Just a few years ago, six of them were carpenters in Rhode Island, making short films for kicks.
More recently, seven Kinnane brothers and their brother-in-law found themselves in actor-comedian Kevin James’s Long Island garage, filming a short for his YouTube Channel.
Since forming in 2016, Kinnane Brothers, a family of self-taught filmmakers based in Little Compton, R.I., have been making waves. They made an hourlong NBC Olympics special in 2019, won the Runner-up Jury Award for Comedy Short at the 2020 Woods Hole Film Festival, and have filmed documentaries around the world, from Kenya to India.
This spring, they found themselves quarantined with the “King of Queens” actor to work on short films for his YouTube Channel; it boasts 769,000 followers. They estimate they’ve made some 40 shorts for the channel. And since the pandemic started, folks have noticed that James’s channel is, as the kids say, lit.
Now back in Little Compton, they continue work on various projects with James.
Their viral “Sound Guy” sketches — in which they expertly insert James as the inept sound guy into various movies — are popular examples. One bit that seamlessly inserts James into “Good Will Hunting” earned nearly 1 million views. Another, where Sound Guy eats lunch with Daniel Day-Lewis, on the set of “There Will Be Blood,” has closer to 2 million.
Kinnane Brothers, who range in age from 20 to 37, are Charles “Chuck” Kinnane III (director), Dan (director and cinematographer), Patrick (writer), Brendan (writer, music editor), Peter and John (editors), William (producer), and brother-in-law Jeffrey Azize (producer.)
The siblings grew up a tribe of 10 in the small town of Little Compton, making their own fun running through the woods and filming movies on an old VHS camera from the ’80s.
When Charles, the eldest, received his much-longed-for video camera in fourth grade, his siblings became actors.
“It’s hard to say the first movie,” Dan, 28, says. “But one I always remember is ‘A Cousins Christmas Carol’ — we have a lot of cousins, and we basically re-created ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol.’”
The brothers laugh at the memory.
“We loved re-creating scenes,” Charles says with a chuckle. “ ‘Pulp Fiction,’ Indiana Jones.”
“ ‘The Godfather.’ ‘Saving Private Ryan,’” Dan adds.
They laugh again.
“We joke that Chuck was born with a camera in his hand,” says Azize, 33.
As for how they grew into a full-on film company?
Charles and Azize had worked together on film projects for years. They were “looking for a real crew” for a miniseries when Azize suggested the brothers — though they hadn’t taken any film classes, they had the raw talent.
Shortly after came the opportunity to make NBC’s “The Next Olympic Hopeful.” The hourlong special aired in December 2019 before the 2020 Olympics were postponed. They made their festival circuit debut in 2019 at the Austin Film Festival with a short dark comedy, “Rigor Mortis,” filmed in Little Compton. It also won a Jury Award at the 2020 Woods Hole festival.
So how did they hook up with Kevin James?
James saw and loved a short film called “Just Keep Swimming,” in which Azize, and his wife Maureen, (a Kinnane sister), share their journey with their premature son. Born on Jan. 13, 2015, weighing just 1 pound, 9 ounces, he spent 118 days in a neonatal intensive care unit in Providence.
Just before COVID hit, James asked the group to work with him on a project on Long Island.
Then, of course, “Everything was on hold,” says Charles. James “said: If you guys want, we can quarantine together and keep shooting, do some short films.”
“We’d come in and throw around a ton of ideas, and Kevin would jump on the ones he loved the most,” says Dan.
Sound Guy, for example, was a character Pat came up with.. They showed him a mock-up “and he loved it,” Dan says.
“What got us here is the bond we all have,” says Azize. “Everyone’s family at the end of the day. We’re brutally honest — we come off a little too frank at times — but we try to lift everyone up. No one is greater than the other.”