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Interview with director Ryan Port


Born in Hitchin, England, Ryan spent his formative years with spells residing in both Canada and the United Kingdom.  A graduate of the University of Lincoln’s Film & Television program in 2004, Ryan discovered his love for film at just 8-years-old when some friends introduced him to horror classics, The Lost Boys (1987), The Monster Squad (1987) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Now a 1st Assistant Director with over 15 years of experience working alongside a variety of celebrated international filmmakers, Ryan makes his directorial debut with the comedy/horror short film The Last Christmas (2021), a homage to the classic 80s and 90s horror movies that inspired him as an artist and as an individual.

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

Growing up in England during the 80s and 90s, I was very much a product of the American Pop Culture invasion of the time. With a particular affinity for Hollywood Cinema, as a young lad, I dreamt of emulating my heroes, such as Marty McFly, Ray Stantz, Fievel and The Goonies.  When one fateful night, at just 8 years of age, two friends introduced me to a whole new world of cinematic wonders with horror classics, such as The Lost Boys (1987) The Monster Squad (1987) and  A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).  I was instantly drawn to the conflicting allure of the horror genre and thus my passion for film-making and the desire to tell my own stories of the macabre was confirmed.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I do not think it is essential to attend a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker.  Obtaining a higher education in film obviously has its advantages and merits, however, it is often argued that it could in fact be much more advantageous to go straight into entry level office and on-set positions in order to gain invaluable hands-on experience.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Both are extremely hard, but it is probably harder to keep going, because once you’re in, that’s when the rejections come and you’re faced with the true realities of ‘chasing the dream.’  Money and time are by far the biggest obstacles I’ve had to overcome, especially when funding one’s own project, as I did with The Last Christmas.  It can often be hard to find time and funding for personal projects due to other more immediate life obligations.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

I learned a lot about creative collaboration.  Having been a 1st Assistant Director for 15 years now, I am well aware film-making is a collaborative process, however, as a first-time director about to embark upon my debut short film, I thought I would strictly adhere to my ultimate creative vision and therefore not require the need to even entertain creative ideas and suggestions from anyone else.  How wrong and shortsighted I was.  Although, this wasn’t necessarily something I had to overcome, as once pre-production began with location scouts, cast rehearsals and the likes, I immediately found myself naturally collaborating creatively with all cast and crew, and enjoying it very much.  As a result of this realization, the creative collaborative process is my fondest memory of The Last Christmas shoot and now my favourite part of directing.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

During pre-production and shooting we didn’t really encounter any particular compromises or surprises of note that you wouldn’t ordinarily experience with the additional time requirements and constraints posed when working with Stunts, SPFX, Prosthetics and Minors. With that being said, it would have been great to have ten elves for the montage at the end, but alas we knew we could never afford that, and it wasn’t much of a surprise to find we could only afford one and a half.  With that inevitable creative compromise we had to get creative by simply shooting a series of tight shots of the two elves we had jumping onto numerous different body parts of their prey in order to create the illusion that there were more than just the two. Additionally, during post-production, we had to traverse the then uncharted territories of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused some initial delays as we had to adapt and adopt the remote working techniques we have all become accustomed to in the last year or so.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

For me personally, the hardest artistic choice always comes down to the initial creative compromises that have to be made due to, once again, money and time.  The creative concept obviously has to work logistically within the financial constraints of the production budget and of course the time afforded by that budget.  Fortunately, not only did I write The Last Christmas, but I also self-funded the project, therefore, I was aware of the financial and scheduling restraints I would face from the off-set and could begin the writing process with those constraints already in hand.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I met the amazingly talented individuals that make up The Last Christmas dream team during a fifteen year career as a 1st Assistant Director in the Toronto Film and Television industry in which  I have been privileged to work alongside all the wonderful crew-members of The Last Christmas on numerous projects over the years. Hopefully I am keeping the relationships strong with continued communication, admiration, collaboration and the success of cool little projects like The Last Christmas 😉

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Film-making is storytelling and Filmmakers are storytellers.  When it comes down to it, I believe all any audience member wants is a compelling story.  With that being the case, it is within the very nature of any true filmmaker ‘to give the people what they want.’

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

This is my first foray into the festival circuit and while it may bring with it a great deal of work at times, it is extremely enjoyable and rewarding stuff! I believe Film Festivals are essential as they provide a platform for showcasing independent short and feature film works that might not otherwise be able to find an audience.  In turn, these screenings and events provide up and coming filmmakers the opportunity to network with established producers and other film professionals within unique film-making communities that continue to help the industry grow. To get the best out of the film festival experience you want to ensure you establish great communication with the festival and organizers in the build-up and always attend in-person when you can!.  Only in-person can you reap the full benefits of social and networking events.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I believe it is essential to have new and original story ideas.  Building upon that foundation, I believe a director should do whatever is required of the resulting story as dictated by their personal artistic style.