Ryan Scafuro is a director of photography living in Brooklyn, NY. Along with co-founder Dave Carroll, Ryan runs the full service production company Sixkiller NYC (sixkillernyc.com). They both have been working in the television and film industry for over 15 years, and Bending Steel (bendingsteelmovie.com) is their first feature length documentary film.
What is the current project you are working on?
I am currently Co-Producer and Director of Photography on the feature length documentary Bending Steel, a story about Chris Schoeck, a Queens, NY man who is training to be an oldetime strongman. We have followed Chris for the past 10 months as he struggles to overcome personal adversity, become accepted within the strongman community, and find his place in the world through this unique activity. The film is being directed by Dave Carroll.
How do you measure success?
It may be cliche, but I consider a project to be successful if in the end it is something I am happy with, and if it is something that other people can get enjoyment from. Bonus points if those people are outside of my circle of friends and family. That and money, lots and lots of money. Scrooge McDuck diving into the pile of gold in the opening to Duck Tales kinds of money.
How do you handle rejection?
I keep a box full of old phones that I smash.
Did you always want to be a filmmaker?
I am still not sure if I want to be a filmmaker. Other careers I would have chosen first: cosmonaut, marine biologist, lead singer of the Clash, poo farmer. Not necessarily in that order.
What inspired you to become filmmaker?
When I was in 6th grade they had a afterschool program at the high school television studio, and the teacher showed me that one wipe transition where the woman does a cartwheel and I was like oh shit that is cool. I'm sorry if I've lost most of your readers by now.
What is the best thing about being one?
Telling stories. I'm not much of a writer, and I definitely can't draw, so filmmaking has really allowed me to tell stories in a way I would never be able to otherwise. Did I get that one right? I feel really good about that answer.
What is the worst thing about being one?
I was going to make a "how much time do you have" joke but then I realized I can't really think of many bad things at all. It's something I sincerely enjoy. Funding films can be a bit stressful. Have I mentioned we are currently fundraising for our feature length documentary called Bending Steel? You can donate here:
What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on?
How many times have you sneezed in your life?
Who is your favorite filmmaker?
I've always LOVED David Lynch. He can evoke the feeling you get from a dream like no other director I know of, and that is something that is really amazing to me. From a documentary standpoint I've always liked the early verite films by Frederick Wiseman, and of course the Maysles brothers. Errol Morris' Mr. Death is one of my favorite documentaries. He's created an extraordinary style throughout his career which I feel like is embodied perfectly in that film.
I think all of those filmmakers have been influential in the way we have crafted Bending Steel. We feel like we've found a unique approach that combines the traditional verite style with some very highly produced and stylized elements.
How has your life changed since you became a filmmaker?
Right now all I'm talking about is twisting horseshoes and bending nails with my hands which I'm sure has annoyed most of my friends to the point of not wanting to hang out with me until this film is finished.
What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to make it in the movie business?
Try to find a job where you can save some money but don't have to work much. Then take that money and make a movie. Repeat.
What do you like to do besides filmmaking?
I like taking pictures of my dog and posting them on facebook until people delete me as a friend.
Have you had any other jobs before you decided to become a filmmaker?
Oh wait, you think I'm a filmmaker? Well this is awkward.
What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?
Anything with Bill Murray.
I don't know do Robert Rodriguez movies count as foreign films?
How would you describe your film education?
I studied television production at Emerson College in Boston, which was separate from their film school. I actually wasn't even permitted to take classes that were part of the film school. So I guess you could describe it as "something that I was never allowed and will always be bitter about."
How would you describe the film "scene" where you live?
I know Rooftop Films started in Brooklyn, and has become a really great organization over the past 15 years or so. There is a new indie theater in the Williamsburg neighborhood called the Nighthawk that I've heard really great things about and am excited to check out. I honestly can't say that I am actively involved in the film "scene" but I know it exists which must count for something.
How has social media changed the independent film industry?
It's become a HUGE help with promotion. Right now we are actively promoting Bending Steel through our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bending-Steel-A-Documentary-Film/192032960849713) and on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/BendingSteelMov). (You don't have to like our facebook page or follow us on twitter but if you've read this far you might as well right?)
We have reached audiences that we would have never been able to otherwise, and updating people on the progress of the film throughout all the stages of production has been a blast for us.
What's your opinion on crowdfunding?
It is the best thing that has happened to filmmakers who have emptied their pockets during production and need additional funding for finishing costs. Have I mentioned we are currently running a kickstarter campaign to do just that for Bending Steel? You should probably check it out!
How does independent film differ from the mainstream?
Oh man that's like a trade show seminar question. Charlie Rose interviewing Martin Scorcese kind of thing.
You could go back in time and see any film being made. Which film would it be and why?
This answer probably changes every few months but right now it is Master and Commander because I've been obsessed with the Patrick O'Brian books over the past couple of years. I mean how awesome would it be to stand on the deck of the HMS Surprise as the drums beat the men to quarters? Nobody is going to relate to that answer are they.
What's your favorite movie quote and why?
Nick Cage as Sailor in Wild at Heart: "This here jacket represents a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom." Because goddamn it is a nice jacket.
What is your opinion on movie remakes and sequels?
Two words. Police Academy. Take that how you will.
What is your opinion on book to movie adaptions?
A Clockwork Orange ruled.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
All joking aside, I am sincerely grateful for the opportunities I have had in my life that have led me to being able to make a feature documentary like Bending Steel. I have learned so much about the industry from people I have worked with, and I have learned so much about life from friends and family, all of which have helped me be a better filmmaker, and more importantly a better person. The experience of having someone open up and share their most intimate moments and feelings with you, on camera, just because you are willing to LISTEN is one that nothing can compare to, and the responsibility that goes along with that is a great one. I will never take that responsibility lightly, and truly hope that comes through in our films. We are super excited to finish Bending Steel and be able to share it with everyone, it's been an amazing journey so far.