You know that feeling when you sit down for a cup of coffee with an old friend. Someone it’s been absolute years since you’ve gotten to know. Part of you is nervous, but when you sit down and start chatting, the ease of the conversation dissolves all the stress and expectations around it. Before you know it, you are involved in their story again, rooting them on as you did before and invested in what is coming their way.
That’s a lot like how my chat with Keli Price, multi-talented creative (writer/actor/producer) panned out. To be fair, it had been since 2013 that I got my first batch of questions in, over a decade since we had connected with excitement over his burgeoning acting career.
In that first chat, we discussed falling into Youtube spirals and music as a really big passion of Price’s. Now, we build upon that chat, touching on his fast-paced emergence into the film production world and the attention to detail a sentimental man will pay to his work.
2024 is the year of Keli Price. If you don’t believe me, he’s currently on season 2 of Rap Sh!t, which is available on HBO Max. Plus, he has 3 film releases headed down the pike, and two east coast teams to cheer into their respective post-seasons, and that’s just the beginning. Below, words from our recent sit-down.
How have things been? It’s been a while!
Absolutely! It’s been a long time, and so many things have happened. It’s so nice to be in touch again.
You’ve gotten pretty heavily into the producing side since we last spoke, though really you have kept your toes in the acting and now producing pools as well it seems!
I was not expecting to get into the producing side the way that I did. It just kind of happened. We made this movie about my great grandfather who had this crazy sports story and people came to the screening and wanted me to produce their other movies. I did and then our company was born.
We make about 5 movies per year in the action space primarily, and we get into other genres too. It was to honor my great grandfather who lived to 100, so I got to know him pretty well.
How did you get involved with the upcoming Hellfire release?
Hellfire is coming out this year, in March or April. That movie stars Harvey Keitel, Stephen Lang, and Dolph Lundgren. It’s a really cool, sort of fun action movie. We got involved on the financing side and we’ve been taking a ride for quite a while with this movie from pre-production through post.
We’ve taken a look at the cut recently and it looks great. Saban FIlms is distributing it. I love them over at Saban, I have a lot of projects with them. They’re great. I’m excited to see what they do with it.
What was the timeline like from start to finish on this particular project? Because the adoring public might not know the ins and outs.
We’ve been involved with Hellfire for about a year and a half. Our highest profile movie Bandit, which was #1 on Apple TV and Amazon Prime and Paramount+ took about 2 years to make also. But it was because it was a period piece and a lot went into it.
The fastest movie we ever made was in 2 months. I don’t know how we did it, it was an enigma and it will probably never happen again. It was a weird scenario. It was called The Curse of Wolf Mountain. I was getting involved in another project and it kind of all fell apart. I just needed a script and I went and I wrote this movie within 2 weeks. We were on set 2 months later.
It’s crazy, but that’s how quick we can go when everything is firing. But it rarely happens that way, it usually takes years to make a movie. That’s just the way that it goes, and you put so much time into it. That’s why our company is so specific about the projects we take on. We know we’re going to be on there for what could be a few years. It could also be a few months, but movies could take time.
It’s true. This leads me to the Murder at Hollow Creek project because you told me that you’re writing, producing, and starring in it. I’ve been flummoxed by people who can do that. You come from a place where you’re kind of looking at every facet of the film. You have empathy with other people involved in the process — How does it feel different than when you are less involved in a project?
That is so true. And specifically on that set, I remember having instances where there were situations with PAs or whatever. I get very emotionally tied into people and their feelings. That’s just the way that I’m built. I’m all about forming connections with people on set, whether you’re a PA, another director, or a producer. To me, it’s supposed to be a safe place where we are literally making this piece of art.
It’s kind of like camp, we’re all together and gearing toward this goal. It’s a really special experience that you can’t explain unless you’re there and it is like summer camp. You make all these connections, you’re there for a couple of months, and then you’re just gone. And sometimes you stay in touch and sometimes you don’t but all of those memories are always there because you’re on location.
Murder at Hollow Creek was the second time that I really wore all three hats. So the cameras are rolling, I’m in a scene because I’m acting in it too. The scene ends and quickly I’m like, “Oh, shit. That light’s about to fall, can we get somebody to…” or, “Oh, God, like, we need to make sure that this actor is getting to set because their plane landed in Texas and they’re supposed to be in Mississippi and there’s a hurricane or tornado or whatever… are they on their way?” It was constantly stuff like that.
