A conversation with writer Nick Richey and actress Ali Richey on their new film, 1-800-HOT-NITE.
Fed up with a lack of work and hungry for creativity, writer Nick Richey and actress Ali Richey made their industry debut in 2019, with their first feature film, Low Low, a coming of age story written by Nick Richey and starring Ali Richey as "Ryan Reese".
The film received rave reviews across festivals and newspapers, and this year, the duo is back at it again, with a second coming-of-age feature film, 1-800-HOT-NITE, that ended its festival run at none other than The Austin Film Festival. The next day, this past Friday, Nov. 4, the film came out on iTunes and is now available all across the country.
“It’s so cool to see this little movie you dreamt about in your bedroom now be on iTunes,” Nick says.
For the Richeys, after years of Ali submitting auditions and Nick trying to sell scripts, the couple decided to start making their own films, together, using their shared interest as an asset.
“Just don't be afraid to make your own projects in any way you can,” actress and producer Ali Richey says at the AFF red carpet event. “If you don’t write, start writing.”
And that’s exactly what writer and director Nick Richey did. Two years ago, in 2020, just before the COVID lockdowns, Nick started writing this story, pulling moments from his own life as fuel for the action.
“It’s very autobiographical, a lot of the similar moments in the movie actually happened to me as a kid,” Nick Richey says.
The film starts in a phone booth. Three teenage boys, played by Dallas Dupree Young, Gerrison Machado, and Mylen Bradford, hold the phone to their ear, giggling their faces off. Who are they dialing, you might ask?
1-800-HOT-NITE, or a phone sex operator, played by Ali Richey.
“I called a phone sex operator as a kid, though mine was 1-800-HOT-F***,” Nick says, laughing. “I had to change the number to make it kid-friendly.”
For Nick, as a writer, the idea of this script had been percolating for a while, dancing in the back of his mind, but it was untouched and uncharted. Finally, however, a friend challenged Nick to broach some of the subjects he’d been wanting to explore, and 1-800-HOT-NITE was born.
“I’m glad I got to tell the story, I think for me it’s been a long time coming as a writer,” Nick says.
Because he included so many personal details in the film, the process was vulnerable for Nick as a writer. But, this vulnerability in his art has touched audiences across the world, in deeper ways than Nick originally expected.
“It was really emotional at first, there’s been some moments on the festival circuit where people respond very emotionally to the film, and it's made me feel very emotionally connected to them,” Nick says.
In the film, the main character, Tommy, gets mugged by a group of older men, a scene plucked from Nick’s real childhood, when he was delivering newspapers on his paper route. This scene made me cry and sit on the edge of my seat, praying, hoping, and wishing that Tommy would be okay. All around me, the audience looked the same. It felt so real, because it was so real.
“I got robbed in the exact same way when I was a thirteen year old boy on my paper route,” Nick says. “These men like locked me in their house and stole my money and pushed me around.”
Nick shares that he pulled from these difficult moments from his childhood in order to show a more realistic version of teenagers and childhood: one that’s not shown on Euphoria, One Tree Hill, or Gossip Girl.
Nick had the same goal with his casting, too, choosing actual teenagers to play the lead boys, instead of hunky thirty-year-olds with a baby face. For Nick, it was important to be authentic in the representation, and audiences are thanking him for it.
“[I] love seeing messages from teenagers saying they finally get to watch a movie where kids talk like them and look like them,” Nick says on Instagram about the boys.
The actors thank him, too. Gerrison Machado, who plays O’Neill in the film, shares that he had a blast on set, becoming close with his cast members just like the characters are in the movie.
“There was a SteakBurger scene, we were all eating burgers, and there were probably 50 takes of that scene because we were laughing so hard,” Gerrison says.
In the State Theatre at Austin Film Festival, this same laughter reverberated through the entire audience during the SteakBurger scene, with everyone loving the relationship between the three boys. The coming-of-age relationships Nick Richey created onscreen.
"I would watch these [coming-of-age] movies, like Stand by Me and Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, and I kind of wanted to be part of that storytelling experience," Nick says.
Thankfully, Nick Richey's writing career won’t stop with this film; instead, he’s already started the pre-production process for his next feature, working again with Ali and Halfway Crooks Entertainment.
“We work really well together, it’s just kind of a dream,” Ali says.
As an LA actress with experience in both commercial and film, Ali shares that she’s grateful for the opportunities to collaborate in these films with Nick, both as an actress and producer. Together, they create interesting characters for future projects, feeding Ali's creative spirit and creating great material for her acting reel.
“I do a lot of auditioning, and I’m just trying to get my face out there,” Ali says.
With the film’s recent pick up by Odin’s Eye Entertainment, an international distribution company, Ali and her character, "Ava", won’t have issue with this at all, since her face will now be streamed in households across the globe. Because of their unapologetic drive and need to create, they are taking leaps toward their career goals one project at a time.
“For Nick and I, we both just weren’t getting stuff on the professional level, and we just finally got fed up of it in a way, and said, 'let’s not wait for people to come to us',” Ali says.
Starting now, I’ll be taking a lesson from the Richey’s book, and I’ll be watching their names climb the IMDB Starmeter, because If this film is any proof, Nick and Ali Richey are going places, and their films are, too.
If you don’t believe me, hear it from cast member Gerrison Machado:
“[The Richeys] are great, man,” Gerrison says.
There you have it. Stream 1-800-HOT-NITE on iTunes now, and check out their website for a good time ;) .
Thank you to Nick and Ali Richey for making such great, inspiring work, and I’m so glad the AFF party’s long wine lines brought us together. See you in LA!
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About the Thoughts Blog:
Before Payton wrote pilots, before articles and poems, Payton wrote in her journals and on Google Docs, always titling the entry: Thoughts. For this reason, this blog was easy to name.
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