Bryan Ryan Talks The Guest, Horror Boot Camp, and More
You may recall a few months ago we told you about Final Girl Films' competition for indie horror filmmakers looking to make their next short film project. The contest was based on scripts only, and the first runner-up was Bryan Ryan for "The Guest". Dread Central recently had a chance to chat with Bryan about how he first got involved in filmmaking, what's up with "The Guest", and his future plans.
Dread Central: What made you decide to get into filmmaking?
Bryan Ryan: I can trace the whole thing back to two films: Disney's Pinocchio and Jaws. The first for the way it petrified me as a child. I know that I will never forget the effect Pinocchio had on me. Now, the same goes for Jaws, but it goes a step further because of the sheer ingenuity it took to tell THAT story in THAT way. And to this day those are two qualities that I look for in a movie -- how it makes me feel and the "tricks" used by the filmmakers.
I'd spent well over 20 years of my life pursuing a career in the "business", but as an actor, whether it be onstage or in front of the camera. I studied in New York for years and even directed several plays for various theaters in New York, Texas, and Los Angeles. But something about that never gelled for me. I wasn't happy doing it, though I would try to convince myself daily. It's no secret; it can be a nasty business. And I, just like every other person working on a career in film, would sit around with friends and say, "That's a good idea for a movie," and never move on it.
But one Tuesday afternoon about two years ago, I was standing behind a bar in an empty restaurant staring out at Melrose ... and I remembered something that Adam Green said in the commentary on the Hatchet DVD: "If I can do it, you can do it." I finished my shift, went home, and started writing. I've never been happier, and I haven't looked back since.
DC: Let's talk a little bit about the story of "The Guest". Where did the story idea come from?
BR: I spent a lot of time in my grandparents' house growing up, and without giving too much away, I can say that being alone is a little scary. Coming to the realization or truly believing you're NOT can be terrifying. "The Guest" is definitely influenced by films like Polanski's Repulsion and the original When a Stranger Calls, but with a twist. Anyone familiar with the old Tales from the Darkside episode called "Inside the Closet" will get an idea as to where I'm going with it.
DC: I know a few months back you attended a horror film boot camp. Can you talk a little bit about that experience, what you took away from the boot camp, and how it helped prepare you to make "The Guest"?
BR: Honestly, it was the best thing I could have done for myself and my career. I think it's imperative for anyone planning a career in this field to get first-hand accounts from people who have struggled, know the business, and understand what it feels like to just want to tell a story. The advice I got from professionals like Darren Bousman and Spooky Dan Walker was absolutely priceless.
I left Albuquerque fully confident that NOTHING was going to stop me from making my feature, and I began writing "The Guest" on the drive home. The best advice I can give to anyone interested in attending is go, listen, and (most importantly) ask questions. That is why those guys are there. It is a completely encouraging and supportive environment. Use it to your advantage. You will not regret it.
DC: I know you did a lot of work on other sets before you filmed "The Guest". Do you think those experiences helped better prepare you for directing your first project?
BR: Absolutely! Whether it be as an actor, an extra, running coffee, or holding a boom mic, I have come to value every minute I have spent on-set. I think it's important for a director to be a leader and be familiar with as many aspects of the process as possible.
DC: Can you talk a little bit about what your shoot was like, how you got the project off the ground, and how you brought your team together?
BR: The shoot went so much smoother than I could have ever hoped for. I think it was because I made it a point to surround myself with people I trust. Literally, every person on-set was someone I had worked with before on other projects. I sent out the script and called in favors. Everyone is very good at what they do, and it was important to me to take care of them. I borrowed money, held a fundraiser, and sold off a ton of crap so I could pay those guys.
DC: What did it feel like the first time you walked on the set being a first-time director?
BR: It was surreal for me, and we were so busy that the only real moment that I got to step back and say, "This is really happening! Will Barratt is shooting my movie!" was on the very first shot on the first day. I realized I had this stupid grin pasted across my face. But everyone, no matter how long they had worked in film, put their trust in me, and that was an amazing feeling.
DC: Obviously, you have an appreciation for the horror genre. What is it about this genre that drives you as a storyteller?
BR: The bottom line is anything can happen, and nothing is off limits. Horror is a constant surprise. I believe it's the only genre that is not limited by cultural boundaries. Not everyone on the planet gets the appeal of Bull Durham, say, but everyone understands why you wouldn't want to run into Freddy Krueger in a dark alley. It's inspiring as a filmmaker to know that everyone is afraid of something.
DC: What are your plans for "The Guest" now that the film is almost finished?
BR: "The Guest" was originally intended to only go out to potential investors for a feature I'm working on. But since we started working on it, word has gotten out, interest has grown through Facebook and word of mouth, and people want to see it. So, in addition to those investors, we plan on entering "The Guest" into several festivals and are looking to put it online. I will also be at FrightFest in London at the end of August with a few copies for any interested parties.
DC: I know you have another feature film that you are looking to get made. Can you talk a little bit about that script and what the status of the project is? Have you already begun wrangling the troops?
BR: The script, which is a thriller set in a hurricane evacuation, has generated quite a bit of buzz. I have already had the opportunity to sit down and speak with a few "horror legends" about taking part, and that in itself has been a thrill. To have someone who's work you have literally admired since you were a kid say they love the script and cannot wait to get started ... I can't explain the feeling. Right now we are in the funding stage of the film and are hoping "The Guest" seals the deal for us. My producer, Mel House, and I have already started talking about our ideal crew for the feature, and we agree that it would a dream to have "The Guest"'s crew back again.
DC: I know that the boot camp you attended a few months back has led to you receiving an opportunity to give back to aspiring filmmakers by talking to students at the next session (September 10-12 in Burbank). How does it feel to be given a chance to share your experiences with other people who are in the same place you were just a few months ago?
BR: Wow! What an honor. It's a humbling feeling. Seriously. If I can give a fraction of the advice I got in Albuquerque, I'm happy. But at the same time I still feel like I'm in that place. I'm just excited to get in there and take part again. The line-up is a little different this time so I'm sure I'm going to have a hundred new questions. I am nowhere near where I would like to be, but believe me... I'm busting my ass to get there.
Here are some more details on "The Guest":
It stars Alyshia Ochse (pictured below with Bryan), Robert Seay, Andre Bolourchi, Brandi Price, Jessica Whitaker, and Suzanne Quast. The producers include Mel House, Bryan Ryan, Robert Victor Galluzzo, Courtney Daniels, Katie Floyd, and Heather Wixson; and it's being edited by Brian Smith.
A lonely woman and a mysterious intruder get more than they bargained for when a quiet evening proves to be deadlier than either of them could have imagined.
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