Tom Jolliffe chats with indie film-maker Shane Ryan…
Long time friend of FM, Shane Ryan stopped by to chat about his latest works as well as his views on the indie scene, Hollywood, the death of physical media, over reliance on technology and more…
Ryan whose most infamous works remain the Amateur Pornstar Killer trilogy, is a director with a desire to make Jean Claude Van Damme-esque action films, the philosophical and thoughtful approach to make evocative indie arthouse, but the infamy for making something like Amateur Pornstar Killer (which isn’t without its interesting stylistic approaches).
With a host of features and shorts still in post, in development, and a few projects as actor (and director for hire) Ryan is certainly busy. Additionally he’s also putting together a rather interesting sounding 80’s themed short film anthology Awesomely Righteous and Radical. For any film-makers out there wishing to put together an 80’s set film, that’s 5-15 minutes long it’s well worth submitting to and the ultimate goal for Ryan will be to see the collection (which will include his excellent short film Guerrilla as the showpiece title) put out on physical media. Catch more details at the official site here. You can also catch our review for his latest short Dacryphilia + Hematolagnia here.
Here’s what Ryan had to say about that, and the rest;
Tell us a little about your most recent short Dacryphilia + Hematolagnia. How was it conceived and how did you meet your co-creator Lilith Singson?
Lilith’s grandmother and my mom are best friends, so I’ve known her family for most of my life. Lilith moved back to town about 2 1/2 years ago when she was 15. She was posing as a boy at that time, and I thought it’d be great to do a movie about her experiences growing up transgender, which led to her becoming more gender fluid, and eventually she just decided to live fully as a cisgender female. So I kind of documented this in a movie I’m still shooting called This Girl, This Boy, though it’s quite staged as well as it’s not meant to come off like a documentary, per se.
In the meantime we started working on a separate project called Red Oedipal, an experimental arthouse blood bath of a film, which we’ve also been shooting the past 2 years. Anyway, at one point I was asked to make a segment for the upcoming Philia anthology, and while we shot a scene specifically for the anthology (the scene from the opening/ending shot in the first chapter of our segment), I realized in editing that I had all this Red Oedipal footage that totally fit the segment, and that it would make it a much more experimental and visual treat. The second chapter is a bit similar to another anthology segment that Lilith solo directed called Kamatayan, which is included in the upcoming 60 Seconds To Die 3 anthology. Both segments feature footage we shot in the burnt down forest, which scarily happened just behind Lilith’s home in 2017. We shot in the forest several times just after it burnt down and throughout the following months to try and capture it at the perfect magic hour setting.
Another recent short Guerrilla seems to have picked up a lot of great reviews. How did you find shooting a period film for no money?
In a small town it isn’t so bad. The biggest issue, more than anything, is people in the background, entirely due to their phones being in their faces at any given second (way more so a giveaway of the time period than their present day wardrobe). I show the issues of dealing with that in the end credits. Even during the roller skating scene there’s several girls who were tearing across the rink with their faces buried in their technology. Otherwise, I mean, we got the carnivals, the bowling alley, we found arcades with old games, 7/11 slurpy trips, just everything I remembered doing as a kid in the 80’s; I looked for those types of places. Plus I had a ton of things from the 80’s I had kept in a box, so most of the props came from there (i.e. the power-glove). I even had the audio cassette soundtrack to a movie with Corey Haim and Corey Feldman that hadn’t ever been opened, so we used that as the lead’s new tunes for his Walkman. I had an original 80’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle watch, a Blockbuster video name-tag (from when I worked there), 80’s books and magazines with huge 80’s stars at their peaks on the covers, like Arnold Schwarzenegger (from the first Terminator), and Sylvester Stallone (there’s a Rocky inspired freeze frame moment at the end of the training montage in Guerilla).
And then all of the actors just brought it when I mentioned clothes, wardrobe, hair; Carissa Carlberg nailed her hair style, Lucy Dorado had the perfect jacket and looked reminiscent of Helen Slater in The Legend of Billie Jean, and Mars Mohamed is a kid right out of the 80’s (you should see his room filled with VHS tapes and Godzilla); no work, no costume or hair style change was needed, just him. And then for the “after the world ends” portion, well, in a small town, there’s a ton of perfect desolate areas for that as well. The final showdown was at an abandoned high school near me, and it even had a payphone. We still have a fair amount of payphones here, actually. I just had to bring a phone book from home to add to it.
Your 80’s anthology Awesomely Righteous & Radical sounds like an interesting and challenging project to put together. How has the response been? Are you aiming to try and help and inspire other film-makers to make work in spite of having limited resources? What are you aims with the Anthology?
