In Session: Shane Alden
ALBANY – Some may not see a straight pipeline from wrestling to filmmaking, but to Shane Alden, that’s just the path that makes the most sense. Taking his passion, heart, and work ethic that he gave to professionals and re-inventing himself as a filmmaker, Alden is certainly keeping himself busy. Crafting projects from short films to TV series, Alden has quickly formed a solid resume in just a short amount of time.
Now working on his latest series, Riding with Pride, I wanted to take a minute to acquaint myself with the budding filmmaker and director. What follows is our conversation.
Lucas Garrett: Shane, thank you for sitting down tonight. It’s nice to meet you. How are you?
Shane Alden: It’s great to meet you, too, man. I’m doing good – busy as always. It’s cool to finally meet you because I read a lot of your articles.
LG: Thank you! Your name kept coming up with filmmakers in the area. Tell us a bit about yourself.
SA: Well, I’m a professional wrestler, so I’ve done that for most of my life, and I’ve been able to travel all over the world and do that. I’ve been able to live a dream: I wrestled for the WWE. I’m not the hugest guy, but that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve conquered that mountain. I have a big background in television and film, and obviously, being a performer—a wrestler—is a lot like being an actor in some ways: you gotta love to tell stories. That’s my background.
LG: When did you start getting into filmmaking?
SA: Quite a few years ago—I’d say 2015 or 2016. I’ve done a lot of television. I’ve done all these different TV environments. Me and my brother were featured on MTV True Life when we were teenagers. We went through that whole experience of being mic’d and being followed around by cameras. Then, to see it in on national TV, everybody that lived in the town I grew up in recognized us.
After I’d been in the spotlight and been a performer for so long, I started getting interested in producing and telling stories of other people. I wanted to do this for somebody else; I wanted to be the one that’s producing and telling the stories, and not just the actor playing the part. That’s why I wanted to get into filmmaking.
LG: Do you feel your work as a wrestler has informed your art a lot and how you think about things on the other end in filmmaking?
SA: It does. I really did my homework. Wrestling is television; you have to hit time cues. Everything you do, you think about how the audience is going to receive this. What’s the best way to shoot this? What’s the best way to produce this to make it happen?
There were nights I’d be in a faraway city wrestling, travel through the whole night, and then I’d go and volunteer and work on other people’s films and TV shows. I’d be all beat up from wrestling, and I’d be holding a boom mic for seven hours and doing whatever I could do to learn. I took acting classes at the Theater Institute with Lora Lee Ecobelli’s group. She’s a very good teacher.
I’d known that I didn’t want to, per se, be an actor, but I wanted to understand how actors think. And I knew if I was going to direct and produce films that, I needed to be able to talk to and communicate with actors. So, I read books, did training, and worked for free on a lot of films. Then, I started thinking about producing something of my own.
LG: When that time came, how did you decide what the project would be?
SA: I knew this: wrestling was the only thing I did my whole life. Everybody knew me as Shane, the professional wrestler. I knew I didn’t want to make something about wrestling: I wanted to do something totally different. I made a couple of shorts, and then I got the opportunity to do this series, Against the Ropes. Sometimes, things line up. I’m a filmmaker, and I’d worked with some people before, but I had a background in pro-wrestling, so I was the perfect person to direct, produce, and oversee this project. Sometimes, everything you’ve done lines up and gets you where you want to go.
LG: Do you have anything you’re currently working on?
SA: Right now I’m currently working on this series. It’s an LGBTQ sports story, and it’s called Riding with Pride. It’s about girls that ride horses – it’s equestrian-themed. But it’s also a love story. It’s an LGBT feel-good love story. Initially, it was pitched to me as “Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan with horses.” It’s a great story… It’s been awesome. I have a writing partner, Kenny Casanova. We knew who we wanted to cast; who we wanted to feature. After that, it became about lining up the right people: your crew; your cast. It’s been an awesome project. I’ve never really been around horses in my whole life. Let’s face it, this is probably the closest thing to a Western that I’ll ever get to do.
LG: How did you find your writing partner?
SA: [He’s] a friend. It’s somebody I know from the wrestling business. He’s an author and an English teacher, and he actually wrote the [biographies] of a lot of big-name wrestlers. We kick around ideas and characters. I’m not a writer. My art is: I can read a story or take something that’s on paper and say, “How can we make this come to life? How can we produce this?” That’s where my skill is. I need to work with a strong writer who can make sure the script is structured, and everything is going in the right place.
LG: What are some of your favorite movies of all time?
SA: Oh, geez! Everybody wants to make this serious, Oscar-winning, deep-story film. I think about what things I watch how they made me feel. I grew up watching Saved By the Bell, the television show. You watch it now, and it’s corny and kind of funny. I know how I felt when I watched that show because I was a teenager going through those things. One super cool thing is: Dustin Diamond, who played “Screech” in [that show] is a friend of mine. He acted in my first short film, Catching Up, and it was his final film and project that he worked on before he passed away.
I like action; I like Schwarzenegger movies. I like comedy. Anything that has a good story and makes you feel something. That’s what I gravitate to, but I think sometimes filmmakers tend to take themselves too seriously, and that’s not me. I realize sometimes your audience is young people, and you don’t have to be so deep all the time.
LG: What would you say your filmmaking philosophy is?
SA: I never needed nor wanted to make an award-winning or festival-acclaimed film. I want to make films that make people feel a certain way. The way I felt when I watched the films and television, I grew up loving. It’s really that simple, and that’s what it’s about for me.
LG: Is there anything else you’d like to elaborate on as we wrap this up?
SA: I’d like to mention one more thing about Riding with Pride. The lead actress, Marrisy Rose Brightman, worked on that same short film, and she drove from Long Island for six hours to get this part that was one line. She came in, delivered that line, and killed it. I was like, “Man, this girl is great. I’m going to cast her in something in the future.” I remembered her. And Chris Gaunt, the director of Riding with Pride, worked on the film as well and was like, “I wish we had something more for her.” Later on, we cast her as the lead of Against the Ropes. That’s when we really realized who she was.
She’s an authentic LGBTQ actress and is a flagbearer for people like her. We realized she’s an authentic, leading person. With the wrestling stuff—taking the falls and bumps – we were asking her to do some pretty crazy stuff that I’m not really comfortable asking anybody to do. After Against the Ropes – that was two years ago; the series was successful but it cooled off – we got the concept to do this.
She’s proving again that she’s a leading person, and I’m really excited to work with her again. She’s fantastic, man. She brings it every time I work with her, and I’m really happy she’s part of it. We also have a big-name actor and actress in Riding with Pride.
Dianne Franklin is in it. She was in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Better Off Dead with John Cusack. We also have Aaron Schwartz, who was in the movie Heavyweights. He’s the kid, Gerald Garner, in the film. The funny thing is now he’s all grown up and muscular.
LG: Thanks again for the chat, Shane! Best of luck with everything!
SA: Thanks, man!