River Manor: Behind the Series!

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My friends and I created a season of television for the internet. I guess you could call that a web series. Or a miniseries. You can call it whatever you want. I wrote 6 intertwining stories and then we filmed them and now we’re showing them to the world to see if the world hates them. That’s the gist.

Here is where I’m going to post all of them and then write about each one along with adding behind the scenes photos and videos, mostly for my own enjoyment, so if you happen to take something positive away from this or are entertained in any way, that’s all gravy to me. Okay cool!

Oh also, S1E1 means Season 1 Episode 1. We’re all learning!

S1E1: “The Deli Caper”

I’m not good at writing pilots or introducing characters. I don’t like spoon feeding exposition and that is what a pilot wants to be most of the time. I had to be reminded the whole time we were filming this to make sure and say everyone’s names so the audience knows what to call us. Even that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like insulting an audience’s intelligence, although in retrospect I should have bowed to that whim a bit more than I did.

I decided as I was writing the season that I was just gonna throw the audience into a whirlwind and see how they like it. Which is what this pilot ended up being. Also, the pilot sets up a big theme for the series which I call “filling the shot.” I wanted most shots to have 2 or more things happening in them at once. I wanted the audience to have to watch the episode a few times to catch everything. One of my favorite movies is Ocean’s 11 – I’ve watched it around 25 times and I still catch new things to this day. It gets me going, so I assumed it would get other people going as well. If you’ve already watched this, watch it again and see what new things you find. In fact, that applies to all of these episodes. Watch them all about 10 times if possible.

Oh, and the shot of us running across the backyard and Marc getting pummeled? Jo really hit him. Hard. Don’t be fooled by her tiny stature. She hits like a monster and we did that 6 times. Marc was sore for a week. It was hilarious.

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S1E2: “Everyone is Poisoned”

This is the first episode we shot which was purposeful. I wanted our first go at making this series to only have the 4 main characters in it so that we could build some semblance of chemistry and then carry that over to other episodes where there are more characters with screen time. This is also the day we realized GBaby’s character is wonderful in his simplicity which would be a constant theme throughout the season.

I go back and forth between what episodes are my favorites and this one always seems to pop up in my mind. I love Steph’s makeup, I love the Frasier scene & the good cop bad cop with Marc and Elliot, I love the dubstep Frasier at the end and how GBaby keeps eating the poisoned food the entire time. In fact go back and watch this episode and just watch GBaby. You’re welcome.

Marc and I acted out the good cop bad cop scene most nights for 4 months prior to shooting this. In fact that is the way most of this series was fleshed out. Marc and I sitting on our porch and acting the entire episode ourselves. We rewrote the entirety of episode 4 that way, but more on that later. Also, as a last note, this is the episode we had Alex Meeske on set for and you can tell if you know him that he was there. That warbler line G says? That was his. Fun facts!

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S1E3: “Elliot Finally Shuts the Fuck Up”

This episode was to do 2 things. First off I wanted to show that Elliot’s character is basically the house scapegoat and secondly I wanted to introduce every character the audience hadn’t met yet.

At Elliot’s forced wedding we meet his insufferable brother Peter played by one of our Executive Producers, Johnrobert Vergati. You also get to check up on our local cockneyed talking delusion ridden Milk Toast played by our EP/DP Dylan after meeting Milk in episode 1 along with the ever quiet and mysterious Olive Druthers played by Stephanie Vergati who has a nice lil’ monologue in this episode. Then we add Olive’s best friend Lola Montez played by Allie Rivera, one of the funniest humans I know, throw in some Robinson Mahler, who brings a sort of grounded delusion you don’t really get anywhere else in the series played masterfully by Justin Hagen and then Jo is back, no longer tied up and in straight up in the dating game with Marc who is eye banging her most of this episode. Oh, and I can’t forget Abigail playing Elliot’s new Russian mail order bride, Ulyana Larinov!

This is a good time to talk about how we shot these scenes. There was no script. There was a detailed outline – sometimes I would give people lines to say, sometimes I didn’t. That means we built every new scene from scratch as we filmed it, did an average of 6 takes per shot with two cameras running, and usually used the last take.

We talked a whole lot prior to shooting about these characters with every actor who I chose specifically for their ability to make funny shit up on the spot. Some of the best parts of this series are things I didn’t write, and that’s my favorite. I bring this up soon after bringing up Abby’s Uly because she was so super worried she wouldn’t nail the Russian accent that she had me write every word of hers out. She then came in and murdered it anyway at which point I started making her say more things she hadn’t practiced, much to her dismay and much to my delight. And hopefully yours as well.

