Daniel Zirilli [Interview]


Hello Folks! Today’s interview subject is with the brilliant filmmaker, writer, & producer Daniel Zirilli. Dan broke out onto the creative scene directing some of the finest hip hop videos you know and love.His work included videos for artists such as Montell Jordan & Skee Lo, and he continued on into the world of film in many different genres, with a strong footing in the world of action with films like Asian Connection and Hollow Point, the latter being co-written by our old friend Chad Law. He’s a sweet, sweet man, and you are going to love this.

So Folks, please enjoy some words from the great Daniel Zirilli!




When did you first realize that you wanted to work in the world of entertainment? Was it something you have wanted to do since your youth, or was it something that you just sort of fell into?

Growing up in La Jolla California I never thought the film biz was viable. I thought I was going to be a lawyer, and went to Pepperdine University in Malibu. I started taking screenwriting courses, and worked my way up from the bottom.

 What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affects your work to date?

While I was at Pepperdine, I took an internship with a “producer” in Malibu Colony. She talked a lot about herself and had me taking out her dry-cleaning and other nonsense. I learned how not to treat people from her. The first paying work was in production of Music Videos. I eventually represented other music video directors. After a couple years I realized I was doing all the work and someone else was taking the money and credit. So I started my own company, directing music videos. I have many stories, but always learn what NOT to do as what TO DO in this business. One of the key elements if finding people with good character and talent. Not just stepping on people on the way up. I still get stepped on, but never give up.


Early in your career, you directed several wonderful music videos for some of my favorite artists of the time. One specific video is absolutely to me, and that would be Montell Jordan’s remix for “Somethin’ 4 da Honeyz” featuring Redman. I am curious to know how your experience was working on this project? And how was your experience working on it?

Thank you. Interestingly enough Montell and I lived in the same dorm at Pepperdine for a semester before he was famous (from “This is How We Do it” onwards). At Pepperdine, it’s required to take two classes on religion, and Montell used to break down the Parables in the bible for me and a hilarious “street” way… he was fun to study with and very smart.  So cut to a few years later and I was directing a bunch of Hip Hop/Rap music videos, many #1 on MTV, The Box,  etc. and Montell’s record company reached out to me after we both had some success. It was great reconnecting.



In 2016 you worked on the action-packed film Asian Connection, featuring the legend himself Steven Seagal. I am again curious as to what drove you to bring this story to film? And now that it is out there in the zeitgeist, what are your thoughts on the final project?

Thats a long story…. Actor Tom Sizemore and I wanted to work together, and he was always talking about this idea he had called “Two Americans” that he said he and his buddy Thomas Jane wanted to make, about crossing the boarder into Mexico and robbing banks, so that Toms character could run away with his girlfriend and retire. After his partner is killed, he and his GF become sort of a Bonnie & Clyde. I encouraged him to write it, but after years of not doing that, I finally put him with my longtime co-writer, Glase Lomond, and had him just videotape Tom for an hour taking down his ideas. From there we developed the script into “The Mexican Connection”… and later a distributor wanted to make the movie, but in Thailand with Steven Seagal, to open up the Asian market more, and call it The Asian Connection. The timing did not work out to have Tom in it, but I called him and explained we can “get the movie made and we will buy you out, or I’ll turn it down and wait for you”. He said, and I quote, “Fuck you Danny I love you, I’ll take the cash!”.

The good news is I was able to get the rights to sequels and remakes, so I will be making the original Mexican Connection at some point, hopefully with Tom and I’d love to work with Thomas Jane, so we shall see. Seagal and I worked well together, though I want to do a film with him in a bigger true leading role, and make it great. I also was an Executive Producer on End of a Gun with Seagal, and we are talking about more films together.

If you were handed the opportunity to create the biopic of any legendary figure in American history, who would it be?

ERNEST HEMINGWAY. My 100% greatest literary influence and the standard for me that all else follows. He was an adventurer and fisherman, (like me) who wrote and lived much of his life on an Island, and was born in Oak Park, Chicago, as I was too. His advice is legendary, including “in order to write about life, first you must live it”. I’m not comparing my work to Hemingway, but I am indeed living an adventurous life, and using that for my stories. I do NOT think he has been portrayed well in film At All at this point. Even that Woody Allen film had him all wrong in my opinion spouting his own quotes in a silly manner.  Hemingway always said just to “write one true sentence”. I don’t feel Hemingway has been portrayed in a TRUE way on film yet… though some amazing actors and directors have tried.

Also I like ZANE GREY, though not as solid as Hemingway, but Zane made a million bucks, bought a huge Yacht and fished around the world sending in stories from each port. JACK LONDON did the same before him. Made money, hit the ocean. So there are three actually I’d like to make movies about. I have chased down these three authors around the world in places they worked, lived and fished. I have a Hemingway related project I’ve been working towards for 20 years, and I used to represent the Zane Grey Estate, so I know much about these subjects and they are amazing.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

My films- Hollow Point is out now, and Invincible will be released later in the year. I have a few new films on the horizon such asInternational Waters, The Gunrunner, and Combat Medic and others in the works I can’t disclose yet. BUT I hope I am given a chance to make the films I really want to make. That takes a bit bigger budgets and certain actors / actresses I want to work with…   but I’m always writing and developing and I encourage everyone to do the same. Write.

Also- PLEASE follow me on  INSTAGRAM @DanielZirilli   I’m just getting started spending time on Insta with very few followers, and will answer most questions there, and post updates.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I smiled watching my son play electric guitar on FaceTime, then went down to the beach and walked with my pack out wild dogs I take care of. Crazy dogs bring a smile to my face, and of course my children always.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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