Russo Brothers First Movie

The Russo Brothers’ latest film, a little cultural phenomenon called Avengers: Endgame, is the highest-grossing movie of all time. Joe and Anthony Russo‘s first movie, however, has never even seen the light of day. Before their superhero and television days, the directors bet big on themselves with their feature directorial debut, Pieces, which took them three years to make, cost them $30,000 and landed them in serious credit card debut. Besides a premiere at the Slamdance Film School, the indie film has never been available to an audience.

When we spoke to the Russo Brothers about 21 Bridges, they told us about their hope to one day release their first movie.

The Russo Brothers were in their early 20s and still in college when they wrote and directed Pieces. The duo remains very proud of their ironic and nonlinear indie comedy, which Joe Russo actually starred in as one of the movie’s criminals. The absurdist black-and-white comedy was inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, and it’s about a trio of crooks using a wig clinic as a front for their illegal activity.

Releasing the movie was impossibly expensive since the Russo brothers used songs from Led Zeppelin, Funkadelic, and other big names that were unavailable. The music would’ve cost millions. As Anthony Russo has said before, they were naive directors then:

We made the movie with no understanding of film business whatsoever. We loaded the film with music we cut music very specifically to and it was unaffordable. We were never really able to sort it out.

Joe added:

Maybe someday we’ll just dump it online. We just did some refurbishment to the negative. It was sitting in my basement.

Pieces‘ overall reception at Slamdance was a disappointing experience for the both of them. The movie did have one big fan, though, by the name of Steven Soderbergh. Anthony retold the story about meeting Soderbergh’s support following the Slamdance premiere:

We made our first movie, a small little credit card movie, that went to the Slamdance Film Festival, and Steven Soderbergh saw our movie there. Nobody else responded to that movie. Nobody. Nobody but Steven did. For some reason, he saw something in it he found creatively exciting and reached out to us, offered to help us make another movie. Our whole road forward, literally, manifested itself at that moment. Literally, no one else was interested. We think it’s amazing opportunity and responsibility to provide that for other people [as producers].

It was a life-changing experience for the filmmakers. They were still studying at UCLA film school when Soderbergh asked to meet them following the Slamdance premiere. Soderbergh loved the movie and saw a subversiveness in it he found inspiring. The movie he produced for the Russo brothers was Welcome to Collinwood, which as history has shown, eventually led to big things for the directors. As for the release of Pieces, the Russo brothers want to get the movie in better shape before putting it out in the world.

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