By Taylor Cayro
It’s been six years. Six years since we wrapped on our first feature-length film together titled The News Crew. It was the end of March in 2014. We had just spent the last month filming our opus: an hour and a half long film about a group of friends who just wanted to broadcast the news. Well, it’s not that simple. You see, there was one friend who became evil named Rynestro and wanted to kill Joey Mamma, who was the cousin of our original anchor Joe Mamma, and there was a metal can man who wanted to do naughty things to Anthony, and a portion where Anthony fingers a Slurpee machine, all so we could get the band back together and produce an indie broadcast of the news because our Dad from the world of Newstopia told us to. Oh yeah! An absolute magnum opus!
I co-wrote and co-directed the film with my best friend Anthony Keeney. This film would be a grand celebration of the friendship I had made with many good people. In a little farm town in Northern Nevada, I had made friends with Ryan and his brother Jared, a cowboy named John, a funny guy named Clark, and of course, the positively stupendous Anthony. The first short I would make with my friends was in 2010 when my friend Andrew asked for help with his English class project. What we made would be a news broadcast-style short that included sportscaster Fastball Joe from Alamo, Meteorologist Lightning Joe McKenzie, and the anchor Joe Mamma all played by Andrew. This short was an absolute blast to make and would serve as the inspiration for the backstory of our eventual movie! It would also lead to my first recognition for my work outside of class when the teacher for Andrew’s class approached me in a Walmart to say that he thought the short was funny. I don’t know if he remembers the short now all these years later, but it meant something to me to have the recognition!
My brother-in-arms throughout most of my creative life has been Anthony Keeney. We met in 2004 when I decided, after moving to a new city, that I should try football. I was never athletic and was more the stereotypical nerd (I loved NASCAR, space, and watching The Weather Channel because STORMS ARE COOL!), but I figured it was a new town and a new opportunity to try something out of my comfort zone. I spent one year in Pop Warner football playing as a guard on the offensive line. I never understood why players on the opposite side would shit talk my mother. ‘She’s a sweet person and I’m sure their mother is too,’ I would think before being laid out on the cold, dew-covered grass of Northern Nevada municipal park fields. The person that played our other guard was this guy around my age, with a similar height and build, who ALSO liked the Miami Dolphins! It doesn’t take much for kids to become friends. For me at 11-years-old, the fact that someone else in a town with a population around 30,000 liked the Miami Dolphins was enough for me to be like, “Welp, we’re friends now.”
We would get to become close friends when on my first day in junior high, I noticed Anthony in the cafeteria during breakfast. I couldn’t believe I had found him! I had never really spent time with Anthony outside Pop Warner, so to see him in the cafeteria that autumn day felt like a force had brought us together. It makes sense when you step back and try not to mystify it considering there is only one junior high and high school in our entire county, but none of that mattered: DESTINY had brought us back together! Our friendship quickly became the strongest at the school. My sleepovers and birthday parties were always filled with laughter and plenty of multiplayer fun on my PlayStation 2 because of Anthony and my first best friend I had made in Northern Nevada named John.
I had always enjoyed storytelling and it seemed it was something I had a knack for. It came with ease. As a child, I never had to force myself to type letters into my Wordpad program on my computer. I wrote stories that I would either perform as plays for my parents or would print them out as my first self-published books for my family to read. As I grew older, I fell in love with filmmaking. I had always enjoyed the magic it takes to make a movie after seeing the behind-the-scenes of a zombie movie when I was eight-years-old. This magic helped influence one of my four answers I would give when prompted with the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up. The short list included being an astronaut, a NASCAR driver, a writer, or a movie director. Two of those four would prove a bit impractical as my stomach is probably one of the worst on the planet when it comes to motion sickness leaving writer and movie director to become merged into the one thing I do want to be: a storyteller.
