When Mike Ryan was at NYU film school in the early ’90s, he sought out legendary Western director Budd Boetticher on his ranch to help advise him on his first feature film. When Ryan was location manager on Ang Lee’s “Ride With the Devil,” he delivered a lecture to the director and producers on landscape in the American Western. When he’s not laboring day and night as a producer or line producer, he lives in a small house in the Nevada desert with his vinyl record collection.
One-of-a-kind, Ryan has been involved with some of the most distinctive and critically acclaimed American arthouse pics of the last few years: Todd Solondz’s “Palindromes,” Phil Morrison’s “Junebug,” Ira Sach’s Sundance winner “Forty Shades of Blue” and Kelly Reichardt’s “Old Joy.”
Having worked his way up from a location manager on Hollywood pics (“Meet Joe Black”) and Good Machine projects (“The Ice Storm”), Ryan says his years of negotiating with penthouse owners puts him in “a good position to negotiate with talent.
“I know how to get it done in the street and how to envision it in a way that’s not a Hollywood film,” he continues, touting his unique combination of creative producing and practical problem solving. (After quitting jobs in New York as an arthouse projectionist and an MTV associate producer in the 1980s, he went “out West” and worked in construction in Arizona, Nevada and Alaska for four years).
“He will push to make sure a film is distinct and bold and connects with an audience in a way that is all its own,” says producer Ted Hope, who has shepherded much of Ryan’s career. “Additionally, the guy is a workhorse. And he’s training a battalion of fellow warriors hell-bent on overthrowing the current trend of bland regurgitative calling-card cinema.”
Ryan has more humble ambitions. “I really need a development fund,” he says. Because he works all the time, he says, he doesn’t have time to develop projects.
Indeed, in the last year, he’s supervised “The Savages,” wrapped production on low-budget pics “Faye Grim,” “Liberty Kid” and “Lake City” and is currently finishing an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s “Choke” and prepping Solondz’s latest “Life During Wartime.”
“So I really need somebody to give me $200,000 a year, so I can pay my writers and put films together,” he says. “That’s my goal.”
Provenance: New York City
Inspired by: “I’m a big fan of the pure aspect of cinema: the play of light and faces and individuals’ stories revealed without having a three-act structure,” he says, citing favorite international auteurs such as Yasujiro Ozu and Thai maverick Apichatpong Weerasethakul. “At the same time, one of my favorite films is John Huston’s ‘Fat City.’ “