Last year, at around this time, I had the honor of working the camera for Ryan David Roger's film, Anxietatem, which JUST released on YouTube this month. A sweet story about humanity, heart, and anxiety, this little film is a terrific example of the kind of stories I want to tell.
Needless to say, I am proud of the film and proud to know Ryan, who has tirelessly worked his way up in the filmmaking world from production assistant to running his own videography company making music and wedding videos, running his own film festival (seriously, who does that???), making his own films (humble-brag - I was in one of the first!!), and becoming a valued member of the New England filmmakers circuit.
Here, Ryan talks about inspirations, how anxiety inspired his new film (watch it here and below!), and all of the chaos that goes into creation. Check it out here and read onwards for Ryan's insights!
1. What got you into filmmaking?
Really looking back, I had a creative mind at a young age as I would draw and play around with my family's camcorder a bit. Although for a while, I was led off the stereotypical "What inspired me to make films" path because my mom kinda steered me down the road to the culinary arts. Ended up taking culinary classes my junior and senior year of high school as well. (No, she doesn't have a culinary background, why do you ask?)
Anyway, my junior and senior year of high school where I met this senior that was interested in creating an animated series and I wanted to help make it happen. Ultimately, the series didn't happen. The episodes I wrote never got made. He just gave up after a pilot episode. But he said he still had ideas for films he wanted to do. He ultimately moved to Arizona and cut all ties with me. But around that time, I discovered a YouTube channel called "Film Riot" that were making videos about every aspect of film productions. That has really helped with actually learning how to make films, especially when other resources about both the craft and how to get it out there started popping up and made it possible to get your work out there.
It was really also films from various filmmakers from different decades and different parts of the world that also helped inspire my love for the craft and keeps me going, even when it feels like it feels like it'll never happen for me. While I started actually getting on small time film productions in 2012, it wouldn't really be till 2018 till I started getting on film sets more regularly and ended up filming a wedding as well. Since then, I've been working towards more regularly getting hired to do sound on films, music videos, and live events such as weddings. Also started getting into photography a bit, but that's only like over the past few months.
2. Tell us about Anxietatem - What inspired it?
A good amount of it is based on some of the social anxieties I used to suffer whenever I went out dancing. Regardless of the number of people that turned out, it could feel awkward for me when I'm there most of the time if I'm sober. Too few people there, I have a hard time finding the vibe to dance. Too many people there and it's difficult to move around or dance without letting everyone acting like a can of sardines.
The Beatriz character is based off of a friend of mine that I met one night when I went out dancing back in October 2021. The events in Anxietatem never happened the way it did, but she and I called and text, call, and hang out regularly enough to where she told me that she refuses to date anyone that's not cool with me being her friend. We're pretty much the best of friends, especially since she has told me stuff I've vowed to take to the grave with me and that is not an exaggeration. While I do feel fortunate that people don't seem to be weirded out by me dancing, it doesn't exactly change how lost in my head I can get and start thinking that I'm being seen as a I'm being seen as a weirdo. So when I'm there with a friend and dancing with them, that feeling of being seen as a weirdo just isn't there.
3. What was the production like?
It was....an experience. The original plan was to film it in late September 2022, but I had to push it back a couple months simply for financial reasons. Surprisingly, everyone that was on board for the September shoot stayed on board when the shoot dates changed to late November. Until the script supervisor tested positive for COVID and had to drop out as a result.
With the production itself, it was originally scheduled that it would be 2 shoot days, 8 hours each; one day for interior scenes, one night for exterior scenes. That's not what ended up happening.
We got there right when the restaurant open (a little past 11am if I recall correctly) with the plan to get in there and get the equipment ready before the talent arrives.
That's what should've happened.
Instead, the opening staff had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what we were talking about. We had to wait till a bit past noon before one of the owners showed up and told us we had to be out no later than 3:30pm (we were originally in agreement about being out by 7pm). Essentially, we had about 3 hours to shoot about half of an almost 8 minute short film. Not impossible, but we ended up having to handheld for a vast majority of the shoot and throw out any elaborate shooting style we had planned out in pre production.
