My third installment of the Kit ‘n Kaboodle is a conversation with yet another multi-talented actor/writer/director – Ryan Kruger.
Ryan Kruger was born just outside of Liverpool to a South African father and English mother. His obsession with film started at the age of 14, when he acquired a JVC MovieVideo camcorder and feverishly filmed his friends and family in a series of “movies”. Exploring themes of criminality, wacky relationships and action driven plots, he slowly began to nurture his narrative style and soon found his passion in the art of storytelling.
Bored to death with the mundane realities of high school, Ryan graduated and jumped at the opportunity to obtain his acting diploma from The Guildhall School of Music & Drama. To fill his time he took on a personal project: a gritty reality-type show called GTV!
For three years Ryan delved into the underbelly of the live music scene, filming with some of the world’s biggest rock bands. Juliet Lewis and the Licks, Misfists, Slipknot and Black Flag allowed Ryan to venture into the unknown and the outcome was a sobering, yet hilarious glimpse of the ridiculous life of a rock star.
Shifting his focus back to acting, Ryan landed a few small roles on shows like “Shameless” and “Hollyoaks” as well as feature films, taking notes from veterans like academy award winner Danny Boyle on the set of “Millions”. This was his first film school and he sponged all the information he could about life on set, the creative thought process and the dynamic between director and actor.
Hoping for bigger opportunities, Ryan headed to sunny South Africa and enrolled at Cape Town’s AFDA Film School where he ultimately received a bursary to complete his honnours in Directing & Writing. Not being one to stand still, Ryan quickly made his connections while studying and approached bands to direct their music videos. His hard work payed off when local rock band – Taxi Violence – announced Ryan as the winner of their music video competition due to his unique concept and treatment. Many claim “The Turn” to be the start of Ryan’s signature style and narrative and the work just kept on flowing after the release.
Today, he is known as the top music video director in South Africa and has conceptualized and directed over 75 music videos for SA’s most prolific artists.He’s won numerous awards over the years (both locally and internationally) including a SAMA (South African Music Award) for his work with internationally acclaimed rock band, Prime Circle. Also in his trophy case are 2 Short & Sweet awards, and even the Afrikaans community has embraced Ryan’s work and awarded him best music video of 2015. 2016 saw him nominated once again for Best Music Video by the SAMA’s and he’s hoping to walk away with another one.
Sometimes dark, sometimes light – Ryan’s directing style is dynamic, fresh and specially focused on narratives: Whether it’s an interesting, yet straight-forward story or a collection of compelling visuals that portray a story. With an extensive background in acting for film, television and commercials, Ryan understands what it takes to get the desired performance and places special emphasis on characters and their levels of depth.
Ryan has acted alongside the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen (whom he also assisted during the filming of Grimsby in Cape Town), Johnny Vegas and some of SA’s most prolific actors and uses this experience to craft his skills as an actor-director, always ensuring his talent feels comfortable and supported. From a visual perspective, Ryan’s experimental flair has led to some striking compositions and his portfolio is testament to his versatility: a visual chameleon with an ever clear idea dancing around in his head.
Heavily influenced by the films of his childhood, Ryan’s style reminds of 80’s cinema in all it’s various forms. He mentions Spielberg’s work as his first love in film and consequently finds himself fixated on interesting characters, real-feel production design and stories that transcend across cultures, ages and gender. Often placing extraordinary circumstances into real- life situations, Ryan finds great pleasure in contrasting big concepts with the rawness of human behavior and emotion while placing special emphasis on the aesthetic of his work. Effortlessly switching from gritty, edgy and dark to commercial and clean-cut, Ryan’s strength lies within his adaptability and is constantly striving to perfect his craft by openly exploring different styles.
With his mind set on his first feature film, he has several scripts in development and exciting collaborations in the pipeline. Broadening his horizons to the commercial world, Ryan is also set on creating compelling content for agencies and their clients. A true talent and a refreshing addition to the film industry, he’s definitely a filmmaker to watch.
