HELLO AMERICA!—His name is Ryan Lewis McKeon he is a filmmaker who knows what he likes and wants. He is very upfront about the type of films he wants to make. Spielberg would be lucky to have him aboard because he is fresh and extremely wise for his age. All one has to do is engage him in a conversation about his life and his love of film.
MSJ: Ryan, what was life like growing up in the south for you? Were you exposed to films, music or what life in Hollywood represented?
RLM: I actually grew up in Kauai, Hawaii, the smallest island in the Hawaii chain. Then I went to college in the south, sort of. The University of North Carolina at Asheville, where I graduated from this May, was near to family in that area and much cheaper than Cal Arts, which I was also accepted into as an undergraduate, but it had too high a price-tag. Asheville was not really a southern town; it’s very progressive and oriented around the university, which is the main liberal arts school of the state. I had a lot of fun and incredible experiences, but my heart was always in Los Angeles because I dreamed of being a filmmaker since I was about two years old. My earliest memory was when I was two and I was crawling around, I don’t remember if I could walk yet, but I remember the original “Star Wars” film A New Hope playing on the TV in our living room. I always wanted to be a filmmaker after that.
MSJ: Who were some of your favorite film actors and what type of motion pictures excited you most and why?
RLM: One very strong aspect of my style as a filmmaker is romance, so I would have to choose “Casablanca” as a film equal to any other in the world. Anther favorite romance and influence of mine is Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunset.” It exudes a sense of magic; the way it is lit and shot, how it unfolds as a simple story, and how the two characters fall intensely in love onscreen; it feels more magical than watching characters in the Lord of the Rings perform actual magic. I also loved “Lincoln” and all of Spielberg’s historical dramas. They are spectacular in their entertainment factor and their sense of relevancy and importance. They could be played in classrooms for the rest of time. I want my films to have a sense of relevancy similar to that, so that even if they aren’t historical dramas they could be shown to students the way Animal Farm is read as a story about communism and fascism. I want my films to hold very relevant metaphors. My first feature film I wrote and directed, Ingrid, which I am currently in the final stages of editing to send to festivals, is all about modern historical relevancy. It is a Hitchcockian mystery thriller that has a very loud and clear message of feminism in modern times when women are still fighting for equality.
MSJ: When did you discover that your passion involved films and possibly being in front of or behind the camera? And what excites you the most and why?
RLM: When I was two and saw “Star Wars” for the first time I knew on a subconscious level that what I was watching was more like a painting than reality and I knew that I wanted to be that kind of a painter. As I grew up the desire to be the “George Lucas” producer/director type of filmmaker was matched by a desire to act because I wanted to master other art forms; I also play the cello and paint in surrealism. I chose to begin my personal sense of identity in the art world as a surrealist oil painter at a very early age (and I never stopped painting) because I considered myself an artist first in the way I would approach any project, and I continue that approach. I don’t differentiate a performance as an actor from a painting or a feature film project. Each is an equal work of art and an equally interesting challenge with a unique message to communicate. My favorite aspect of art is the ideal that it can be seen as just another form of communication, yet as potentially the most intelligent, profound, and well thought-out form of communication available to humanity.
MSJ: What kind of challenges have you confronted in trying to be recognized in Hollywood so far?
RLM: The hardest part is getting focused. I have been having a lot of fun acting, right now I’m going to agencies for representation. I’m also working on a new set of oil paintings that are of perfect ocean waves on a beautiful sunny or moonlit beach which fades out into beautiful colors, like a dream. I also need to balance these projects with wrapping up the editing on my first feature film, Ingrid, which is currently on IMDB, which I wrote and directed during my senior year in college. It came out wonderfully, just the way I wanted it to at around 90 minutes running time. Could acting or painting be a distraction? I’m keen to figure out if one is. I doubt I’ll be able to stop either though. I love painting because I am an inherently artistic soul and that is a way to express it even when I am alone. I also love acting because I’m very natural at it and I am a Taoist at heart, which talks about doing what comes naturally: Beauty in nature doesn’t work hard to be what it is, it just is. By that rule of life acting should be high on my agenda because I’m natural in the way I take it seriously as an internal art form, and therefore I am always proud of the results. I played a supporting role in my own feature and that result was an indication that I should be branching out with acting. I also went to a respected magnet art high school and majored in acting and took a lot of classes in it, so I understand the craft and methods.
MSJ: Has all the years spent in preparing for a career in film worth it or do you believe that possibly another route might possibly bring about an easier or faster response to what you want as a filmmaker?
RLM: One route I often consider is turning some of my larger film projects, scripts, and concepts into books and publishing them and using success in that area to help leverage the projects as films. In the end, that doesn’t seem like a shorter route to success.
MSJ: How have you changed since arriving in Hollywood? Have you been forced to explore another kind of reality in order to survive?
RLM: I have had to grow up fast in many ways here in Los Angeles. Asheville, NC, was a small progressive arts town that was close to Hawaii in culture. They have a downtown in Asheville that doesn’t allow any fast food or restaurant chains in it, it’s a very hip place with a lot of vegan food options, I am a vegan, and yoga places, tea lounges, etc. Coming to LA from that really small-town progressive vibe was a big change because of how enormous and diverse Los Angelesis. I had to learn fast to never take anyone else’s advice over my own at the end of the day, because no one is looking out for your own survival more than yourself. That said, I have also learned to take everyone’s opinion into account, because in this town it is all about meeting people who like you, which is in some ways ok. No matter what college degree you have, films you’ve completed, and other accomplishments of the past, all that really matters and how people generally judge you in any part of the world is how you act in the moment. Anyone who wants to function in the larger world should get used to that reality and never lean on past accomplishments for respect.
MSJ: When you are alone and look at yourself in the mirror what and who do you see?
RLM: I see a warmth that comes from being loved by my family.
By Michael St. John