Ryan Andrews – Filmmaker Interview

Ryan Andrews – Director of Sick is in the middle (all black, long beard)

Dec 5 2012 – T-Mak World was at the 2012 TheBlood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival from November 30th to December 2nd which celebrated the best in contemporary Canadian horror. I sat down with the director of the gala opener SICK (which we review here), Ryan Andrews on his process and current issues confronting the Canadian independent film industry. 

1).  What was the creative process that helped you craft SICK ?
SICK was (and is) a team effort. The film industry in general is a collective medium, so the key to the creative process was having the right people on board working together. Chris Cull, who came up with the idea, and I sat down together and sculpted the story and the script and when our Executive Producer, Cengiz H. Fehmi came on board he was able to contribute lots of ideas and research towards the science of our zombies. 
On the visual end of things, I worked closely with DoP Michael Jari Davidson to create the right look for the film. What I wanted to do was not play it safe. And by that I’m talking about being edgy by having a controversial film over the top blood and gore. By not playing it safe, I mean I didn’t want to make it a standard looking film polished with cutaways and close ups at all the expected places. And so we didn’t play it safe. We put together a very desaturated look. And since the story starts on a bigger scale in open fields and then closes in slightly in the second act, taking place in a house and finally the third act primarily takes place in the basement of the house, we made the cinematography follow suit. There are no close ups in the first act, but we continually use move in closer, so the majority of the third act, is close ups.
Some people might be confused by the lack of close ups in the beginning, but overall, it plays subconsciously into the story. So by that we definitely weren’t playing it safe and following the norm.
The other main part of crafting SICK was in the casting and for me it was about finding the perfect ensemble cast and finding the right people who worked together. Christina Anne Aceto was perfect for the lead. I fell in love with her half way through the audition. Richard Sutton and Robert Nolan worked so well together as a team as well, which is what we needed for their characters. And again because this is a collaborative art form, I wanted to make sure each of them were able to bring a lot of themselves into the ideas and structure of the character’s development.   
2).  What was your planned shooting schedule and were there any road block  you faced that made that timeline challenging ?
Like any independent film, time and money are always that, sword of Damocles, that hangs over our heads. But we really didn’t have any unexpected issues arise from it. We knew going in we were doing a 15 day shoot and we did the prep needed to make sure that any issues were quickly taken care of and as a result it was a fairly smooth shoot, which I think you can only really appreciate when you have been on a bad shoot.  
 Cast and Crew of Sick – Ryan Andrews – Director of Sick is in the middle with the long beard

3). Did Telefilm Canada or other governmental agencies help with financing? And where they fell short, how creative did you have to get to make up the deficit to finance your film ?
We actually did this film without the help of Telefilm or any other Governmental agency. The types of films I make tend not to be the kinds of films that the Government likes to get behind. The film was financed privately. This actually tends to be very common for myself and the next wave of local Canadian horror filmmakers. We have kind of a DIY attitude where, if we can’t get the support, that doesn’t mean we aren’t making movies, it means we’re making movies without you. I would love to sit down in the Telefilm offices one day, but til that day comes, I’m not going to stop making not only movies, but the stories I want to tell.
4).  Ryan, how did you get into the film industry and what film projects did you cut your teeth on as you worked your way up the industry food chain ?
I grew up writing stories in my parent’s basement. I just love the act of story telling. Whether it’s sitting around a camp fire telling stories or sitting down with a good book, learning something about human behavior or society, my life is always about telling a story. And my other passion growing up was horror movies. I’ve always been a fan of every style of horror.
So naturally I combined the two and I started writing horror scripts and I’ve never stopped. I shot numerous shorts between 1997 and 2005, just to practice transitioning my story telling into filmmaking and in 2005 I shot my first feature called The Art Of Infamy, which was about a female serial killer that documented her crimes as she taught the 8 rules to becoming a successful serial killer. It was very dark, but at the same time had moments of humor. I like to have lots of humor in my features, but like David Lynch, because the subject matter is so dark, the humor I like to have is also very dark. I like when people laugh uncomfortably. I always picture Denis Hopper in Blue Velvet. He was so creepy putting the lip stick on and sniffing the gas. But his love of Blue Ribbon beer was also hilarious in a really awkward way.
My second feature was actually more like a Lynch film. Very horror Noir, following a woman who doesn’t speak for the first 45 minutes of the film. Very moody. Then it was an 80’s slasher called Black Eve and now SICK. This is actually what I love best about the horror genre. There are so many different styles that I have never made the same one twice yet. The only thing that stays the same is the focus on strong females and unconventional styles that go against playing it safe and doing a by the numbers looking movie.

