Ryan Lambert: “No one gives it to you. You have to take it”

“No one gives it to you. You have to take it.” If you want to find success on your own terms in the modern media landscape, you must take a proactive approach. People who can support and help you will only start paying attention when they see you already doing it. As a part of our […]

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“No one gives it to you. You have to take it.” If you want to find success on your own terms in the modern media landscape, you must take a proactive approach. People who can support and help you will only start paying attention when they see you already doing it.

As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Lambert.

Ryan Lambert is a writer and director born, raised, and creating in Atlanta. His previous work involves behavioral observation in a simulated environment, and has been described by viewers as a colorful fusion of experiences both mundane and bizarre, or “like peeking inside of a bad dream.” He has been featured in publications such as ArtsAtl, Project Q, and Oz Magazine, and he publishes his own weekly film review newsletter at flickpicking.org.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

I’ve loved watching movies since I was a little boy, and I’ve loved making movies since I was a slightly-less-little teenager. After graduating high school, I made the foolish decision to invest time and money towards getting a degree in film, then dropped out after two years upon realizing that an official piece of paper from a university wouldn’t get me far in this industry. What you’ve made and who you know matters far more. A few years of aimless creativity and life lived fully led me to start my business, FlickPicking, as a way to begin providing value to future fans long before I complete a project worth buying. I decided that the best film school possible was watching and writing about actual films in order to determine what I like and don’t like, what works onscreen and what falls flat harder than a stack of pancakes.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

Too many tall [but true] tales to list here — I love to laugh and pride myself on seeking out the absurdity in most situations. One example is the time I was forced into the middle of a fiery debate between an actor and an executive producer who were ready to go to war over the innocuous title of a short film. The details are better left in the past!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m in the early stages of prepping a micro-budget feature film; small cast, small crew, filmed in one awesome location (my house). It’s a character study designed to be a stressful and intense viewing experience, like spending ninety minutes with the least pleasant people imaginable. I’m also sitting on several gigs of footage for an experiential documentary about coffee that was shot last year in New York City.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Frank Zappa for his prolific creative output — nearly seventy albums in only fifty-two years alive — and uncompromising ability to craft weird, memorable, and iconoclastic music. David Lynch for his dark and disturbing body of work that defies easy explanation, daring the audience to dream bigger than simple symbols analysis. Joan Didion for her ability to interweave personal essay and cultural commentary, meshing the micro and the macro into some of the greatest literary style I’ve ever read. John Cassavetes for trailblazing the path of the independent filmmaker, carving out an existence mostly outside the flawed system of Hollywood in order to make difficult projects.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

The unifying vision behind my creative work is to encourage audiences to engage more intentionally with the media that they absorb. I curate and release a weekly newsletter that recommends forgotten gems from cinema history: “the best of the rest.” I often use these email blasts to spotlight work from Black, LGBT, and non-American filmmakers that have gotten less attention in decades past than their peers. My goal is to unite people in support of work that matters, promoting thoughtful viewing rather than passive consumption of the latest meaningless releases from major corporate entities. The internet is filled with endless white noise, making curation a valuable skill. I hope to point viewers in the right direction towards excellent films made by real people, not “content” with the intention to sell toys or product placement.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

I initially started this experiment in curation out of frustration with the massive quantity of dull entertainment that fills our screens and devices. The big streaming platforms have thousands of flicks; I used to spend longer scrolling through options than actually enjoying my selection. If I was struggling this much, I knew other people would be as well.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Every time a friend or connection sings the praises of a flick that I recommended, I consider that a success.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Watch less, think and feel more. There’s no race to see who can download the most content via the eyes directly into the brain. Stop binge-watching and actively decide which movies you enjoy. Share your weirdest favorites with your friends, then discuss. And sign up for my weekly newsletter, where I help cut through the crap on the internet to help you pick something good to watch 🙂

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) “No one gives it to you. You have to take it.” If you want to find success on your own terms in the modern media landscape, you must take a proactive approach. People who can support and help you will only start paying attention when they see you already doing it.

2) Put less time into social media. Defenders will tout it as a “great platform to share your art” but I think including your precious work next to food photos and selfies makes it disposable rather than memorable.

3) Before deciding to collaborate with someone, have extensive conversations about the project in order to get on the same page. If possible, review examples of what they’ve worked on previously.

4) Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. If someone is better and/or faster at certain tasks, add them to your team. Delegation is a massively underrated talent.

5) Get every last little detail in writing: even with people you trust, even with people that seem nice, even with people that you’ve known since you were fresh out of the womb.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Many people will tell you why you should consider making a positive social impact, but please never feel obligated to do so; it’s your life, you can spend the decades however you please. Go live by yourself in the woods. Fulfill your own needs first, or you will never be full enough to help others.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I spent an extended period of time in Los Angeles this summer, and one afternoon I stumbled across one of the public gardens of Ron Finley.He advocates for using common greenspace in utilitarian ways, like growing fruits and vegetables that communities can have free and open access to — rather than a patch of low-cut grass that’s deemed “acceptable and pleasing” by faux-polite society. I would love to follow him around for a small slice of life documentary.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“How is there freedom to choose if one does not learn how to choose?” — David Foster Wallace, from his novel Infinite Jest. I picked this quote at random out of my box of annotated notecards, but it jives with some of the ideas I mentioned above about intentional viewing habits and broadening media horizons of general audiences.

How can our readers follow you online?

I send out an excellent newsletter with weekly film recommendations and project updates. Sign up at flickpicking.org!

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!

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