Working with a couple of friends, he helped to co-create not only the character of Mark Macready, but also the really cool and dangerous supernatural world the short takes place in.
Talk about your man for all seasons. Ryan co-wrote, produced, starred in, edited , and did a whole lot of marketing for Mark Macready and the Archangel Murders. You think that's something? Get this: he did it all whilst still holding a day job.
Impressed? I know I certainly was.
Ryan did me the favour of answering some interview questions in between taking breaths and his 39-hour days.
- Lili's Lair: What was your "official" role in the co-creation of Mark Macready and the Archangel Murders?
Ryan McDermott: In “official” terms I was the Producer, I oversaw the film come together but like Sean and Paul I had multiple roles, so officially I produced the film which meant lots of stress, no much sleep and more emails than Megan Fox receives... actually, not quite.
Lili's Lair: Where did you get the idea for the creation of Mark Macready? A common question, I realize, but one that begs to be answered.
Ryan McDermott: Well the initial idea came from my good friend Paul Feeney, it was presented to me when we were in college during 2002. Together we shot a version of the concept, it wasn’t very good but Sean saw the tape and insisted there was “something” in there to be developed. The idea has evolved greatly since 2002 but key elements have remained such as the search for Christina and the overall sense of ridiculousness.
Lili's Lair: What was the creation process like for you personally?
Ryan McDermott: It was a very fun process; working alongside your friends who share the same sense of humour and passion for film is a great privilege. It was always fun to go to work on the idea, however the creation process was frustrating sometimes as we ended up developing so many versions (from a Naked Gun-esque draft to a serious gothic approach) it was tough trying to pin down just exactly what it was.
Lili's Lair: Did you find it difficult to co-create a screenplay as well as the Mark Macready world with other people?
Ryan McDermott: Not at all, it was fairly easy because in the world of Mark Macready anything can go, if you want a giant Moth Man attacking the city you can write it, is it filmable? Probably not. There is just a great sense of freedom in this world, it's liberating. I suppose on occasion we’d go off in the wrong direction because we’d get so excited about a certain premise when it might not necessarily have been the “one” but we always rained it back in. We co-wrote so many drafts that the only thing difficult was deciding what version we’d eventually make.
Lili's Lair: In your opinion, what was the trickiest part in the creation of Mark Macready, with regards to both the writing and the entire project itself?
Ryan McDermott: I think the trickiest part was stylistically how we would do it. When you say you’re making a horror comedy you’ve already got your work cut out because you’ve got to maintain two genres as opposed to one. I think that carried over into filming as well, we were very lucky to have the cast we had because they all got it stylistically, they balanced their performances just right, the dialogue had to be delivered deadly seriously but with a twinkle in the eye. We honestly had a fantastic bunch of people work on this film who all understood what we wanted and they worked closely with us to secure that.
Lili's Lair: Any final thoughts on where you see Mark Macready as a concept going? Any chance of a sequel?
Ryan McDermott: Sequel wise I think we have to wait and see, we’ve not had that conversation yet, we obviously want to continue this story and bring it to a wider audience so I think any sequel would probably be part remake/part sequel a la Evil Dead 2, but as I say nothing has been discussed yet. It's an interesting dynamic though, because there are three people involved it’s tougher to sign off on one idea because everyone has their views, it's extremely health though, it means we're rigorous and ensure the story is right, it's all very Lucas, Spielberg and Ford.
Lili's Lair: What did you want to do first: become an actor or a writer?
Ryan McDermott: Neither really, I wanted to be a Politician but that world is so corrupt I felt it was probably best left undone. I’ve always loved films and TV, I met Sean in ’97 and we were both huge fans of The X-Files, we even tried to make our own X-File, so I guess that is when I got the bug for it. Then we met Paul and as a three we’d film more and more shorts which we’d always act in, that was a great buzz acting opposite each other, we’d also write the shorts together. So I guess both things happened at the same time and I enjoy both aspects as much as each other.
Lili's Lair: Ry, you were also the editor on the movie. What exactly does an editor do?
