EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: THE ART OF SNUFF — THE SHANE RYAN INTERVIEW PART TWO

In part one of this interview, writer/director/actor Shane Ryan, twenty-five, talked about what inspired him to make Amateur Porn Star Killer (APSK). The film, which is a fake snuff movie involving a thirteen-year-old girl (Michiko Jimenez, who is of legal age), hasn’t pleased all critics (though there have been some, myself included, who have praised it despite its subject matter). Ryan wasn’t surprised by that, though.

“I knew some people would probably hate it for obvious reasons,” Ryan says, “but a lot of things people pointed out they got completely wrong. There was a lot of mention about the cinematography being really bad. Well, it was supposed to [look bad]! I thought the snuff look was obvious.” Swipes at the film’s intentionally amateurish cinematography is one thing, but it was the reaction to the oral sex scene that bothered Ryan the most.

APSK, which features plenty of nudity, also features a blow job between Jimenez and Ryan, who is the killer of the title. What was the big complaint concerning this? The fact that Jimenez was portraying a thirteen-year-old? That it was an act of coercion? No on both counts. “People complained you couldn’t see it!” Ryan exclaims. “[People were told] to rent “Brown Bunny” instead for a clearer image. Now, I don’t see how I’m the sick one if people are complaining they can’t see this poor little thirteen-year-old
girl give a blow job.”

The misguided criticisms extended to the film’s trailer, too. “I didn’t want [the trailer] to be too fast-paced, MTV-style like most trailers because the movie isn’t like that at all,” Ryan says. “I wanted it to be true to the film so it wasn’t misleading. But lots of people said, ‘Why don’t you cut it like a music video’?” The way he did the trailer made me want to see the movie. A few other people who saw the trailer, however, knew there was no way they could sit through the film. One person even told the director that he needed to be put in prison like Victor Salva, the infamous director/child molester.

It’s apparent from many of the reactions that some people are so far removed from reality that they can’t think clearly and have an almost alien value system … and I say this knowing the film hasn’t even hit the festival circuit yet. One can only wonder what will happen when the general public gets its chance to see it.

With film still being the target of censorship attempts, I had to ask Ryan if he thought he could run into any sort of trouble for what his movie depicts — especially since it involves sex with an actress portraying a minor. Some people view that as bad, as child pornography, and the law, when it is applied, seems to be on their side.

“We covered ourselves really good,” Ryan answers, “so I don’t see how I could get in trouble unless I took this movie to some foreign country where I wasn’t aware of what I was getting into.” He has no illusions about the film’s disturbing nature, though, as is obvious when he says, “I do believe that art should be dangerous and upsetting if the topic you’re addressing calls for it. This film may be controversial, it may be obscene, but it’s a reflection of what I’ve seen in our society. If the porn industry can make all these bondage and rape films for people’s pleasures and perversion, then independent filmmakers should be able to make a film against that.”

That’s the rub, though. Some people may not see Ryan’s film as anti anything. In fact, some may say he’s exploiting the very thing he seems to be against. I believe if that were the case, however, Ryan wouldn’t have had the emotional problems he did while shooting the movie.

“I almost had a nervous breakdown,” Ryan says when asked about what happened during the filming. “We had to stop. That also became improvised into the film when the camera gets put down on the bed and fades to black for a moment. It’s because I needed a break. I just couldn’t bear this mindset of being a perverted killer molesting a little girl. I wanted to throw up. I had been in character for an hour straight, when most takes last only a minute or two.” Was it worth it, though? Ryan sure thinks so. “I felt I needed to make this film,” he adds.

Ryan has steeled himself for the fallout that may happen when the film is seen by more people. “If it’s got highly controversial elements in it, you gotta be ready to take the hits. I’ll probably bitch and moan about it sometimes, when people are complete dicks about it and don’t even bother to take a closer look, but I gotta be prepared for that.”

As mentioned in part one of this interview, the dialogue and Jimenez’s reactions to her situation give the movie its sense of realism, and the violence that comes at the film’s conclusion seems just as real as everything that has come before it. That said, there wasn’t a drop of blood to be found. I asked Ryan if that was an artistic choice, or one that was bound by the film’s location, which was a motel room.

“Both,” Ryan answers. “I always remember this scene from Carl Franklin’s “One False Move” where this girl is being stabbed to death as you’re watching a home video of her on the television set in the background. She’s smiling and cheerful with her family as you’re watching her in the same frame being brutally stabbed to death. For how terrifying and horrible this is to watch, there’s no blood. I didn’t even realize this until listening to Franklin’s
commentary because it was so well done and so disturbing that your mind thinks it’s seeing blood. It’s the whole less-is-more thing. So I started with that in mind.” That’s not to say he never considered having the scene be a bit bloody.

“At one point I did think of possibly having the girl start to splatter blood after a few punches, but I stuck with my original idea. It did save time and money (if the blood would have gotten on anything I would have been screwed since it was a motel room). But I really liked the fact of making a movie that had the potential to be disturbing because of the violence, without even having blood.”

Ryan didn’t think for a second, though, that anyone would believe it was an actual snuff film. “I already knew many people wouldn’t think this was real,” Ryan explains, “as we’re past the days of ‘Blair Witch.’ In several cases I sacrificed realism for the sake of art. I wanted the movie to have the feel of an 8mm snuff film, which is why it has the effect of grainy, worn out film even though it’s obviously video.” The addition of music and a movie within a movie also was part of the sacrifice. There were reasons for the additional film, though, which is more of a standard amateur porn movie.

“The other porn film adds a lot of symbolism,” Ryan says. “You have this typical, home movie type harmless porn, with bright sunlight coming through the window; a soft glow, somewhat romantic effect over the picture; and a blonde twenty-year-old girl who is part of the video on her own free will, smiling and having a good time. It is then contrasted with the main picture [which is the] harsh reality of the situation versus this other fantasy-like video. The girl is only thirteen, she’s picked up off the streets, it’s in gritty black and white — very dark — and [it is] sometimes confusing to tell what’s happening (she’s even wearing black clothes and has dark hair, versus the blonde girl), and she is being forced to do these sexual acts. I think and hope it makes you feel even more sorry for the lead girl.”

It does. It’s also hard to come away from this film feeling good about Ryan. If you don’t understand the mood he’s trying to convey, you’ll end up hating him. And if you do get it, the film still manages to make you feel very, very uncomfortable. It made me wonder if Ryan thought about how this would affect his career.

“Since I don’t yet have what I’d call a career,” Ryan says, “this film can’t possibly hurt me. My face is only visible for about a minute, so I think I’ll be remembered more for directing it than acting in it. And I don’t think having directed this film will hurt anything I already have [in pre-production]. It’s only added [to the] love/hate relationship people seem to have with my short films, and the love/hate thing is good. It means you made a real strong impact. Having an okay or decent film won’t get you anywhere because that’s boring and nobody remembers it.”

Words to live by, or a curse in the making? Only time will tell, but I have the feeling he’s in for a rough future … and it will make for some great cinema.

To see the APSK trailer and find out more information on Shane Ryan’s films, just visit the Alter Ego Cinema website.

Discuss Doug Brunell’s “Excess Hollywood” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>




Posted on January 19, 2006 in Features by
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