“Some Guy Who Kills People” have slowly but surely started to make headlines as the reviews started pouring in and seeing as it’s one of the site’s highest rated films, I couldn’t help myself with showering it with praise. Lucky for us, the writer of this here awesome film, Ryan A. Levin, noticed it and got in touch. I on the other hand decided to try my luck and fish for an interview. I guess my persistence pays off, huh? Let’s see what we can wriggle out of him.
Monique: “Some Guy Who Kills People” is one of my favourite films up to date. It has everything a person wants in an entertaining film, suspense, comedic relief, blood. What inspired you to write this exceptional script?
Ryan: First off, thank you so much for your extremely flattering comments. They are beyond kind. And thank you for wanting to know more about “Some Guy Who Kills People.”
Okay, so, the “Some Guy Who Kills People” script was born out of a short film I made in 2007, called “The Fifth”, about some buddies playing poker, and one of them, Ken, is a serial killer. The friends know this, and they all treat it quite matter-of-factly, except that Ken’s serial killing has started to screw up their game because, as we learn, Ken always ends up killing the fifth player. And the other guys always have to find someone else to join the game. I loved the idea of a very average guy who lives a normal life, but also happens to kill people. So, I started to flesh out the Ken character and figure out who he is, why he kills people, what his family life is like, etc. Over time, I developed a life and history for him that was quite different than what little there was in the short film. So, the short film and the feature film have almost no similarities, except that main character is a serial killer. But the short was the inspiration to create the feature.
Monique: Now, obviously this wasn’t the first script you’ve written. Your credits also include Scrubs and numerous short films. What made you get into screenwriting?
Ryan: A few years after college, I discovered I loved writing. I had never really done any creative writing, but I was unemployed and sitting around and decided I would try to write a “Simpsons” script for fun. And so I just wrote it, and it was a blast. I wrote a few more scripts for some other TV shows then realized that was something I wanted to pursue as a career. I’m originally from LA, but I was living in New York City at the time, so I moved back to LA and looked for production assistant job on a TV show to get my foot in the door. To get on a show, meet people, see how it all worked, etc. I ended up as a PA on Scrubs, and, on the side, just kept writing. Eventually, I became the writers’ assistant and wrote one episode. I then went on and wrote for other shows, but it was always TV. I wrote “The Fifth” just for fun and never had any plans of doing anything with it. But I liked the script a lot, and wanted to do something with it. So we ended up making it. And as I said, that led to “Some Guy Who Kills People.” I never really thought about writing for film until I started writing “Some Guy.” But I worked on the “Some Guy” script off and on for about 2 1/2 years, because I would move on to other things that paid money, or things that I actually had a chance at selling. I knew “Some Guy” was going to be something I’d have to make independently. So, it kind of took a backseat to other projects that actually paid. I guess I just discovered a love for TV writing, which led to the discovery that I love feature writing even more. I still write for TV because I still enjoy it, and I need some way to pay the bills. And it’s a pretty great way to pay the bills.
Monique: “Some Guy Who Kills People” have an impressive cast; Kevin Corrigan, Barry Bostwick and Lucy Davis are only a few of the names off the top of my head. However, the crew also has quite a lot of credentials behind their names. Was it at all a little daunting to be working with them?
Ryan: I still can’t believe we put together such an amazing cast for this little film, but, fortunately, they all wanted to be part of it because they believed it could be a very fun project. So, right off the bat, there was little to no pressure because I knew they liked the script. The hardest part of my job was done (well, until we had to promote and sell the film, but that’s another story). Kevin, Barry, Lucy and Karen Black are all extremely professional actors, and they’re all very kind people who have no attitude. Working with them on set was a privilege and never scary because I knew we could talk about a scene or a moment, and figure things out together. They’re all too nice to be daunting. But watching them work their magic when the cameras roll… that always left me amazed. And thankful they were doing this amazing work in my film.
Monique: I guess what everyone wants to hear about is John Landis‘ contribution to the film. He’s one of Hollywood’s legends already and having him producing with you must have been awesome. How was it to have this legend put his stamp of approval and name on your script?
Ryan: John was originally going to direct the film. I got him the script, and he said he wanted to do it. With him attached, we had a company step forward and say they could get us the money we needed. So, John and I spent a couple sessions punching up the script. Then, the time came to get the money so we could move into pre-production, and on the same day they asked John to sign a letter agreeing to do my film, another film he had been working on prior to my coming along – “Burke & Hare” – got the financing they had been waiting for. That was a much bigger film, with big name actors, and John understandably took that job. I lost all the potential financing funds, and was back to square one. Ultimately, I decided to try to make the film for a much lower budget and discovered it could be done with some script changes. So, I made the changes, raised the money and made the film. Somewhere in that process, I asked John if he would be “Executive Producer” because he did in fact help with portions of the script, and because I knew it might help us sell the film down the road. He’s a smart guy, so he said, “Maybe. If I like the movie, yes. If I don’t, no.” We sent him a rough cut when he was shooting “Burke & Hare” in the UK and he loved it. He gave us some great editing notes, but also said he would gladly take the “Executive Producer” credit because he loved the film. It is extremely gratifying to know he likes the movie, considering he directed several of my favorite films of all-time. It’s damn cool.
Monique: There’s something about Ken Boyd that makes him easy to relate to for viewers, he’s very lovable even though he’s a little screwed up. Did you base this character on someone in particular or was it merely by accident that he came out the way he did?
