Harley Di Nardo is a screenwriter, director, and Actor who is currently enjoying the success of the filmDead Envy.” The thrilling movie chronicles an aging rock star who gets in over his head via a protege who turns out to be less than perfect.

The movie is semi-autobiographical and the debut feature film of Harley Di Nardo and his co-writer, Stacy Hullah. The movie enjoyed its world premiere at the well-respected Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival and secured the title of “Best Thriller.”

Harley discussed this film and his hopes for the future of his entertainment career via an exclusive interview on August 17, 2018.

Movies, characters, casting, and plots

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get into acting and when did you decide to start writing Movies and directing them too?

Harley Di Nardo (HDN): Since I was a kid, I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be in the film, some shape or form. I wrote my first script when I was about ten years old. It was called ‘The Golden Glove,’ I still have it. Then, when I got into High School and discovered Rock n’ Roll, the film took a backseat for about fifteen years. However, I knew that someday I would revisit that childhood dream. It happened when I was living in New York City several years back. My music world had entered a lull, and I decided then that I was going to go for it, and I enrolled in the Strasberg Film Institute.

I studied method acting and script development. From there I started booking small roles to get into the practice. I started making my own stuff so that I could create my own opportunities and not have to be waiting on someone else to come along and help me. I started with building it up, brick by brick … music videos, then short films, and now features.

Make your own opportunities. Don’t wait.

MM: “Dead Envy” is semi-autobiographical, so can you tell us a bit about the history surrounding the story?

HDN: Sure. I have always supported myself in the off times as a hairstylist. I was in bands for many years as well. I toured the world and made two albums. I own a salon in Malibu right now … and I used to own salons in New York.

I’ve been taught to write what you know, for many reasons. For one, you don’t have to research something that will take a lot of time to develop, if you know it already. I also didn’t have to learn how to play a hairstylist. It would look authentic. Then for years, while I was cutting hair in New York, I still longed to be back on the stage in front of crowds, waking up in a different city every morning, seeing the world, doing what I love. I would've done anything to be back there. That’s where David’s world comes in. He is me, I am him. Javy came to me from reading “Catcher in the Rye” which is one of my favorite books, and the book that Mark Chapman read when he was convinced John Lennon was a phony and killed him.

Javy was inspired by Mark Chapman.

MM: What do you like most about the characters and the plot and have you a favorite scene?

HDN: I love David and Cecily’s relationship. It’s very real. It has the aspect of a wife willing to follow her husband and his aspirations even when it could be detrimental to their marriage. She’s all in. Samantha Smart shines in that role. She played it perfectly. My favorite scene has to be when David and Javy go to a club to see a band and Javy drugs, David. The scene gets all psychedelic and trippy, and right then we intercut Dawn having a premonition in her bed of things to come, at the same time.

MM: How did you handle casting and finding places to film?

HDN: We set up a casting call at Hollywood Casting and Film.

They’ll give a free room and video recording of each audition as long as you audition some of their actors, you can bring in as many as you like. It’s an awesome little deal. I had to audition an extra day for Cecily, my wife in the film. I didn’t find anyone that I was crazy about on the first try. It took an extra day to get Samantha Smart. Her name suits her. Hehe…She had that thing. You know you know it when they start talking, and immediately you’re thinking, this could be it. And by the end, when she left, I turned to my casting colleague and said, “We just found Cecily.”

As for Javy. I found Adam from our Cinematographers reel. He was playing a Junkie, “well” I might add… and he had this kind of drifter vibe that I liked.

I called him and sent him the script. The first great thing is that he read it and called me the next day. That’s commitment. If he commits like that to read the entire script in one night, he will commit to the role for sure (actors take note). Anyway, I auditioned a bunch of guys, and it was down to him and another guy. I was torn, so I sent the audition videos to my co-writer in the UK, Stacy Hullah. She saw it and said, “If you don’t cast Adam as Javy, you will regret it for the rest of your life, but no pressure.” That convinced me! And he nailed it. His performance speaks for itself.

The locations came pretty naturally. My producer Meghan Weinstein is brilliant, and she was very helpful in setting these things up.

The hair salon we used was through a friend of Meghan’s. The owner wanted to play a hairdresser in the film. We said “no problem.” He actually has only one line in the film near the end. He just says, “Damn David, you look like crap!” The Victorian house is in Downtown LA. Meghan used to live there with a bunch of musicians. It was perfect, and it laid a symbolic backdrop to the climactic scene at the end.

Awards, film projects, and the future

MM: You won “Best Thriller” for this movie, so what was that experience—and the ceremony in general—like?

HDN: It was wild. I dreamt of that moment. I visualized it so clearly, many times in my mind. The award ceremony was held at a large theater at LA Live, and it was sold out.

I received a glass statue and was called up to say a few words. When they called me up, and everyone clapped, I walked up and looked into the spotlights and audience, and I just said, “Thanks for letting me in, I’ve been knocking for a while now...” I saw that exact scenario and those words coming out of my mouth many times in my mind. Thoughts do become things … so be mindful of what you think about.

MM: What other film projects have you created and are you working on anything right now?

HDN: I wrote, directed and starred in, a short film titled “Weathered Storms.” It follows a young, married couple who are trapped inside a New York loft due to a raging storm; they are forced to work out their marital differences.

That stemmed from the idea of “What if you and your significant other were at a crossroad in your relationship and got into a heated argument but neither one of you could leave?” It won a few awards and got some attention. It was fun. Shot it in one long fourteen-hour day! I am currently writing a paranormal thriller about a single mom who is continual, sexually assaulted by an incubus. No one (including her psychiatrist) believes her. With nowhere to turn, she enlists the help of a YouTuber demonologist who is pitching a show for Bravo.

MM: What are your biggest hopes for the future of your career as a screenwriter, director, and actor and would you like to add anything else?

HDN: I could see myself having the career of like a Woody Allen, or Lena Dunham.

I want to be an Auteur. I like to be involved in many aspects of directing to starring in, to a music supervisor, etc. I want to create many stories in my lifetime and get them out onto the screen for people to enjoy. Entertain people and love what I do. It doesn't’ have to appeal to the masses but to a group of people who truly get and appreciate what you do … and wait to see what you’ll do next. That’s the goal. I will always have music as a big part of my films. After this next paranormal thriller, I think I’ll do a comedy. Kubrick was great at switching genres. I’d like to try a few different genres myself, and comedy is always on my radar.

In addition, I would like to add that the crew was about 90% female.

  • Female Co-Writer
  • Female Producer
  • Female Cinematographer
  • Female First AD
  • Female Set Designer
  • Female Make-up artist
  • Female PA’s

It goes on and on… I’m very comfortable around women!