, and to be okay with the fact that you gave it your best, even if the outcome was not what you planned for.