Exclusive: In-Depth with Ryan Levin on Some Guy Who Kills People
Crix: Would you do (or are you doing) another horror film?
RL: To be honest, Some Guy Who Kills People is not a horror movie per se. It's a dark comedy with horror elements. But yes, I would love to write a horror movie. The one I'm writing now is big rompy horror-comedy, but I'd like to try my hand at writing a straight horror film where the intention is to scare, not elicit laughs.
Crix: What advice would you give to others who're just "stepping off the bus" and want to make it in this town as a writer?
RL: Sorry, but it’s the most obvious answer: write. Then keep writing. And when you have something that is truly good – that you’ve gotten extensive notes on, that you’ve rewritten and improved, that honest people are telling you is good – then try to get it in front of those damn gatekeepers – agents, managers, producers, etc. But if the quality of writing isn’t there, you may blow an opportunity.
Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” I'm guilty of not reading enough because I always think, instead of reading, I should just be writing. But there have been countless times when reading something has gotten me through writer's block or birthed a new idea or taught me something to help me be a better writer… So, yeah, I have to force myself to read more, but I never regret it. And I definitely never regret writing, even on the shittiest of writing days.
Crix: Who/what are your influences?
RL: I'm definitely influenced by certain Coen Brother films, specifically Fargo and Raising Arizona. Their penchant for seamlessly blending genres while writing smart and thoroughly entertaining films.
On the horror side, Halloween continues to be my my favorite film of all time. Part of that is nostalgia, and part of that is how it remains frightening, despite its simplicity. I never plan on writing drama, but if I did (or could), I can't think of ever writing anything as amazing as "Breaking Bad". There is also an amazing Argentinian mini-series called "Epitafios", which somehow flew completely below the radar. The writing, subject matter and sheer entertainment value in those two series are remarkable.
However, my real wish is that I were Martin McDonagh, the brilliant Irish playwright, who also wrote and directed the film In Bruges. His ability to mine comedy from the darkest situations and to create despicable characters we can't help but love astounds me. Often times his funniest stuff is on the level of two brothers arguing about who ate the last of the tea biscuits. Of course, they'll later end up murdering each other in some grotesque way. He gets comedy from every little detail, then he gets comedy from the sheer horror of what people will do to each other. And yet this horror is somehow hilarious. He crafts each and every line so well that even just reading it off the page, I can hear the line being delivered; then I either laugh hysterically, shake my head in awe, or throw the book across the room, disgusted by the fact that I'll never be that good. I can't think of another writer who is batting 1.000 in my book. Plus, Irish accents are just funnier than American accents.
Crix: What was your first horror film and how old were you?
RL: For some reason, when I was about 5 years old, my mom rented me the original Friday the 13th. She could have gotten Pete's Dragon or Fantasia or something remotely kid-friendly, but somehow, she came home with Friday the 13th. She certainly wasn't a horror fan, but she must have known from the box that this wasn't a kid's movie. I had heard of it but knew little about it. When it became clear she was actually going to let me watch it, that this wasn't some sort of sick and twisted test, I popped it into the VCR and was hooked. It was just so much damn fun. And hey, Parents Council -- I never went out and tried to slice my friend's head off with a machete. I knew it was a movie. A movie that would begin my love affair with horror.
Crix: What film still creeps you out to this day?
RL: It is so rare that I watch anything that truly creeps me out, that burrows its way to my marrow. Not because I'm some tough guy but because crafting something truly scary is just so hard to do. Fear is what we don't know, which means crafting something scary requires leaving things out that would deflate the tension and terror (hence, why Jaws is scarier when we only see his dorsal fin). However, there is one thing that will forever give me chills, even in just thinking about it, and that's the opening to the original When a Stranger Calls. The rest of that film is shit, but the opening is pure terror. "Have you checked the children?" "We've traced the call. It's coming from inside the house." I saw that when I was 11, and it kept me up for several nights. I think it still could.
Crix: How important are 'test audiences' (if you had one)?
RL: We actually gathered a group of about 50 people (friends of friends with no connection to show business) and showed them a rough cut. We handed out anonymous surveys afterwards, and that feedback was beyond helpful. We looked at the issues that were mentioned several times and went back into editing with those in mind. Or, even if one person offered a great idea, we used it. You get too close to the movie and you need that objectivity. Doing that test screening was hugely helpful for us, and I would encourage all filmmakers to find a way to make one happen (with an audience who is free to be honest).
Crix: Where can we find the festival circuit schedule for SGWKP, and will it get a mainstream release as well?
RL: The best places to go for info on screenings are:
a) Please sign up for the mailing list. We won’t spam you.
b) I'm on the Facebook page every day interacting with fans and posting screening info, behind-the-scenes content, running contest giveaways, etc.
c) Twitter of course! Again, that's just me, interacting with the fans, and I love it.
As far as the film’s U.S. distribution, we are closing a deal now, which will make the film available on every single media platform starting… well, that I don’t know. Hopefully within the first couple months of 2012. The film won’t be released theatrically into your multiplexes, but it will screen at arthouse theaters across the country – sometimes for a night, sometimes for a week. It all depends on whether people go see it. And again, all of these screenings, whether at festivals or arthouse cinemas, will be posted on our Facebook page, and through the website, mailing list and blog.
Crix: What's the one thing you want people to say about SGWKP?
RL: Very good question. I guess I want them to say they thought it was extremely funny, that they were never bored, and that it was, in many ways, original. Maybe that’s asking for too much. One thing I do love hearing is, “I loved the film, but it’s even better the second time.”
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