It wasn’t until I got to high school though that I really got to engulf myself in filmmaking. I had edited a couple almost slideshow presentations set to music in Windows Movie Maker in the past, but this time, I was creating something WITH A NARRATIVE! My first shorts I would make for Mr. Rutledge’s video production class at my high school would include a blind date between Batman and Poison Ivy, a stop-motion short about the first five minutes of my day in my house, a day in the life of my dog Skipper, and a Harry Potter fan fiction I wrote when I was nine where Ron Weasley was the star and he defeats a female Voldemort. Then came the news broadcast-style short I made with Andrew that became so popular among my friends that I decided to start a YouTube channel: Constipated Monkey Productions.
That summer all I wanted to do was make shorts. YouTube was still a baby back then and the platform was so amazing for me because it allowed me to share my little creations with an audience outside my family and friends. On June 7, 2010, my two worlds would combine and change the landscape of YouTube forever when I uploaded my first short with THE Anthony Keeney titled The Funeral of Jennifer the Phone. It was an actual funeral we held for Anthony’s phone that fell off the roof of his house and broke. He made a cardboard coffin for it and we proceeded to bury it in his yard with his brother, Matthew, in attendance. We felt like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost! Comedy geniuses, in our own way, and we were going to make shorts together! We would go on to make a Dear Sister WWII spoof, a commentary piece (ha, yeah, sure) about Germany invading Poland but depicted as the shower scene from Psycho, a short where we had a standoff for the last Mountain Dew, a short that depicts what happens when we get writer’s block, and a holiday special that featured three short sketches including a terribly-impersonated duet between William Shatner and Christopher Walken, a telling of A Christmas Carol through puppets, and us looking inside Santa’s Sack and finding balls, peanuts, a log of sausage, and cream. My favorite short we would produce would be for our senior year English class about Virginia Woolf’s The Lady in the Looking Glass that depicted Woolf’s main character as someone needing intervention on an episode of Hoarders. That last project would actually get under our teacher’s skin and the rest of the semester we broke down and compared The Lady in the Looking Glass to other important pieces of literature, joking that by the end of the semester, we would end up comparing The Lady in the Looking Glass to a toaster.
All around this time though, the economic collapse of 2008 had occurred and small towns were reeling. My Dad was out of a job and my Mom was only working part-time. After we graduated in 2011, Anthony and I got seasonal jobs at Amazon in their warehouse but on separate shifts (he worked overnights, I worked afternoons). We still tried to make shorts together, but we couldn’t do them as often as we once had. My Dad then in 2012 decided to open up a sandwich shop and employed the entire family, including Anthony and I after our seasonal hours at Amazon were up. We opened up in May 2012 and didn’t last long, closing in September 2012. Come October, it was decided we would move to Las Vegas as there were more opportunities there than in Northern Nevada and in November, we were gone. I had a choice to make that would change my life forever: I had to choose between staying in Northern Nevada with my friends or moving to Southern Nevada with my family.
When I graduated from high school, my parents encouraged me to attend classes at the University of Nevada, Reno or Western Nevada College, but all I wanted to do was make shorts with Anthony. Sure, I loved playing video games or watching terrible films on our Sucky Movie Saturdays, but there was nothing like the thrill of creating an idea for a short in your mind, writing it out as a script, recording it with your best friend, editing it on your laptop that could barely handle the render (a five minute short would take overnight to export), before uploading it on YouTube for the world to see. I wanted to continue on that high with a determination to make a feature-length film with Anthony, but something told me to go to Southern Nevada, that it was the better choice.
When not working for my family’s sandwich shop, I had been writing a script that would eventually become The News Crew, a feature-length series of sketches that told the story of Taylor and his best friend Anthony (I know, real original) getting the gang back together to produce one last broadcast. One last chance at glory. I’m grateful that I moved to Southern Nevada with my family because my work helped support my family for the first few months that we were there. After my parents both found steady jobs, I started to save up what I could to make the grand finale to what I had been making for years with my friends. With much gratefulness to my boss, Ms. Howard, I took a month leave from my work in March 2014 and would go make a movie with my friends. It was the greatest month of my life! Little did I know while making it though that this month was the last month we would all be in our little farm town together.
