Weston Razooli is far more than just a writer, producer and director. He’s a world-builder, as evidenced by his feature debut, “Riddle of Fire.” The faux-’70s children’s fantasy adventure, which premieres May 20 in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight program, follows three tweens (Charlie Stover, Skyler Peters and Phoebe Ferro) on a quest for ingredients to bake a blueberry pie, all to coax the boys’ mother into letting them play a stolen video game. Danger arrives when they meet the “Enchanted Blade Gang” led by a witch (Lio Tipton). Its deadpan comedy and surreal feel — somewhere between “Escape to Witch Mountain,” “Scooby-Doo” and “Napoleon Dynamite” — make it equally appealing to kids, Gen Xers, stoners, Adult Swim watchers and fans of cult indie cinema.
“There’s this tone that I call a ‘dark ’70s sci-fi fantasy vibe’ in children’s films that get a bit scary, which I think is important for an adventure film,” Razooli says. “I was making a movie for myself, but it’s for all ages. ’Riddle’ contains a piece of all my other scripts: it’s kind of a motorcycle movie, a fantasy film, a party movie and a folklore movie.”
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Razooli’s attraction to filmmaking developed from his childhood in Utah, where “Riddle” was shot on vivid 16mm film. “These vast forests were natural places for daydreaming and playing games,” he says. “My friends and I would play ‘capture the flag’ and paintball wars. The location itself was my fantasy world, and then I started playing a lot of Dungeons and Dragons, creating a whole story and LARPing — which is like writing a movie.” Gifted with a video camera on his 10th birthday, he explored stop-motion animation and make “tons” of comedy and action shorts with his friends.
At California College of the Arts in San Francisco, he studied illustration, graphic design and fashion “so that I could apply them to my movies. I love to work in as many mediums as I can.” That includes acting — he has a small part in “Riddle” and some of his shorts.
What’s odd is that this Park City native isn’t premiering the film in his hometown festival. “The goal was Sundance, but it was very hard to edit. In the cut I submitted, the sound wasn’t finished, it wasn’t colored and I think it was too rough [for them].”
After founding Psychic Films in 2015, he renamed it Anaxia, which is credited for the film’s editing, costume design and humorous subtitles. “It only exists with one person, and that’s me,” he laughs. “My goal is to build it into a production company where we develop my scripts. But we’ll also do a clothing line, create books and objects and pieces of art that we can sell. My vision is [that it’s] like an ancient, magical world that’s almost a portal to this other world that art is coming out of.”
But first things first, as Razooli — who cites Hayao Miyazaki, Akira Kurosawa and François Truffaut as influences — plans to make more features and get representation after his Cannes premiere. “I have four scripts written before ‘Riddle’ and several other ideas. About half of those are action-adventure stories similar to ‘Riddle,’ but I’ve got romantic thrillers and a hard R-rated crime thriller.” There’s also a high school movie set in the same fictional Wyoming town as “Riddle,” with different characters but “a similar vibe.”
The tongue-in-cheek yet oddly sincere tone of his debut, which is repped by Mister Smith Entertainment, makes one wonder if Razooli is his real name. “It’s the name I go by” is all he’ll divulge.
What’s indisputable is his talent and ambition. “I’ve been writing this saga of three films since the third grade — a fantasy adventure epic with a few different worlds in it,” he says. “I’m making films that are stepping stones to get there. It’s kind of my ultimate masterpiece.”
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