Also, it was raining that day. All of these shoots were one day long and that day the wedding was supposed to be out in the back yard but it was raining. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the garage looks like the absolute worst place to have a wedding, which Lola points out and to me makes it that much neater.

Here’s a behind the scenes video of JR hitting Elliot in the balls a bunch of times:

S1E4: “In Stapp We Trust”

Up until a few weeks before shooting began in the Summer of 2015 this episode was something completely different. Originally this episode was going to be called “Bed and Breakfast” of which the general gist was going to be that the boys opened up a B&B a la those food carts people open sometimes where their main selling point is being mean to their customers.

The boys plan goes awry once the first two people trying out the B&B is Lola and Olive and Lola basically takes over the entire day as GBaby and Marc escape by swimming away down the river while Ryan yells at them to come back and follow through on an idea for once instead of running away. In response, G and Marc tell him to shut up and keep swimming.

In all reality I wanted an episode that explained how good of friends Lola and Olive were and that idea was my chosen vehicle. But from idea to execution it felt weird. It just wasn’t written well and I didn’t like it which is something I made clear to Marc one night after coming home from the bar. And it was in that moment Marc pitched that he start a cult, and then I pitched that it be about Scott Stapp, and then we both improv’d the entire episode in the hallway in about 15 minutes. Then, still a little drunk, I opened up my laptop and wrote the episode, intertwining the Olive and Lola story line into the Stapp story line. Marc gets a writing credit on this one and deservedly so but he also brings a gravitas in this episode that was absolutely amazing to watch from the other side of the camera. He hit his stride acting wise as a cult leader, nonetheless. I don’t know if it’s the best one, but it’s the one we all laughed the most on set and that’s for damn sure.

S1E5: “Step Up Your Hat Game, Fool”

Most of the people around me thought this episode would suck from the beginning and I can see why. This is the most insular idea I chose to do. It’s based on inside joke after inside joke that I had the task of making into outside jokes as well. Step Up Your Hat Game, Fool acts in dual capacities. One is as the 5th episode of the first season of River Manor and secondly it is basically a time capsule for my late 20s. And from the outside looking in that looked like, to everyone else around me on the project, like not that much fun.

Until you see Marc and I screaming at a camera, or G fighting a plant, or Elliot dumping Sunny D on himself – Until you hear the soundtrack that JR put together – until you see that this episode is by all accounts a concerto of dialogue that ebbs and flows with a rampaging sense of urgency – until you see all of those things live I can very much understand how you could think it would suck.

Thankfully I love this episode and how weird it is. AND I HOPE YOU DO TOO sorry that was pushy have a nice day LIKE IT LIKE IT NOW.

S1E6: “Olive’s Low Key Get Together”

Season finales are important to me. When I was being a child I didn’t read enough, and it’s not because I didn’t enjoy reading. It was because Television was so god damn entertaining.

As I started to figure out what stories were and the kinds of them that I liked, I realized that one of my favorite parts of a Television series is that it’s stretched out. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end – and all of them matter. With a movie you can skip the middle sometimes and still be just fine in the last 20 minutes. Television doesn’t allow for that. There are small details everywhere, there are character developments that happen in mere moments, and there is an ongoing decay that you as the audience member are tasked to observe and understand. The season finale is the ultimate payoff for all of it.

River Manor is not exactly like television, though. Character arcs are sporadic, plot details are heavy handed, and each episode can choose to be closed into itself at any given moment it chooses. That is, until you reach the finale, at which point you will perhaps realize it was all connected the entire time LIKE MAGIC. Hopefully. At the very least, that’s what I was trying to do. You, the audience, can be the judge of the success of that.

On a more grounded level, this finale was shot on one very long Saturday that was a day of pure exhilaration for me. We were filmmaking by the seat of our pants that day more than any other time we broke out a camera and hoped for the best. It was so much stupid fun.

If you liked this series at all I would urge you to watch it again. Every episode is meant to be watched multiple times with tiny little details you’ll pick up that you didn’t see before including running gags that wrap themselves up in the finale – one of which goes 6 episodes long and is my favorite thing ever.

But anyway, thanks to everyone who worked on this project and thanks to everyone whom enjoyed it. This is my favorite thing I’ve ever done. Okay cool bye.

 

 

 

 

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One Man Show

Yesterday started so normal. Then. In other parts of yesterday. It got weirder.

I’ve had this idea floating around in my brain for like 4 months where I would make a short film about all of the embarrassing but incredibly normal things we as human beings do when we are home alone in our comfort zones. It is being alone with ourselves that I find the most interesting. (that sentence makes me sound like a freshman Philosophy major who sleeps through class because he doesn’t respect the value of a dollar.)