Hi Ry, thanks so much again for agreeing to have this conversation with me. A little background of our own history – that is, our friendship – is that we’ve been friends now a few years. If memory serves me correctly, it all started with a “little” music video you directed for the South African band Prime Circle called “Doors” – which is mentioned in your Bio above. The video starred many South African actors, including Sean Cameron Michael, Alex Anlos, Graham Clarke, Leon Clingman, Grant Swanby, Sabine Palfi, Joe Vaz and Brandon Auret, all of whom I didn’t know well at the time, but many have since become great friends. It’s because of that video and song that Prime Circle is one of my favorite bands, and you’ve become someone I consider a dear friend.
Since we’ve been friends, you’ve gone on to do more music videos, for which you’ve won some awards, as well as some acting projects. You’ve written screenplays and also have your own production company – Enigma Ace Films. Before we get into those, let’s start with the basics…
Dani: Your Bio gives some fantastic insights into who you are, and what you’ve been up to. I found that I couldn’t shorten it in any way because it tells some great tales of how you have gotten to the point you’re at now. So, as we seen, you wear many “hats”. That is, you’re an actor, a screenwriter, producer and a director. Am I forgetting anything?
Ryan: Well I mainly consider myself an actor/director. I’ve done both for as long as I can remember, but I do write and produce everything I do. Sometimes I co-write with a few other writers, but only on feature scripts.
Dani: Do you have a preference to which hat you like to wear? (besides the one you are always photographed wearing 🙂 )
Ryan: The great thing about my directing is that I create my own stories and characters, which I love. As a actor, we can’t really choose those roles that come to us – we either get the part or we don’t; and most of the “meaty” (of substance) characters are from overseas.
Dani: How hard is it to juggle so many hats?
Ryan: It’s hard, but I seem to manage – if I am not doing the one thing, I am doing the other, so there’s a nice balance at times. But writing takes time, and sometimes it’s hard to be in the mood to do it. (Dani note: I hear you on that one, Ry, from one storyteller to another)
Dani: You’re originally from Wallasey, a town in the United Kingdom not far from Liverpool, but you’ve been living in Cape Town, South Africa for several years now. What enticed you to move from the UK to SA?
Ryan: Well, my father is from SA and have family here, but not in Cape Town sadly – I’m all alone here. 😦 I came to Cape Town a lot to visit and every time I came here, I ended up directing music vids or acting in a few films. I ended up getting more work here than I did in the UK, so I decided to just move here as the work was good.
Dani: As we talked about above, you are also an actor. I recently had the pleasure of seeing the North American debut of Christopher-Lee Dos Santos’ post-apocalyptic film Last Broken Darkness in which you not only played one character “Ghost” – a British soldier – but also in a surprise twist, a second character named “Lone Man”.
I will say that in speaking with the audience after the showing of Last Broken Darkness, none of the audience, except myself, were aware that those two characters were played by the same actor. I think that’s a great statement to your abilities.
- How did participation in this film come about?
- Did you know early on that you would be cast as two characters?
- Was I hard to play two different characters – whom we see one to be a good character and one a bad one?
- I know that you’re close friends with several of the actors in the film, as well as the director, so did you have a lot of fun making this film, despite the hard work?
Ryan: A while back, when Chris was making (his independent film) Angel of the Skies, he wanted to put me in the film, but they didn’t have a big budget, so they couldn’t fly me down.
As time passed, I new Chris was starting up production with Last Broken Darkness and we ended up chatting again. Chris sent me the script and was keen to get me in the film. When he sent me script I was on my way back to the UK, so I had a long flight to read the script and let it all sink in; and to pick some characters out that I liked to audition for. I ended up picking my first choice – Loneman – a Southern guy. I just really loved this character and I knew how I could play this character straight away. I also picked out another character – just to be safe – as I didn’t know who Chris had already cast and for which characters.