Sick  – Directed by Ryan Andrews
5).  Christina Aceto (Dr. Leigh Rosetta) was brilliant in the lead. How did you find her and what was the approach you used to bring out her performance ?
Christina was just a woman who came in to audition. We had seen many women already and some were good and some were great, but none had exactly what I wanted. Then she came in and even after hearing the dialogue read yet again, it was the first time it really hit us all. Our casting director was actually in tears for the first time and I knew she was perfect.
We got together a lot during pre-production, walked through it and talked through it a lot. Everything I do art wise, is always motivated through music, so I shared lots of music with her that I felt shaped the scenes. But at the end of the day, it was all her and what she brought to the table as an actor and an artist. It was a really tough role to take on because it’s such a dark character to play. But she did it with a smile on her face. She was amazing during the shoot. No matter what horrible situation I put her in next, she was always the most positive one on set. 
6).  Where did you shoot SICK ?
Our EXT were shot out in Pontypool, Ontario where we had a 100 acres to play with and then our main location was a house on a small residential street in the west end of Toronto. It was great. Our Production Designer Josh Heisie did an amazing job tearing the place a part for the film. And the entire street loved us. I was usually the first person on set and one morning I was out chatting with a couple neighbors up early walking their dogs and they would say that we have brought so much excitement to their little street and they’ll be sad when we’re gone.
Ryan Andrews – Director of Sick is second from the right

7).  Are you going to hit the road with SICK and if so what other festivals do you plan to shop it to ?

Yes, I have actually always had much more acceptance with my movies in the USA. While I would play in festivals and win awards down there, I would never get played in Canada. Til now, at least. Ha. So we’ll definitely be hitting some of my favorite festivals out in LA and in Texas and Oklahoma, but really for the next six to nine months I just want to get the film out there for everyone and anyone to see where ever we can.
8).  With high expectations riding on SICK, what’s your next film project ?
Since I have so many scripts already written, I have quite a few that are in different stages of development and pre production. You never know which one will end up going to camera first. But I am excited about all of them. I’m definitely taking things to the next level with them.
There is a grindhouse road trip movie that plays up, intelligently, the four stereotypes of female characters in a horror film. (The bitch character, the girl next door, the smart/nerd and the slut.) There is also a different kind of haunted house style project, a scary witch film that is based on a true story and a ghost story that revolves around Autism.
I’m also really excited to be working on a couple projects with the amazingly talented actress, Jessica Cameron. (Silent Night, Camel Spiders, The Black Dahlia Haunting) Ten years ago we used to live in the same building in Toronto and she’s been living and working in LA for the last little while really honing in on her craft and making waves in horror. Together we can really create something dark and twisted for the fans, by a couple of fans.
I am definitely looking forward to getting back on set in 2013. 2012 is the first year I haven’t shot anything in six years. But has been working on SICK’s post production as well as taking BLACK EVE to different festivals, So my time has been crazy to say the least. 
Ryan Andrews – Director of Sick is second from right

9). Can you talk about how important indie film festivals like The Blood in the Snow are for young directors as a vehicle for their films ?
At Blood In The Snow, not only did Kelly Michael Stewart provide audiences with a chance to see homegrown talent that they otherwise might not know about, but like any festival it gives us an opportunity to get exposure. While Hollywood spends millions on advertising and marketing, for young directors and indie films, this is the best way to get feelers out there. Through social media people can learn about the film and thanks to these festivals, word of mouth can help create a buzz. And for me, the most important part is at the festivals, you have fans out there able to see the film and talk about it. I’m always more interested in what fans have to say about a film than anyone else because part of what makes the horror genre so amazing is the fans. They are dedicated to the genre. People who dress up for conventions, people who eat, sleep and breathe horror and study it like a religion. They’re the ones I make movies for because that is who I was when I was a kid, when I had Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven. 
Not to say that critics don’t have their place. Because they do and they are very important. It’s thanks to things like Fangoria that I got a lot of my horror education. But when you see movies out there and one critic cuts up the acting like mad while another one praises it til the cows come home, it just reminds you that everyone is different and you need to watch the film for yourself, if it’s a story you like the sound of. So Blood In The Snow gave me a chance to have a room full of fans see the film and there was a lot of positive feedback from the fans. 
Ryan, thank you for adding additional insight into your process and the current state of the Canadian Independent Film Industry.


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