Imagine this: You wrote a feature script based on your own award-winning short film and it’s really out-of-the-box. It has a serial killer who is actually a nice guy with a sweetheart of a daughter, an unorthodox love interest and a sheriff who is very committed to solving the crime while having an affair with the killer’s mother. Genre-wise it’s a slasher and a comedy and a drama and a thriller and all of them are blending into each other. And as you try to get a director attached the very first person to not only react but also agree to do it is veteran filmmaker John Landis. Wouldn’t that be too good to be true? It obviously was in the case of „Some guy who kills people“ by tv-screenwriter Ryan Levin. Landis went off to do „Burke and Hare“ instead and the project was pretty much dead. However, in April this year the film premiered at Amsterdam’s Fantastic Film Fest and just had it’s sold-out Canadian premiere at the acclaimed FanTasia Festival in Montreal. With us Ryan talked very detailed about the process behind making the film, his work for shows like „Scrubs“, the wondrous ways of selling a movie to distributors and how Barry Bostwick won him over by crawling on the ground.
screen/read: The first question that came to my mind after watching the movie was, how often a day do you feel like you want to kill someone?
Ryan Levin: There’s certainly repressed anger somewhere. But I’m not an angry person, In don’t even think I’m inwardly, but also not a happy-go-lucky-all-the-time-kind-of-guy. It’s weird, I’m a pretty serious person I guess. People are usually a little surprised to find out that I write comedy for a living. But opposed to the tv shows that I do, my humor is pretty much of a darker nature. I guess part of it is that I’m sort of angered somewhere, and the other part is just a personal preference for that kind of humor which just makes me laugh a lot more than lighter, broader comedy. But how often do I want to kill someone? I don’t know, every once a week, but not too often. Had I made a movie called „Some guy who wants to punch people“ it would have been more about the real me. Because that’s what I usually want to do, punch a lot of people for annoying me. Like, you stand in line long enough when you go to the bank or a copy shop, and there’s enough stupid people out there that try your patience to make you want to punch or shake them really hard and I guess the extreme of that is killing them. Which is better suited to a movie.
screen/read: I guess in the process of making this film before it got finally shot you came across that feeling quite often. Let’s talk a little bit about how the whole thing went from the initial idea loosely based on your short film „The Fifth“ to the actual making of the movie.
Ryan Levin: That was a very long process. I think it’s been 2007 when I started to write the screenplay and we shot the film in 2010. So it’s been about three years but it feels much longer because so much happened, there were so many ups and downs. The scriptwriting process took longer than it would have normally for me to write a script if I only had that one project. I had to stop and start based on other work that I did and so it was something that I kept coming back to. Once the script was at a certain point I had already met a couple of guys who were interested in getting their producing careers off the ground. We decided to hire a casting director to attach some names to the script which would then hopefully give us an appealing package to present to potential investors. At the time we were calculating with a buget of around two to three milion dollars and we needed names to get the money. But actually we were mostly aiming at people that we didn’t have much of a chance getting.
screen/read: One name that you finally ended up with, if not as an actor though, was John Landis. How did he get involved?
Ryan Levin: Initially I thought that I was going to direct the film myself and it took me a while to realise that this was not a smart move. The reason I wanted to do it was not even because I wanted to direct in general. It’s writing that I love. I mean, I had fun directing the short that I’ve made but I don’t have those career aspirations. The actual reason I wanted to do it was because I’ve been with this script for so long, I knew it inside out and I didn’t trust anyone to capture it the way that I had envisioned it in my head. Therefore I was going to direct it. So giving that up at some point freed us up a little bit and instead of just looking for actors to help us out we could now also look for a potential director. Actually the very first person we went to was John Landis. Because of his experience with this sort of blending genres and because he was somebody that we thought would really enjoy the script. So we sent it to him through his agent and they got back to us literally the next day. We ended up having a really, really, really long meeting with John Landis. He wanted to know the history of the script and where it came from, why I wrote it and so on. He had questions about the script, gave me quick notes here and there, and we were kind of getting to know each other. Pretty much by the end of that he said, „Alright, I’ll direct it.“ So we took this outcome to a company that was into funding and said, „Look, we don’t have any actors but we have John Landis at least verbally committing to direct this.“ And they said, „Great, we can raise the money based on that.“ So John and I had a couple of meetings over the course of the next weeks and he gave me notes, and I did a few re-writes based on them, and he gave me a couple of more notes and so on. But then just about the time when the company was going to step on the gas to go after this money of investors that they had connections with, Landis got the green light to do „Burke and Hare“ and said, „Sorry guys, much bigger project, much bigger budget, bigger names, and it’s something that I’ve been waiting on for a couple of years. Now that it’s been greenlit, it’s what I’m going to do. See you later.“
screen/read: A nightmare.
