Before anyone gives me shit about this interview, please remember this: I am a fan first and a web guy second. I realize that there are points in this interview that it is obvious that I am a fan. If you want hard hitting interviews, go watch those douches on 20/20.
Shane Ryan is not afraid to say what his on his mind and that is exactly why I asked for an interview. I have seen various items on the internet and one thing is for certain: he does not hold back which generally makes him very entertaining. He is one of the independent filmmakers I like for that same reason. His films have been a no holds barred study of his subject. Ryan definitely has an opinion of the Alyssa Bustamante case, which inspired his latest film.
I remember seeing one of the Amateur Porn Star movies a few years back and was really impressed. Yes, I know that those movies got slammed by a lot of people. However, if you read the reviews of those films, the people trashing them were the people that completely missed the point. My Name Is A, on the other hand, seems to be much more well received than the prior films. It is no less disturbing than his prior movies, but in a different way.
1. Tell us about “My Name is A by anonymous”.
I saw a picture of a 15 year old girl who was being accused of murdering a 9 year old girl for no apparent reason and wanted to know more. Of course, the media was sensationalizing the hell out of it. But I wanted to understand the psyche. What actually grabbed me was in the picture I saw that Alyssa Bustamante, the accused murderer, had dozens of self-inflicted scars on her arm. Getting right to the point I have the exact same scars on my arm, the same arm, the same spot. I guess I saw myself in her at that moment. But for as much as I hate the world, the sick things in it, for as much depression and self-abuse I've put myself through, for as many people I fucking hate, I could never imagine killing anything. I say sorry when I kill a spider, which I normally try not to do. I do my best to push bugs I find inside outside, without killing them. Killing an animal, a person, I couldn’t comprehend that. Self-abusers are going to end up killing themselves before they kill someone else, meaning, they couldn’t kill someone else. So, I think I needed to understand. The media never tries to understand shit, it’s all fucking bullshit, they don't want understanding, they want a headline then be on the next topic in two minutes. I was looking for the emotion behind it. If she did it, how could she? Though I never touched on the prescribed drugs aspect, that would be a whole other movie, and which is the real big reason I believe caused her to do this the more I learn about all these bullshit drugs being prescribed to children. That and the part of me that still believes she maybe didn’t even do it, after learning about lots of shady things I came across that happened. But this was mainly after shooting the film I learned of these things so I didn't really get to touch on it, only slightly.
Just think about this; no evidence was found. No DNA, fingerprints, murder weapon, etc. How could a "crazy" girl get away with murdering somebody and not get a single drop of blood on her? When police found clothing of Alyssa's which had blood on it, it turned out to be Alyssa's own blood. Makes sense, she cuts her arm. When they found a weapon in her backpack, it wasn't the murder weapon, it was too small. Makes sense, that's what she probably used when she cut herself. So, if she managed to pull this murder off, why then confess? Well, if she suddenly felt guilty, that makes sense. But then there's this diary where not only does she not feel guilty, she seems siked about it. But why confess, even if she felt guilty after writing that, then go and turn right back around and plead innocent? There's only two things that make sense. Either these drugs completely fucked her up, which is why she's so back and forth (meaning she's definitely not a monster like the media portrayed, simply a mentally fucked up kid who should have been better taken care of). Or, she didn't even do it. And, again, if she did, she must be a criminal mastermind to not leave any evidence like that. Which, I don't buy at all, that'd she be an expert like that on murdering. Then who did it? Well, the media never talked about the fact that Elizabeth's dad, Dale, had been the prime suspect in the disappearance of his own girlfriend a few years earlier. Everybody believes he murdered her, and they just want closure, but he won't give it. He was was the last person to see her alive, he consistently changed his story. He was out on bond, they both were, from a drug bust, another reason to kill her (witness, or many other deadly things that occur in that business).
So, Dale's girlfriend disappears. It's ruled foul play most likely occurred, Dale is the prime suspect, then he goes to prison. While he's in prison his daughter is murdered. Maybe two people were supposed to be? There were two graves dug, after all. And suddenly, this neighborhood girl who's known for cutting herself and being on Prozac is taking the blame but left absolutely no evidence? Ok, whole thing sounds pretty shady to me. I talked with some people who know Alyssa, and they had had the same theory. People aren't buying it. But that's not been discussed even once in the media. The media is full of shit, and that's the biggest reason I wanted to make the film. I need to know more. I need to know why. And as said, at the time of shooting it I didn't even have this information, I just had the feeling of there being way more to the story, and having my doubts she did it. Being a self abuser myself I couldn't comprehend this, it didn't make sense, I needed to make sense out of it. To go through it myself, I guess. If she actually did do it, to go throw the different emotions of it (which was never a topic of concern for the media, of course). Editing this fucking nightmare drove me crazy, it really was like going through it in many ways. I didn't know how I was going to make it out alive. I personally was going through a horrible break up with my ex, broke down into severe depression, and even started abusing myself again, which I thought I was totally over years ago. So, that was my mind set during the long process of editing this movie. I really was taking the ride for myself. I just didn't care about living anymore. Just finishing telling this story.