So. Yesterday. Yeah.

I went to work. On a Monday. Because it was a Monday. And you know this thing about Monday’s – and I’m 100% sure no one has ever mentioned this before and I am the genius who came up with this first forever…Monday’s aren’t great.

And you know why they aren’t great? Because on the weekend, if you were lucky, you got some alone time. And alone time is the best. It’s when you get to think. And feel. And love. And hate. And Master….skills. You thought it was going another way there. But I didn’t. Because I’m an adult.

So I had this video idea of being by yourself but narrating everything that was happening in your brain and I had a web-series that I’m writing. So, I thought hey, let’s destroy two birds with one stone and put those two things together. That’s my life right now by the way. The web-series that we’re shooting in June. I’m writing it and I have been for 6 months. It’s been done for 3 months. I’ve been editing every day. Rewriting entire episodes. It’s sort of all I think about when I’m not talking. Just for perspective.

When I was re-writing an episode I had the idea of making all of the characters do this thing where they narrate what they do by themselves and we see the differences between all of the characters. I thought it was a good idea. But it just didn’t work for me. I got no juice from it. I couldn’t wrap my head about it fully, so I had another idea, and wrote it. But I still liked the by myself idea as a concept.

Then came yesterday. I was bored. Finished my work. Low on creative energy. And a spark hit me which was so cool because it doesn’t happen very often. I texted my talented friend Steph, asked her if I came over her house in 30 minutes if she slap makeup on my face gracefully, she said yes because she’s the nicest. I went there. We talked about the video. She told me what it should be called, “One Man Show.” And then I left. Got home. Got the camera. Took out my new Rode Smartlav+ Microphone that hooks into your iPhone and or Android device. And went for it. 3 hours of shooting. Made it all up. 39 minutes of material. Imported it all. Edited sound on 27 clips. Synced the audio and the video. Edited for 3 hours. Cut it down to 8 minutes or something like that. And it was done and on YouTube. This entire paragraph is a humblebrag that makes me feel uncomfortable.

And I like it the final product of the video, which is a nice thing too.

I think I want to make this a series because it was fun to make and other peoples alone stories fascinate me. The stuff you do when you’re alone is so weird, and gross, and self righteous, and full of hubris, shame, love, hope, fear – you cover every emotion on the spectrum in complete silence looking at popcorn ceilings and sunsets. That stuff is beautiful and normal and so so so so so so funny. To me, it’s the times with no audience whatsoever people have the ability to be the best or worst versions of themselves – and that journey by yourself, I think, is inherently funny.

Also, for the record, I do hope very much that I get at least a C in my freshman Philo class – that Prof is such a narc.

Buried

Before you read this I’d recommend you watch the film because I’m about to spoil it below:

In 2011 I wondered if my friends and I had it in us to make a film. Now we’ve made 3 while also having a large ensemble cast web series being scheduled to shoot in 2015. Stay tuned for updates on our Facebook page.

Making movies with my friends is the favorite thing I’ve ever done. Last night one of those good friends asked me how I get all of these insanely talented people to help me every time. I told her I have to trick them into it, which is half true. When you are writing and directing, the first step outside of yourself is convincing people that the thing you want to make is going to be good even when you aren’t 100% sure of that fact. But they keep saying yes. So. That’s incredibly nice of them.

Buried was created around a table of friends at my apartment in 2013. The premise was that a guy accidentally kills his best friend’s girlfriend who no one likes and then decides that if he can convince his best friend to murder his girlfriend before he finds out that she was already dead, he’d be off the hook for the accidental death he caused. Or at the very least, he’d have some help with the situation from a sympathetic party.

It’s a super weird premise that just made me keep laughing and laughing. Just a guy grasping at strings in the most intense moment of his entire life trying to convince another dude to kill a girl who’s already dead. That is my sense of humor in a nut shell.

When it comes to the actual film itself, I as the director ask the audience to go along with a premise that is all or nothing. Whether or not the audience ends up jumping on board is still to be seen, BUT even if they don’t there are a few things in this film that I think will be for everybody.

First off there are shots in Buried that are crazily pretty. Dylan (my EP, Editor, and Cinematographer) came in to the shoot day after a few brief conversations about the shot list and with a whole lot of jet lag as he had just gotten back from a month in Asia. I’m telling you that because the sequence where Marc is doing the actual burying has a shot while the sun was going down that is so freakin’ gorgeous I want to cry and Dylan was sprawled out in the mud to capture it while somehow not falling asleep.