Ryan Levin: Oh yeah. At that moment we essentially lost everything. So we went back to the company and we said, „Bad news, we just lost John Landis. Who are some other directors that we can get that will help you to collect that same amount of money?” And they gave us a list of three people. One was Edgar Wright. And as it was literally the monday after „Zombieland” had opened here at number one, they asked us to get Ruben Fleischer. I can’t remember who the third director was, but we were not going to get him anyway [laughs]. So we said, „Thank you. Very helpful” and basically had nothing. At that point, I don’t know exactly how long we had been going after money but it felt like years and we didn’t have a penny. So I thought, this project might be dead. Nevertheless, let’s show the script to some line producer and get a budget on it, figure out what amount we can make it for. Because a lot of the budget that we thought we’d need up to then would go to actors. I mean, even B-list actors with recognizable names are still asking for 150.000 dollars. So we showed the script to a couple of line producers and realized that if we shot it in a few days and were not able to pay anything to anyone we could probably make this movie for a couple of 100.000 dollars. And I said, „Ok, great, but we still don’t have that money [laughs]. I’m going to put in 10 dollars, but we are going to need a lot more than that.” So we basically went around and got it together from friends and family with nothing more than a script and John Landis agreeing to be executive producer. It took a few months to cobble that together and then we began casting. And from there it kind of ran like a normal movie, I guess. It was just a matter of finding the right people.
screen/read: Like Jack Perez as a director replacing first you and then Landis.
Ryan Levin: We met a bunch of directors and Jack was among them. I didn’t know him, I didn’t know his work, but when I found out we were meeting with him I learned that he was known for this horrible movie „Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus” which became sort of a cult hit. So I had no particular expectations but when we met pretty much the first thing he said was „I love this movie, I love this script, I read it ten times, and this is the script I hoped I would get offered one day.” And he opened up his notebook and showed me a bunch of scenes that he had storyboarded already. He told me about his vision and what the tone of the film would be, the general look, talked about certain scenes and so on. It was flattering and nice that someone would spend the time and the energy to do these storyboards and to write down possible actors for all these different roles. And it was a little startling how much in line our ideas were without ever having seen each other before. After the meeting I just felt so comfortable. I felt like I could hand the reigns over to him and the movie was going to be in a really, really good shape. So I went home and I watched some of his movies, ones he wanted to make for himself and not because someone was handing him a paycheck like in the case of „Mega Shark”. And I found out that one of the cool things about Jack is that he has this ability to get a lot for very little. Like he can deliver really nice production value, find ways to make scenes look a lot better than what the budget really allows for. So we hired him and we went into casting.
[Oben: Ryan Levin. Unten: Jack Perez with the remains of an extra.]
screen/read: I guess that’s pretty interesting for a writer, but also quite difficult after you had a certain idea of the various characters in your head for such a long time.
Ryan Levin: The casting process, oh, I loved the casting process. Casting always intrigued me. And so to be part of it, to be able to cast this movie that had been in my head for years, was such an amazing experience. We knew we couldn’t pay anyone, so the deal was just, let’s not get huge actors, let’s get great actors. Which you can do. Now as far as Ken, the main character is concerned, we saw a lot of people in auditions but to be honest I don’t remember a single person coming in and being anywhere close to what I wanted. At some point we decided to go for someone directly without an audition and just make an offer to them. I mean, it would not be based on the money of course but rather on the script, hoping they liked it. So we made a very short list of people. And we both agreed that Kevin Corrigan was the one who looks the part and can nail this role, and it’d be awesome to see him as the lead of a movie, which he never is. We felt that he would find some amazing stuff inside this character which on paper can look very quiet, monotone, maybe half dead and depressing. With him it just feels like there’s always something going on every moment. Philip Seymour Hoffman is like that too. They’re constantly adding to the scene. They do things completely untraditionally, they deliver things in a way you’d never expect, and even when they’re not talking they’re still acting their ass off. So we went after him but he was in the middle of shooting a movie. And so we pretty much cast all of the major roles before we got him the script and he agreed to do it. Actually the only two parts that we didn’t cast through audition were Kevin’s role and Irv, which is Ken’s friend. The casting director suggested we should try Leo Fitzpatrick. He had a fairly sizeable role in „The Wire“, one of the best written tv shows of all time, but he had also done a couple of indies, and I’ve always been a big fan of him. So our casting director knew his agent, sent him the script, he liked it and we hired him. And then we shot the damn thing. [laughs]
screen/read: How much time did you have for that?
