Spartan Daggenhurst Talks About Independent Filmmaking

A young mafioso, Vinny Mancuso, butts heads on-set during with the Director of his first infomercial. Spartan Daggenhurst graduated from Bard College in 2016 with a degree in Piano Performance and Music Composition.

As well as working in film, he continues to compose Contemporary Classical Music for the Piano, Orchestra, and Opera.

He is set to direct his first feature this spring. "The Salt Ruby Affair"

It was our pleasure to interview Vinny regarding his latest short film.

How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?

Actually, Vinny Mancuso is my first project! Up until recently I had been exclusively working in Classical Music, namely as a Pianist and Composer. I’ve had a long standing dream of making animated operas (à la Fantasia) and film was a natural extension for me from that visual storytelling medium. I had a bunch of shorts that were ready to go over this past year, but due to COVID Vinny ended up being the only one we could get the permits to shoot! So, Voilà.


What genre of filmmaking are you looking to work on and why?

Well, I’d say most of my upcoming work falls into the category of comedy, though I don’t think it’s possible to have something solely exist in one genre. For something to be funny for me, there have to be moments that pull me into identifying with the story and characters emotionally. I think tasteful contrast is important in any art form. I guess that’s where they get the word dramedy?


What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker?

Raising the capital, without a doubt. Money is tough. However, I think the freedom of expression that comes with that is invaluable. Even after shooting something as (relatively) small as Vinny, I can’t imagine what it would be like to have someone looking over your shoulder telling you to change a shot or piece of dialogue.

How challenging is it to fund indie films?

In a word? Very.


Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?

It’s hard to say. I think I’d have the same problem choosing three composers. Recently, I’ve been diving into Woody Allen’s work, which I love. There’s something to that neurotic humour that really clicks with me. Hmm. I don’t think I could think of a Federico Fellini film that didn’t blow me away. Amarcord changed the way I thought about cinema when I first saw it. Hmm, and I’d be remiss to not mention Hayao Miyazaki, everything he’s ever made is just so fantastic, what a storyteller!


What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?

I’m hopefully shooting my first feature this spring. It’s called The Salt Ruby Affair and I can’t say anything else about it for now.


What inspired you to work on Vinny Mancuso's Rules for Good Business?

Well, Tanner, who plays Vinny, and I came up with the character of Vinny a good deal of time ago. We always knew we wanted to do something with him but couldn’t figure out what. Then this one day in July we had to cancel another short I had planned to shoot in a park due to COVID.

Anyway, I was sitting in the shower thinking: “if only I could write a short that took place on a film set!” Then I got out and we banged it out in about an hour and here we are!

How did you find the cast and the crew of the film?

Tanner, Zoey, and Jade are friends of mine, but the other roles we filled through our wonderful casting director Martin Lippens and his assistant Ana Rousseau. Our DP, Sam Frank, is a good pal as well and we planned it pretty meticulously together before shooting. Other than that, Enzo (our Producer) got the rest of the crew together and they were just fantastic.


What is the distribution plan of the film and did the film receive any screenings or was it featured in festivals?

For now, we’re just getting it out to as many audiences as possible. We’re in a few festivals, including the Montreal Independent Film Festival here in Canada, and we’re very much looking forward to being a part of them!


Why do you make films and what kind of impact would your work have on the world?

I wouldn’t say I have any sort of specific agenda regarding an impact on the world. Most of my life has been focused on storytelling in one way or another, whether it be through piano performance, opera, poetry, or film. I’m just happy to have a medium to (hopefully) capture people’s attention and imaginations and I’m very excited to do so for as long as I can.

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© Toronto Film Mag I 2020