There’s no such thing as overnight success. Expect to be in the industry for years before you catch a break. Especially if you want to be a director. Directors are almost never plucked from obscurity. So pick an avenue and run with it. You’ll never know where it leads. If you like cameras, pick up a camera and start filming. If you like editing, get a job editing in the corporate world. The pay will keep you afloat and you never know what it will lead to.
As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Writer/Director Ryan Bliss who got his start in short films and music videos before moving on to the corporate world where he directs and edits content for high end companies. In addition to his directing and editing work, Ryan is an avid writer with several unproduced screenplays he plans to tackle in the coming years. Alice Fades Away is Ryan’s feature debut where he’s excited to blend his love of tension filled, slow burning narratives with exciting genre elements.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts about one hour outside of Boston (which may as well have been a different country at that distance). I was the first generation of my family that were not farmers, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t engrained into our upbringing. Because of that, I feel like I’ve always had a deep affinity for New England and New England culture, imbuing it into almost all of my work.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a child, I was deeply anti-social and films were both stimulating and a comfort from the outside world. It wasn’t long before I started dreaming up stories of my own and by the time I could pick up a camera, my brothers and I were shooting movies in our backyard. I can honestly say I cannot recall a time I did not want to be a filmmaker. Editing in particular is always what I was drawn to. It was there all the pieces came together and could get as creative as your imagination allowed.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
Not a specific story per se, but one thing that really surprised me making a feature film was how close everyone gets on set. It really does become a family unit for the time we are there. We were also on location in Western Massachusetts which has no cell service (it’s all farmland). Everyone was staying in a crew house together so the camaraderie was very strong, there were many late night campfires.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
When we were offering a role to William Sadler in my new film, Alice Fades Away, I wrote him a letter confessing my love for the film Trespass with Bill Paxton, him, Ice-T and Ice Cube. It was a personal favorite of mine from my childhood and he told me he was very moved by my words. He joined the cast and couldn’t have been nicer. And of course, I asked him questions ad nauseam about working with the great Walter Hill and Frank Darabont.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s hard to pick just one person. My family has been so helpful. I have many friends who I couldn’t have done it without. My producer, Anthony came on the project at a time when I really needed someone with his experience that could shepherd the film through to the finish line. He made it so that my Director of Photography, David Bouley and I could really focus on the matter at hand, which was making the best film we could.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Can I be corny and quote Galaxy Quest, “Never give up, never surrender”? I think that really encapsulates what it takes to survive in this industry. Because at the end of the day, you have to put everything on the line to succeed and it’s incredibly rewarding coming out the other side feeling all the better having gone through it.
I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
- Opportunity. For too long, too few had access to the opportunities provided the lucky few, thus limiting what we as a society can achieve.
- Enhanced creativity. Children growing up seeing themselves represented in film and television will only help strengthen their ability to perceive themselves in a non stereotypical way.
- Diversity means different stories about people you may not have knowledge about otherwise. Sometimes that’s in uniqueness, but also in our commonalities, which ultimately is what brings people together.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m just writing. I don’t quite know what my next film will be but I have several scripts I’m excited about tackling. Right now it’s just about deciding which one to choose, because once you do, there’s no turning back.
Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?
I’m excited about the cast we pulled together. I think everyone has done such amazing work that I feel lucky to have worked with the people I have. I remember on the second day of filming, after a particularly intense scene between two actors that I was feeling pretty good about, my sound guy came up to me and said “You’re making a great f#[email protected] movie, man!” and that made me really excited to keep on pushing to the finish line.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Take your time, but be prepared. Once the train starts rolling, there’s no jumping off.
- Don’t take “expert” advice as fact. You’ll only end up sacrificing your vision by listening to every person who says “it doesn’t work like that”.
- But also know when to listen to said advice. There are a lot of smart people who want to help. And knowing that you don’t know everything will save you a lot of headaches.
- There’s no such thing as overnight success. Expect to be in the industry for years before you catch a break. Especially if you want to be a director. Directors are almost never plucked from obscurity. So pick an avenue and run with it. You’ll never know where it leads. If you like cameras, pick up a camera and start filming. If you like editing, get a job editing in the corporate world. The pay will keep you afloat and you never know what it will lead to.
- But also be prepared if that big break doesn’t come. If your goal is to direct a film, when you feel ready and have assembled a team of likeminded individuals, don’t wait for the ok from others. Jump in. Your years of experience will guide you.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Pushing for more emphasis on different art forms from an early age would be amazing for children, primarily in school. It would provide them with an opportunity to discover something they may not have experienced until much older. In small towns across the country, schools don’t have the classes available that someone who has an interest in film or writing or editing would thrive in.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Four films from PT Anderson had a tremendous impact on me while writing and directing my first feature, starting with There Will Be Blood and ending with Phantom Thread, with a strong emphasis on The Master. I’m sure it was to the point where my cast and crew got sick of me always referencing them. I was watching and studying each through the full process of making my film, from writing to editing, so I can’t think of anyone I’d want to have breakfast or lunch with more than Paul Thomas Anderson.
How can our readers further follow you online?
You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @ryanblissfilms and keep an eye out for my feature film debut Alice Fades Away, being released on digital platforms February 16th.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!