My journey on The Mighty Dragon has fascinated me over the past five years. Social media has connected me to so many interesting filmmakers via others I have interviewed. Some I may never have met otherwise – even with the past 30 years in media (gosh, it’s been that long).
Director Ryan Andrews is one of these filmmakers. One look at his IMDb and you can see how this filmmaker diligently crafted his journey in short films, music videos and tv series.
It’s a great time to chat with Ryan. Not only about Water but also his other short film Hiraeth which was released last year. Interestingly, you can see from the stills below, that both short films seem very different in tone. As Ryan speaks below about the movie, it seems to me to hit all the elements of a great horror movie – I can’t wait to see it.
As usual, there is always something that sticks with me from every interview. Ryan states below “Being allowed to fail in order to develop“. I think for all of us, writers, directors and everyone else involved in a creative capacity this is a a very important point to take stock of our expectations and pressures on ourselves.
Ryan touches upon his own personal journey too over the years. I’m so humbled when my interviewees give us an insight into their lives and how its propelled them to succeed.
Read on to see Ryan’s process as a director and what his ambitions are for the future.
Thank you to Ryan for this interview opportunity, I wish you all the very best for your future projects.
Director, Writer, Producer – how did your filmmaking journey start?
My journey began with fine art, specifically the practice of video art. My desire to develop my filming techniques eventually led to a more narrative-structured film. I started small, shooting horror films with a collective of friends. This led us to UK-based funding bodies which financed a few shorts. While working as a camera trainee I met Jaime Winstone who was the lead in a small Welsh vampire feature. She watched some of my films, and we connected horror and art. Jaime introduced me to her agent Michael Wiggs. He became a mentor, he’s a great man. My first professional paid gig was a miniseries with the BBC, then shortly after we raised money for the low-budget indie horror, Elfie Hopkins. This was the start and where we really cut our teeth. I am hugely grateful to both Jaime and Michael for their belief in me. Coming from a working-class fishing village with no industry connections, this was a game changer and propelled me into the world of directing. It’s true what they say – luck is when preparation meets opportunity and hard work.
When you direct a movie, what are your main considerations?
There are way too many to list, but a few important considerations in development are theme and subtext. Then for me a simple set-up/outline. I take these attributes to Stephen Laughton, my writing collaborator and we will debate, research and dissect until Stephen is ready to write the screenplay. On set, once the look is locked in pre-production, it’s all about performance and camera moves. I’ll be looking at the tone and beats. The rhythm of how a scene and performance tie into the overall story. You’re constantly thinking about time and how it translates to the audience. This is complemented by camera placement and what it tells us the audience about that very moment. In the edit, it’s about seeing what the story really is within the footage you actually captured. It’s a real skill to let this dictate.
What challenges do you face as a director?
Raising finance. Long periods of development. Finding the time to test and experiment. Casting for finance. Being allowed to fail in order to develop.
Looking back at your work so far, what are you most proud of, and why?
I am proud of the whole journey. It’s taken a while to realise how fortunate I’ve been and how beneficial every production has been. It’s a very tough industry and I’ve created both good and bad work in the past. Sometimes you feel like a failure and sometimes on top of the world. But right now, I’m creating the most accomplished work in my career and that’s down to years of practice, dedication and working on myself as a person.
Can you tell me about your current project, Water.
Water is a cosmic horror with themes and subtext that look at grief, sibling enmity and the effect of online echo chambers. It’s about the monsters we can become when left mentally isolated and unaccountable. The film stars the wonderful Gethin Anthony, Olivia Ross and Tom Canton, we follow Anna and Joey as they attempt an intervention. Adam, the youngest sibling, is in crisis. It’s the eve of their mother’s memorial and something horrifying is brewing within Adam.
As a director what are your ambitions for the future?
I want to create work that’s intelligent, work that puts a microscope on us as humans and the society we live in. I want to package that in beautiful and terrifying genre films that resonate with a large audience.
What directors have inspired you? Can you see elements of them in your films?
Hiraeth was certainly inspired by Wong Kar Wai, Darren Aronofsky, Céline Sciamma and Andrey A. Tarkovsky. I was watching a lot of these directors’ films at the time of conception. You can clearly see aspects in the final film. Water definitely feels more genre-influenced rather than director. Such as cosmic horror, body horror and the monster movie. I feel the elevated nature resembles the approach of horror films from the 1950s and 1970s. Being attacked from within, from within the body, the mind and political agender.
Can you tell me about Hiraeth that you released last year?
Hiraeth was written by Stephen Laughton and is based on the true events of a childhood friend. Stephen, who is fascinated with sci-fi decided to set the film in space. We wanted space to be the backdrop rather than a spectacle, we call it a drama in space. The film looks at grief and the inability to move on from the past. It’s a very powerful film about loss and the eternal bond between two sisters. From a directing point of view, the film is extremely personal as It was my first drama after processing a lot of grief, growth and realities. I was fresh out of therapy; I had long given up alcohol and was building a family. I see the film as an allegory or cautionary tale for what happens if you are not accountable, Refuse to grow or face your demons. It’s an amazing thing to be able to reflect on a journey from the other side, and then package the emotions into something beautiful and profound, written by an extremely talented writer and performed by one of the most incredible actresses, Olivia Ross.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Have multiple financial revenues, be humble (I was not always) Work on set in assisting roles (you meet people and learn so much), shoot lots of films, work with actors as much as humanly possible, push your own boundaries, work with actors, read books of philosophers because feeling smart gives you power, and above all do not be scared to fail. Failing is just a test/experiment that leads you to the right answer. This is a craft that takes years to master.
What do you have coming up?
I’m currently developing a new feature; It’s moving forward but the strikes are having a serious impact on how fast. I hope it ends soon as crew members are losing their homes. The film is an elevated horror written by long-term collaborator Stephen Laughton.