2. At what point did you begin to realize that maybe there was something about this movie that was special? The reviews thus far have been phenomenal and I have seen some reviews that are simply calling the film a masterpiece.
Please, don’t flatter me too much, it's
gotten some bad reviews as well. Where’d you see masterpiece (HF- I am sure I read that somewhere but cannot find the source now)?!?! I
only touch on things that are special to me, so in that sense
everything is special. I have no idea if anybody else is going to
think that. I can only hope. But if I feel fulfilled, then I know to
me I created something special. Some people may think it’s shit,
some genius, both reactions always surprise me. That anyone could
feel strongly about my work, that’s special, I guess.
3. “My Name Is A” could have been shot as just a straight single perspective film and told the story. What made you choose to tell the story as you did?
This film, and my last feature,
Warning!!! Pedophile Released, were originally going to be shot
mockumentary style like the APSK films. But a few reasons why they
weren’t. Been there, done that, so when opportunity came along to
make it a little different, I jumped on it. APSK was shot on a whim
way back in 2004. My whole life I had been making films and never
(aside from one 10 minute short) had they ever been mockumentaries.
Half were regular narratives, the other half experimental artsy
types. So with WPR and A, I guess I combined narrative with arthouse
experimental, which is what I actually enjoy doing. APSK derived from
lack of money and frustration of not getting a film completed, so
that idea was brought upon as “what can I shoot tonight and have
done by the end of the week?” But I don’t always want to make a
film like that. Sometimes it’s nice, because A took a year from
concept to shooting to post-production (most of that time was
post-prod), so making a film from start to finish in a week can feel
really good, but not every time. Once in a great while.
4. What has been the reaction to some of your past films such as the Porn Star Killer trilogy? It seems that there is no in between; people either rave about them or simply hate them. I had read at one point that you were receiving threats after the movies were made. Is this true?
Yeah, I've already got some from A. I
got tons and tons just based on the trailers for the first APSK,
people are so fucking retarded. The internet has brought on a
disgusting breed of stupidity. Things like, "you sick bastard,
how could you display hatred towards women that way, I'm going to
rape your mom, slit her throat, and burn your house down you sick
fuck." Or, "you're creepy, I'm going to sneak into your
house and kill you" or "you faggot, I'm going to ass fuck
you in prison" I don't think you can get much more dumb fuck
sounding than that. The oxymoron - definition of a hater. When I
announced I was making a human trafficking movie, because I cared
about the issue, I never got so many threats and haters in my entire
life as from that. Of course, speaking of news sensationalism, that
was because the media got a hold of the story and twisted it and made
it out like I was doing a porno trafficking film about a victim.
That's the news for you. Huffington Post, NBC, ABC, can suck their
big fat hypocritical, pathetic, vulgar, despicable egos and natural
born greed. I just hate people real bad some times. So much evil by
people who think they get it, think they mean well. So much shit
talking by people who have no idea what shit is coming out of their
mouths. I prefer hanging out with animals many times. They don't
speak a word of bullshit. Don't stab you in the back. They just
But, yes, there's the great things said as well. While the stupid shit propels me into a raging bull, the good things said humble me, and I always find it amazing that somebody not only watched my 50 dollar or whatever budgeted movie, but actually liked it, even loved it. And many times for all of the right reasons. That's amazing to hear.
5. Is it easier to create a film that is based on a true story or is it more difficult when you don't have the freedom to take the story itself in the direction that you choose?
Well, I totally took A in the
direction I wanted. It was only loosely based on a tue story. I just
took what inspired me, what I wanted to know, and explore, and made
up the rest. I simply kept the basics. The ages of the girls
involved, the crime, some key things like cutting and pictures she
took, and made my own story around it. I always compare it to the way
Hollywoodland was made. I love that film. Totally different film,
style, etc. But it's based on the true story of George Reeves. But
the main character played by Adrian Brody is made up. He's just an
idea of a person based on the real kind of people who actually were
involved. And then the exploration of how George Reeves died was
shown through different presentations of what could have happened.
Did he kill himself, was it an accident, or was it murder? We'll
never know for sure, so what you're watching is many ideas of what
could have happened, along with many fictionalized scenes. That's
what this film is. A real death/crime scene, involving a real person,
with made up people and circumstances around it based on thoughts of
what could have been going on through somebody's mind. In this case
we know the girl was actually murdered. But by who? Why? Motive?
