I recently had the opportunity to interview up and coming film director Ryan Guiterman at the premiere of his latest film “Thunderstruck” last night at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City. The film centers around four middle aged men that reunite their old AC/DC cover band in an effort to recapture the former glory days that never were. The 45 minute short was led by a burgeoning cast of talented actors who all gave equally strong performances. What gave this film its edge was the inclusion of a handful of well choreographed musical numbers. These sets were re-imagined AC/DC tunes, carefully chosen and well woven to support the films storyline.
After the film I found the director standing in the lobby, swarmed by supporters and fans alike. I decided to hang back and wait out the crowd. After all, who was I to deprive the director of his own moment of glory. After a few rounds of photographs, kinds words and handshakes the crowds dissipated and I humbly approached Ryan to ask for an interview. He was more than willing to oblige. I knew right off, from his youthful enthusiasm, it would be a fun interview.
Interviewer: Tell me in your own words what Thunderstruck is about?
Ryan: Thunderstruck is about Malcolm, who is going through a midlife crisis and he reunites his old AC/DC cover band to capture the glory that never was. But the glory is harder to obtain than he originally thought.
Interviewer: What inspired you to tell this particular story?
Ryan: Well I’ve always been in love with musicals. It’s one of my favorite genres. I wanted to do a musical but I wanted to do one like Busby Berekely. The screenwriter for Thunderstruck, Charles Nechamkin, wrote the screenplay but originally it wasn’t a musical. He and I were trying to figure out how to tell the story without being cliche. After awhile of bouncing ideas around he said why don’t we make this story a musical. At first I was hesitant because I mean I love AC/DC but I didn’t want to have their songs in the movie as is, I wanted instead to re-imagine them. Another major concern of mine was getting the rights to use their songs. Was it worth the hassle? Could I show it at festivals? Eventually I just said you know what, fuck it, lets do it. We then began the process of selecting songs that fit the narrative and weaving those songs into the storyline. After many drafts we finally got to a place where we felt comfortable and then from there moved into the production phase, finding choreographers, music producers, endless rehearsals, etc. The shooting schedule was grueling. It was only supposed to be twelve days but ended being more like 16 to 18 days to complete. It didn’t help either that we were shooting in the dead of winter. We even ended up going over budget. It was stressful. I lost 35lbs in the process.
Interviewer: Thunderstruck was a film about recapturing a moment. If you could recapture a moment in your own life what would it be?
Ryan: Well tonight was the first time I saw my own film play up on the big screen so beautifully.
Interviewer: So in the future you’d like to go back and recapture tonight’s moment.
Ryan: Yes, it was very cool. You know what I’d like to recapture. It’s actually the moment that inspired me to make movies. It’s when I saw Jurassic Park for the first time at the Ziegfield theater when I was in preschool. I loved that film. It was like the greatest thing I’d ever seen. At one point during the film I stopped to look around at the audience and they were all so intently focused on that screen and I was like wow that’s magic! If I could go back I’d like to look at myself looking at everyone else. That would be cool.
Interviewer: Thunderstruck was financed in large part through Kickstarter. How important do you feel this fairly young crowdfunding platform is to the independent filmmaker today?
Ryan: This industry is currently going through an amazing revolution right now and I believe that this is part of a new wave of independent cinema. With the advent of digital technology, affordable cameras and the web, it’s so much easier now to raise funds and produce films on a much smaller scale. I mean five years ago I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish any of this.
There’s an interesting parallel here with Thunderstruck. What the characters are trying to accomplish within the story is somewhat unattainable just like making a student thesis film of this scope on such a small budget. It’s equally unattainable.
Interviewer: For anyone out there who is interested in seeing Thunderstruck, where can they find it?
Ryan: We are actually working on a distribution model now in through the New Filmmakers program. They plan to give us a distribution platform. Actually I got contacted today by two different distributors interested in distributing the film. I mean if worse comes to worse and all distribution deals fall through then I’ll look into posting it on Vimeo for audiences to view. I want everyone to have a chance to see it. It’s a really cool piece.
Interviewer:Where can people follow you and your future work?
Ryan: Anyone who’s interested can follow me on Tumbler at Ryan.Guiterman@Tumbler.com, on the New Filmmakers website. Just look up my name or the name of the film or you can follow me on Twitter @RGuiterman.
Interviewer: So what’s next for you?
Ryan: Charles and I are currently working on two web-series, Moil in the City (to be screened at the upcoming Iron Mule short comedy film series) and Dr. Dre MD. I’m also writing a feature film now called The Happy Express, as weird as it sounds it’s basically Godzilla meets Breathless.