Safety producer Mark Ciardi on the movie's lengthy journey to Disney

From the director Reginald Hudlin and based on a true story, the inspiring drama security follows Ray McElrathbey (Jay Reeves), a Clemson University soccer safety officer who finds himself in the unexpected situation of missing his 11-year-old brother Fahmarr (Thaddeus J. Mixson). Through dedication, determination, and persistence, his unwillingness to give up his dreams, and his desire to keep his family together, help him thrive both in the field and outside.

During the virtual press conference for the Disney + film, Collider had the opportunity to speak 1: 1 with the producer Mark Ciardi about why he was so impressed with the story of Ray McElrathbey, the long journey it took to get to the big screen, not to give up a project just because it takes time to finish, and what impressed him about this cast. He also talked about what he's got in development, what he'll get into production next, how he got the sports movie guy, and what he'd say to others who want to be a producer.

Collider: What was it about Ray McElrathbey that got you to see a movie there, but then held on to the right for 14 years?


Image via Disney +

MARK CIARDI: I remember very well when these pieces started beating. I think the first one was on ESPN during one of the Clemson games, and then it became a national story. He was ABC World News Person of the Week tonight and then he was at Oprah and every time I saw bits and pieces of it I was really moved. So I just said, "Let me contact the school to see if I can try to get the rights." I knew it was going to be competitive so I got in early and could speak to Ray. He was 19 years old at the time and everything happened very, very quickly for him. I just told him, "I'll always be honest with you. I will never give up on this movie and we'll do our best to make it, but no guarantee."

We set it up in another studio all those years ago, developed the script, and thought it was pretty good. We almost made it a couple of times. Many films are not made. The majority don't. They are lucky when they are made and I definitely know and appreciate it because they are big investments. For some reason we got close, but didn't make it. We have tried at different times over the years and have always kept in touch with Ray. I said to him: “Hold on. Stay with me. I will never give up "And then when Disney + was announced a few years ago, it was one of the first things they bought. It's funny because I brought it to Disney when I had a deal there in 2006, and for any Cause the timing just didn't work, I was shooting Invincible and it's just one of those things, it's the timing.

As a producer, how hard is it to keep a business mindset and not crush your soul when you're this close to doing something and then it doesn't happen, sometimes over and over again?

CIARDI: Yes. As a producer, you get paid when you make a movie, so you have to stick with it. It's funny, I have three films from 2006/2007 that are all being shot and are at different points right now. You can't give up When you have a script that you love, timing is all about me. Eventually the timing could work out. It didn't matter that 14 years happened before the movie. In some ways it was better to have waited. Now Ray is a 34 year old young man and has matured. If it had happened when he was still in college, it would probably have been a bit overwhelming. It's nice to have a little time between stories. The music from 15 years ago is great. It's just as relevant now as it was then. The social problems are precisely tailored to what is happening.

Jay Reeves safe

Image via Disney +

Is there ever a point where you know you just have to give up a project, or is it always just about waiting for the right time?

CIARDI: I didn't control Ray's rights forever. I think there was a time when he was with another producer. I don't think anything happened. I don't even think a script was developed. Usually I just try to keep in touch with people. All of the scripts aren't coming out as well as you'd like, and you know that some things may not come out. However, if you believe in something and have a strong script, this is the currency. I am not giving up anything. It's just about finding the right place. These platforms are great places to tell these stories. The theater has always been a bit tricky and got people into the cinemas. Now more than ever during the pandemic. I knew years ago, before Disney announced theirs, when I watched Netflix and Amazon, that I was saying, "I don't know this world, but I have a feeling my films would be really good there." I always knew my movies are about index when they get to home video and cable. So I knew that there can be very valuable stories if you go straight to the audience at the beginning.

Your leads are relatively new to the audience. What did Jay Reeves and Corinne Foxx do right for these roles? What impresses you most about what they did there?

CIARDI: What was great about that was that Disney said, "We don't need stars for the movie," and that's great. The movie was the star, so we had to make these discoveries. We saw so many children. There have been thousands of auditions. I remember the first big auditions the Disney casting did. They cleared a huge network and there were thousands and then there were a few hundred that we looked at in our office. We loved Jay and we loved Thaddeus (J. Mixson). Those were our two top picks just because we saw random readings. And then we recorded four or five each for the roles of Ray and Fay, and they did chemistry readings with each of them who worked together. I remember when the two got together I kept my fingers crossed because they were my picks from the start and they just lit it up. And Corinne was great. She came in with some girls and read. What is fun is that you can see the chemistry when you audition.

Corinne Foxx and Jay Reeves safe

Image via Disney +

Do you know what you're going to put into production next? Are you someone who has a number of things in development or do you prefer to focus on one project at a time?

