Fright Exclusive Interview With THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM Director Ryan Spindell!!
Hello Icons readers! Today we have a special interview with writer/director Ryan Spindell. An up and coming filmmaker whose short film THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM, screened recently at Elric Kane’s cinema sanctuary, The Jumpcut Café, along with many other shorts presented by horror providers such as Drew Daywalt (BEDFELLOWS, MEAT) who showed a private sneak peek of something he has been working on that is sure to scare the pants off of you upon its release. Also there, Mike Williamson who showed us an “oldie but goodie” as he puts it called IN THE WALL (2007). Even Fangoria’s own Rebekah McKendry showed off an awesome and hilarious short she directed starring JOHN DIES AT THE END’s Chase Williamson called THE BARISTA.
Speaking of Jumpcut Café, PLEASE go support this awesome independently owned joint and show your love if you’re ever in the LA area. We need more places like this to remind us why we love getting together to talk movies (located at 13203 Ventura Blvd. Studio City, CA.). Okay, now that I’m done plugging away let’s get to it!
Having just seen THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM for my first time I have to admit, I had no idea what I was in for and I was blown away by what I saw as a result. I was glued from start to finish. Can you tell us where the idea for this film stems from? The “root” of The Root if you will?
Hey man, thanks so much! That means a lot! The initial concept for the film was a bit of an experiment. My co-writer Mark E. Davidson and myself wanted to see if we could tell a full story with three characters in one room. Essentially, the entire film is one long scene that plays out in real time, so the challenge is keeping that interesting for an audience.
Every actor on board seems to have been fused together from the start, as far as everyone understanding the film you wanted to make and creating something special as a team. How did you go about casting the film in order to assist you in bringing the characters you wrote to life?
That’s a huge compliment and I wish I could take all the credit, but my actors deserve most of the praise. For this project I handled the casting a bit differently then I have my previous films. Instead of casting wide net and holding auditions, I simply made a list of some of the best actors I knew and then wrote the film specifically for them. That way we were able to bypass that initial getting-to-know-you-phase and get straight to the core of who these characters were. Once the actors found their footing, I again re-wrote the material to suit the choices they made. A good portion of the character development in this film is buried in the quiet moments between the lines dialogue so without actors who were willing to make strong choices, there would be no film.
For anyone who has seen it already or will in the near future, I can bet that most will note the incredibly confident cinematography of the film. Every shot felt very precise and beautifully conceived from the color tones to the overall mood of the short. Had you worked with that DP (director of photography) before on other projects and what made you go with this specific look?
The cinematographer, Nathan Lavine-Heany, and I went to film school together at FSU and have been friends for several years, but this was our first official collaboration. He’s an incredible cinematographer with an impressive body of work and I was lucky to have him involved. It’s also worth mentioning that Nathan and I co-produced the short together so we spent some serious time in the trenches on this one.
Tonally, Nathan and I were adamant from the very beginning that if we were going to make a short film, we wanted to do something unique and fun with it. As a fan I love straight horror films, but as a filmmaker I’m much more interested in pushing the boundaries of what genre can be. What we ended up with is a genre cocktail that fuses horror, fantasy, comedy and science fiction. Whether we succeeded or failed, at the very least we tried. When it comes to shorts, I think that’s the most important part.
As for the look of the film, one of my biggest influences was THE TWILIGHT ZONE series, and I really wanted to capture that controlled, classic style of storytelling. The film plays out in real-time, so each and every shot was meticulously planned and storyboarded to build on the previous one. The idea being that all the elements of the film from character, to tone, to lighting design would be a constantly evolving organism as we build to the final climax. (Is anyone else aroused right now?)
What was the budget for the film?
One of the best parts of making a short is that you have all the time in the world to do it just right. I spent several months prior to shooting the film, trolling the web to find the best deals on the elements we needed to make the film cheap. I found most of the set pieces for free on Craigslist and then built the dentist office in my friend’s warehouse. I found all the props and set dressings on Ebay and then refurbished them in my bedroom. (You can imagine what guests thought when they saw a full 1950s dentist office next to my bed.) Nathan gathered a fantastic crew of working professionals who volunteered their time to work for free and most of our equipment was donated. In the end, our total budget for the film was right around $8,000 half of that went to production and the other half was for post.
Do you have any other short films up your sleeve that we can look forward to?
Absolutely! For better or for worse, I love making (and watching) short films and hope to continue making them for as long as I am able. I’ve got some great projects in the works, but as always, it’s a matter of funding. I’m looking forward to the day when making shorts is economically viable.
As far as my other short films, you can find some of them online. The most notable of which is probably my horror/noir short film KIRKSDALE, which you can find on my Vimeo site.
What filmmakers and films have inspired you to become a writer/director yourself with the style that you have?
Oh man, like most filmmakers out there, I’m influenced by so many. Some highlights are Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Peter Jackson, Joe Dante and Terry Gilliam. As far as the newer guys go, I think that Edgar Wright is a freaking genius.
For any true horror fan I believe we can all agree that practical FX are a thing of beauty when done right, though they seem to have taken a back seat as of late due to the overwhelming use of CGI in the industry. Your film, however, makes wonderful use of both computer and practical. Was it important for you as a genre fan to stick with a certain balance of the two when crafting this story from the get go or was it just the way things panned out?
Much like you, I am a die-hard fan of practical effects and will always have an affinity for the rubber monsters I grew up with. As is, there are only two small CGI effects in this short and had I been able to do those gags practically, I absolutely would have. For me, CGI is an amazing tool that should be used to enhance the elements on screen, not as a replacement for them.
Any feature film plans?
Heck yes! Speaking of classic genre films and practical effects, I’m working on a feature film that’s my love letter to all of those amazing films we grew up with. It’s called THE MORTUARY COLLECTION, and it revolves around four dark and twisted storylines, all set in a creepy New England town where nothing is, as it seems. Each tale tackles a different horror sub-genre, there’s a ghost story, a monster movie, a psychological tale of madness and a twist on a slasher film. The entire film is packaged and ready to go. We’re hoping to find the rest of our financing and to go into production this fall. Fingers crossed!
When did you realize you wanted to become a filmmaker, what made you fall in love with movies?
Most of my adolescent life, I was terrified of horror movies. My mother hated them and had planted this seed of absolute terror in my mind when it came all things dark and creepy. It wasn’t until I was twelve or so that I got my hands on a bootleg copy of EVIL DEAD II. Reluctantly I watched it and I remember being absolutely stunned. Not only did I have a new respect for horror films, but I also realized that there were people who were making these things, and they seemed to be having a blast doing it. The ironic part is that all those years of not watching horror films made that experience all the more life altering. In many ways, my mother’s hatred of horror is probably responsible for pushing me right into its loving arms. Sorry mom.
Any last words for our readers who are or may be looking to make their own films?
What can I say that hasn’t been said by more qualified filmmakers, a million times before?
Take risks. I’m not saying that you have to redefine filmmaking, but while you are new to the game, push yourself to make art. The other stuff will come later. Experiment with the medium of visual storytelling. These days, anyone with a camera can make a film that looks great, so just being technically savvy no longer cuts it. If you want to stand out from the rest, you’re going to have to surprise us. The most offensive thing a filmmaker can do is be bland.