Ryan Levin: We shot it in sixteen days in and around of Los Angeles and in horrible, horrible weather which slowed us down. We had probably five days of rain right in the beginning and it just killed the energy, slowed the crew down. So we lost a lot of shooting time and I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about the way things were going and if we were able to get all the stuff we needed to get. Meanwhile I was revising the script, finding some stuff that we wouldn’t necessarily need and that we could cut or maybe shoot at a location we were already using in order to save a lot of time and money. To be honest, the biggest regret that I have about what we lost was a fight scene at the end, because actually that whole sequence was originally about three or four pages of fighting. It was just this big hilarious goofy scene with people getting shot and stuff. Just much bigger as a climax than it is now.
screen/read: This is interesting, because when you watch it the way it is now, it doesn’t feel like there is anything missing. It’s about solving the case and saving a few people and you’re fine with watching that. Knowing though that you planned it as a huge final fight adds a totally different perspective to it.
Ryan Levin: Yeah, I mean, who knows. Maybe what’s in there is better than what I had. Or maybe the perfect situation would have been something in between the two. There’s originally been a lot of stuff like a gun flying around and nobody being able to get a hand on it, and then at one point one of the characters gets it and shoots someone in the butt, but it was keeping in with the tone of the film and didn’t all of a sudden become a Marx Brothers thing. It was especially about the sheriff who got a little more goofiness.
screen/read: Speaking of the sheriff: Of course there are a handful of very fascinating characters in the film with Ken being the most interesting, but when watching it I thought the sheriff is tailored for his own movie in a certain way. Thinking of him alone, the film feels like watching one special episode of a long running show with the sheriff as its central character. Every time he enters a scene all eyes seem to be on him and he leaves a very lasting impression. Was that an initial idea to have him as central as that or did it come along with the way Barry Bostwick portrayed him?
Ryan Levin: It’s funny that you say that because after we shot the movie Jack and I very briefly over lunch one day talked about the possibility of developing a tv show with the sheriff as the main character [laughs]. It’s just that I’d love to spend more time with this guy. He’s the sheriff of a small town, let’s hang out with him for a couple of seasons.
screen/read: He’s way more sophisticated than you would expect it from a small town sheriff like him. Actually he would have had a nice place working in Twin Peaks I think.
Ryan Levin: Yeah, there was definitely some of that. Initially the sheriff was more straight, dumb, saying stupid things, not getting anything and being a really bad cop. Just totally ineffective. But over time based on notes, based on my own re-writing, I started to realize that for this guy there needs to be a real threat that he could catch. Which is the killer. And in order to catch him we wanted an element of this sheriff that makes him qualified enough to do this. In terms of story and plot, but also in terms of character. So we had to make him more three-dimensional. He was a cartoon character in the early draft, but we couldn’t allow him to be that anymore. So I had to find more layers and make him a very competent cop. But I still wanted to maintain this element of A. he’s in a small town, B. he’s not familiar with crimes of this nature. But also he was meant to not being overwhelmed by it, not being an idiot stepping on the evidence, forgetting to handcuff criminals and stuff like that. He needed to be somebody who could do his job competently. He had to actually care enough to put time and effort into finding this killer, and he needed the brains and the instincts of a policeman to be able to do that, to legitimately have a chance of catching this guy. So we needed a track through the movie with him putting the pieces together. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a point of even having the sheriff at all. So I grounded him in this guy who is really committed to solving these crimes, really committed to his job, and who is capable of doing it well. And from there on I could give the character permission to go off and be a little ridiculous and out there and unorthodox and say some stupid stuff. Because I already knew that at the heart of it he’s a good qualified cop.
