Ryan Colucci is an independent filmmaker that has been on the scene for quite some time. To date he has notched up a ton of interesting genre work with the likes of the animated 2009 scifi ‘Battle For Terra’. At present Ryan has a number of interesting science fiction and fantasy projects in development one of which is ‘Orient City’ and we were lucky enough to catch up the film producer to talk about them.
SFP: First off. Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into a filmmaking and how have you been able to seemingly do so much in such a short time?
Ryan Colucci: I don’t come from a background where a career in the arts was realistic so I went to Villanova University and studied Accounting, for no other reason than it was supposedly hard and I was good at it. I spent a year overseas studying Economics and Political Science at Cambridge University – and when I was there I realized I was destined for another life. It was the first time I left the bubble that was my life, and really took stock of it. The books I was consuming in large quantities all had one thing in common – they were about filmmaking. Not the racy, exciting side of Hollywood… but books on lighting and editing and screenwriting. It dawned on me that people actually do this for a living. These movies that shaped my entire life weren’t created in some magic fantasy land.
So I came back, transferred to film school close to home and eventually got accepted to the Peter Stark Producing MFA Program at USC, which was the turning point in my life.
I wake up every day and do what I love. It sounds trite, but it is true. I’m obsessive about these projects, usually to my own detriment socially. People are constantly asking me if I ever take a break or go on vacation… or go to sleep. I just can’t wrap my head around those concepts, because I view them as things that detract from my time on projects.
I even created a graphic novel, R.E.M., about a scientist trying to beat sleep – which is based on my own research into the subject.
SFP: You have a number of projects in various stages of development that you can talk about. But I think the one that needs immediate attention is ‘Orient City’, which you describe as a mix between a samurai thriller and a spaghetti western. What can you tell us about this project and how did it all come about?
Ryan Colucci: It actually didn’t even start with an idea. We were on the road promoting our graphic novel R.E.M. and Zsombor was sketching a samurai Batman art print called Dark Ronin. As it took shape, we started spit-balling ideas of what this world could be… And Orient City was born.
We wanted this to exist in a world that was unlike anything either of us had seen. And the shape is something we feel is unique – a city that stretches vertically on top of four rocks connected by the channels of water at their base. As the city rises up, connected by stairways and cable cars, so do the classes and high society lives an opulent, wasteful lifestyle above the clouds. It’s not a ground-breaking concept of the poor living at the literaly botoom, as Fritz Lang did it way back in Metropolis… but they weren’t samurai gunslingers.
In the center of it all is Boshi, our hero. Or the closest thing to it. He’s a fallen samurai who spends most of his time in an opium den. He’s hired by a man named Rooster to protect a wealthy family. Set up to fail, he winds up bonding with the daughter, Nessa. The little girl would rather become a great warrior than a princess and when she’s left all alone she must do exactly that.
SFP: At the moment you have a Crowdfunding campaign ongoing for ‘Orient City’. How much do you need to make the movie and what kind of perks can people get their grubby mits on should they choose to make a pledge?
Ryan Colucci: Our goal for ‘Orient City’ is $30,000. That takes into account the money you need to pay Kickstarter (and Amazon for credit card processing), as well as rewards/shipping. It seems like a fortune… but the reaction to the art itself has been amazing and I can only hope enough people want to see this come to life.
Besides the film itself, which you can get as a digital download, DVD or Bluray, we have some traditional things like a T-Shirt and two versions of a full-sized movie poster.
All of the rewards are based around the artwork. We have a series of art prints that reflect samurai or wild west culture. My personal favorite is probably The Dark Ronin (Batman as a Samurai) – which I mentioned is the start of this whole world. Backers can also get personalized commissions; from more classic black & white images to very stylized colored versions that put them into the world of Orient City. Something cool that relates back to the film is drawing someone as an ink-washed avatar. Because the film is traditional animation, we thought it appropriate to offer animated cels. You select a frame (out of 8 from the final film) and we are going to print each layer of animation on a cel – which is going to look very cool once framed.
SFP: Can you tell tell us about a few of the influences that you perhaps feel has inspired ‘Orient City’?