Dylan, as my Cinematographer, is there to add his sense of aesthetic to my shot list. So basically, he’s there to make me better than I am. While operating within that framework he consistently goes above and beyond and the camera work in this film proves that. As for our second camera run by Adam Carner, I use him as a wild card. I don’t give him a shot list. I tell him to find a cool shot and go with it. The side shot of Marc kicking the corpse prior to dumping it in the hole is all Adam. Every time he works with me he does something I’d never think of by myself. You need people like that if you want to make something cooler than you could ever make alone.

The second thing I wanted to highlight from this film is the music; particularly the music during the burying sequence. The way we at BFF pick music is a long and tedious exercise that our music supervisor, JR, performs beautifully. Every year South by South West (SXSW) releases about 6 gigs of free music for the purpose of filmmakers using it in their films royalty free. It’s an amazing service that has helped us immensely on all 3 of the films we’ve made. It’s JR’s job to get an insane scene note from me like, “I want the song in this burying sequence to be ominous but in a weird and quirky upbeat manner” and then subsequently make sense of it.

Then after he does that impossible task, he listens to all 6 gigs of the music (51 hours of songs for those of you wondering) and makes a ranked list of his choices that I, with the help of him and the EPs, use to pick the song. The song in the burying sequence, in my mind, is perfection and I hope you guys like it too. And even if you don’t, it makes me all warm and fuzzy every time it comes on and that’s all I could ever ask for.

Before I go I will add that this film is better because my other EP Abigail, who is my script editor as well, killed it on every note she made during this entire process. Add to that the three actors in this film whom all had multiple jobs within the process when acting is hard enough all came to play on the day of the shoot (of which we only had one) and laid down solid takes that made picking only one tough to do the entire time editing this film. I’m almost bored when it comes to talking about how good Marc is because it’s just the truth and, hell, Steph had to hold herself above the ground and then let go so her face slammed into it 3 times in a row for this film and didn’t question it once. (All in the gag reel btw) That’s insane. Friendship is insanity.

This film marks the first time I didn’t act let alone play the lead in something we’ve made which allowed for a few things. One is that I had to put all of my trust into the actors to say my words the way they are on the page while simultaneously infusing them with a very real weight and personality to which I was not disappointed. The second opportunity it allowed for was to be ingrained in every single step that occurred from the concept to the final cut. Ian and the Bishop and Zer0s are movies that I adore because for me they tell so many stories both personally and artistically but this film is the first one that is in my voice entirely.

Artists talk about searching for their voice all the time. Finding a way to make a product that genuinely describes an artistic moment in their life. If nothing else Buried will be a perfect reminder or who I was when I was 27, how reliable and talented my friends were, how supportive my family was, and how I have a deep love for the place where I grew up for both making me this person and being a beautiful setting for all 3 films we’ve made so far.

If you have any questions about Buried or anything else let me know. I could talk forever about these films. I like them a lot. If not just enjoy this gag reel of my friends being silly little geese and I’ll cya in 2015 for our upcoming comedy webseries. K cool.

New Book plus Movie and Music Updates

Oh hey.

I want to do a fun article but I’ve been a bit busy. Someone asked me the question “when do you have time to sleep?” last week and I was so happy. I love that question because it means I’m doing something right.

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So here is a quick update on all the stuff. Last week I kinda secret published a short book called What More is There about going to see my Grandparents in the summer when I was a child. Other than the movie I’m making (I’ll get to that later) it’s the most personally invested I’ve ever been in a project. The description is: A telling of my childhood summer trips to visit my Grandparents from my first person perspective written by my Grandmother and elaborated upon by me 20 years later so we can always have these stories.

I made it as cheap as I could and it’s a literal one or two hour read so that’s a thing.

As for the movie (Ian and the Bishop), I’d say we just passed the half-way point of editing it. We have two more scenes that need rough cuts, then we have to go back through for audio levels and color corrects, music additions etc. My current estimate for that to be completed is the end of October, but I’ve been wrong before. Don’t worry though; when it comes out I’ll be shoving it down your throats constantly.

On the music front, Adam and I are in the middle of creating a full length Jolly Good record that has a name that we’re not telling people yet. I think it’s going to have 11 tracks if it all works out, and that should be done first quarter 2014.

Other writing stuff: I’m in the beginning stages of a new book – the working title of said book is “The Nightshade Express.” Also I’m working on the first draft of the next short film, which has a working title of “The Worst of Us.”

Plus I might try to fit in a web series called Apartment B2 and a web musical based on the new Jolly Good record, but who knows man. I change my mind on a pretty constant basis.

