An Interview With Angelo Reyes:A Visionary Storyteller

Hello Angelo Reyes! Welcome! Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Give us a brief introduction!

Filipino/Italian American, Angelo Reyes began his professional life as a creative designer in the advertising industry. Later, he decided to explore the television industry by hosting and co-producing the motorsports show Street Vision Garage.
He then studied with Lynette Sheldon at the LS Acting Studio in New York and soon relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his aspirations as an actor. He has appeared in the 2020 Netflix film Hill Billy Elegy, the 2010 comedy-crime-drama The Bill Collector, HBO’s The Outsider, the 2013 drama-thriller Killing Kennedy, and others.
After achieving success in the acting realm, he decided to explore his talent as a director. In 2015, he produced his first short film titled Heartless. In 2018, he was recognized with the Rising Star Award at Westfield International Film Festival for Groomed, a short about human trafficking that he both produced and directed.
His latest project, 21st & Colonial is based on a true story about a young Black man struggling to support his family crosses paths with an overworked police officer with PTSD. The short, which he co-wrote, directed, and stars in, won a REMI Award at the 54th Worldfest International Film Festival and has been named an official selection at several festivals. Reyes plans to develop the story into a feature film.

Deeply in touch with his Filipino and Italian roots, Reyes is dedicated to creating films that explore the intricacies of different cultures and promote tolerance, diversity, and inclusion.

Where are you located?

Chesapeake, VA

What is a quote that summarizes everything you’re about as a filmmaker?

“Dreams don’t work until you do”
-John C. Maxwell

What inspired you to start creating films?

I was always artistic growing up. My mom had me playing multiple instruments, such as piano, violin, trumpet. I even did ballet at one point. I started drawing and painting at 6 years old. Acting was always something I knew I was going to do. When I was in elementary school, I would write plays and act them out to the class. At age 14, I wrote, directed, and acted in my own homemade martial arts movie. It was harder back then with VHS, by the way, but I found ways to complete it. I eventually went to school for advertising design and worked my way as a creative director. I was mostly working on production and creating commercials, spending most of my time behind the scenes and camera. It wasn’t until I had an opportunity to produce and host a TV show, this was my first technical shot to be in front of a camera, that would change everything for me. I searched for a local acting school in Norfolk, VA and took my first acting class, and never looked back.

VHS tape lot

Who most inspires/influences your style and specific execution currently and why?

This is a tricky question because it really depends on the type of story I’m telling. I like to learn from different Directors and take different styles and make them my own. For example, in my last production 21st & Colonial short film, I wanted something gritty and get the audience at the edge of their seats, so looked for inspiration from Director Kathryn Bigelow. Her quick shots and movement give that adrenaline rush that the story needed. There were no dollies, jibs, etc. It was all quick shoulder-mounted shots to add the realness of the scene and the situation. I also include some old greats like Director Sergio Leone, with his extreme close-up shots. I used that technique to show the pain or sadness of my characters. I want the audience to take the emotional journey of my characters.

What is your favorite film of all time?

The Godfather

As a creator, what do you find to be the thing that most drives you to succeed? We like to use this portion for others to learn from you!

My advice would be to create an end goal. Write it down on a board or journal. Then from there write down smaller goals to reach that end goal. When you start working on smaller goals, you will end up receiving more victories a long the way to your dream. For example, if your goal is to get a lead in a major tv show or film but to get there you must prove you are up for the role. So, you set small goals to get there. A small goal could be getting 6 co-star roles under your belt, then when you hit that, go to your next goal for guest star or recurring roles, etc.

Having a plan mapped out gives you the opportunity to see the progress that your making, which makes it easier in reaching your goals than chasing that next job. It is just like in any business because being an actor is like having your own business. Surrounding you with the right people that will help you with the growth of your business. Family and friends are also important. This is already a stressful endeavor full of lots of “Nos” before the “Yes’s” come, keep family and friends that support you close to you. Also, find a mentor that’s been in the business, could be your manager or agent. Friends, family, mentors will serve as your advisory board to your business and career. Every business has one, and you as an actor should have it as well.

What is your overall dream in life?

My dream is to help my Filipino and Asian community and include them in every aspect of my productions. This includes cast and crew. I do my best to search for writers, producers, actors, etc. in the Asian community to create a good balance and give opportunities or a start to their careers. It’s a small step but a step that is necessary. What is also important is to create human impact stories that ignite the heart. I do this by creating a broad story that every audience can relate to and write around Filipino characters. My overall goal is to develop a sound stage in Chesapeake, Virginia to attract bigger productions so Virginia can compete with surrounding states.

