Movie lovers and devoted Clarkies now have the opportunity to watch a film produced by a fellow alumnus. Following its debut to two sold-out screenings at the Soho International Film Festival in 2015, Orchard Films has rolled out the comedy “The Networker,” which is available to viewers across a myriad of platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Microsoft and Vudu.
Co-conceptualized and produced by Rich Buyer ’84, “The Networker” tells the story of John, a middle-aged boozing and schmoozing inheritor to his father’s company, who has never worked a hard day in his life. When the company falters, John’s father gives his son three months to get the business back in shape or lose his inheritance. Searching for an answer to the company’s woes, John turns to the world of business networking, where he finds himself caught in a series of hilariously escalating situations.
Buyer says the characters in “The Networker” were inspired by the people, interactions and events he and his co-creators, Bill Brady and Victor Ribaudo, experienced during their 15-year partnership. The first-time feature filmmaker recalls the tribulations of getting the movie done, including the loss of access to multiple sets. At one point, the resourceful cast and crew herded into Buyer’s New York apartment to get the necessary shots.
“From day two, I saw a million different ways it could fall apart at any minute. I realized in that moment, few cross the finish line of their personal goal,” Buyer says. “I was like a dog with a bone. I wasn’t going to let it go.”
Buyer transferred to Clark University as a second-semester sophomore with a double-major in pre-med and psychology. His previous college hadn’t been a good fit — his passions seemed foreign to his fellow classmates.
“I loved Clark,” Buyer says. “It was the first time in my life that I was in an environment where I felt like I could be who I was. It was the perfect place for me — the best decision I ever made.”
An avid fan of ’60s and ’70s sitcoms, he took a screen studies course that piqued his interest in Hollywood classics. After graduating and moving to New York’s Upper West Side, he began frequenting a video store near his apartment, where he rented VHS copies of movies like “Citizen Kane” and “Funny Girl” (his all-time favorite).
Even so, Buyer says the notion of filmmaking never occurred to him. He worked in the hotel industry, as a personal trainer and as a self-taught web designer (he smartly latched onto what he referred to in the late ’90s as “that Internet thing”), among other jobs in the creative fields. He also regularly performed stand-up comedy in the Manhattan club circuit. For the last 17 years, he has been at the helm of Rich Buyer Design, the company he founded in 2000, which graphically constructs corporate identities through web, print, photography and sales packages.
While exploring his various career paths, he became increasingly aware of a lack of passion in his work life and began to recall his early loves: the sitcoms of his childhood, the video store he haunted, his comedy routines and the joy that comes from making people laugh.
Alongside partners Brady and Ribaudo, Buyer began developing “The Networker.” In addition to his writing and producing credits, he is also responsible for the movie’s set photography and web design. “When working on the movie, it felt like it all came together for me," he says. "It felt as right as anything you’d want to feel.”
“The Networker” stars Steve Stanulis, William Forsythe, Sean Young and Stephen Baldwin. Buyer is hopeful the storyline and performances will act as a springboard for greater things — he already has the pilot of “The Networker” sitcom written should Hollywood come calling.
“When I was growing up, there were so few channels,” Buyer recalls. “Now, there are hundreds of channels looking for content. I think we are well-positioned to feed that machine.”
Buyer and his “Networker” team are now working on several other scripts. “I’m not out to change the world,” he says. “I’m just out to bring a little more laughter to it.”
Top: Stephen Baldwin and Sean Young in "The Networker."