But, we were able to shoot everything we needed, and clean it up to make it look like we were never even there by 3:30pm on the dot (with me having a couple of well earned drinks after that).
Strangely enough, during that shoot I felt both stressed and not stressed. We were in a major time crunch, yes, but the entire flow of getting everything we needed in the time we had felt doable.
Day 2 rolled around and since we had to wait till it got dark out to start shooting, we were able to arrive at location later in the day and we had plenty of time to plan everything out and get everything we needed shot. With the streetlights and the lights from the various buildings at Eagle Square in Concord, NH, it really did give some pretty good production value on this.
But there was one catch to shooting exterior night scenes in late November: it was an exterior night scene....in late November. It was cold. Really cold. At various points, members of the cast and crew went inside to warm up while I decided to stay outside with the equipment and be ready to lunge at anyone that would try to steal it. No one tried to steal anything and I ended up being so cold that at one point during the production, I had to crouch down so I wouldn't appear in the reflection of one of the windows that Paul and Beatriz are talking in front of and I could not get back up on my feet the cold was starting to get to me.
After finally going inside to warm up for a little, we were finally able to wrap up production in around 4 hours (because, again.....really cold) and after taking my sweet time editing it together, it was ready to be seen.
4. In Anxietatem, a character often lapses into Latin. It's a really interesting character point - what inspired this? Why Latin?
Yeah, the idea behind it can easily be labeled as "pretentious art-house bs,", but I don't care.
The idea comes from this feeling of when your depression or anxiety hits, it can feel like you're speaking a different language at times and people might not fully understand. This might have been a subconscious thing with Sam and Katrina when they were doing the Latin, the way they approached speaking the lines does also add the sense that just because you understand what someone is dealing with, it doesn't mean you understand it exactly as the person that is dealing with it themselves.
But as to why that particular language, it simply has to do with it being a dead language; which is why I said the idea behind it could potentially be labeled as "pretentious". A lot of modern languages do have Latin origins to them, so it does add a bit to the idea as well. If it was a language that is actually spoken today (German, Korean, Spanish, ect), I don't know if it would've worked as well considering the set up, location, and length of the film. If it was something like Layover (The French/English language film set in L.A. by Joshua Caldwell), or something like that, then maybe a language that wasn't dead could've worked.
5. What do you hope people take away from Anxietatem?
While it may be nerve wracking to sometimes go out and try to enjoy yourself when your anxiety is starting to get to you, there are people that might understand what you're going through. There are strangers that are willing to give you the time a day and are willing to make sure you're okay when they feel something is off. There are people out there who care. You might not have met them yet and caring/worrying about a stranger's wellbeing isn't (and shouldn't) be seen as a bad thing. But maybe that's just the humanist in me talking.
Bonus! What is next for you and Thorndike Productions?
A few things. I've signed on to edit and help produce a feature film called "Drepper: The Happiest Man on Earth", which is a film about this guy being transported to an alternate world to help find the joy and gratitude in life. The film was about half way shot before I came on board, so I'm helping them get it finished, including working on launching a crowdfunding campaign to help raise the finishing funds. We're looking at a late 2024 release window. It's also being shot in a couple of different aspect ratios, which is a pretty interesting approach.
I'm also working on 2 different series. "Lycanitis": a 3-D animated mini series involving werewolves because I decided I'm going to learn how to use Blender by trying to make something a lot more complicated than a donut. The other is Sacha Kenton's "I Meow Back", a series about now this high schooler's life is essentially thrown way out of whack after getting diagnosed with chronic fatigue. We're going to be shooting a proof of concept short film early 2024 with both the short and series being written by Sacha.
Of course, there's always more and more stuff I want to be able to do and want to try to do, but there's only so much one person can do. So I need to be smart about what I do, how I go about it, and how much I try to do by myself before I turn to my friends and peers and see if they're willing to help me out with whatever insane idea I want to try and do next!
You can follow Ryan's filmmaking journey on Facebook and YouTube. Also, be sure to sign up for his newsletter !