Filmmaker Series: Dominic Ryan
I am Dominic Ryan, I am an actor and filmmaker based in London. I’m originally from the West Midlands but have been living in London since 2010. I have produced and written work, but directing is where I feel most at home.
What initially got you into filmmaking?
I initially started filmmaking as I wasn’t getting the roles I wanted as an actor or the roles I was getting, when I eventually got the footage back (or indeed if I even got it back), I found the quality to be lacking and it just wasn’t anything I felt I could include in my showreel. So I wrote a short film in 2011, this was a two-hander and simply meant to act as showreel material for the lead actress and myself. But I loved the process of making the film and it ended up being really well received, so I carried on writing about more subjects and was then asked to direct other people’s work.
Who are your biggest influences and why?
I’ve always loved the work of James Cameron and Christopher Nolan simply from a fans point of view. I think in terms of dialogue, I adore the work of Quentin Tarantino and the art of being able to take a seemingly mundane conversation and make it interesting.
How important is film as a medium and art form in the world, today?
I think especially now with everything that’s going on, any kind of expression is important. We’ve all tried to be creative whilst being at home, some people have experimented with cooking, others have maybe knitted or painted, some have watched films and TV and some have even created content.
I certainly feel in times like these, film and the art form of film is so important so we can have these forms of escapism. I use film as a form of research too when looking at other filmmakers so I’ve spent so much of lockdown watching films and not feeling guilty. It’s actually been lovely.
Do you have a set process when making film?
I don’t really have a process; it used to be that a film would start from a single image, which is what happened certainly for the first few projects. Then it would maybe be a line or a sentence, which I would expand on. But this changes from project to project.
The latest film I’ve recently released is called Four Walls and was directed over Skype in lockdown. It’s a COVID-19 film and was actually inspired by a documentary about people in Wuhan. When I started writing it though, I was taking part in lots of online quizzes with friends, so that became my way in. I usually never know how my films will end and I allow the characters to guide me.
What has been your favourite film to work on and why?
Four Walls was really interesting as it was the first time I had directed over Skype. I directed my debut feature back in 2018, which had its screening in London’s Cinema Museum August 2019, so that was a wonderful thing to be a part of.
But the project that was my baby for a while, and one that has stuck with me for such a long time was a short film called Leap of Faith, which I started writing in late 2012, and it went through many redrafts including a feature film version, until I stripped it all the way back and found the essence of the film. The film was shot in England and Wales in 2014 and was a magical thing to be a part of. It’s also a film I eventually wrote into a feature film and would love to shoot that.
Which genre do you enjoy working in?
I’ve actually crossed between genres a lot: thriller, comedy, drama. But I think drama is what I enjoy playing with most. Whenever I direct comedy, I’ll always play the truth and not for laughs anyway and I love finding what’s going on inside the character, which – so far – I’ve been able to explore a little more with drama. I’m sure that will change though the more material I work with.
Is filmmaking your primary source of income?
At this stage, filmmaking is not my primary source of income. I’ve usually had other sources from acting work, to promo or hospitality work, which has helped fund the other stuff. But slowly but surely more paid filmmaking work is coming along.
What is your definition of success?
That’s an interesting one and I think it’s certainly changed over the years. But now I consider success to be able to make a living doing what I love.
What advice can you give our readers, should they wish to pursue filmmaking?
We live in an age where we have such good cameras on our phones, so just shoot stuff. Don’t worry about it being perfect as you’ll get better the more you do it. I recently came across some short videos I shot with friends back in 2007; I used a friend’s digital camera and shot away over the course of a few days and simply compiled some memories. I was quite surprised to see in the edit I’d done, that as rough as the footage was – I’d actually been implementing a lot of techniques that I like doing nowadays to create smooth, interesting cuts, although back then I had no idea what I was doing.
So clearly the ideas were there, but they weren’t honed or polished. So I seriously wouldn’t worry about that all too much, just play. Watch films to see what directors are doing and constantly ask yourself where the camera is.
Do you ever suffer from creative burnout? How do you combat it?
I do tend to suffer from that, I think as I’m an actor turned filmmaker, I don’t solely rely on one and can feasibly take a break if it’s getting too much. But if I’m stuck when I’m writing, I like to go for a walk or listen to music and have a change of scenery
What projects are you currently working on?
I have just wrapped on Four Walls, a COVID-19 short film. I’ll also be in pre-production with two short films: a thriller set in a female institute, which I’ll be directing. Same but Different, an Italian short-film/documentary that I’ve written and will be directing where I’ll be looking at changing language in a movie and how a performance may differ.
Written & Directed By Dominic Ryan
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope to continue making movies. I would also love to get into TV as a director. I’m eager to work with as many actors as I can and improve my own work as much as I can.
Lastly where can people find you?
My website is http://www.domryan.com here you can watch all the short films I have directed. I am also on Twitter and Instagram.
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