Ryan Suffern: “Best of the Fest” Filmmaker Interview

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Bedford “Best of the Fest” – June 13-14, 2014

Known for showcasing the best in independent, inspiring film from all over the world every October, the Heartland Film Festival—presented by nonprofit arts organization Heartland Film—will offer moviegoers in Bedford, Ind. a chance to experience the festival atmosphere in their own backyard. Four indie filmmakers are scheduled to attend “Best of the Fest,” presented by Duke Energy, and will be available to mingle with attendees and provide insight on the filmmaking process. Director/Producer Ryan Suffern will visit Indiana for encore screenings of his short films, Right to Play and Running Blind.

Filmmaker Bio

Ryan Suffern has worn many different hats as a filmmaker, be it writer, director, producer or editor. Ryan is currently the Head of Documentaries for The Kennedy/Marshall Company, where he’s collaborated on numerous projects with acclaimed producer Frank Marshall, including two documentaries for ESPN Films’ “30 for 30” series.  Ryan has documented the filming of four Steven Spielberg movies, and he’s also produced and directed music videos and webseries for the likes of Paramount Pictures, Universal Music, V2 Records and Beggar’s Banquet. An English major from the University of Illinois, Ryan lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Kim, and daughter, Pearl.

Heartland Film Interview

Heartland Film: You’ve had two films at the Heartland Film Festival, but haven’t yet made it out to Indiana. What have you heard about the Festival and/or Indiana? What are you looking forward to the most?

Ryan Suffern: Well, I grew up next door in Illinois, outside of Chicago, so I’ve definitely heard plenty about Indiana, especially Notre Dame football and Hoosier basketball. (I’m an Illini alum, so can’t say I’m the biggest fan of either!) And while I’ve visited the state more than a few times (love the Indiana Dunes), I was definitely bummed to not be able to attend either of the past two Heartland Film Festivals as I’ve heard nothing but great things about the fest.  EJ Scott, who’s story is featured in Running Blind, attended the festival this past fall and raved about his experience there. So needless to say, I’m looking forward to finally getting a taste of Heartland at the Bedford “Best of the Fest” screening.

Heartland Film: Give us an update on Right to Play and Running Blind since they were shown at Heartland in 2012 and 2013. Any big news?

Ryan Suffern: We were thrilled that Right to Play was premiered on ABC and subsequently replayed on ESPN several times, though unfortunately, the documentary is not available on DVD or streaming due to licensing issues with the Olympic footage featured in the film (all the more reason to come see it in Bedford!). And we’re very excited to be in the finishing stages of securing multiple distribution opportunities for Running Blind, so please stay tuned for the film hopefully being available to be seen soon on a variety of platforms.

Heartland Film: Heartland Film Festival moviegoers love filmmaker Q&As. Let’s say a Summer Rewind attendee wants to earn some brownie points—what is a question that you’d love to answer, but haven’t yet been asked?

Ryan Suffern: Hmm, that’s a tough one.  One thing I do love to talk about and don’t get asked all that much, is the role of music in the films I’ve helped to make.  It’s one of my favorite aspects of the filmmaking process, and there are plenty of fun stories to be told.  So if someone wants to score some points, maybe start there.  Or they could ask me about my  two year-old daughter Pearl, as I never tire of talking about her!

Heartland Film: You’ve worked on some blockbuster Hollywood movies. How did you break in to the industry? What is it like straddling the Hollywood and independent worlds?

Ryan Suffern: I got my start by working for free as a set production assistant on small independent films in Chicago.  I didn’t go to film school (I was an English major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), so working on sets was where I learned how movies were made. When Sam Mendes came to Illinois to shoot Road to Perdition, I was fortunate enough to land one of only two set PA positions being offered to local crew. Working on that film, which had countless Oscar winners and nominees amidst the cast and crew, was an incredible experience to say the least. And it was through the assistant directors on that project that I came out to Los Angeles, and eventually, I was lucky enough to get a job as Steven Spielberg’s on-set assistant for three movies. So yeah, I’ve seen some big-time movies get made, but those early days in the independent world have aided me incredibly. As a documentary filmmaker, you often need to wear quite a few hats because the budgets you’re working with are a mere fraction of those blockbusters films, so I’m really grateful for my independent roots.

Meet Ryan at Bedford “Best of the Fest”

See Right to Play and Running Blind, and meet Ryan at the Beford “Best of the Fest,” June 13-14 in Bedford, Ind.

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