That's stuff we can assume (like people assume George Reeves killed
himself) but really, we'll never know for sure, we weren't there, and
the evidence isn't clear.
Now, if you're doing a film like David Fincher's Zodiac, totally different. They did everything they possibly could to only show things that actually happened, based on real case files and victims, and cops, testimonies, etc. If they didn't have somebody alive or in custody to account for something, they didn't show it. They believed in total accuracy based on the people who lived it. So, there's just different ways of telling truth. Sometimes it's good to be as accurate as possible, but since there's never any certainty for that, sometimes the best truth is told through fiction, as they say. That's basically what I was going for. I didn't find A any easier or more difficult to make than WPR, which wasn't based on a true story. But, then again, many scenes and ideas from WPR were based on real situations. The actress in that film really had been homeless and was re-living many things through the movie. But the story wasn't what had happened to her. So, at what point is something a true story? Every true story has tons of fiction added, and every fictional story has truth in it because we base things off of things we've experienced, or watched others experience, or even off of other people's art, which down the line was at some point based off of life.
6. Your past films certainly have their share of violent behavior, but lack blood and gore. Is that intentional? It is interesting that some of the sexuality is very graphic, but the violence is not. This is certainly a departure from what one would consider a more common formula, yet the film does not suffer.
Was it Maria Bello who always has great things to say about sex in cinema? You can show somebody get their head blown off but they wouldn't show her pubes in The Cooler. It's ridiculous how extreme gore is acceptable but a nipple offends. Though I, myself, will admit watching violence in a theatre doesn't usually make you feel uncomfortable but a sex scene can. I remember when I went to see Baise Moi in the theatre having no idea what it was about, and I was just a teenager then, I don't think I had even lost my virginity yet. I'm watching it, and when they get to the sex I didn't know what the fuck to do. I was so uncomfortable. I was like, do I leave, I'm sitting in the front, maybe they think I'm getting off to it, do I look away, do I act normal, I was so confused and just felt weird. Then afterwards I was like, wow, I'm glad I saw that, what a rush. Art should move you, push you, offend you, get you to think. Sex does that, especially when it's things like rape, it really does it. And I find rape to be an issue that needs to be talked about more in a realistic way. If you show it for what it really is, I think people realize more how horrific it is. And it doesn't always have to be graphic to get its point across, it just depends. At the same time I don't want to abuse the actress. I want to make sure she's totally comfortable doing whatever. I have multiple faces I'm wearing when doing these scenes. One part of me wants to push people with provocative art, and the other part wants to raise awareness about abuse and rape and such things. So, it's also really tricky, because the last thing you want is to abuse the actress who's there with you to make a point about abuse but doing so in an explicit way. So, to answer your question, yes it's very intentional that I use graphic sexual situations. And the lack of gore as well. I was never a fan of gore scenes. Violence, if done right, can move me, and anger me, and make for good art. But sex is usually more successful at doing this as we're so accustomed to violence on screen, and usually the violence is made to make you go "yeah, blow those fuckers up", or its just a gorefest, which I don't have any interest in. I thought it was used very well in the recent movie Drive, because it felt like it was real, because it was few and far between and when it was violent it was so brutal you felt right there with it, so it felt like a bad thing. And violence is a very bad thing. I do have my guilty action films I like, but people do need to understand that real violence is terrible, and many people these days seem to not be able to decipher that. And the media, youtube, etc., is causing this.
7. There is a social conscience to your work that is obviously intentional. What is the goal behind that ?
I don't always know for sure. I guess I look at society, and I don't like what I see. So, I hold a mirror up, and show people what I think of them. I want them to question things, actually put thought into things they don't want to look at, or don't feel is important. For instance, people think self abusers are little wieners, crying for attention. Yet most hide it. So, what dumb fuck decided to make it a thing that self abuse is a cry for attention? When it's a form of relief, a bad form, which becomes addictive.
Some people don't think that manipulating a girl into sex based on fear or other tactics is rape, when it clearly is (as in what happens to the girl in Amateur Porn Star Killer). Then there's the idea of what's right/wrong, and/or at what time is something okay, or not okay? That'd be Warning!!! Pedophile Released. Would you want your 12 year old daughter with an 18 year old guy? I sure wouldn't. But in this particular case, the guy only wanted to love her and protect her, not sleep with her. And him being put away leaves her vulnerable and alone, and she is then gang-raped, impregnated, thrown out on the streets, and turns to prostitution and drugs to survive and cope. So, were things made better for her by putting this guy away? Hell no, not in this particular case. They would have been the happiest couple there probably was. And in the end, she goes back to him anyway, only severely damaged, both of them, by what society has done to them. So, who's the real bad guy here? The guy who loves her, or society who damages them both? Tough questions, but that's reality. These things happen. People just want to have easy answers to insanely difficult questions. Lock away this many pedophiles, save this many children. But are they really saving anybody? Or just making themselves look better? A problem with sex trafficking is that many prostitutes were forced into this lifestyle . But instead of chasing the clients and the pimps who put them in this place, they chase the girls who are being raped and victimized over and over. And they do nothing to help these girls, just book them, throw them back out, and the horrible cycle continues.