Now the thing with Barry was that I had a particular look in my head for this character. And we brought in a lot of people, some of them I knew from other movies and tv shows and it was very cool to see them come in and audition for my little film and read my lines. They looked the part I had in my head, they were grizzled and had a moustache and looked pretty much like a sheriff. But what they didn’t have was this whimsical nature to them. Some of them were funny but the comedy was coming more from just alternating between being rough and mean to having more of a friendly kind of conversation. But that just wasn’t enough. And Barry came in and like all the others he did the bath tub scene. So he walked around the tub, he got the whole speech to the deputy, coming up with a lot of different theories of abstract expressionism and all that stuff. But Barry did it all different. He delivered the most ridiculous off-the-wall audition ever. We had seen the same scene over and over again, and then he comes in and does something completely different than I ever, ever imagined. It was one of the funniest things I had ever seen in my life. He was crawling on the ground, first whispering some words and then shouting, but it’s hard to describe if you haven’t seen it. And then afterwards he was like „Ah, no, let me try it again”, and so he did it again and gave us a whole new take on it that was equally hilarious. Physically he was not what I imagined the sheriff to be, but after that audition it didn’t matter. He got the part immediately. And then on set he was even better. Every take he gave us something different, gave us something I never imagined, gives a line a reading that I’d never imagined in a milion years would be funny.
screen/read: Does that also mean he changed lines and improvised or did he stay true to the script?
Ryan Levin: Well, the thing was, we didn’t have a chance to rehearse with the actors before we went into production. The only time we would ever rehearse would be just before we started shooting the scene. So Barry and Eric Price, who plays the deputy, developed this great chemistry because they had a lot of scenes together, and everytime they went to a crime scene it was the two of them doing their kind of little shtick. Sometimes a shtick that was written on the paper didn’t work the way that we wanted, so the three of us would step aside and we’d figure out ways how to improvise and come up with something funnier. And that happened a few times. There is this one scene where they are both making puns and I thought it would be hilarious if only one of them realizes it. Which would be the sheriff. That’s pretty much one of my favorite scenes, and it was written with the help of those two guys like 30 seconds before we shot it.
screen/read: It’s one of many scenes that on repeated viewing is still growing on you and makes you want to see it again. You start to memorize the dialogue and the punchlines, and that’s usually the point where a regular film tends to transform into some sort of cult movie. And that is pretty rare these days where everybody is following a well-proven formula, which you obviously don’t. It’s really more a blend of different genres. Was that something you intended from the beginning or did it happen along the way?
Ryan Levin: It was pretty much llike that from the beginning because I started with the idea of the main character being a killer and at the same time it was going to be a comedy. But with a killer it would need to have some elements of horror as we were about to see him killing people. And because I wanted him to be a real legitimate threat, a serious serial killer, the kills weren’t going to be funny ones. So I knew those scenes would play straight. And then on top of that I pretty quickly had the daughter storyline which is a whole other genre. Those were the elements I had from the beginning and so I knew that the script was going to blend all those different genres. The biggest challenge for me was to figure out a way to do that without losing the tone. What kind of tone was it going to be? Is it just a mish mash of stuff or can the various elements work together so that you’re not feeling like you’re watching three different movies? Obviously I knew the Coen Brothers could do something like that [laughs] but I didn’t know if I could. The backbone of the movie is the father/daughter story. Now imagine you have only this story of a normal lonely guy who is meeting his daughter for the first time, but not wanting to have anything to do with her, being scared of the concept of being a father and so on. That to me is just an independent film. So what I did was adding layers to that. First, he’s not a normal guy. He’s killing people. And that changes the game.
screen/read: And makes it so interesting. Because as soon as the father/daughter element takes over and becomes more important, we don’t want him to be caught, even though he’s a killer. But at the same time we know the sheriff is way too smart and devoted to solving the case that he won’t catch him. And so there is no way out of this and you are just sitting on the edge of your seat hoping there will be an unexpected solution for a happy ending somehow. Which takes the movie to a whole different level.
