…Here comes Part 2 of our interview with filmmaker, Shane Ryan, a micro-budget artsploitationist whose biggest influence is none other than the Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme. In this part, Shane talks about other filmmakers, technology, working (or not working) from a script, and the lure of Hollywood…
My style is usually influenced by myself, based on my resources, and what can I possibly do to just get this fucking film done on this goddamn twenty dollar bill in my pocket, a camcorder, and an empty tank of gas. I never have time to watch a movie and go – this is what I want to do, this is the D.P. I want to get to shoot this style, this is the budget, the storyboard, the script, etc etc. It’s – I’m feeling this emotion, this thought, this idea, let’s go. Let’s just do this. And let life influence the rest. However, in all honesty, I do love movies, and yes, there are filmmakers who have made films that I would say, more, gave me confidence to keep doing things my way. Simply because they do things their way. They have their own style, and they stick with it. And many of them have this realistic and/or improv looking style as well. So, these guys gave me the courage to keep doing it my way, whether I like all of their films or not; John Cassavetes, Terrence Malick, Gus Van Sant, Harmony Korine, Lars von Trier, Vincent Gallo, Edward Burns, Alexander Payne. I also like certain action or visual-style directors who really have an intense eye with their own vision; Tony Scott, The Hughes Brothers, Darren Aronofsky. Way back when I was trying to spend two years developing features with an actual budget and some action scenes, I admit Scott and Aronofsky played a lot into the vision. But those films were never made/finshed. Then there are directors who just have certain films that really, really stick with you. “Ronin” (John Frankenheimer), “Chinatown” (Roman Polanski), “Taxi Driver” and “Bringing out the Dead” (Martin Scorsese), “The French Connection” and “Bug” (William Friedkin). And my two favorite underdog stories: “8 Mile” (Curtis Hanson) and “Rocky” (John G. Avildsen/Sylvester Stallone). Well, and “Rocky Balboa.”
Although my biggest influence was always “Bloodsport” and Jean-Claude Van Damme. That’s really what made me want to be a filmmaker. Him, in that movie.
How has technology contributed to or changed the way you make films?
I hate technology. I still have a Tube TV and a VHS and DVD player. I’ve been at people’s houses where they have these new HD fucking TVs and every single time they always look like shit. Everything always looks like a cheap soap-opera. So, when they’re watching my films, I fucking cringe in disgust and want to vomit. I remember having a screening of “A” at a friend’s and a bunch of us watched it on a Tube, and everybody loved it, and I felt so proud while watching it. Then the next day I showed it to some more people on a brand new HD widescreen TV and fucking blah. I felt I made the worst unwatchable piece of shit cunt film I’d ever seen. Same exact version. And those people hated it (when normally they loved everything I did). I blame these new fucking TVs and people not knowing how to set them correctly if you even can (I don’t know how). Why mention this? Well, that’s how much I go against technology. If technology didn’t exist I’d probably do something I actually want to do. Like write. I’d study up on how to use better grammar and vocabulary, cause mine sucks, and write. Seriously, these new shit HD TVs keep making me want to quit filmmaking. That’s how it’s changed me. It’s not the fact that it’s so hard to get your film noticed or break into this business, it’s the constant changing of the internet and technical shit that is going to break me. We need to chill the fuck out and not have to update things every goddamn two weeks. It takes me two years just to get comfortable with a program, or a phone. I had a flip phone till just last week. And, I hate my new one. I think the basics of technology are great. Find a camera, some editing equipment, etc. I’ve been doing this since the mid-80s, I can get around all of this new technology and internet stuff. Sure, sometimes it works in your favor (like this interview, being found/discovered in new ways) but technology just exhausts the living fuck out of me. We can’t just make the film, and have a good poster, and get it in a store (which is already completely exhausting and near impossible). No, now most stores are gone, so we got to get it on the net, but the net’s over-flooded with shit, so we got to do something catchy (like call our film “Amateur Porn Star Killer”) just to get noticed. But now everybody’s using odd catchy gimmicks. So we have to out-do that. Set up a Facebook page, on top of a web site, on top of a poster, get a poster that also looks good at a smaller size to view on a computer. No, wait, posters even smaller for an iphone, smartphone, etc. A trailer for smartphone, so don’t pick shots where you need to see it in a decent size to see what’s going on (like the great subtle expression on an actor’s face – count that out). A twitter page, a Linked-In thing, etc., etc., etc. Technology makes shit work nevvvvvveeer fucking end. I fucking hate it. You spend one percent of the time making the film if that, the rest just trying to figure out how to work through a gazillion social networking things just to get noticed. I don’t even know what independent films are out there anymore. It used to be simple, go to Hollywood Video or Blockbuster (or of course a family owned indie store), and bam on the wall there you go. Now, it’s go to a fucking Redbox and wait outside in the goddamn freezing cold in a line at 7/11, you get a miniscule shit selection. Or find something online, then the wind knocks out the streaming. But I don’t know how to even look up independent films anymore. I mean, how do you? The ones I want to see I don’t even hear about when they hit DVD, there’s no solid one place to get info, either they feed us the mainstream shit, the Hollywood big huge indies, or you have to go searching for them and you end up with endless shit and information you don’t even know where to begin. Blah, this question annoyed me, moving on.
