A Chat With Scott Ryan...
Scott Ryan scripts, directs and acts in his debut feature THE MAGICIAN. Already a hit in his native Australia, and in the UK, he's hoping for international acclaim. In the meantime, he tells FilmExposed's Jimmy Razor he's fiercely working on his next project, and on the prowl for a creative producer...
Scott Ryan, Australian writer, director and actor whose debut feature THE MAGICIAN is currently on release, is a surprisingly modest man considering he’s almost single-handedly made his own intercontinental hit film. Softly spoken and self effacing, he is still surprised to get identified on the street as the violent killer Ray that he plays in his mockumentary about a small-time hitman. ‘I look exactly like Ray. I mean, I've put on a few pounds, but I look the same. So it's funny. The other day in Australia a couple of cops went past me in a cop car, and they were pointing at me!’
And this despite the film only having had limited exposure so far. ‘It was an arthouse release in Australia, about 15 or 16 screens. At the moment the film's only been released in the UK and Australia. But we're starting to look internationally.’
An essentially zero budget production, it was made on Ryan’s own camcorder. ‘The film was shot on miniDV,’ he explains. ‘It was a TRV900, a Sony camera that I'd probably had for five or six years, that I'd used to make a couple of shorts. When it came to making the feature I just thought I'd use that. It had an anamorphic adapter to convert it to 16 x 9 [widescreen aspect ratio], though.’
The initial stumbling block was the script, he admits. ‘The main influences came from books - I'd read a few books about contract killers, took some elements from those, and a lot of it just came from imagination. The narrative took a fair bit of work - writing the script was the second hardest thing to do. Then selling [the film] was the hardest!’ The script that emerged employs a flashback/flash-forward structure to great effect. ‘I spent a long time thinking about the story, but once it came to the writing that took about three or four weeks. The good thing about having different parts to the story is that you can take them apart and put them together however you want, you can play around with it, split them in half or into thirds, do whatever you want.’
It helps to know friends who are actors, he adds. ‘The cast is made up of people that I was a student with - apart from the guy behind the camera [Massimiliano Andrighetto] who was a professional. When I was writing I had a few people in mind for the characters, and I tailored some of them to the people I knew would be playing them. But the people in the film play characters who are very different to themselves!’ he laughs, dispelling the suggestion that his friends are murderers and drug dealers.
‘Most of the film was improvised - I would say about 80 percent. It's easier to say which parts of the film weren't improvised! The Mardi Gras, that wasn't improvised. The scene with the underpants. And the hamburger scene. They're the only scripted parts. But I'm very happy that you can't tell which scenes are scripted and which aren't.’
He identifies his work closely with a new international seam of low budget digital features. ‘The recent film I've enjoyed the most was something I saw at Sundance,’ he says. ‘The Puffy Chair - it was heavily improvised, shot on DV, my kind of film. But I'm not really interested in working in the States. I certainly don't want to make Mission Impossible 4, 5 or 6. Or Rambo 27!’
But despite his success he is still familiar with the trials of getting a second feature film off the ground. ‘I'm making a zombie project next - it won't be a fake documentary, but it will be in a similar style to The Magician, handheld, and I’ll try to make it as realistic as possible. Like you're really in there. We're still at the script stage, now. I thought with [The Magician] being released worldwide it would be easier to find producers for the next film, but it isn't at all, it's still just as hard. Do you know any producers looking for projects?’ he asks. ‘In fact put my phone number in the article and tell producers to call me!’
Judging by the strengths of The Magician, he won’t be waiting by the phone for long.