In Bayport, and pretty much in several south shore communities, Ray Cooney is known as a martial arts expert, a well respected and liked Dojo business owner, a dedicated family man and a volunteer firefighter.
Now you can add actor, singer and television show creator and producer to the Bayport resident’s professional resume, and, very likely in the future, major moviemaker and screenplay producer as well.
That’s because Cooney, and partner author Ian Fydell, are debuting their first reality TV show Saturday morning, a cooking show called the Firehouse Kitchen, on TV55 at 11:30 a.m.
The show, which can be seen on channel 10 on FIOS and Optimum TV and 55 on DirectTV through the tri-state area, stars well-known chef Joseph T. Bonanno Jr. creating dishes with special guest stars and Cooney offering up a ‘safety tip of the week’ segment in the role of Firefighter Ray.
Bonnano is a celebrity chef and author of the Healthy Firehouse Cookbook and the Firehouse Grilling Cookbook and has appeared on dozens of national talk show broadcasts doing cooking segments.
The show is shot on a kitchen set built in Bohemia as well as onsite at local community firehouses including Bayport, West Sayville and Patchogue with local volunteer firemen featured in many episodes.
Proceeds from the TV show benefit the Stony Brook Burn unit and the New York City Firefighter Burn Center.
Cooney and sci-fi author Fydell, who hails from Massapequa, are hoping the reality program catches a strong following given the local community hook and success holds the key to advancing books, movies and a new children’s TV cooking show the duo are eager to push forward into production.
“I get so many ideas and they just come to me instantly,” said Cooney, a retired New York City fireman who has owned Shaolin Self Defense Center in Bayport for 20 years.
A preview of the opening segment can be seen at Vimeo. Cooney even wrote the jaunty jingle for the show.
Cooney began taking his TV and movie ideas and creating screenplays and broadcast pilots, (31 movies and nine TV shows to be exact), five years ago after rehabbing from injuries that prompted his department retirement after seven years on the job.
As he relates, a relative who is a screenwriter encouraged him to move forward on his creative ideas and together they developed 31 movie synopses treatments and four full scripts.
It was through networking to get his ideas on film that Cooney met Fydell and the two began talking about creating a reality TV show in December 2011.
Fydell is the author of Breathing Space, part one of his Exodus Trilogy book series, which is available on Amazon.
Last August the duo filmed a pilot called Intoxination, a funny short indie film at Dublin Deck in Patchogue.
Through a Fydell contact the two are also busy developing another reality show program, called “The Setup,” about the life of stagehands working live theatre and concert venues and are pitching the pilot to agents and companies while serving as executive producers of Firehouse Kitchen.
The Firehouse Kitchen show came pretty much out of the blue when a friend in Hollywood asked Cooney’s help in trying to get such a reality show going.
“I just reached out to Joe Bonnano,” recalled Cooney and he and Fydell took off with the project.
They began contacting local firehouses for site shoots and fireman to participate as guests. They lined up sponsors, including Georgi Vodka, and wrote the pilot treatments for each episode. They pitched and won over TV55 before the station was bought by CBS and CBS is honoring the broadcast contract. The creative team has shot 13 episodes that will air weekly in the Saturday morning timeslot.
Local businesses have been very supportive, said Cooney, with delis and restaurants including the Bayport Fish Store, 21 Main, Harbor Crab and Satellite Pizza providing free food for production days.
The duo shot 12 episodes in 17 days that were filmed by RDA productions, a St. James company. Four episodes were filmed at local firehouses, including Bayport and West Sayville and the rest on a set built in Bohemia.
Cooney's special segment, playing the role of Firefighter Ray, offers up kitchen safety tips. His signature line is “these tips save lives.”
“We should trademark that,” he says with his customary grin.