By Elizabeth Rahe
In the thriller 36 Saints, a serial killer targets teenage victims with saintly names. In the family-friendly Tio Papi (aka Uncle Daddy) a bachelor struggles to care for his six orphaned nieces and nephews. As different as these films are, to producer/writer/actor Joey Dedio, they share a common thread – in addition to their Sept. 6 release date.
“What ties them together is the unity of family,” says Dedio, who lives in Miami Beach and also has homes in New York and Los Angeles. “Even the teenagers in 36 Saints became a family.”
He extends the metaphor to the cast and crew, many of whom worked together over the course of a year shooting these two films along with the 2012 release Musical Chairs (about a group of misfits involved in a wheelchair ballroom dance competition). The process fostered unity and understanding and “kept the creative juices flowing,” he says.
Dedio’s career reaches to the mid-’80s with a role on the NBC soap Another World. Over the years he appeared or lent his voice to dozens of film, stage and TV productions. After playing Vin Diesel’s friend in the 1997 independent film Strays, he formed his own production company, Active Fox.
He has produced a half-dozen indie films, but these last two projects are especially meaningful. After wrapping up filming in Dec. 2011, he went for his regular physical and discovered he had stage IV cancer. While undergoing treatment he worked on cutting the films.
“Seeing those kids on the screen was the biggest joy. It got me through every day,” Dedio says. “After a year of surgeries and chemo and radiation, I’m 100-percent cancer-free.”
Tio Papi, co-written, produced by and starring Dedio, has been nominated for five Imagen Latino entertainment awards, including Best Actor for Dedio and Best Feature Film. Although it happens to be about a Latino family, the filmmaker says it has touched people of all cultures at festivals across the country, including the 2012 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
“It’s all about the family, and I think anybody can relate to that – what really matters most is family.”
A Q&A with filmmaker Joey Dedio
We caught up with Joey Dedio between trips to promote Tio Papi and 36 Saints to discuss his films and his philosophy.
You shot three diverse films in one year. What was your goal?
We wanted to go after three very different groups, and I think we succeeded. I wanted to do a drama, Musical Chairs. Tio Papi is a family film. I also wanted to do a thriller for teenagers, but I wanted it to be a smart thriller.
Would you shoot three films in one year again? Absolutely. I loved going from film to film. The crew was extremely happy. It kept people working for the whole year.
Do you see a growing audience for films with a Latino frame of reference? I think it’s growing hugely. The Hispanic/Latino community is craving it. My films have Latin content, and the casts are primarily Latino, but people forget that when they are in the audience. I’m drawn to making people see things differently than they ordinarily see them, but trying to do it subtly.
The films both have spiritual references. Is that part of your life, or is it cultural? It’s part of my life and my culture. The underlying message of Tio Papi is how I truly live my life, with faith and belief and trying to do the right thing. You never know what’s going to happen, which is exactly the theme Tio Papi captures.
If you weren’t making films, what would you do? I have never thought about that. I’ve always been inspired to be in the film and television world. Maybe teach. I believe in passing it on. I would look for a place where my life experience could benefit other people.
— Elizabeth Rahe