So, I picked out American soldier character – Ghost – who got to shoot a shit load of the infected (Dani: 🙂 ), and was in a decent amount of scenes. When I got off the plane, I rang Chris and said I love Loneman and Ghost is cool. And sadly, he said someone is already playing Loneman, so I was really let down. Chris asked me to send the self tape for Ghost when I could. A bit of time passed and I still didn’t send the self tape for Ghost – I think I was still a little bit down that someone had Loneman already. But after a month, Chris rang me and said if you want to audition for Loneman I could – the other actor can’t play him as he’s busy on another project. So few days later, I sent a self tape for both roles. I ended up making Ghost English (nationality, he means) just to make it very abstract from Loneman. And when it came to the Loneman self tape, I dirtied up my face, put my hair down and put in some fake teeth I wore in a Samsung commercial I did few years before, which I thought would add nicely to the character. And I just tucked that top lip up. I sent it through to Chris, and he gave me a call – he said he loved it and that I just brought these characters to life. Then he said, “You sounded totally different, looked totally different – you got both roles!” which I did not expect at all. So that was a big surprise and I just had fun with both characters, especially Loneman – some crazy scenes in the film. Yeah I think if people don’t know I’m playing two characters then I’ve done my job well 😉
But over all, it has to be one of my best times on set – such a great crew and super all-star cast, which I’ve worked with some of them many times before, but also my close friends. So, what could be more better than making movies with friends and having a lot of fun on set? Working with Chris was awesome – great guy – and one to watch out for.
Link to Last Broken Darkness Director Sneak Peek (credit to Christopher-Lee Dos Santos): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfZrY4rt8g4&t=2s
Dani: Much of the acting community in South Africa seems very close knit, despite many of you often going out for the same roles. Does that affect your friendships in any way?
Ryan: It happens, at times, but the best man gets the job for that character; it all depends what they looking for. I think most of my close acting friends are complete opposites of myself, so we’re never really up against each other.
Dani: On top of acting, you’re also a screenwriter. I know that you have a film that you’re working on getting backing for called “Edge of Chaos”. What can you tell me about the film?
It’s set in a broken-down future, after the great collapse and people just try to survive in this savage world. We follow a ordinary man on his quest to rescue his wife after she has been taken by bounty hunters. The film is almost like a modern day Western really – following our hero’s journey.
Here is the link to the teaser trailer/proof of concept for Edge of Chaos – written by Ryan and Benedikt Sebastian: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj1B8QnLwkw
Dani: I also know that you’ve been working on what you described to me as your “passion project”. Is that Fried Barry? Can you tell us about that?
Ryan: Yeah, I decided to go back to some of my old roots and just doing some more stuff in my style that I miss. Just some cool dark edgy stuff, with characters. One of the reasons for doing this project is because it’s just for online and I don’t have to think about it not playing on TV, or thinking they may not play it. So, I have full creative freedom, with no restrictions. It’s a chance to get more creative and not having to think about the music for a change, or tying to make a story fit like music videos. The plan is to direct 6 experimental films and only release them all at the same time at the end of the year, and have a exhibition.
Stills from Fried Barry:
Pic #1 – Ryan and actor Gary Green Pic #2 – actor Gary Green as Barry
Dani: Besides “Doors” you’ve done music videos for several South African bands or singers such as Monark and Ross Jack. Some are dark. Some are more lighthearted. But all are visually breathtaking, which I feel adds to the enjoyment of the song.
- How do you get your inspiration for what concept you would use for a video?
- I assume budgeting may also be an issue and has to be considered. What have you done to deal with such things?
Ryan: Every time I get a track, I will always ask the artist to send me the lyrics and tell me what the track is about to them – what it means to them. And then I take that and come up with my own concept, but I’ll be on the right path because I know the feel they want behind it. Most of my inspiration has to come from 80s cinema I love 80s films. I truly believe we lost a lot in cinema over the years. It’s all about the VFX sadly with most films now and not about the characters. But, that’s why TV is so much better now.