We did have an actress that got rerouted because there was literally a tornado in Mississippi. She couldn’t get to Mississippi so I was literally in a scene, I finished the scene and I walked up to the other producers. I was like, “What is going on with Penelope? Is she OK? Is she on her way? Who do I need to call?” So yeah, it’s a different experience. (laughing)
On Rap Sh!t, for instance, I was a recurring character on that show. I would just roll up to the studio and eat my Chinese food or whatever they had that day. They had EVERYTHING at the Sony lot, by the way. The best food. I’m a foodie, so when I’m acting at the Sony studio. There’s Chinese, Mexican, there’s these donuts. They’ve got a Zeppole truck. If you’re a New Yorker, you probably know what that is. (laughing) They’re the best food I’ve ever tasted in my life.
When I’m on that set, it’s so relaxing and a different experience and I just get to hang out with the other actors and not have to worry about making the day or lights falling or people caught in hurricanes. It’s just hanging out, eating Zeppole’s. Every once in a while I get a gig here and there and I’ll take it, and I’ll act, and I’ll love it. But our company, Price Productions, does take up most of my time.
Understandably so! You have so many different projects at any one moment.
I love producing. I was getting into the film business as an actor because that was the only way I knew how to do it. But if I was able to break into the business as a producer earlier on I probably would have. But I just figured I would go on auditions and I could get involved in movies that way. If I wanted to produce, I didn’t know what the first step was.
I made this movie, as I alluded to earlier, about my great grandfather where I wanted to honor him. Ended up going – in 2014 – and just started to shoot. We were at Ellis Island, getting footage there. It started to come together as a film.
Athletes were calling and saying, “We notice you’re making this movie on discrimination in sports, we would love to be a part of it and tell our story.” It ended up being something a lot bigger than I thought it would be. That’s what started our company.
But it was such a learning experience, making On Thin Ice. I packaged it, I financed it, I distributed it. I did everything on that movie – with a great team, by the way. It was really like a family project because it was a family member for all of us. My brother edited the movie. It was my mom’s grandmother, she was heavily involved in that movie. She produced the hell out of it with me. She did such a freaking great job, so it will always be special to me because of that.
How we got it done I have no idea, because we all had no idea how to make a movie. But we did. And that was our first one. And now I make about 5 per year in the action space. But everything I know came from that movie. As you go, you learn more. But that movie I had to dive in and put the talent together and put the financing together and put the distribution together in all these areas that I had no idea about, and suddenly I’m in it. That’s what gave me that education on film production in general.
Well, and also, it’s cool that you set out to kind of honor your great grandfather’s legacy and, in doing that, you kind of created a legacy of your own that you get to now build upon. That’s super dope.
Thank you! I never thought of it that way but it’s so nice of you to say. I guess there are such things as happy accidents, but they’re not really. Because, as I said, I wanted to be a producer and in film my whole life, but making this movie just to honor his legacy, it did kind of put things in place.
Out of all of the characters that you have played so far, which has been your favorite?
I like that question. That is a good question. The one I enjoyed playing… Bobby Love was so much fun to play. Just because it was the two-sider role, a guy that got to put on this facade. It was also my first role so I have to give it a shout out.
Do you have any anecdotes from filming that role that kind of sit with you?
Yeah! It was The Naked Brothers Band, if anyone needs to know. It was my first role. Bobby Love was a famous British rocker but he was really a surfer dude from San Diego. I remember we were having the balloon fight for battle of the bands. We had this scene where I was in a fight with Nat. My band was on stage, his band was on stage and we just started brawling and he was grabbing my hair, I was grabbing him. People were pulling my pants down and my shirt. (laughing) That was memorable.
Working with Richard Dreyfuss on Your Family or Mine was a highlight because I’ve always been a fan, since Jaws and Mr. Holland’s Opus. He was unbelievable in that movie. Such a powerful character and so relatable, too. That scene at the end of the movie when his daughter is on stage and he’s watching in the audience, it’s such a beautiful moment. He’s an incredible actor, so I enjoyed working with him.
It was fun working with David Walton and Dax Sheppard in About a Boy. That was a fun character. Zak on AwesomenessTV’s Side Effects with Lulu Antariksa, Meg DeLacy, Finn Roberts, and Chester See was a lot of fun. We had a few seasons of that series. Going to set with the same people all the time was fun. It’s like Rap Sh!t. When you are constantly going to the same set with the same people it becomes like a family.
Like Rap Shit, Side Effects incorporated music in the main storyline, another passion of yours. That’s great! I actually have a follow-up question to a conversation we had back in 2013. You had mentioned that you would love to work with Michael Fassbender or Robert DeNiro, which I totally agree with. But have your bucket list acting partners shifted at all?
Robert DeNiro is still the same. He will always be, probably, my #1. My grandfather and I talk about it all the time. We watch mafia movies together, we’re New Yorkers. My grandpa is from Brooklyn and he just started me on these movies early on. Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Al Pachino, Joe Pesci. I gravitate, naturally, toward Robert DeNiro. He is one of the greatest actors of our time. I grew up watching all of his movies.