Do you work from a script or is a lot of the work improvised?
Aside from “Oni-Gokko”/”Tag” (the Japanese short) I haven’t used a script in nearly a decade.
How have you managed to avoid the lure of Hollywood–that is, making straight-forward classic narrative work?
That’s easy–nobody will finance me.
When you have no money, I mean, like no fucking money…Not half a mill, not fifty grand, not a grand, but like, no goddamn money, you really have to think outside the box. Or, never make a movie. I’d rather sing a fucking song but I can’t sing, so, I figure out how to get my artistic needs out by making a movie. That means constant compromise. That means working around what you don’t have, figuring out how to tell this scene with one actor instead of eight, or eight people show up so let’s use them since we can’t pay them to come back and even though there are two people in this scene, now it’s fifteen. Meaning, you can’t have a script, you have to improvise or you won’t possibly be able to shoot it since you can’t possibly rewrite it every twenty minutes, so you have to figure out new ways to tell your story because it’s just not gonna fucking happen the “traditional” way. Trust me, it’d be great to see if I could make a regular film that the average-Joe would actually watch, without feeling I have to fucking “explain” my style, or whatever. But unless some dumb ass rich motherfucker wants to give me some dough instead of financing “Fast and Furious fucking number 10″ (you know we’re almost there) I have the only way I know. And that’s whatever lands in my hands. Basically I’m given a mess each time, and then I’m like, “fuck, here we go. Let’s figure out how to make this work.” As an editor I fucking hate myself as a director. Luckily the first thing I learned how to do in life was edit. So, I’m used to doing it. Or I’d never have had a film done. But I fucking hate editing, and unless I get financing I’ll probably always be doing it because nobody would ever want to edit the mess I end up with given all of the compromising and lack of money, and constant making shit up on the spot stuff I have to do from scene to scene (or in the case of my new film, “The Owl in Echo Park,” we had to compromise during the middle of almost every scene since we got kicked out of nearly ever fucking place we tried to film within 30 minutes – literally – of being there, and we had so many actors showing up early, not showing up, re-scheduling, etc – aside from Kevin, that is, he was the most seasoned of actors and the most dedicated – that I had to rewrite the scenes with him thirty times a day – we never would have been able to do that if we had to stick to a script, therefore nothing I do will come out Hollywood style, even if I tried).
Why make films about such dark subjects without the kind of redemption found in more traditional, mainstream projects?
The things in real-life I get my ideas from I guess have no redemption. And I don’t think an indie film sticks with you as well if it tries to be more Hollywood with a redeeming ending. Indie films are considered edgy, controversial, so I think they should end that way. Unless you are trying to send a message and you really feel ending it on an up-note would get that message across more clearly, I’m totally game for that. Whatever you have to do to make your message clear. But I think people are more moved when it’s more tragic. Even in Hollywood films. I mean, Leo dies at the end of “Titanic,” they don’t live happily ever after. If they had, the film probably would have never become the biggest-grossing film in the world. Granted the characters become something better by the end, but it still ends very tragically. As do most great Hollywood love stories. Tragedy moves people, there’s still conflict in the air, so it sticks with you. Even say a film like “Training Day,” a dark-Hollywood film, with an actor mainstream audiences love. Denzel doesn’t change or become redeemed in the end. He goes out a scumbag. It just works. And now Hawke’s character is simply exposed to this dark world. Nothing to look forward to, just more battles. He’s not redeemed because he’s already good. He’s tested and doesn’t break. But now he sees how bad everything else is. There’s no good in the world. This fight’s alone.
What’s the most daring/crazy/fucked up film you would make if you could make it? Why can’t you make it?