Ryan Levin: To be honest, that’s exactly the reaction I wanted. I wanted the audience to be in the position where they’re saying „This guy is killing people but I don’t want him locked up. He just found his purpose in life and he just developed this amazing relationship with this amazing little girl being his daughter. I can’t stand the thought of him being away forever. He killed people, so what? Let him go” [laughs]. In the course of writing I considered many options of how the film could end. I’m happy with the solution I went with and I don’t think anybody said to me it would have been better if the outcome was different. In any case, the backbone of the film is still the father/daughter relationship and everything else is built on top of that. I just wanted people to like Ken despite the killings.
screen/read: Especially as we the audience think that the people getting killed are not very likeable and from Ken’s point of view certainly deserve what they get. So he’s not the mean type of a killer.
Ryan Levin: Yeah, that was the other thing. There were early drafts where he didn’t have a reason. He was just killing random people. But I realized that wasn’t going to work. It might be possible to do it somehow. But for me, I didn’t think that I could make a negative guy likeable.
screen/read: That concept worked nicely in your serial killer short, but it’s something that has no place in a feature film. Thinking of „Dexter”, this character is killing for a reason, and that’s why the show works so well on the long term.
Ryan Levin: Exactly, he is not killing random people either but just bad guys, other killers. It’s like you said it, and because I was translating the idea from the short, the early drafts had Ken killing random people. Eventually I realized I have to let go of that and so I figured out who it could be that deserves being killed or gives Ken a reason for killing them. And that became part of the writing process. I’m not a very fast writer, I have to write for a while before things start to come to me. I have to lay out on paper what my options are, even if some of them are stupid. I just need to associate ideas, throw them all down on a piece of paper and sometimes there’s just some sort of golden nugget in there that I can pick out and realize that I didn’t even consciously come up with it. Like the whole basketball team thing and how Ken got humiliated by them, it just kind of hit me. And I like that, I just connected to it.
screen/read: I think everybody can relate to that, everybody had some sort of outcast situation in school in one respect or another. And it’s something that follows you all of your life and you would love to take revenge in some way or show them how wrong they were even after all those years. And so people can understand Ken and his motivation.
Ryan Levin: Yeah, that’s pretty much what I thought of when I was writing this. For some people it’s the parents, for some it’s their siblings, for some it’s strangers or a repeated thing, like a label that you’re trying to shake off. You can trace it back to a series of events like a pattern, and even when you get older and have accomplished something, are married and have a kid, that stuff will still stick with you. So for the movie I thought that it would be cool if all the humiliations that Ken had to go through would escalate in that one night where they just completely tore him apart and completely dehumanized him. Only a pretty resilient person cannot be broken by that. They just break him and shatter his confidence. And returning to the beginning of our conversation with you asking, how often do I want to kill somebody, well, in that situation somebody like that would want closure. For me personally, I have this real problem with injustice like sombody getting away with something that they shouldn’t, even if it’s trivial. Even if someone gives an incorrect fact in a conversation and you walk away thinking that what they said is right, that pisses me off because I need them to know that they’re wrong [laughs]. I don’t want people getting away with things. So that is something I feel very strongly about and I was able to put that into Ken. But in a quiet way, which is exactly the way I would do it. There were times when I thought that I was writing a very, very exaggerated version of myself. In the movie Ken is even dressed a lot like me without it being my intention. The wardrobe person was left on her own to do what she wanted to do, and she just happened to put Ken into a lot of hoodies, which is what I wear.
screen/read: Let’s move a little away from the film and talk more generally about you as a writer and what you’re doing in the industry. I know you’ve been writing for „Scrubs”, you’ve been credited as a consultant on „South Park”, whatever that means, and stuff like that. Where exactly are you coming from professionally and what have you been doing so far?
Ryan Levin: Well, just real quickly, I’m from Los Angeles, I went to college in Philadelphia, then moved to New York for almost five years. At some point I decided to write and just discovered that I had never really written for fun before. I started writing some tv stuff and decided that I wanted to write for television in general. I realized I needed to go back to Los Angeles, because that’s where they shoot ninety percent of all tv shows. So I came back here and I got a production assistant job on „Scrubs”. At the time that was my favorite show and from all the shows that’s where I landed. Then I became a writer’s assistant which basically means sitting in the writer’s room and typing down everything they say. I typed down all the jokes and all the story ideas and so on. I was with „Scrubs” for three years as some sort of assistant. Then I wrote an episode but left from there on because there were no openings for me, no writing positions for me to fill. I basically tried to get what they call a staff writing job on another show, but as this was right about the time when tv comedies were not doing well, I had a really hard time getting a job. I kept taking assistant positions on different shows. I was writing stuff, I was trying to get on a show, I had an agent who was trying to get me out there. „South Park” I was on but that show works in a very, very weird way. I was there for a very brief period only. I also wrote on a Disney sitcom for two years. Now I’m writing for a show on Cartoon Network. And sort of interspersed to all of this I was making my short film and writing the screenplay for the feature. But I also wrote other screenplays that were much more mainstream and tried to get those out. But that’s not an easy thing to do.