Originally Guerrilla was made for another anthology, a horror one that I was asked to contribute to, though I had chosen to set my film in the 80’s. But after 3 years, several of the filmmakers who were signed up to do the anthology had still not completed, or perhaps never even started making, their films. So, finally I decided, I want my film out there. So the idea for the 80’s anthology came from not having any place for my film now that the other anthology was a bust. It just so happens in that time period, that Stranger Things came out and became a massive hit. 80’s nostalgia has become this huge deal. So while my reason for setting Guerrilla in the 80’s was actually very personal, I decided to jump on board this current hot trend in hopes that it will attract the most response.
Which, sadly, doesn’t seem to be much at this point. I think people would be super interested, but I’ve yet to get a response from more than just a couple publications on getting the word out to directors and film enthusiasts. If people don’t know about it, how can they submit, or even be excited? So I greatly thank you for the continued support in helping struggling independent projects get noticed. I hope enough people hear about it to be inspired to contribute, whether with limited resources or even if somebody has a film from the actual 80’s sitting around, send it over! I want a super fun project. Even a feel good anthology. All of the anthologies that I see being made on the underground circuit, and even all of the ones I’ve been a part of, are just so horrific and brutal. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not really my cup o’ tea. I love arthouse (which I tried to aim for with the Philia segment, albeit bloody as hell, but super artsy) and foreign films, but I also love 80’s action the most, plus comedy and coming of age 80’s. I grew up on that kind of stuff, after all. I didn’t grow up watching horror, unless it was lighter themed like Monster Squad. I actually got the idea for Guerrilla from Steven Spielberg’s production of Super 8 (it reminded me of when I was a kid filmmaker, when I believed in cinema, in dreams coming true…and screaming ‘production value!’ which I still do, as nothing’s changed in terms of budget). Films like E.T. and Gremlins give a special feeling of the better days of childhood in my heart, too. But I’d love for a submission like Valley Girl, The Breakfast Club, an homage to people like Shô Kosugi or Michael Dudikoff and of course, Jean-Claude Van Damme. But 80’s horror like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, etc, is more than encouraged. I just want it to stay clear of the X-rated and hardcore ‘Video Nasties’ category. There are plenty of other anthologies for that stuff. And we’re definitely going to make sure this gets a physical release on DVD and/or BluRay, though a VHS release to boot would be kick ass!
In terms of the distribution of your films, you’ve been quite vocal in the way they’ve been picked up and treated differently with physical media and online streaming (where the censorship seems to be a lot harsher). In theory the openness of streaming avenues should be opening more doors for indie film-makers, but the opposite seems to be true now, and the potential to ‘earn’ almost impossible. What drives you to keep going? How would you change the system?
The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I know nothing other than film. I’ve been into film since I was 3 years old, learning how to edit since I was 5, making films since I was 7. What else do I want to do? Nothing. I also love dogs, that’s about it. Maybe work with dogs if cinema completely dies. While a lot of people find me to be a very pessimistic person, I actually think deep down I’m very positive, filled with hope. Hope that one day, good things will happen. That hard work and pursuing your dreams does pay off, like I was told when I was a kid in the 80’s, when I started pursuing this life. I can’t do this for another three decades and still be penniless. Somebody’s got to take notice, right?
However I never expected the destruction of video stores, the decline and collapse of indie theatres, and the rise of the 5 minute YouTube douche-bag star. If we’re in a time when a standard 115 minute film is considered a long epic running time, I am starting to lose faith, to lose that hope. I’d change things in the way that vinyl has made a comeback. Though I’m not sure how. And if there was a way to educate people on the importance of keeping art and culture and history alive. You know, I have more film titles in my bedroom on physical media than Netflix has in their whole streaming catalog, and all of it cost me less than having the internet and streaming subscriptions (if you were to budget the monthly costs over the years).
Movie theatres and video stores were also a social event, a place for loners like me to actually feel at home somewhere other than home. A place to make friends, to be inspired, to find collaborators. It was a way that people could learn about each other, about the world even. Some people’s argument is that streaming creates less waste. Well, why is there ever a reason to throw out a film? Unless it actually breaks, you can trade it, sell it, give it away. If there was just a way to educate people on this.
You get these people who watch not even the opening credits of a film before clicking on something else and/or while writing a hateful 1-star re’view’ of a film that they didn’t even view. You wouldn’t walk out of a theatre in the opening credits and write a negative review on the poster outside the screen to detour other people from walking in. You wouldn’t drive back to the store and return a DVD after getting merely 30 seconds in to the film, and scribble hateful things all over the video cover before returning it. There’s no way to properly present your film anymore, it’s instantly flooded with negativity.
With video stores, and in theatres, people take the time to make an educated guess before spending their money. And because they took the time to choose, and spent the money, they usually finish the film. The movie had time to breathe as well, it didn’t have to wow you 15 seconds in. It could take the time to actually be good, and not force feed you before the opening credits. Now distributors are telling filmmakers how to make our films differently to attract these idiots so they don’t hit click, click, click on another dozen films before the title even pops up. It’s just lost all meaning and value. It’s awful.