There's so many sick fucking problems with this world, and people need to face it, and do something about it. That's what I aim for I guess. I do love movies, and at some point want to make films, or at least a film, simply for entertainment, but I consider myself more of an activist filmmaker. I want to outrage people and anger people with my work, the stupid close-minded people, and get them to start opening their eyes and at least attempt to make things better.
8. I have seen a couple of your short films and now two of the feature length. It seems that the music in each fits perfectly with your story. What is your approach to finding the music? How much of the music that you use is actually written for the film itself?
I don't think I've ever had anything written for a movie because I need to edit these musically driven scenes to the music itself so it's to the beat/rhythm of it. I just don't mind spending countless hours searching for the right music. Once in a great while I have people give me music I can use, but many times I have to search through royalty free music sites. It can be exhausting, as most music on those sites suck, but I just keep searching til I find something that clicks.
My Name is A was a combination of everything. I had multiple people give me music I could use. I heard one song at a festival with a filmmaker I became friends with, and felt I had to have her music in the movie, it was so perfect, and I just felt connected with her artistically. I felt so strongly when listening to her music, in a moment you just feel it, the intense sadness, there doesn't even have to be build up. It just pulls you right in. Then I had Teona's song in the movie which we shot for the film. I've wanted to do a musical for awhile, so that was a tiny hint at it, with her character and song. But then I still needed lots of music so that's when I had to start searching for royalty free pieces.
Back when I was making short films I composed some of my own music through basic music editing programs. So, that'd be the time, I guess, when music was written for my films, sorta, but it was me doing it, and I was more just throwing things together until I got something that fit.
9. What are your thoughts on the gore sites that feature actual deaths? It seems that they are becoming more and more popular with a younger generation.
I don't believe I've ever seen those, sounds terribly sick. If it's for knowledge, to educate somehow, then I guess that's appropriate. Seeing real deaths is different than fictionalized movie deaths, and it can really show and scare the reality into you. But if this if for entertainment, these sick fucks need help before they grow up and start running our world.
10. With the current technology, just about anyone can make a film with just a camera and a computer. The internet allows endless means of communicating and marketing. Will that continue to change the manner in which films are marketed and funded? Is it a step in a positive direction?
Hopefully we can figure out how to make it more positive, but I find it to be very negative. I was just having a conversation with my friend who said the arthouse film is dead. And distributors have been saying this, too. You either need a straight-to-video horror/action film, or a big Hollywood film. These 500k-3 million dollar budgeted arthouse films are getting killed by the internet. DVD's was where they would make their money, but now with all the video stores closing, and Netflix dropping indies, RedBox not carrying them, we're getting killed. I think the internet has fucked us. Unless you're satisfied making some youtube video talking about your day and your haircut, you're in trouble. People like me are in trouble. I don't know how we can make films and make enough money to get by, at all. Like I said, a teeny-bopper shooting a webcam for youtube in his bedroom can pull in 1-8k a month doing this youtube bullshit. Making a meaningful film, you ain't gonna make that in a whole year. You're fucked.
11. Independent film is a very difficult career path. Do you have any advice for young people trying to break in to producing and directing?
Don't do it. Find something else you care about and get into that before you're in too deep. If I knew that at 22 I'd probably be in the peace corp. Or working with the homeless, fighting human trafficking, things I care about. But at 32 having only known film, no degree, I don't know where else to go. I feel stuck here, I feel this is all I know. But I don't know at all how to make a living off of it. I think it's so bad for story tellers. If you want to do other things in the film business, or are some wiz kid great with all this constantly changing advanced technology (which I know shit about) then you might be fine. Otherwise, stay out. And if you insist on staying in then stand strong, keep your vision, fight your battles, and tell everyone who doesn't believe in you to fuck off. Hold your head up, and fight.
12. Do you have any significant projects coming up that you want people to know about?
Oh, I don't know. Lots of possibilities, and lots of "will
this ever happen?" I worked on a film called American Girls,
with Bai Ling, James Duval, and Kevin Gage, should be out by the end
of the year or sooner, hopefully. As far as stuff I'm hoping to work
on? I might be in a couple more films with James, waiting to shoot my
stuff. Kevin and me have plans to work on multiple things, hopefully
we can make that work. We want to do my trafficking film, even shot a
little teaser for it with Kevin, view it here
So, keep an eye out. I'd say more, but they're all projects I don't know if they're gonna happen yet! Fingers crossed, as always :)