Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Future Of Film...

Ryan Fox is a rare breed of Hollywood personality. For one thing, he is a hybrid (writer/director, in this case) whose projects are actually better for his ability to multi-task. For another, he is a true artist—someone who “takes what life gives [him]” and not only draws inspiration from it but also creates something raw, unique, and pure that will inspire others.

Fox’ directorial debut is one such creation: an experimental feature film, Railed, that blurs the line between reality and narrative by dropping two actors on a cross-country Amtrak train ride and arming them with the direction to erupt in a lovers’ quarrel aboard the sightseer lounge and then turn to the other passengers for comfort and guidance. Ultimately, then, the stars of Railed are really those unsuspecting strangers who were all shot with hidden cameras and just spoke from the heart about their own experiences and perspectives.

A favorite moment for both Fox and producer Kelly Brown was when the train rolled into the station in Chicago and their lead actor was able to steal a few moments with a homeless man, discussing life and love and loss. The innate wisdom and soul that comes from this man could not have been scripted better, and the impact on the narrative of the film is completely organic, which, really, is indicative of Fox’ filmmaking style in itself.

"Looking back, it could have been a complete failure," Fox acknowledges with a laugh. "Someone could have sniffed us out or...I didn't even know if they had plugs for chargers! One of the camera guys asked me if there would be outlets, and I just said yes, but we could have gotten on there and been surprised. I really should have taken a train trip first to scope it out." But that is just Fox' style: he has a vision, and he just goes for it--"filmmaking without a net," he calls it. And that kind of “no risk, no reward” attitude is exactly why he will be successful at what he does.

The idea for Railed came to Fox while he was traveling and less than a month later, he was putting together the feature film. He rented a few sleeper cars on the train and got lucky with their location being downstairs. “We had, like, four compartments right next to each other, and the only other thing down there was the bathroom, so we pretty much had our own little base camp.” Fox was able to watch the dailies at night and regroup with his crew and even his actors, planning out the next day based on footage he had already banked and planned to use in the final cut.

There was a lot on Fox’ side during the production of Railed: not one person who was secretly filmed had a problem signing a release to be featured in the film. “They were all proud to be a part of it; it was kind of like ‘you caught me trying to be a good person…where do I sign?’” Fox recalls. In a time where viral video usually focuses on capturing celebrities at their worst, Fox ' film showcases what can be accomplished when you set out to tell a heartwarming story for a change.

“It used to be that you needed a lot to make a movie—a lot of people, equipment, and organizing,” Fox explains. “If you were blessed you got to make a movie, but now we’re on the cusp, and things are going to change. There is much more of an audience for intimate stories.” Fox doesn’t deny that in a lot of ways, Railed is “the little movie that could.” It doesn’t have the draw of big name stars to get distributors interested, so he and Brown are taking it down the festival route because “buzz [there] can equal the draw of a B actor.”

“We’re letting what’s going to come to us, come to us through positive word of mouth. It’s a grassroots campaign… [for the] little, small filmmaker with the little, small film,” Fox explains. And so far it is more than working: Railed has done extremely well, winning Best Experimental Feature at the Festivus Film Festival, and will screen next month at the D.C. Independent Film & Music Festival.

The success of Railed does not come as a surprise to Brown, who admittedly “would love to produce everything [Fox] ever does.” When speaking of him, she has the tone of pride in her voice that one might use toward a beloved sibling: "That kid is unbelievably talented. He is just creative and doesn't conform to the commercial; he loves the process.” And his love for the art translates on-screen in the best way possible: through truly rich characters and performances, making Railed one independent film-- and Fox one independent filmmaker-- to be reckoned with.


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Check back in two weeks for my official review of Railed!

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