A flexible side gig is paramount when trying to become a filmmaker. I think the filmmakers who don’t find a way to pay their bills while chasing their dreams often burn out. It’s really hard to make a living as a creative, so when you also have to self-finance and promote your work at festivals, it’s really important to have an income stream and flexibility that allows that part of your world to grow.
As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindsey Ryan.
Ladies and Rebelmen, after a short winter break, our proposed bi-weekly #femalefilmmakerfriday blog posts have returned! We are still so inspired by all the kickass women working around us, and can’t wait to share their successes with you. This re-launch begins with someone very special to us: our freshly-hired COO, Lindsey Ryan!!
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 on Long Island, which is about an hour or so outside of NYC. I’m one of five kids — all born 2 years apart — so in my childhood there was never a dull moment. My siblings and I have always been very close and my parents were always incredibly spontaneous and adventurous. We spent a lot of our time fishing, hiking, exploring new places, and just laughing a lot! We all had our individual passions, sports, film, art, etc — which brought my family all over the map in support of those pursuits. My childhood had its tough moments but ultimately I am very blessed to have had the experiences I did — they have actually inspired the feature film I am working on.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I can remember being entranced by storytelling first with theatre. I would get tickets to one Broadway show (sometime off-Broadway) every year for my birthday. I remember feeling transcended every time I left the theatre. There was something so powerful about watching a live performance and it elicited such an emotional response. Later on, in my early teen years, I would get home from school and without fail watch endless amounts of television and film. It was in this moment I had the epiphany that I could be a filmmaker for a living and tell stories that make me feel the way the shows I was watching did. After that realization, I spent pretty much every day committed to that dream.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
I studied acting earlier on in my career and there was an opportunity that came up for me to take part in a dance film that was going to be used for a film pitch. I spent the whole morning getting ready and picking out the perfect outfit, which I thought was a mini skirt and a glittery tank top. I was about 13 at the time so my dad took me into the city for this project. We were a little late when we got there but worst of all, I couldn’t have been more incorrectly dressed. Everyone was wearing loose sweatpants — sort of that step-up breakdancing look and there I was looking like a character out of 13 going on 30! My dad is not the type who will drive me to the city and patiently wait as I chicken out. He was like “we came all this way, get up there now”, That not so gentle parenting, lol. At this point, the filmmaking team was grouping the talent off to perform the dance sequences in order to eliminate some dancers that might not have fit the bill. I should mention: that the filmmakers were Dan Fogler and Seth Green. The next thing I know, I’m flailing around and giving (what should have been) a choreographed dance my all. I see my dad smiling ear to ear, cracking up at just how bad of a dancer I was -especially juxtaposed against the professionals. I remember the music cutting off and Dan Fogler, Seth Green, and the other dancers in my group trying to be polite but also cracking up at what had just unfolded. My dad to this day laughs and remarks how he is proud I surrendered to the insecurity and just gave it my all.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
This is a hard one! If I had to identify a collective group, I would say some of the most interesting people I have interacted with have been the fisherman my dad surrounded himself with. The way they told tales of the sea and had a sort of whimsical outlook on life always captivated my attention. I have heard some of the greatest stories from these people, ones I intend to use in my career someday! There’s also something about a sleepy fishing town with hole-in-the-wall fisherman shacks that calls to me.
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?
I would say my entire family has been my support system. It takes a village to chase a crazy dream and I am really lucky to have such a big one. My siblings have all helped me make my films in some way or another — I am pretty much always recruiting someone to help me with a crazy idea. I most recently kicked my entire family out of their house for a weekend to shoot my latest film! They were really great about it, although I knew how hard it was to be displaced — especially because my mom and sister had to take all 5 dogs to an air BnB with them!
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The road to success is always under construction” — was a quote I had on a poster in my childhood bedroom. I always return to it because I think it is so easy to feel like you’re so behind when you have an end goal in mind. I think it is a super important reminder for me to slow down, enjoy the little wins and trust the process.
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?
The entertainment industry is such a big part of representation and I think it is a creator’s duty to always be creating a world that reflects the one we live in — which requires people from all walks of life. Representation is so important because it allows others to see inside a culture and generate an understanding they might not have otherwise had. I also feel diversity is super important for marginalized groups to see themselves represented. For so long, the industry perpetuated a culture that ostracized representation on all fronts. This has created many deep rooted societal issues. It’s really powerful to see “someone just like you” on TV — and even further, to know other people are likely seeing it as well. Lastly, I will say that representation helps us to understand one another and see into each other’s lives and that is paramount in today’s society.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I have another short film nearing its end in post-production which will run the festivals next year. Outside of that, I am working on a feature film I am hoping to get off the ground next summer!
Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?
The aspect I am most proud of in my work is the performances I get from my cast. Watching my cast try one approach and then give them a new direction that they absorb and make their own is always really rewarding.
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.
1. A flexible side gig is paramount when trying to become a filmmaker. I think the filmmakers who don’t find a way to pay their bills while chasing their dreams often burn out. It’s really hard to make a living as a creative, so when you also have to self-finance and promote your work at festivals, it’s really important to have an income stream and flexibility that allows that part of your world to grow.
2. Say yes to everything that you can. I have always been a yes man and I think it has single-handedly opened every door I have walked through. There’s something really refreshing in a person who is willing to help out regardless of a financial payoff.
3. Find your network of collaborators you trust and grow with them. Making films is such a collaborative and intimate process, it really helps to surround yourself with a village of people you trust. When you are all making the same movie and it’s a collaborative environment, the conscious mind always brings exciting new ideas to the table.
4. Live your life alongside your pursuits. I think it is so easy to dedicate your entire being to this industry. Artists have dedicated beings and when you’re so passionate about something, it doesn’t feel Iike work. But at the end of the day, to be a great storyteller you need to be an observer of life and you can’t do that if you’re not living it!
5. Have fun along the way and don’t get too caught up in how your work is received. Each opportunity to create leads to so much learning, and that is invaluable.
When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?
I think for me I always make my choices from a place guided by my intuition. I find that doing so, usually favours the viewers. I will say that this varies depending on the project I am engaged in. For example, with a short I am currently collaborating with a writer on, I am carefully considering what festival programmers might like to see. This is a strategical play that I don’t like to lead with but knowing this stately ahead of time helps us craft a creative plan around that intention. In longer form, I allow my interests and intuition to take the wheel — although I do my fair share of pitching to my inner circle to gauge responses.
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. 🙂
I would start the movement of “spending a day in someone else’s shoes”. I think encouraging people to understand each other day in and day-out realities would create compassion, and understanding and eliminate harmful biases that could lead to a more colourful and loving society.
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. 🙂
Oh man, there are so many, but Phoebe Waller Bridge would be #1! She has been such a huge inspiration of mine over the years. Every piece of work of hers is so special. Maybe at our private breakfast or lunch, some writing expertise would rub off on me lol.
How can our readers further follow you online?
I am best reached on Instagram — you can find me at @lindseyryan229
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Lindsey Ryan Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.