The year is 1975, and Tom Ryder has made too many mistakes. This American spy is given one last chance in Moscow to prove his worth to the agency when Boss reluctantly assigns him a mission of the utmost importance. He must complete a routine exchange with a known enemy operative... But she is The Red Mantis, the world's greatest mercenary, and she has plans of her own. Agent Ryder stands before duty and redemption. Both are opportune. Both are necessary. He can only choose one.
Produced by: Michael E. Ravich, Victor Solis
Cast: James Liebman, Michael Keeley, Shannon Lee Clair
5 questions with The Dangle director, Michael E. Ravich at the half-way mark.
Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017
1Hi Michael! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what was the initial seed that inspired you to make The Dangle? The impetus for The Dangle came when a friend of mine needed a scene written for his acting reel. The goal was to write a simple drama filled scene between two characters. Inevitably, as so it goes whenever I write, two characters mutated into four, then to six, as one location quickly became several… And so on and so forth until the neo-noir dark-comedy spy-thriller dram that is The Dangle came to be.
2You wrote the film as well. What's your writing process like and what was your biggest challenge writing the script? My writing process changes slightly with each script. But, for the most part I usually start off with a dilemma, and a character or two. Then I simply go from there. I don’t use cards or much of an outline. I just become the characters and react with dialogue. I imagine what the characters look like and sound like, all their little quirks, and figure out what it is that they want and why they want it, and why they can’t just reach out and grab it. It’s a very organic process without much preparation in terms of plot… or anything else. I allow the plot to rise from the choices the characters make, instead of mechanically installing a structured plot. I then end up developing a general sense of what an ending or middle might be for these particular characters in this specific situation. Eventually one scene becomes two, two becomes four, and off we go. Once I’ve hammered out several scenes, that don’t necessarily make sense, I’ll go back and forth between developing the plot and developing the characters until the block of clay has revealed the beautiful sculpture hidden beneath. My writing process is terrifically inefficient, but I don’t mind. I just love to write.
3The Dangle is a very impressive first film. What was your biggest challenge making it and what was the biggest thing you learned from the experience? The biggest obstacle was the hallway that shows up in several scenes. In pre-production I either couldn’t find the right hallway, or couldn’t afford it. So, I decided to build it from scratch in my parents’ backyard. I had never done anything like this before, but figured that set builders do this all the time; I might as well give it a shot. And with the help of my parents we erected a thirty five foot hallway atop a long slab of concrete that sits in their backyard. It was truly taxing as I worked all day and night to get it done just in time. Here is a link to the behind the scenes of the build:
It’s very difficult to narrow down one key lesson from making The Dangle, but, I suppose a major ingredient to the success of the film was maintaining a singular vision throughout all stages of bringing the film to life. I never went to film school or studied film formally, so every single cast and crew member had much more experience than I did. Fortunately though, they trusted my vision (real gamblers) as I knew exactly what I wanted and did my best to convey that to the team, even when it didn’t always make sense. A great team indeed!
4What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? I can’t say that any one film made me want to become a filmmaker. I had always loved movies and wanted to tell stories in some way. As it went, I met a friend who was a writer who had written and directed a couple of low-budget feature films. I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to try something I had always wanted to take a crack at. So, one day he and I were spit-balling when I invited myself in on an idea he had for a television show. I then offered to write it with him as a writing partner and he agreed. I didn’t know anything about screenplay format, but I had some promising ideas and just went for it. The rest is history.
5What's next? I'm currently putting the right team together to bring forth a feature screenplay I wrote and will direct. I also have several screenplays in the pipeline and am continuously looking for more time in the day to finish each and every one. Se la vie.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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