screen/read: Any screenplays among them that you would like to do for yourself, like you did with „Some guy who kills people”?
Ryan Levin: Well, I won a contest that gave me about 10.000 dollars budget for a short film. They basically wanted a description of the next horror movie villain. And again I went the horror-comedy way because that is where my brain goes. I don’t know if I’m capable of coming up with something that’s really, really scary and not having humor attached to it. It’s going to be a four to five minute short that features this killer. And just as much as „The Fifth” inspired me to write „Some guy who kille people” I thought, it’s actually a great idea to turn this one into a feature as well. So I started to write that and again it’s a start and stop thing. I worked on it for the last one and a half years maybe and I should really finish it sometime soon. It’s on a much bigger scale, it’s going to be tough because it’ll be a lot more expensive and I don’t think a US studio would make it.
screen/read: And if so they would probably not know how to sell it. Is it a slasher comedy, is it a family comedy? They can never nail it. However, I think your own approach of selling „Some guy who kills people” with that fascinating comic style poster is really unusual. Even if I didn’t know anything about the movie, I’d be already in only due to the artwork. And I’m sure many people feel that way.
Ryan Levin: I completely agree with you but there’s some irony to that. The guy who did all of the artwork in the movie, all of Ken’s drawings, he designed the poster as well. We worked on it together, I wanted this comic book thing and he drew it and people love it. I think it’s great the way it is. It ties into the movie, it makes you excited for what the movie is about, gives you the idea of a horror film because there’s a bloody knife, but then there’s also ice-cream, and so you get a sense that there’s more going on. It might be funny, it might be a little weird and it’s certainly not just a regular horror movie. The irony is that I got asked to change that poster. We literally signed with a sales agency just before the Cannes market this year. So they took it there and they sold it to one territory, South Africa. And going to the festival they told me, the first market is just to figure out what the buyers want, what they like, what’s working, what’s not working. So they had that poster, they had the trailer and the one-sheets of the movie to hand out which is basically the poster with some information on the back. And the report from my sales agent was that the foreign buyers were confused because the comedy in the trailer wasn’t translating well. Which they knew was a risk. The poster was confusing because they didn’t really understand the comic book thing. It again was kind of horror, kind of comedy, and they wanted it to be one or the other. So my sales agent came back and said, „This is what happened, this is what the buyers said. We need to change the poster, we need to change the trailer for the next market in Los Angeles”. And I said, „Ok, as long as it sells the movie I don’t give a fuck what we do! [laughs] If you want to sell this movie as a thriller, if that’s what they are going to buy, fine. I don’t care. I know it’s not a thriller, and when they sit down and watch it they’ll know it’s not a thriller too. But if you can sell it to them as a thriller, please do it.” I don’t know much about distributors in America, let alone distributors internationally. Every distributor has their needs, they have the kinds of movies that they buy and that they’re interested in. They can watch three minutes of a movie and decide whether it fits their company or not. But the blending of genres is both a blessing and a curse. It makes it a very unique film but also makes it very hard to label. And people like labels. They want to know that this is a horror movie or a comedy or a drama or an action adventure. And if you throw all this stuff into a blender they don’t know what it is and they don’t know how to sell it. And if they don’t know how to sell it, they’re not going to buy it.
screen/read: Just recently, Joe Dante told me pretty much the same thing about his last movie „The Hole” and that he had this problem most of his career. And I think it was the same for John Landis with „Burke and Hare”. People just don’t know how to sell these films that sit between the stools genre-wise. But would you say that this is especially an American problem? And that maybe an audience abroad might be much more open?
