MASSENA — It’s the year 2025 and five years prior, the government has been taken down and organized crime has taken over.
Enter Billy Badass.
“The Ballad of Billy Badass,” filmed locally and using a cast that includes local talent in front of and behind the camera, makes it digital debut Friday.
“The movie starts in the year 2020. Basically, the American people rise up against the government and they take the government down. Five years later, because there’s no government in the United States, organized crime has filled those shoes. Everybody has migrated toward one makeshift city, if you will, called Quad City. It’s called that because there’s four districts, each district having its own mob boss,” said Massena’s Elijah Winfrey, who wrote and directed the film and plays a character named Johnny Love.
Billy, the main character played by Patrick J. Burnett from Massena, is the leader of the poorest district.
“He wants to make a better life for himself and the people he loves and cares about, and the only way for him to do that is to kill all the other mob bosses and take over,” Mr. Winfrey said.
He said he spent much of last year filming the movie.
“We filmed in Norfolk, we filmed in Massena, we filmed in Brushton and Winthrop just so we could get some different looks for this makeshift city. I think it’s really good. I’m excited about it,” he said.
One of the sets is a former school in Norfolk.
“Because of the fact that it’s been sitting there for years, it literally gave us almost all of our interior shots. And because it used to be a school, all the different hallways had different colors so it would all look different on camera. We really lucked out when it came to that,” he said.
Filming in Massena was done at the footbridge, which Mr. Winfrey said plays a critical role in the movie, and in the Massena Volunteer Fire Department’s banquet hall.
“They were nice enough to let us use that,” he said.
A friend’s trailer in Winthrop and a closed bar in Brushton also served as backdrops for the movie.
“So we lucked out as far as people donating places for us to film in,” Mr. Winfrey said.
He wrote the script in 2014 using comic books and movies by Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese as his inspiration.
“I’m a huge comic book fan. I’m a huge fan of movies by Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. I basically took some of my inspiration from those filmmakers and comics books and an interest in anti-hero. So I decided to write a story about it and this is the character we came up with. I’ve always been intrigued by the heroes that are more like us, heroes that have issues instead of the heroes that are squeaky clean,” he said.
Fundraising plans for the movie’s budget were underway, but then COVID-19 struck. So his wife, Casondra Arquiette-Winfrey and a couple of other people helped finance the movie.
“We were able to raise about $5,000 to make this. We started filming in April and we didn’t finish literally until the day before New Year’s Eve. Luckily for me, I was editing as we went. So I’ve had this movie done and ready to be seen since January. I’m horrible at keeping secrets, so it’s been agonizing waiting for March 19th (and the movie’s release),” Mr. Winfrey said.
All together, nearly 25 people were involved in the movie as part of the main cast, extras or behind the scenes.
“A big reason why I wanted to get a budget for this is because I don’t believe anybody should do work for nothing. I know that sounds like a commonsense thing, but a lot of times with independent films, folks will say, ‘Hey, can you be a character in my movie, but I’m not going to pay you anything,’” he said.
Instead, they’re told they’ll be paid with their exposure in the film.
“If you’re hungry, exposure doesn’t taste very good. So we actually paid everyone on set a talent fee and my hope is people will buy this movie so I can keep doing stuff like that in the future with the next movie I’m working on. I’m just really hoping that the folks support this movie on Friday because any money I get from this is literally going to the next movie that I’m currently working on and it’s going to go to hire local people,” Mr. Winfrey said.
He credited the film’s team for their perseverance on the film despite the pandemic.
“When COVID first started, I was worried they were going to say, ‘Hey, let’s wait on this. I don’t want to do this any more’ which I would have totally understood. Instead, they said, ‘Elijah, we want to do this. It might be difficult to do, but we want to do this’ and they stuck it out for me. So I totally owe them for the work they did and I appreciate them so much for everything they put into this movie to make my vision come to life,” he said.
The main cast includes Mr. Burnett from Massena as Billy Badass, Cody Dennis from Norfolk as Axle, Mr. Winfey as Johnny Love, Justus Cross from Massena as Deacon, R W Martin from Vermont as Gideon Chase, Vienna Ainsworth from Plattsburgh as Anastasia Rose, Dean Gleason Sr. from Lisbon as Father Fountaine, Jennifer Wiggins from Ogdensburg as Miranda, Jim Moscatello from Lake Placid as Marcel, and Stevie Lynn from Norfolk as Stephanie.
Extras include Kaleigh Moody from Lowville, James Quant from Norfolk, Kristian Fino from Massena, Tyler Mucci from Binghamton, and Stephen Dennis from Massena.
The crew included Mr. Dennis from Norfolk, Travis Shatraw from Winthrop, Chris Griffin from Moira, Jay Mooers from Massachusetts, Robby Eccleshall from Canada, and Brian Wolf from Cleveland. Local music is featured as well — Ronnie Vegas from Canton sings ‘Regrets” as the end credits song, and Noah McCarthy from Massena’s song, “Movement,” is used in a pivotal scene.
The Billy Badass logo was made by Jason Hendricks of H3 Designs, and the poster was designed by Jay Mooers, the film’s art director.
“The Ballad of Billy Badass” will be released digitally at 7 p.m. Friday for $7.99.
“What that $7.99 will get them is the movie, which is two hours and five minutes long. They get a blooper reel, which is a whole lot of fun, and they’re also going to get a behind-the-scenes featurette showing that building in Norfolk and all the different rooms we filmed in so folks can see how it was all put together,” Mr. Winfrey said.
For more information on how to purchase the film, visit www.facebook.com/BillyBad assMovie.