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New Short From Local Film Director Ryan McDonald

30 October 2013
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A Ryan McDonald Short Ryan McDonald

Independent writer, director, and producer Ryan McDonald released a new short film this month. It's a perfect watch for Halloween in my opinion too! Ryan is based in Ogden and also serves as director of the New Ogden Cinema. This local cinema group focuses on indie-film making and advocacy for independent filmmakers. In 2009 he graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor degree in Film, and Minor in Mass Communication. McDonald also a serves on the Egyptian Theatre Foundation Board.

Check out Ryan's IMDB profile


I suggest watching the short prior to reading this interview.

-Regarding the title, is it a play on the title of older John Travolta comedy?

Yes. I originally had planned on that only being a working title, but over time the title stuck. I liked the idea of it calling to memory the John Travolta film for the audience, they’re nostalgia of how cute or funny they thought that film to be, and then turning that on them – in my film – by going into a darker direction. I find that the title is inviting, and then once I have your attention than I take the story where I wanted to go.

-Are there any influences you want to share?

I like to say that the film is a cross between Look Who’s Talking (1989) and John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned(1995). The idea stemmed from a discussion that my wife and I were having about how many people tend to die or are murdered in my films. She was pregnant at the time and had asked if I would do anything more along the lines for kids or have more kids and small children in my films. I kind of balked at the idea initially. But then I started thinking, ‘What if I did do something that was light and cute, and then made everything turn horribly wrong.’

I thought it was something quick that we could do and that it would be a lot of fun. I think that we achieved that goal at least.

-how much of the baby's body movements were staged? Example: the two fingers in his mouth. 

That was all by happy accident. Mande Opheikens, our editor, combed over all of the footage to find those moments that work great in contrast to the other images. The only direction that I provided for the baby, Mitchell BenjaminThomas, was a range of different emotions – Happy, sad, and angry. And from there I figured we would capture as much footage as we could of him and hope for the best. We filmed Mitchell’s part separately from the others in these long takes for about half a day. The real gems of his performance, such as the fingers in the mouth and that long stare that he gives, were all discovered by our editor Mande.

-I have to ask, is it really based on a true story?

Haha, no! Obvisiouly not. That was inspired by Fargo, the movie begins by stating that it is, “Based on true story,” even though it is not. Again, I was trying to hold people’s hands coming into the short and giving them the impression that the film would be quirky and funny. Well, I think that it is still funny. I have found that most people don’t catch it the first time around. It’s only on the second viewing that they finally see the joke.

-Do you have any funny or interesting points from shooting or about cast & crew?

I think that the two biggest challenges were filming with the dog and also the baby. It is said that those are the two things to always avoid filming, but in our case it worked out really well. The dog in the video is mine. She did really well with the simple commands that were needed. I wasn’t too sure how she would react when the Dad (Orion Hansen) hits her with the newspaper, but she took it really well. In the Youtube version I left a compilation reel at the end with all of the different takes that we did for that scene.

Working with the baby (Mitchell Benjamin Thomas) was really easy as well. We filmed everything but the baby first, even before we had the baby cast. So, every shot without the baby was done months prior, and the actors were acting towards sheets of paper that I had drawn faces on. I wanted to give us a full day were we could focus on only the baby and his performance. That is why there are not any two shots with Mitchell and any of the other characters.

-Futures plans for this project?

Right now the short film is available online via Youtube, and we are also submitting it to film festivals across the nation. I think that the small running time will make it a good prospect for a lot of the short film festivals that are out there. We look forwarded to getting a chance to see the film screen in front of an audience. In the meantime, we’ve also had positive feedback from those that saw the film on Youtube.