Ryan McDermott: I co-edited with Sean, so it was a great process, a tough one though. The editing was not a process we wanted to do, it just dropped in our lap as the time frame in post-production grew shorter and shorter. Thankfully we’d had some editing experience but it was a very daunting task, I operated the software so I had to learn it over a weekend, I honestly don’t think I slept a wink during that. It was such a great creative process, for a thirty minute film we had around twenty hours worth of footage, there was so much choice, so myself and Sean would sit together, watch the footage, pick the best takes and then I’d assemble it, we’d review it and then sign off on that particular scene. I think an editor can make or break a movie, we worked so hard to ensure it flowed and I’m really pleased with the finished result.
Lili's Lair: Was it a challenge for you as an actor to take direction from someone you worked so closely with in the creation of Mark Macready?
Ryan McDermott: No not at all, it was very healthy, very relaxed. I was incredibly lucky because Sean trusted me to get the character right; I had enormous freedom to run with it. We’d always have a scene breakdown before each shoot, just to go over how to play it, but in a take-by-take sense it was very relaxed, lots of freedom. It was brilliant to have a director who knew the material so well, I don’t think anybody else could have directed the film like Sean did. I have to say it was always great to look up and see Sean stood behind the camera, I’d then turn to my right and see Paul stood next to me sharing the scene which was also a pleasure, going to work with people you trust is half the battle.
Lili's Lair: What is your process as an actor for bringing the characters you portray to life?
Ryan McDermott: Well this was my first big role, my first time as a leading man in a film, so I watched some performances from leading men who I felt Macready needed to be like such as Charles Bronson (Death Wish), Daniel Craig (as 007), Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry) and David Duchovny (Fox Mulder), if you put those characters into a blender and flip the switch you’d get Mark Macready, he’s a hero in a sense but he’s also not that likeable, he does things that are extremely questionable however his personal search for Christina is the only thing in my view that makes him human. After looking at performances the next part for me was working with Sean on key elements such as the voice, which is intended to be a poor man’s Daniel Craig impression and ensuring my delivery of the lines was dead pan enough yet comedic and emotionally engaging. I always try to find a signature for a character I play, if it be an expression or an item of clothing, with Macready I had the Mac-Brow, a simply device where he raises his eyebrow, It lets the audience know that Macready is thinking, because he’s such a deadpan character the eyebrow makes him a little more animated.
Lili's Lair: What advice can you give any individuals who would like to break into the film business?
Ryan McDermott: Tell stories you want to tell, no matter how ambitious they are. We wanted to make this film because it was always going to be a challenge especially when you have to self finance it. I think people get caught up in trying to get funding and grants, in truth forget them, especially if it’s your first film, I honestly believe you’re better off without their money to start with. You need to do it yourself, your going to make mistakes, you may even make a bad film and you don’t want the extra added pressure from a financer breathing down your neck. Film as much as you can before you make the idea you consider to be the one, put yourself through your own private self-taught film school. Buy a cheap camera and download editing software trials off the web, experiment and don’t be afraid to shoot with no money. Most of all be bold, confident and have a voice.
Lili's Lair: What aspect of movie making do you like the most, and can you see yourself still in the film business 10 years from now? If so, what aspect would you like to continue working in?
Ryan McDermott: I enjoy producing the most, I love the challenge and I enjoy meeting new people. I also like coming up against people who are resistant to films like this, especially here in the UK and it’s up to folk like us to change that. As a country we have nothing to offer the general movie-goer anymore, we don’t have any Hammer Horror in production, we don’t produce our own blockbusters and we don’t even have “The Carry On” franchise anymore, we have virtually no identity in the market place and that’s something I hope will change with films like this coming along. So I guess I like to think of my role at CM Films as somebody who can get things done and producing fits my character pretty well. I’d love to continue doing this kind of thing, it’s very demanding and it consumes your life to a certain degree, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Ten years from now I’d love to be telling great stories with my friends that audiences the world over can enjoy.
Thanks Ryan for this insightful interview. If you'd like to contact Ryan about Mark Macready and the Archangel Murders, visit the movie's site: http://www.archangelmurders.com