Crossing off bucket list items as early as 12-years-old, the YouTube personality has done everything from competing on TV game shows to starring in his own stand-up comedy special (Mark Ricci: The Teenage Special) to playing Peter Parker in his fan-made Spider-Man movies.
Now with over 100 million views on his Spidey videos alone, Movie Man Mark, as his followers know him, recognizes that the journey getting here wasn’t easy. After all, he’s been at this for nearly a decade.
Now preparing for the release of the final entry in his five-film saga, entitled Final Swing, Mark is already looking ahead to the next chapter in his career, which includes producing two features based on his own original stories. At only 21 years of age, the multihyphenate admits that his life consists of a series of phases; of milestones, but it’s also that search for the next big thing that keeps him going.
SPOILER: How old were you when you did your special with Amazon? MARK RICCI: I was 19. But it wasn’t by accident. It was a very conscious decision to reach out and try to achieve it. When I woke up on my 19th birthday I thought, “Oh my gosh, there are no teenagers who have ever had a full hour-long stand-up special.” So within that whole year, I was working every day, doing sets, preparing for that moment. And I narrowly made it before I turned 20—it was like, three days before. There was that relief for a little bit, but then the time went by and [I wanted] to get it out there. It was a long journey, but well worth it.
SPOILER: Were you nervous the first time on stage? MARK RICCI: Oh yeah, I was nervous. I had never done a full hour all at once—I had only done close to an hour. The nerves were gone by the second show and I got a lot of the better clips and I sort of merged the two together to the show that you see. There’s always nerves, but you just down a Red Bull and you do it.
SPOILER: Was there a lot of planning with your set? MARK RICCI: I was having so much fun that even the order [of jokes] I had planned went out the window for one show—whatever came out, came out. But at the end of the day, it was about 75% prepared. And based on reactions, I would add a little adlib. You wanna milk that sucker ‘til it’s dry if you’re getting laughs. You don’t wanna end the joke right away. But there were some pleasant surprises for sure.
SPOILER: Are you going to continue to pursue stand-up, or are you moving on to the next big thing? MARK RICCI: Stand-up is something that fell into my lap that I love, so I definitely want to go back to it and achieve the next big thing in that area. But, my life is kinda weird. It’s a series of phases almost. It’s all within the entertainment umbrella. One milestone I set out to achieve, and then the next and the next. Right now, I got the Spider-Man stuff and I’m even writing a couple of screenplays so that’s where my focus is lying, and YouTube of course. But I’ve got these original movie ideas that I wanna do; I want to fund it, produce, cast myself, and hopefully assemble an all-star cast. It’s gonna be a huge process, and one that’s already underway right now.
We’re not thinking of those as YouTube projects. We want them to be done on a much larger scale with a larger budget. I can’t say too much, but I can say that Jamie Kennedy, I’ve been talking to him a lot, and we want to work together in the future. He’s been mentoring me a little bit.
SPOILER: How did Movie Man Mark come about? MARK RICCI: That had been going on far longer than I had even dreamt about doing standup. I was twelve when I came up with that name. It was around the time when I had my first TV show gig. Over time it really stuck. The name was originally longer. It was “Mega Movie Man Mark,” because at the time there were a lot of people going by “Movie Man” on YouTube, so I thought maybe it was kinda cliché. But then [people got confused] and couldn’t remember the name. I figured I had established enough of an
audience for myself that the videos can speak for themselves, and I can go by a much cleaner name. In 2016, I shortened it to that, and it’s been “Movie Man Mark” ever since.
YouTube has been a journey. I originally started with just doing movie reviews. I just loved movies and when I would watch a movie I needed to talk about it. When I was younger, not a lot of my friends were huge movie buffs like me. I have a lot of friends now who are, but that happens when you get older and you find people with common interests. But at the time, I was talking to a wall and needed an outlet. And then when I got serious about acting, I was like, “Maybe it’s not the best idea to be ranting and roasting people’s films when I might be working with that person someday.” So I put an end to that and started doing skits and vlogs. And then Spider-Man came up.