Ryan: I don’t mean to say I’m at all lovable, but there is a lot of me in Ken. He’s an exaggerated version of me. I’ve never been bullied, or in a mental hospital, or tried to commit suicide, or wanted to butcher a bunch of folks. But I’m quite familiar with the feelings that lead people to those actions. So, writing Ken was about tapping into those emotions and amplifying them so there was a lot more at stake. The lovable part comes from the actor playing Ken, Kevin Corrigan. He makes us root for Ken, despite his actions, and despite the fact that Ken is right on the cusp of being an energy-sucking cipher who nobody wants to spend any time with. That’s the importance of casting, because on paper, Ken could have been dreadfully boring, or infuriating to an audience. Instead, you root for him. I hope, at least.
Monique: Where the heck did you find Ariel Gade and where can I get one?! She was a brilliant opposite to Kevin Corrigan’s broody, depressed character. Was she the first choice as Amy or were there other hopefuls as well?
Ryan: Ha. Of all the good fortunes that graced this film, I would put Ariel right there at the top. I knew that without an amazing actress in that role, the whole film was dead in the water, no matter who surrounded her. Then, along comes this amazing actress and amazing girl who had a lot of film and TV experience, even at the age of 11, and was comfortable stepping in front of the camera and baring her soul on every take. As great as she was in her auditions, she was about ten notches better in production. On top of that, Ariel and Kevin developed a great chemistry off-screen that carried over to the film, and we happily used every ounce of that. I’m still counting my blessings that our casting director, Lisa Essary, found Ariel. And now I just want to make another movie if only to work with her again (of course she now has to play about 16).
Monique: Jack Perez did an amazing job in directing the film and personally I think you made an awesome duo. However, what happens off-screen is usually not necessarily all sunshine and roses. Sometimes creative differences have a negative effect on those involved in a film. Did the cast and crew of “Some Guy Who Kills People” have problems like that?
Ryan: I definitely agree that what happens off-screen is not always sunshine and roses, but in the case of Jack and me, it pretty much was. And continues to be. I first met Jack when he interviewed to direct the film. I hadn’t heard his name or seen his work. He was a total stranger. But we sat down, and he just started talking about why he needed to direct this film (and it wasn’t just because he needed to pay rent). He connected to this script, and he just started sharing his vision of the film (he had read the script at least five times prior to our meeting and knew it backwards and forwards). And somehow, some way, his vision lined up almost perfectly with my vision, which I had been sitting with for over two years. He came to the meeting with some very specific ideas, some very general ideas, and an enthusiasm for the film that was not being faked. He was genuinely thrilled about the chance he could direct this film and yes, while my ego enjoyed that, it was also nice to hear someone saying all the things I’d been thinking for the couple of years, but hearing them come from someone much more visual than myself who could paint the picture of how a scene would look and feel. From that point on, through this afternoon, when we chatted about our next project, it’s been an absolute pleasure and honor to work with Jack. Again, I lucked out.
Monique: You had some pretty creative kills in the flick and I thought it was brilliant. My sadistic sense of humour simply craves to watch the flick again just when I think about it. However, you must also have some sort of sadistic mind if you came up with them. Tell us, what went on in your mind when you wrote those scenes?
Ryan: A lot of the kills that I wrote in the script ended up being tweaked based on budget and locations. We experienced many of the hellish moments that inherently come with indie filmmaking, like losing locations and actors at the last second and scrambling to find replacements that won’t mean sacrificing quality. For example, the surplus store scene was always a sporting goods store… until the day before we were supposed to shoot there and we learned the police wouldn’t let us. We had to find about five different gyms, because they all kept falling through. The graffiti-covered pool was something we discovered while scouting a different location. We asked if we could use it, and voila, I rewrote the scene to take place in a pool. So, anyway, many of the kills were a result of locations we were forced to use, or locations we were lucky enough to find at the last second. And again, the locations often turned out to be much better than what I had written. More good fortune (which I felt we deserved because we only had a 16-day shoot and it rained the first 4 days – in Los Angeles! – and slowed everything down, which forced us to cut several moments I wish we’d been able to shoot).
Jack definitely gets credit for helping to make some of the kills more creative and fun. Much of the extra stuff at the drive-in was his idea. And I have no doubt our production designer and other crew members also chimed in with good ideas, too, that got us what we ended up with. It was definitely a collaborative process and when you have to change things up at the last minute, it sure is nice to have a cast and crew throwing out ideas of how to make something extra cool.
Monique: What else can we expect from you in the future? A sequel to “Some Guy Who Kills People”? Perhaps a film along the same lines? Don’t make me twist your arm. [laughs]
Ryan: I guarantee you will not see a sequel, as that story has been told. Right now, I’m working a few different feature ideas which are all in different stages of development. Some are completed and need to be re-written and punched up and cut, while others are just vague ideas I’ve started to outline. Hopefully, I’ll be able to focus on one long enough to finish it, then see what happens with it, while I go back and get to finishing the others. It’s pretty cool to have several ideas I’m excited about, as it’s quite rare I can even muster the passion for one idea. However, now I just need to follow through and see one of them to the finish line so I can go work on the next one. After all, I have no idea which one will interest investors or buyers. I can only hope it’s at least one of the ideas.
Monique: Do you have any pointers for young screenwriters out there when it comes to the business you might like to share?
Ryan: It’s the dumbest, most clichéd advice, but that’s because it’s also the best advice: If you want to be a writer, write. Just keep writing. You’ll get better; you’ll find what interests you and what doesn’t; you’ll find your strengths and weaknesses; etc. Unless you’re actually writing something every day, or nearly every day, you’re not giving yourself a chance. It can be anything – a poem, an essay, a monologue, an outline, a character description, twenty pages of a screenplay… it’s all about keep the machine running, creating material and getting better.