CIARDI: Good question. I'm starting a Lionsgate movie, which is actually another football story I was told about Kurt Warner. It's another amazing underdog story. In 2000, he moved from an arena league and store shelves in a supermarket to the NFL and then to the Super Bowl and league MVP. And there are a few other things. There are some stories that I worked on years ago that are in different stages of development. But the one for Lionsgate is in January. I have a Netflix movie. I'm developing a few things with Disney. It's a good time with content right now. It's really. It's always a challenge to do things because they are so competitive, but a lot of the stories I've had have now managed to get to the point where there is a good chance they will be made.

Still want to create a wish list with Reese Witherspoon?

CIARDI: I know this is on IMDb. It had different levels of activity. At the moment I haven't heard from it. It was just this really great idea. We have had many different iterations of this script. It never quite got there, but it's a great idea. You never know. That's a different one from about a dozen years ago. We'll probably dust it off and bring in another writer and try it out. You need to keep those projects that you like in mind at all times.


How did you get into making so many sports films? Is it something that was just a coincidence? Did you become the right person to talk to when you were successful with it?

CIARDI: I got into business at a later date. I was 35 or 36 years old and I knew nothing about the movie business. I played baseball and lived in Los Angeles in the off season. I was in the movie business and I started having friends who were in the movie business and then I left. I was in LA from 85 to 90 and then left. For most of the 90s, I was back to the east and overseas. And then I wanted to go back to LA. The idea of ​​getting into the movie business seemed crazy, but it also seemed a bit realistic because I had friends who did it. I knew people in the business and figured I'd give it a try. I wasn't afraid of it. In hindsight, it's a crazy idea, but I knew enough people to answer phones and people who would call me back. And then you just have to find great stories and teach yourself. At first I worked in a garage. If no one gives you anything, you learn pretty quickly. I funded a lot of what I did so it was a sinking or swimming situation.

And then with the sports films, I never thought I'd want to make sports films. I had written some thrillers and a few books and then read a story in Sports Illustrated in late 1999 about this West Texas teacher who was 35 years old and played Triple-A and it told the story of The Rookie. I read the story and couldn't believe it. He hadn't been promoted to any of the major leagues yet, but at the end of the article it said he'd played some minor league baseball, never got past single-A, and I didn't recognize the name. They said he signed with the Brewers in 1983, and then I signed. Then I looked at him and said, "Oh my god, Jim Morris." I played with him for three years and we drove together for a year. I was just starting to turn around and said, "Oh my god, I need to understand this story." So back then I got in touch with his agent and the one he just got. Everything happened very quickly for him. In short, I got the rights to it, and that got me on my way to making these sports films.

That was really, really good, and it was Dennis Quaid. After that, I opened Miracle, so we set that up. And then there was invincibility. We shot three in a row and then made a few films with The Rock and then with the Secretariat, Million Dollar Arm and McFarland, USA. It all comes from me because I am now known for sports. It ain't all I do I made the film Chappaquiddick, which is probably the biggest departure from the sport. But i love her. They are just great stories and great backdrops to tell stories. It should never be about sports. It's always in the background. It should be the emotion of the story.

Jay Reeves safe

Image via Disney +

Since you never really know how a film will turn out, which of the films you have produced do you think turned out better than expected and why?

CIARDI: Man, I always like The Rookie just because it was my first film and it was a man I knew and everything bet on it. I think Miracle has probably the longest life and people still refer to this movie and quote and watch it. What I love right now is that I have almost all of my films up there on Disney + and I know they are all well watched and people love them. They are like all of your children and I try not to play favorites. If one of these films shows up like a lot of other people, I just get sucked into it and eventually watch and remember it. They are just great films. They call them evergreens because they can be played over and over again over the years. You don't get old. Families can watch them rediscover them. That's the beauty of these films. So many people come and tell me how much they love them. That really is why you are getting into the business.

If anyone wanted to become a producer in Hollywood, what advice would you share? What do you think are the most important things someone should know?

CIARDI: There is never really a way. Probably just getting to LA. I don't know if I would recommend what I did. I financed my own projects. I had no experience. Nobody hired me in my mid-30s to be an assistant or work in a studio or production company, so I had to do it myself. There is also no barrier to entry. I started out as a producer. Lots of younger producers will find stories and then I get a call and they want to band together. You can always find stories, so find your network of people and meet actors. Go to an acting class just to understand what acting is about. Try to be on a movie set and learn different jobs. I had to teach myself. I remember my first set and I was in a trailer and I had no idea what was going on but I had people supporting me and supporting what I was doing. And then I just learned. I didn't know if I could do it or do it well. I knew I could develop. And then I finally got a set. It's just being good to people, being honest and working hard. It's the material too. If you can't come up with a good script, you don't have a good film. I was fortunate to have really good writers to work with and we tried to get them into the best possible shape.

Security can be streamed at Disney +.


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About the author

Christina Radish
(4663 articles published)

Christina Radish is a senior reporter at Collider. After working at Collider for over a decade (since 2009), her main focus has been on film and television interviews with talent in front of and behind the camera. She's a theme park fanatic who has had various land and ride openings covered, and a huge music fan for whom she judges life in terms of pre-Pearl Jam and after. She is also a member of the Critics Choice Association and the Television Critics Association.

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