If there’s anything I can’t make it’s not because I can’t, it’s simply because I don’t have the resources or the technical skills, or the equipment when I need it. I dropped my trafficking film way back but that’s because I was bombarded by the mainstream media and made to look like a monster and I got incredibly confused about it. About life. But the movie wasn’t fucked up, it was meant to help. So, that wasn’t even a fucked up/crazy film, just daring I guess. My goals aren’t to make fucked up movies, just get the frustration inside me out, the things I see wrong with this world exposed, and if I can shoot it, I will. Maybe it comes out fucked up because it is, but I’m not trying to be fucked up. I’m not trying to be crazy. Shit just is what it is. I’m not afraid to challenge myself as filmmaker, I guess. Because I’ve been pushed in a corner for so much of my life, I think art is just me pushing back, so it appears to be confrontational simply to be confrontational when it’s just me finally saying to people, “enough.”
Although as mentioned before my biggest inspiration came from Jean-Claude Van Damme and “Bloodsport.” That’s what made me even if I came out nothing like it. I should have directed “JCVD.” My style, with my love for Van Damme (you would be afraid if you saw my room) would have made that film so much more. This is about the only time I will have an ego and say I could have made something better than another filmmaker. Now that would have been more daring, more crazy, more fucked up, more memorable. The only thing really great about that film was in fact the performance of JCVD himself.
What’re three films by other filmmakers you wish more people had seen?
Wow, just three? That’s pretty hard, most people watch shit and most great films get overlooked.
There’s different scales, too. On a Hollywood level people widely ignored “The Beaver,” which was fucking brilliant. Forget “Silver Linings Playbook,” if you want a Jennifer Lawrence movie about depression with still loads of comedy, “The Beaver” just blew me away. But because people for whatever reason care about the personal life of one Mister Mel Gibson whom they don’t even know (and which is probably almost all fabricated by the media any way) they passed up on a phenomenal and helpful film that both entertained and educated. It had a message, redemption, but was also fucked up. Then there’s the two other star-studded brilliant films nobody heard of: “Peacock,” with Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Susan Sarandon. A great drama about identity disorder with obvious nods to “Psycho.” And finally “Mammoth,” with Michelle Williams and Gael Garcia Bernal. On slightly more indie levels you have the incredibly mismarketed film “Weapons” with Mark Webber. Another Michelle Williams starer, “Wendy and Lucy.” And “Badasssss!” with Mario Van Peebles as his father Melvin in a wonderfully haunting film about ground-breaking filmmaking. Of course, every time a great film is made about bringing awareness or exposing sex-trafficking, it’s completely overlooked, regardless if it has name actors. They would be “Gardens of the Night” (John Malkovich, Tom Arnold), “Holly” (Ron Livingston, Chris Penn), and the only one I think had any luck (over time), which was a foreign film with no names, “Lilya 4-ever” (I actually would love to remake that film). I haven’t even gotten to the underground films but there’s too many to think of or start from. I’ll just name one. I thought this guy’s career would take off after this film cause it was the most disturbing thing I ever saw that I actually enjoyed. Unfortunately the director only made one feature, the “Sister’s” remake. Blah. But his first feature, actually a trilogy of shorts, wow. “Family Portraits: A trilogy of America.” But after a decade plus of only one so-so feature (remake), I’m not sure if we’ll get anything else. He did contribute another short to “The Theatre Bizarre” anthology which I haven’t seen yet.
Five theatrically released features I have to mention I really thought were amazing that I wish had gotten some mainstream love and $100 million dollar box office success instead of the utter garbage like usual are “Sleepwalking,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “Winter’s Bone,” “The American,” and “The Woodsman.” I’m probably forgetting so many great films but that’s because my mind is flooded with advertising of the elite shit that it clogs my memories of amazing pieces of cinema shadowed by paid for crap by Hollywood and the audience sheep-following mass.
SHANE RYAN RELATED LINKS:
The Owl in Echo Park trailer
My Name is A by anonymous trailer
Oni-Gokko (Tag) shortened version
Amateur Porn Star Killer trailer
Warning!!! Pedophile Released trailer
INTERVIEW (Part 1 of 2): Shane Ryan, Filmmaking As Bloodsport (fugitivecinema.com)
The Horrorshow of Real Life: Shane Ryan and MY NAME IS “A (fugitivecinema.com)
The Horrorshow of Real Life: Shane Ryan and MY NAME IS “A (fugitivecinema.com)
Amateur Porn Star Killer, Shane Ryan, 2007, USA. [Warning: Politically incorrect review!] (happyslackerbdb.wordpress.com)