Ryan and his brother moved to the big city of Reno, John went into the Marines, Clark moved to Washington, and I went back to Las Vegas. Anthony remained behind. One of the things I loved about the TV show Community was the dynamic of their buddy characters Troy and Abed. I was Abed and Anthony was my Troy. And just like when Donald Glover left the show leaving Abed without his Troy, I felt weird not having my Anthony. I finished The News Crew in 2015 and realized that, while the film was a blast to make, it showed that I didn’t know exactly what I was doing and that $3,000 is probably not that good of a budget for a feature-length film. The shorts were funny and everyone did a phenomenal job, but it just didn’t have the quality that I think people who looked forward to seeing it had hoped for. I thought of it as my Kentucky Fried Movie, but film festivals thought otherwise. Because of this, I decided I wanted to go to film school in 2016, fell in love with a cinematographer in the program in 2017, attended the wedding of Anthony that October and in December, he would return the favor.
I couldn’t have asked for a better wedding. My soon-to-be wife and I agreed to hold our wedding in a little film studio here in Las Vegas called the Indie Film Factory. Our minister that night never showed and so in front of our family and friends, the man that I had shared so many wonderful memories with, would perform our ceremony. And with that, it was almost like our friendship had concluded. He performed our ceremony and passed the best friend torch to my beautiful wife.
I miss Anthony. I miss him so damn much. Anthony now works all hours supporting his family, often working weeks with mandatory overtime, injuring his physical and mental health in order to ensure his wife and child have all that they need to be healthy. That’s who Anthony is. He always puts others before himself. He doesn’t need to do the things he does, but he does it out of the love he has for his family and friends.
Some of my fondest memories with Anthony would occur during sleepovers. Every single one of my friends and I would play TimeSplitters 2 on the PS2, but there’s only one friend who I completed the whole story mode with in ONE NIGHT! Fueled by Mountain Dew Voltage and a Victor pizza, which was a Pizza Hut pizza topped with probably seven more toppings than should legally be allowed, Anthony and I started playing at 2pm one day and would finish at 5am the next! Another fond memory would be at Anthony’s house one night playing Fallout 3 on my PlayStation 3. Anthony was on his bed and I was on the floor, turned away from Anthony with my attention fixated on the mini nuke that I was getting ready to use to eviscerate Paradise Falls, when I heard the clanking of an aluminum can followed by giggling behind me. I didn’t turn around, only asking Anthony what was going on, and Anthony responded through his giggles that he was beating an empty can of Coca-Cola in with his penis. We both died from laughter! Those were some great nights!
I guess you could consider this story you’ve been reading to be a love letter. A love letter for a bromance that feels lost but not forgotten. We still get to play games online every now and again like Grand Theft Auto V, Fallout 76, and Among Us, but none of that can beat playing split-screen multiplayer games on a 19-inch Zenith television in the dark on a school night. It kind of reminds me of the nostalgia Simon Pegg’s character feels in The World’s End. I’m not arguing with the life I have with an incredible wife, a good job with good people, and myself working towards a bachelor degree, but I do wish sometimes for moments like at the end of The World’s End, when Simon and his young friends walk through the smoke and haze of a post-apocalyptic England, ready to take on the world!
There are people on this planet who are introverts and those who are extroverts. There are people on this planet who have many friends and those who have only a few friends. There are people on this planet who click and those who don’t. As an introvert who chooses to have only a few friends and, of those, only a couple close friends, Anthony is special. I consider him one of the best people on this planet. While there are many reasons for why he is incredible, I think the biggest is that of the seven plus billion people on this planet, we clicked and have shared so many meaningful memories together and hopefully so many more in the years to come. Anthony is a legend, and everyone should have an Anthony in their life. I dream of the day we will rise through the smoke and haze of life together again! It’ll only be a matter of time.
“It’s funny but I miss him. I wonder if he misses me. Misses the boys,” Nick Frost’s character, Andy, says in his closing monologue of The World’s End. “Wherever he is, I hope he’s happy. That’s all he ever wanted really. To have a good time! I just hope he found it beyond the bottom of a glass. Because real happiness, real friends, those are things worth living for. Worth fighting for!”
This story was written by Taylor Cayro for JOUR 411 – Digital Newsroom at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. For more great articles like this one, subscribe to The Rebel Feed.