Dani: Speaking of “Doors”, which has won several awards, including Best Music Video of the Year in 2015 at the SAMAs (South African Music Awards), as well as being nominated (also in 2015) for Best Music Video of the Year at the MTV Africa Music Awards, it was recently announced that it was selected by the London Golden Scout International Film Festival. It must be exciting to know that all of your hard work is being recognized. What has been the best surprise for you relating to the recognition your projects have received?
Ryan: Well, winning the SAMA for Best Video Director of the Year was great and getting a MTV nomination was great also. My last award that I got in Liverpool was a great award to me: “the Alan Clarke Achievement in Film”. Alan Clarke was a UK director back in the day and his family sponsored the award ,and I really love the films Alan Clarke made, so it was a great award to win. A great honour.
Alan Clarke’s IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0164639/?ref_=nv_sr_1
“Doors” Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5Lz5LykdK4
Stills from “Doors”:
Pic #1 – SA Actors Grant Swanby, Brandon Auret and Pope Jerrod
Dani: In December 2016, you went to Germany on a “tour” to talk about your directing, music videos and film. What did that entail and what was that like?
Ryan: Yeah, was great! I went to 7 different cities in Germany – to all the different SAE film schools to talk to about my directing work and working in South Africa. It was great to pass the knowledge on, and was a bonus that I could get to see Germany as well. Berlin was very cool place.
Dani: Do you have a dream project that you would love to do if given carte blanche on budget, location and cast/crew? Tell us about it.
Ryan: That would be giving away a secret great story and great twists – a very dark film to do, which makes it very hard to get made, but I haven’t seen a film like it.
Dani: What about a dream role to act in?
Ryan: It’s a hard one to answer – just something I could sink my teeth into. I am a character actor, so for me when it doesn’t look like me or sound like me, I dig it. haha
Dani: Personally, besides Doors, one of my other favorite music videos you’ve done is “Soldier” by Monark. Visually incredible, along with the beat of the music, it’s breathtaking. What have been some of your favorite music videos to shoot?
Ryan: Yeah, Doors – for me – was a big one; was a lot of fun and hard work. Soldier came out great – it’s probably one of my videos I least crit when I look at it – just fitted so well with the track and complemented each other.
Dani: What do you think about all of the remakes that Hollywood has been doing lately?
Ryan: They been doing for years – the only difference is the remakes are coming out quicker and the original film wasn’t even that old.
Dani: What’s up next for Ryan Kruger? Projects in the pipeline?
Ryan: Has to be a FEATURE FILM – I’m putting all my eggs in one basket at the moment. And working on my experimentals, here and there.
Dani: Lastly, a little fun I like to call “Take Five”:
- Three words YOU would use to describe you? Chilled, driven, passionate
- Favorite animal? A Elephant – never forgets
- Favorite book? “The Philosophy of Time Travel” by Roberta Sparrow
- Favorite non-work related thing you like to do? That’s a hard one – all I do is work; need to get a hobbie, I think. But I do enjoy spending time with my son “kitty”
- Favorite braai food? And would you share it with me? NO, get your own food – this burger is mine!!!!!!!!!
Ryan on social media:
A huge thank you (again) to Ryan for giving us some much insight into his multi-directional career and his experiences to date. I’ve enjoyed learning even more about my friend and what goes on in his equally (to mine) busy mind.
Best wishes on you continued success, Ry – now and on all your future endeavors. I’ve enjoyed watching from the sidelines and look forward to many, many more of your projects. xo
Until next time, thank you for stopping by. Feel free to drop me a note and let me know what you think.
Love and blessings to all,
PS: I am, however, noticing a pattern with my “friends” with whom I’m having these conversations – none of them are too excited to share their favorite foods with me. Boy, you think you know someone…