Ryan Levin: I would agree with you from an audience point of view. That’s why I think we’re getting into some of the European festivals versus American festivals. Because they’re probably more open minded, they’re less likely to need the movie to be clear cut in its genre, they’re more interested in movies that break the mold. So I think another level of irony is that the buyers might not be buying what their audience actually wants. But again, I don’t know much about international distribution and honestly not enough about international audiences either, but from the little that I know I would guess that this movie would work better in Europe than in America. I think in Germany, England and France this humor could work. In Asian countries I don’t know. But then again there’s so many people in America who would love this movie. So there’s an audience for it here too. Some horror fans might get bored by the father/daughter stuff, and there’s nothing I can do about that. And so funny enough that’s probably not our primary target audience. Our target audience are maybe people who really love horror and dark stuff but are also looking for something that hasn’t been there a hundred times before. But it’s so hard to tell. I talked to my international sales agent, I talked to my domestic sales agent, and they don’t know either [laughs].
screen/read: How about the web? People have started talking about the film and there’s a certain interest existing already. Doesn’t that change the game a little by means of creating a desire to really watch a movie that would otherwise have a hard time gaining attention?
Ryan Levin: Well, I hope you’re right. I’ve been trying really hard getting the word out, but there’s so much competition. Everybody’s got a movie, everybody’s got something that they’re trying to get people to notice and it’s really tough to get people’s awareness. A lot of the major horror blogs here and even some non-horror ones have written articles about the movie or posted the trailer and said how really cool and different it looks. But apart from followers at twitter or on facebook it’s just hard for me to gage how many people are really interested in the movie or are only aware of it. It still hasn’t been shown very much and I’m hoping that by featuring it at these festivals I will just sell it afterwards. Showing it, get word of mouth going, so people talk about it, saying „You’ve got to see this movie”. And then at some point soon we’ve got to make this movie available to them. Because if they get excited about seeing it we can’t make them wait five months. Otherwise they will move on to the next thing and don’t care anymore. So it’s a matter of timing everything correctly, it’s a matter of building up this audience and somehow getting people to talk about it, which is partially in your control but mostly out of it. The best thing that I can do I guess is keeping people on the hook, trying to provide them with some interesting content, like videos of the actors answering fan questions, which we did, and just letting them know that the movie is out there. And taking it to as many festivals as possible, because the more eyeballs you get it in front of, the more people talk about it.
screen/read: If you say, there should be a quick release once people got to talk about the movie, what options of a release do you think are realistic? Do you think VOD is the way to go?
Ryan Levin: I am pretty much aware of the fact that it’s not going to be realeased theatrically, neither her nor overseas. And so the web is going to be crucial because there’s so many opportunities to watch movies on there. If done properly it can get the filmmakers and the investors a lot more money than through regular distribution. In case I find some really cool distributor here in the United States, I must know that A. they’re not going to give me very much money to buy it and B. if it does extremely well they’re going to say „Well, it cost us so and so much to advertise it, to produce the print, to produce the DVD and in our books we subtract all that, and so we got nothing left to give to you.” On the other hand there’s all these new companies on the web where you maintain the rights for your movie, you get a much bigger share for your movie, they take a percentage of every sale and you get a much bigger cut. And you’re skipping all of these middle men. But it’s all still new, still developing.
screen/read: And the viewing habits of the audience are different.
Ryan Levin: Yeah, and what’s funny: I’ve talked to this well-establised lady who is specialised on social media for independent films. She knows pretty much everything, like where to show, where to sell and so on. She said one of the things to consider with this particular type of movie is to let people download it illegally. Because it will make them talk about it while sharing it. And a lot of them will actually say, „You know what? I’m going to find this movie. Either as a real digital copy or as an actual hard copy.” She told me about this movie that she was a consultant on, and this filmmaker put it on the web for illegal download. You can still watch it illegally, but meanwhile enough people have made the decision to buy it legally. And so it already made its money back and then some. It’s a very unorthodox way of getting a movie out there but it shows that the landscape is changing so much that just because a big fancy distributor didn’t buy it doesn’t mean the movie can’t succeed.
screen/read: Whatever road you chose, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that your movie will reach as many people as possible one way or another. I loved watching it and many other will too. Thanks for taking the time and good luck for getting the film out there.
Watch the first SIX MINUTES of the film:
[Images: Battle of Ireland Films, Level 10 Films]