I would love to work with Hillary Swank. She’s my favorite actress, she’s amazing. She’s got such vulnerability and power and she is just captivating to watch. I would add her to the list. Al Pacino, definitely, though he’s always kind of been on the list.
We can’t mention everyone!
(Laughing) Yeah, I know! Fassbender is insane. I can’t believe that was my answer. He’s unbelievable, already a legend.
Well, so seeing that list of people… when you were young, what were you guys watching at home?
Love that question. My Uncle Arthur and his husband Uncle Lenny were like a second set of parents. We were always around them. Lenny was really close with me, and Arthur too, and our entire lives, they would come over and it was always about horror like Chuckie or action movies like Die Hard. And those are primarily the movies we make now.
A Steven Seagal, a Bruce Willis, a Mel Gibson – which we have Mel in Bandit – so I grew up qatching movies like that. With my brother after school I remember Rocket Power and Hey Arnold! on Nickelodeon. Those were my go-to.
You mentioned Die Hard. We don’t have to delve into it, but is it a Christmas movie or is it now in your mind?
So funny. No. It’s not a Christmas movie in my mind. Just because movies are set during Christmas time, that doesn’t necessarily classify them as a Christmas movie. The writer definitely deliberately set it during Christmastime, but that doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. It’s an action movie.
Thank you. Alright. Time to ask you about Mad Props. It’s coming to theaters in February. I saw you worked with some big names on it. So, tell us about it.
I’m so happy that I got involved in that project, it was my second documentary. Like I said, we make a lot of feature films. But it’s been a while since I made a documentary. And I heard this guy’s story. It’s based on this banker in Oklahoma who always wanted to be involved in film, never really got a chance, and loves movies. So he started collecting movie props. Like BIG movie props, like the volleyball from Castaway. Like, Indiana Jones props. He would go around the globe finding the greatest movie props of all time.
Our movie takes us on this journey with him to find movie props. As a creative in the film business, you would get a kick out of it. It’s eye-opening to see how much these props cost, but it’s also like a history of movies too. Sometimes with a documentary subject, you’re not sure how their family will be on camera. But his family is really fun and engaging to watch!
Is there anything right now in particular that is inspiring your work?
My grandma passed in August of 2022. She is always an inspiration for me. My grandma had issues with other people, but she never had issues with me. It was all out of love, everything was out of love. I could play you voicemails where she’s like “Keli, where are you? This is my fourth call. Are you OK? I heard there was something going on in Los Angeles. Are you OK?”
And they’re so precious you never want to delete them.
Yeah, I have like 50 of them. I’m going to see if I can play you one.
**This was the piece of the interview where we paused to listen to his grandmother’s voice over his voicemail, adorable Brooklyn accent and all. We may have both shed a tear or two talking about our families. After a time, we got back on topic by speaking about Keli’s sentimentality:
I’m a very sentimental person, and I always look back at my childhood and things that I did and names of beaches and schools I went to, and I infuse them into my work life. If you look at Murder at Hollow Creek, the antagonist’s name is Bill Brooks. That’s my grandfather.
Aw. He’s an antagonist. How cute!
(Laughing) And my brother’s name in that movie is Nick. His name is Nico in real life. I’m just sentimental like that. So it’s always my family that is inspiring me.
But also, if I watch a movie or a show that can influence me. I’m really into success stories like Steve Jobs. andthat kind of stuff too. Underdogs who experience success inspire me. Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Evander Holyfield, Allisyn Felix, Amy Mullins, and more.
OK but yeah, you like sports. Do you have teams?
I love baseball. But I watch basketball and football the most. Die-hard Knicks fan, always have been. They’re my #1. In football, it’s the Jets. I have to pause because the last few years have been a nightmare. (Laughing) Thinking that we would at least have a nice run at The Big Game…
**This was the point of the interview where I identified with his struggles as the fan of a losing team, and we went off on a sports tangent entirely unrelated to this. Spoiler: Keli Price does know enough about professional basketball and football to engage you in lengthy conversation.
Though bummed about the current performance of his teams, Keli ended our chat as graciously as ever. “It was great connecting with you and seeing where you are in your life, and expanding on where I have been. I like doing interviews with people I trust to do great storytelling.”
Storytelling like Price does with every production he helms nowadays. If you learn nothing else today, understand that a next wave of independent entertainment moguls is surfacing. These people have touched many facets of the industry, and they want to tell stories with a sense of vulnerability and passion — and have fun and treat everyone respectfully while doing it.
If you haven’t caught up on Rap Sh!t, now is the time. Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming releases of Hellfire and Murder at Hollow Creek among others over at Price Productions.