Brian O’Connor is like anyone who ever wanted to be a part of the film industry but never thought he’d get there. A passionate fan who has always enjoyed discussing his favorites and engaging in trivia shoot-outs about the movies (go ahead and ask him why Jerzy Kosinski’s Zinoviev character eats the lemon rind in Reds), O’Connor was a successful businessman who once believed Hollywood was beyond his reach. “I never thought I could find a way in,” he says.
The Haverford resident had already helped build a successful Internet music company. But that was the extent of his experience in the entertainment industry. A confluence of small events during the past two years has added up to a doorway to O’Connor’s dreams. He’s now a co-producer on Bad Boys Crazy Girls, a romantic comedy that’s expected to start filming later this year and has in its corner a pair of successful local businessmen and even an Academy Award winner.
Nothing is guaranteed in Hollywood, but this looks pretty good. And O’Connor has learned that although those in the industry may be different from the rest of us now, they started out pretty much like he did. “Most seem like they’re in Dreamland, but they’re from places like where we grew up,” he says.
Bad Boys Crazy Girls (or BBCG, as it’s known to those associated with the project) follows the exploits of a pair of friends—one male, one female—who come to the conclusion that the reason they’ve been failing in love is that they’re simply too nice. So they change their behavior and experience great success—in the short run, at least. As you might expect, a moment of revelation arrives, and they understand that one-night stands and wild antics are fun for a while, but a meaningful relationship is the key to happiness. They fall for each other. Then they don’t. You’ll have to see the movie for the rest.
OK, so BBCG isn’t going to break any new ground, but it should be entertaining. That’s what MilkBoy co-owners Tommy Joyner and Jamie Lokoff are counting on. They’d been looking to move into the film world at the same time O’Connor had sold his interest in ArkivMusic.com, an online classical music store, and was looking for something new. Joyner and Lokoff had partnered with Ridley Park native Tammy Tiehel-Stedman—an Oscar winner in 2000 for her short film, My Mother Dreams the Satan’s Disciples in New York—on another project that ultimately led to BBCG.
It may not be a conventional movie grouping, but it’s worked well so far. And O’Connor’s partners have been impressed with his approach to the project. “The amazing thing about him is that he is so grounded, and he brings such a great professionalism and business sense,” says Tiehel-Stedman, who lives in Malvern. “He’s savvy and has an entrepreneurial nature that’s very helpful to the group. He doesn’t give himself enough credit for his film instincts.”
A graduate of Monsignor Bonner High School and Millersville University, with a master’s degree in information studies from Drexel, O’Connor helped develop the Web-based music store, Music Boulevard. Six years later, he was part of the ArkivMusic.com launch. In 2008, Steinway Musical Instruments acquired the company for a tidy sum, and O’Connor stayed on board for three years as COO, before moving on in his search for something new.
Thanks to the sale, he had a “buffer” to entertain some ideas and pursue a few pet projects. One was Haxty, a band he managed that played in the Philadelphia and New York areas. “I always told them that if I had some extra money, I’d get them into a studio and record them,” O’Connor says.
The studio he chose was MilkBoy, where Lokoff and Joyner were working on the movie, Lebanon, Pa. (Lokoff wrote the score) and looking for music to use on the soundtrack. As soon as O’Connor watched the bar scene in the movie with Haxty’s “Adeline” playing in the background, and saw the three songwriters’ names in the credits, he knew he’d found his “something different.”
He wrote a thank-you email to Lokoff and Joyner, mentioning in a postscript that if they had a movie project they needed help with, he was their man. “Five minutes later, they called,” O’Connor says.
At first, O’Connor met with the MilkBoy guys and Tiehel-Stedman about a different movie treatment. But the latter was eager to rejoin the business after taking time off to start a family, and she had another script that she couldn’t get into production. Tiehel-Stedman ran it by her new partners, and they loved it. “We said, ‘We should do this movie,’” recalls O’Connor.
In October 2011, BBCG Films was formed. O’Connor provided the seed money, and the group spent 2012 trying to acquire the funding necessary to begin filming. Successful casting director Allison Jones (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) joined the team, and reaction throughout Hollywood for the project was strong.
“It’s a really good script,” contends Tiehel-Stedman. “It helps open doors that wouldn’t naturally be opened to you.”
As you might imagine, O’Connor is enjoying the movie-production process immensely. His business background aids in the deal-making part, and his innate creativity has been a positive in both negotiations and decisions about the film itself. His vast reserves of patience have also been valuable.
“He approaches the business with an artistic side, and a thoughtfulness and carefulness,” says Joyner.
The goal is to produce an independent movie with a Philadelphia flavor that also has a bit of heft to it. Sure, BBCG isn’t Citizen Kane, but it won’t be That’s My Boy, either. O’Connor and his partners aren’t taking shortcuts as part of this long-haul proposition.
And if all goes according to plan, this won’t be the only film they make.
“We’re already saying, ‘In our next film, we won’t do that,’” O’Connor laughs. “We’re learning different things, and the idea is to make this an ongoing production company.” And keep the dream going, too.