SPOILER: What was your first experience on TV? MARK RICCI: My first three gigs were all game shows, but the first one [Skatoony] I kinda look at as a bit of an acting experience, because I was on the show competing with cartoon characters. It was a blast. The way that came about was I was in a summer drama program and they would send out auditions. So I didn’t even have an agent. And then I did another game show, Splatalot, which was literally just a rip-off of Wipeout. And then after that was the game show with my dad—a Japanese inspired game show [Japanizi].
I went back to the set of Splatalot years later when it became abandoned because it fit in with what I was doing on YouTube, where I was exploring abandoned locations. We were trespassing [laughs], but it was an idea too good not to do. So I did the video and it did really well. And then the producers reached out to me, and I was like, “Oh no.” But then I opened the message and they were like, “We’re actually going to be demolishing the set and we’re gonna make a web series out of it. We’d love for you to host the show and you can help us demolish it.”
SPOILER: Do you feel like today you have to do more to get people’s attention than when you first started? MARK RICCI: Absolutely. The second you slow down or don’t put the same amount of energy into a video, the viewer is just gonna click off and go to something else. So I’m lucky that that [energy] comes naturally to me anyway. But there are some days where I’m like, “This is a drag.” But you do it because you know people are waiting for your content. And I think back to when people couldn’t give less of a crap. This is something far greater than it ever was, so you have to remember that and appreciate it.
SPOILER: Was it nerve wracking making a Spider-Man movie? SpiderMan fans are so diehard. MARK RICCI: Well, I knew I had an understanding of the character, because Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. I was always a huge fan, so I kinda knew I could do it well. I wasn’t too nervous about that. Whenever I would get a negative comment, I would say, “Okay, I’ll take that into consideration. I’ll make my next performance more like the character.” It took a while. There are two sides of the character: the Peter Parker side—a lot of people see Peter Parker as the Tobey Maguire version, where he’s nerdy, he’s not really outgoing—and Spider-Man is his escape. When I first started, the two personas were kind of similar. And then I realized, “What would I like to
see as a fan?” As time goes on, if you watch the movies, I wouldn’t say the character does a complete 180, but he kind of becomes more true to the comics and what people love about Peter Parker and Spider-Man.
Spider-Man is one of those characters that you get attached to at a very young age and it never detaches. You love Barney and Blue’s Clues, but then you kinda forget about it. But Spider-Man is so accessible to anyone of all ages, and I think that’s why it’s so popular.
If we know that another fan film coming out is doing a character that we’re considering, we’ll just scrap the idea. That’s why I was so excited to do Kraven the Hunter. At the time, I didn’t realize that there were a couple of fan films that used him. But I just love that character, I think he’s so cool.
SPOILER: Would you ever want to play Spider-Man for Marvel? MARK RICCI: No. Not interested. They’ve called already, but I go, “Ay, I can’t do this. I’m doing the YouTube version!” [laughs] No, of course, that’s the dream. But they have so much going on already, so I’m not holding my breath. If that were to happen, I think it would happen after the next one. It’s called Final Swing. It’s the final chapter of our saga. We’ve made it very important to always take that next step with each film, in terms of the quality, the script, every department. We’ve really taken our time with this one. Our ultimate goal is to blow people away. If you think you’ve seen the best of what we can do, you have not.
SPOILER: How do you cast these movies? MARK RICCI: At first, just for convenience purposes, we go, “Do we know any actors who can do this role?” Luckily, the Toronto acting community, most people have been very willing and open to doing it. But sometimes we do pull from friends and family as long as they have that ability. In the past, we’ve just grabbed someone who looked like the character, but the standards are getting higher and higher, so we have to actually make sure they have some experience acting.
We’ve had some funny surprises. My great uncle plays J. Jonah Jameson—he’s played it for about five years now—and he’s amazing! We always get comments about how he steals the movie and he’s hilarious. I don’t think he’s ever had much acting experience, but he’s perfect. Those days take the longest because we’re just cracking up on set. He has these little improvs, and he’s a bit of a conspiracy theorist as well, so it works perfectly with Jameson. He’ll be like, “There’s no ice age!” He was asking me if he could include his conspiracies about the pandemic, and I was like, “No, no.” [laughs] People watch this for entertainment, not to be reminded about everything else.