About Georgia Bound

Updates have been sparse due to the fact that I just finished principal filming and I’m soon to be editing a short film plus I’m writing a book with a release timeline of Spring 2014 – but I thought I’d give the blog at least a little something today.

Georgia Bound (Click for PDF) is a feature length film script I wrote in the summer of 2009 and edited with the help of my friend/editor Abigail Storiale – until I had a final product in 2011. Since then I’ve written two books and a short film that is coming out this fall plus a number of other things that no one will ever see and some things that people will see if they choose too.

The synopsis for the script is: In an effort to save his relationship, recent high school graduate Jim must venture south of the Mason-Dixon with the help of his new acquaintance, a mentally unstable taxi cab driver.

The script follows this kid who is desperate but is about to find out how far he would really go to save the only thing in his life that gives him happiness. It’s a coming of age tale and really worked out well as the first thing I had ever written because the premise isn’t a new one and the story is simple.

Through writing this I learned some film fundamentals – that every page of a script is about a minute of film time – there are certain points of almost every movie ever made that you should hit including establishing your major characters and then playing around with their personalities and eventually the all if lost moment followed by some sort of redemption. The all is lost moment is my favorite because once you know about it you’ll see it in everything. It’s basically the moment about 20-30 minutes before the end of the movie where all hope seems lost and you think there is no way for these main characters who hopefully by this time in the story you are rooting for will pull this one off – but then miraculously they find a way! Most movies are like this for a reason – a large portion of the population loves the formula. So for my first go at a movie script, I used it to teach myself that exact formula.

At the time I wrote it because I just wondered if I could write a movie script. Prior to sitting in my basement for two months that summer I had never written anything of creative worth – so this was a total shot in the dark. Now it serves at a spec script, meaning that it will hopefully someday prove to someone with a bunch of money that I can write a movie. If you find the time I invite you to give it a read – I’m very proud of it, and not because I think it’s amazing (I don’t think that) but because I think that I had an idea one day and then worked on it until I liked it – which is the most important part in my opinion for anything you choose to do in life.

Have a good one,

Ryan

Jurassic Park 4D: The Adventures of Zeb and Teddy

On a whim I started to write/produce an audio book with my friend Marc Gibson – cause I thought it would be fun and I needed a productive distraction from that movie I’m making this summer. We were talking about what would actually happen if Jurassic Park ended up being a real place. Then because there are two of us we decided two fictional characters should go through this scenario.  It’s in the future – Jurassic Park is opening of at Universal Studios and these two nerdy dudes who love this movie to death get the chance to be on the first ride along with the original cast…and then everything goes wrong.

Each episode will be  6-15 minutes long and it is available for free listens on SoundCloud (below)  Take a listen – it’s gonna be lots of fun!

Current Project Updates

Sup Internet?

If you are a close friend of mine you already know all of this because I bring it up in conversation as much as possible to be annoying and also it makes me proud of myself which doesn’t happen often. Or ever.

After I found out you can self publish on Amazon.com I immediately started working on publishing my first book of Essays: Too Long Did Not Read: A Book of Essays for your Face to Ingest (TLDNR). I knew a very small amount of people would buy it but in all reality I didn’t write it because I was looking for a get rich quick scheme. I wrote it because I love writing and I wanted to create a packaged product that I could be proud of and show to the important people in my life.

When I got that book in my hands it was all over. I wanted more immediately. Luckily, the first book I published was actually not the first one I started writing. TLDNR was a distraction book. I had hit writers block on a Fiction project I am still working on and TLDNR jostled my brain just enough in another direction that it got me out of my funk.

As of right now I am 5 or 6 chapters from being done with my Fiction project and have started my second Essay collection book. I have a few separate ideas for what the Essay project will be called and when it’s about half way done I’ll announce it here.

The fiction project is at a point where I am looking for publishers just for kicks. If no one picks it up (very likely) I will sell it for cheap on Amazon myself in Kindle and Paperback. Here is the book summary:

“Loner High School Senior Grant Nichols finds himself in the middle of an Odessa, Texas street with a knife in his hand, a pile of unidentifiable corpses behind him, and enough policemen with cowboy hats pointing their guns at him to cause at least a little bit of concern.

As Grant chooses to run, he brings the reader up to date through flash backs as to why he might not be as bad as the people with guns think he is, how his dream girl might not be so dreamy, and why he is not even close to the biggest problem the town of Odessa will be facing in the foreseeable future. “

As I gain progress on both of these projects I’ll let everyone know what’s up here.

Later Days, Internet.