The Flyboys is not your typical coming of age story. This adventure movie follows the story of two young boys who accidentally end up aboard an airplane that just so happens to be owned by the mob. Writer, director and producer Rocco DeVilliers took charge of the film, which stars young actor Jesse James and the veteran Stephen Baldwin. DeVillliers has taken The Flyboys around the festival circuit this summer and has already generated positive feedback, garnering more than 40 awards so far.

MM had the opportunity to ask the multi-faceted moviemaker DeVilliers a few questions about the movie’s production and success on the fest circuit.

Beth Levin (MM): The Flyboys has been getting rave reviews. Critics have commended the film, particularly for its intense action and how it surpasses the boundaries of a typical coming-of-age story. What are your thoughts on these reactions? Have any of the reviews come as a surprise to you?
Rocco DeVillliers (RD):
I wanted to make the kind of film that I would have loved to see as a 12 year-old, but would still enjoy watching today. Most kids’ films are usually a bit slapstick and silly; they’re also very politically correct. When I was a kid, I wanted real adventure.  I grew up watching the classic Jonny Quest cartoons, where you had bad guys with guns shooting at kids on Saturday morning—it was fantastic. I wanted The Flyboys to be about real kids with real problems, who find themselves in real danger with real consequences.  I’m glad that audiences are responding so well to the film.
MM: You’ve been taking the film around the festival circuit in recent months and have already earned a total of 44 awards just from major fests, which is pretty remarkable. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in the process?
Honestly, I didn’t think we’d even get into many film festivals. The Flyboys breaks some rules governing kids films, but is certainly not the typical arthouse fare that you usually find on the film festival circuit. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the reaction. So far we’ve won more than 45 awards at film festivals, most of which have been either Audience or Jury Awards for Best Picture. After six years of blood, sweat and tears, it’s a relief to see the film working in front of an audience.
MM: In your first feature film, Pure Race, you participated in every aspect of production. For The Flyboys, you took the seats of director, co-writer, producer and editor. How did you handle all these roles? How important do you think it is for a director to be involved in so many aspects of production?
Pure Race was my little student film—it was essentially my film school. When you make an independent film on a limited budget, you have to do a lot of things yourself. It’s usually always difficult and painful, but at the same time you learn a lot about every aspect of the process because you are forced to try to become competent in all of these areas. The Flyboys was a $2 million picture and I had to wear many hats due to our lack of budget. In the future, when I have the resources to hire more people, I’ll certainly be able to communicate with them better about their jobs.
MM: How did you approach casting the film? Especially when it came to the younger actors?
Having two kids carry a feature film is always a risky undertaking. First of all you have child labor laws and their parents to deal with.  At the end of the day I was looking for very strong, experienced actors who had great chemistry. I was very fortunate to find Jesse James and Reiley McClendon. They were both very skilled and very professional. 

MM: When did Stephen Baldwin become involved in the picture?

RD: Stephen Baldwin was cast very close to our start date—he’s a very sweet guy and a real team player. He cares very much about the end product and will do anything to make it better. Tom Sizemore was cast after we had begun shooting.  He was wonderful to work with as well. He was always on time—always reliable. His performance in this film will remind everyone that he is one of the greatest actors of his generation. I was very lucky with my cast.
MM: What’s up next for you?
After six years on this project, hopefully a little rest. We’re looking at turning The Flyboys into a TV series—sort of like a modern-day “Hardy Boys.” I’ve also got a killer story that I’m ready to jump into as my next feature.

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