GET TO KNOW AGBO: ARI COSTA
By AGBO Team | September 1, 2023
Ari Costa is SVP of Physical Production at AGBO. He has been with the company since the start and today marks the release of his directorial debut, “All Fun and Games,” an indie horror produced under the Gozie AGBO banner starring Natalia Dyer and Asa Butterfield, and co-directed by Eren Celeboglu. Among other film and TV projects for AGBO, Ari was a Co-Producer on “Mosul” for Netflix, and an Executive Producer on Netflix mega-hits “Extraction” and “Extraction 2” starring Chris Hemsworth. Ari has been working with the Russo Brothers since 2010 and was an Associate Producer on the record-breaking box office hits “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War”, and “Avengers: Endgame.” Previously, Ari was in comedy development at NBC on the critically acclaimed, Golden Globe Award-winning shows “The Office,” “30 Rock,” and “Parks and Recreation.”
When did you first fall in love with movies?
Ever since I watched “Back To The Future” at five years old when it was on video, something woke me up to the magic of the industry and I became obsessed with movies. And then growing up I would go to the theaters every Monday with my grandfather. My grandmother had plans, so me and my grandfather would go to the movies, whether it was something good, something bad, saw a lot of movies, we would go to dinner and then we would go afterwards. And that was sort of my film education. And then up through high school, I would weasel my way outta our projects by doing a video instead of an essay or something like that. I went to Emerson College and studied film there. And out of film school I got a job as an NBC page. And then became a coordinator in comedy development at NBC working on “30 Rock” and “The Office” and “Parks and Rec,” and a little show called “Community” was in development there. And that's how I met the Russos.
How did you start working with the Russo Brothers?
I started as the Russo's assistant in 2010… they had a former assistant who was possibly gonna get promoted, is what she told me. So I bothered her for about six months. I took her out for drinks once a month for six months, just told her, “I want that job, I want that job, I want that job!” So I started off as their assistant and then on the Marvel Films I started associate producing for them, covering second unit, being their eyes and ears and sort of quality controlling the product for them. And then when AGBO started, I came in as VP of physical production and have made my way up to SVP of physical production.
What was your first experience as a director?
On the set of the first “Extraction,” where I was on the ground producing for the company. The second unit director got sick, and he was in the hospital. And the day before I was on the phone with Joe [Russo] trying to figure out who was gonna step in and direct second unit. And he was like, well, it's kind of obvious it's gotta be you. You know this movie, you've been with it for six months, you know Sam [Hargrave], you know what we're going for. And so I stepped in and directed a week of second unit. I’ve never done that before, but it was really exciting and kind of nerve-racking because I didn’t have a map or a plan because I was coming in a little bit blind, definitely taking a risk there.
How did your directorial debut, “All Fun and Games” come about?
[The Russo Brothers] have always encouraged me to direct and whether it be commercials or web series or short films or second unit… But most recently, a horror film came into AGBO about two, three years ago that we wanted to make, so my writing/directing partner and I took the script, rewrote it from the ground up, pitched it around town, found financing.
What’s the biggest difference between producing and directing?
I kind of think about a producer in like simple terms is, you know, if the director is the painter, then the producer is setting up the canvas, giving them the paints, giving them the space to paint and making sure that it's quiet and the mood's right for them. So we're trying to surround our directors with the best people in the industry, whether it be the DP’s (Directors of Photography) we work with or production designers we work with.
What’s one moment of working on a film you’ll never forget?
I gotta say, on “[Captain America] Winter Soldier,” not that I got to work directly with him, but I got to watch the guys work directly with Robert Redford and to grow up on his films and for him to be such an iconic actor and such a legend. And then to see the guys working with him, and he was a big part of that movie was just, that was something I'll never forget.
What’s your advice for aspiring filmmakers?
Like Joe [Russo] says, “if you wanna be a carpenter, you gotta build a lot of tables,” so if you wanna be a filmmaker, you gotta make a lot of films to get better at it. So those first 10, 15 years, you gotta hustle and you gotta give yourself over to it if you want to get there.
What’s your favorite movie ever?
My favorite movie is “Back to the Future.” Everybody says it and I know it's really popular to say, but I do think it's a perfect movie. Perfectly cast, perfectly written, perfectly directed. And it's the first movie that sort of made me aware of the magic of cinema and transported me somewhere. I can watch that movie non-stop.