SPOILER: I know some people think that fan films are easy, but how hard is it to make one? MARK RICCI: It is quite easy to start, and I advise people if they have an interest in it to try it, you don’t need much to start. But if you want it to be good, oh my gosh, it requires a lot of work. It’s not easy and you
have to invest a lot of time into it. It’s very consuming too. Whenever I’m doing Spider-Man, my YouTube channel kinda takes a back seat. There’s a lot of elements to it too. If you want it to be well written and find great locations and great actors, and costumes, it all takes a lot of time. It’s a big thing. But I always find it very creatively fulfilling, because even though it’s not an original property that we came up with, we put our own stamp on it. And people love to see what we’re going to do with it because they’ve followed us over the years. Now we’re at the point where we almost don’t wanna know what’s going on with the Hollywood ones. Obviously, we’re still fans, but we try not to be inspired by that. We try to set our own path.
SPOILER: How many views do you have on all of these films combined? MARK RICCI: I think it’s over 100 million views in total now. It’s always more gratifying to get that first million because it takes the longest. But if you’re lucky enough, your second million comes kind of quickly and it just snowballs. But that first million is special. It’s something every YouTuber dreams of.
SPOILER: When is the next one coming out? MARK RICCI: It’s coming out at the end of the year. We don’t have an exact release date yet. SPOILER: What advice would you give to someone out there trying to do what you’re doing? MARK RICCI: I would say, if you’re not seeing the results once you take that step and actually do it, just know that anyone who’s done it before—anyone you look up to—they’ve experienced that same thing. And it’s all about trial and error. Not everything you think is going to work is going to work. But you try again and adjust your confidence strategy a little bit. And one of those times, all the elements are gonna come into play. There could be a number of reasons why something does or doesn’t work, but don’t let that completely alter your motivation to do it.
If you’re doing a fan film, the most important thing is making sure it’s well written, well acted, and especially well edited. If you’re not familiar with the editing programs, get familiar, because the pacing of a movie is so important. If you film an entire sequence of scenes and put them together, but don’t watch them back to see what the pacing is, then you’re not doing your job. There are gonna be some things that need to be cut or adjusted so that people have the ultimate viewing experience. Follow that three-act structure with your screenplay, and then later you can worry about the costumes and effects and all that. But at the beginning, it’s important just to find your footing with the basics of filmmaking.
We’ve had times where the actor becomes unavailable and we have to scramble at the last minute because we have a shoot coming up, but you just gotta roll with the punches at the end of the day. Especially if you’re not paying people, they’re not always gonna be available. People have busy lives. Luckily, we’ve never recast a role in this current saga. We’ve found ways to work around it through rewriting.
SPOILER: Do you feel that social media and YouTube has changed the world for young filmmakers? MARK RICCI: 100%. Just being able to have financial freedom and not working a normal 9 to 5. I’ve done all that. But without YouTube, I wouldn’t be able to stand on my own two feet and do what I want to do. When I wake up, I have a certain mission and it aligns with what I want to do. You just gotta keep working and pay your dues—[most people] aren’t gonna be able to skip that stage. But being able to be your own content creator and not having to wait for someone else to say yes—you gotta just do it yourself, and people will recognize your dedication and commitment. And it makes you better in the process, so that you’re more prepared for that next opportunity.
SPOILER: Do fans and cosplayers ever reach out to you to be in your movies? MARK RICCI: Yeah, a lot. Most of the time it’s kinda unrealistic because they’re not around where we film or they’re way younger. Like, we have little kids going, “Can I be Doctor Octopus??” Back in the day, maybe it didn’t matter, but now it has to be age appropriate. Most of the time it’s kids who ask, but if they’re around Toronto, yeah, we’d be down to throw them in there in a small role. But hey, I was that kid too! I was messaging people too, way in over my head, sending letters to casting directors when I had virtually no experience.
SPOILER: Have you ever experienced anything paranormal on set? MARK RICCI: Yes. We’ve had paintings move. We actually went to one of the most haunted hotels in the country, in California. We had a full camera battery and went up to an urn that had ashes inside, and as we were walking up to it, the camera just shut down. The battery was completely drained. We just ran out, we didn’t know what to do. I went into this as such a naysayer, but after that, I was like, “Maybe I’m wrong.”