Ryan Colucci: Good question, but this could be a long answer. Zsombor (my partner on the project) and I were both interested in making a hand-drawn animated film that isn’t necessarily for children and we wanted the world to have this epic, grand scale… beautiful but ultra-violent at the same time.
‘Orient City’ has its roots in anime, but it’s more Miyazaki than anything. The film that pops to mind specifically, for me, is Princess Mononoke. I love the world-building of that film. But I guess Ghost in the Shell is the one that stands out the most in that it was the first time I saw an animated film that was definitely not for children. It wasn’t until then that I realized I wasn’t alone in the world. It transcends animation – it’s one of my favorite films, period.
Outside of that, it is obviously heavily influenced by spaghetti westerns – my absolute favorite genre of films. Once Upon a Time in the West and The Man Without a Name trilogy are films that my dad would watch repeatedly and left an indelible impression on me. On the flip side of that, the other half of our world was inspired by so many samurai and martial arts films. The ones that are at the top of the list are Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Yojimbo… and Kill Bill.
Our story has similar themes to Leon: The Professional and Man on Fire… but hopefully unique, if I did a decent job with the script.
SFP: Looking at your website Spoke Lane. I could not help but notice that you have a few films in various stages of production and two that stood out for me were the horror ‘Lunatic’ and the grotesque crime thriller ‘Skin Trade’, which is based on a book by ‘Game Of Thrones’ writer George R.R. Martin. Could you perhaps tell us a little about those projects and provide a few updates for us please.
Ryan Colucci: First off, thanks. It’s good to know that these things I work on are appealing to people besides me. Sometimes you’re in this bubble for so long and don’t know until you release them into the world.
I can’t really comment on The Skin Trade, other than to say some good things are happening and it could be very cool. It’s not top secret, I just don’t want to jinx it.
Interesting you picked Lunatic, I thought for sure something like White Space would have popped out to you. It’s a film I wrote and was the lead producer on that has about 8 more months of VFX work. The sheer amount of VFX shots at the quality we’re doing for the budget we’re doing it at has never been done. It’s going to come out of nowhere – mark my words on that one.
It’s really hard to raise money for these projects. No matter how much you love them and know you will kill yourself for them, it always seems like pushing a boulder up a hill. Lunatic was born out of this – it’s a much smaller film I could do, where I could use my VFX and production experience and create something dark and gritty, but make it look much bigger/better. It’s about the hunt for a serial killer, but the killer turns out to be a mythological creature. It’s out to a handful of financiers so I am just in this extended, never-ending waiting game that is film financing. It’s the chief reason we turned to Kickstarter for Orient City. This world was burning a hole in our head and we are desperate to see it come to life.
SFP: Given that you have been around for a little while and have managed to find some interesting collaborations and worked on a few movies, what advice would you give to anyone that was wanting to try and get in on the fun and what pitfalls do you think they should avoid given that you have the advantage of hindsight?
Ryan Colucci: Anything that has to do with the arts, just be patient. What we do is not necessarily well paid – or paid at all. If this is truly what you want, you need to persevere. You better love this stuff, because you need to sacrifice greatly for it.
Find the best script you can do for the absolute least amount of money – then go make it. I have a lot of scripts… some that I know aren’t ready and some I love. After shopping each one, realizing the market was shrinking, I would write another that was smaller. Until I eventually wrote one that I could actually just go do on my own.
And now I’m asking for money with Orient City – but we are blessed to be around at a time when fans can decide directly what they want to put their money into. I rather asks fans than an executive any day.
SFP: Ryan thanks very much for taking the time answer these questions and please try and stay in touch and let us know when ‘Orient City’ and some of these projects are ready.
Ryan Colucci: Thank you! And I’d love to stay in touch about these projects. Believe it or not, my mom and dad are sick of hearing about samurai westerns, werewolves and space travel.
You can learn more about ‘Orient City’ and pledge towards the films budget at at the Kickstarter Site.
For information on Ryans other projects, which include ‘Orient City’ and the ones mentioned in this interview. Head over to Spokelane Entertainment.