What’s the title of this project?

21st & Colonial

What is your role(s) in the film?

Director, Co-Writer, Producer & Actor

What is the film’s genre?

Crime, Drama

What is the film’s logline?

Inspired by a true story, two men with seemingly different lives meet during a banking transaction gone wrong that will alter both lives forever. Omar is a young Black man trying to support his family and his newly pregnant girlfriend. He’s looking for a quick fix to turn his life around before his responsibilities increase so he forges and cashes an allegedly stolen check. Carlos is an overworked and troubled police officer with a dark past weighing him down. His own home life is stressful, and he takes his badge very seriously, perhaps too seriously. By the end, the film reveals that Omar and Carlos really aren’t that different. Both are victims of an unjust society that needs fixing.

What inspired the way that you went about executing this project?

I began a journey and mission when I started writing screenplays. I wanted to produce true human impact stories that ignite the heart. Give a voice to stories of people that sometimes we don’t hear or maybe we forget about. My last production, GROOMED, was based on a true story about domestic human trafficking in Virginia. It went behind the scenes of what human traffickers do and what it looked like and followed the character throughout the process.

21st & Colonial was no different. I was inspired to write this story back when I was watching the news, where an African American male was shot 14 times by police while sitting in his car unarmed at a bank drive-through. He cashed a fraudulent check – if convicted would have been a misdemeanor.
I was introduced to the family by a close friend. I spent the day with the family, and I was deeply moved. As I researched Omar’s death further and the details surrounding this fatal encounter – it grew to be more complex.
The story plays out a 24-hour period in the characters of Omar and Carlos both the victim and the police officer. I wanted to write an unbiased story. You will see this in a parallel narrative as it builds up to where they have a fatal encounter. No money will ever bring back their son or heal the wound of this tragedy. Telling Omar’s story is one way we can honor him.

What was the most difficult part in the process of creating this film? How did you overcome it?

This was a big task but with the right team, it made my job a lot easier. I was more prepared with 21st & Colonial because my last film, GROOMED, I had the same roles to fill. I believe that was my trial run. I learned a lot from that production. Even though 21st & Colonial was a short film concept, my team and I spent 6 months prepping every scene. I worked closely with my Director of Photography, Leah Anova. I learned that the DP is my best friend. If I was going to pull this off being in front and behind the camera, we both needed to have the same vision and chemistry. In the end, it worked out. It prepared me for the feature film.

What was the most fun part of this entire production?

I think the most exciting part of this production was the brainstorming process. My executive team and I spent at least 6 months planning the project on paper before starting principal photography. I knew we only had 4 days to film the project and there was no room for error. Sometimes in film production, that sounds impossible, but we were ready for any problems. I worked with the actors beforehand, and everyone knew what was expected of them.

I was very emotional and humbled by the dedication of the whole team. I had a team that came to Virginia from all parts of the country, such as LA, NYC, Atlanta, South Carolina to be a part of this project. They had put their trust in me to deliver but honestly, they made my job a whole lot easier and that is the most memorable moment for me. The new friendship of the collective collaboration is the most fun part of making 21st & Colonial short film concept.

What is the single greatest lesson you learned along the creation of this particular project?

One life lesson quote that stuck with me is, “dreams don’t work until you do”. By John C. Maxwell. I mentioned this earlier, but this quote is an important life lesson especially for an actor/director. Actors/Director’s in my point of view are entrepreneurs. Just like any entrepreneur, we have ideas, values, but most of all, we take risks. What John C. Maxwell is saying with that quote is that to achieve that major goal in life, cannot be done without hard work. That has stuck with me throughout my journey. I treat it like a business, and I learn from my mistakes. 21st & Colonial is no different. I had to create several shorts before I was ready. Always put your best work first. You cannot have a testimonial with the test, right?

Is there anything else you would like us to know? Or any final thoughts/things you’d like to share with our readers?

When I first started acting, I was very excited and eager to just get started. I quickly found out that it wasn’t as easy and my biggest fear of being biracial came back to me. I am a Filipino/Italian raised in Italy. Auditioning for roles came difficult at first. I couldn’t audition as an Italian because I didn’t look like the typical Italian even though I spoke it fluently and there were no roles as a Filipino at the time. With that being said, I want to help other artists who are in the same predicament that I was in. Offer mentorship and guidance on what was my struggles. Also, creating films about real human stores that impact the heart and adding Filipino characters and cultures. Representation matters and I want to be remembered for my work, and how it helped people.

Thank you so much for being a part of The Film Festival Network Community, Angelo! We can’t wait to see what you do next.


Keep up with Angelo and all his incredible work to come!