HELLO AMERICA!—Most people who have dreams of making it in Hollywood arrive with just a dream but there are those creative people like Lewis James-Ryan who come prepared not only with a dream but an actual film ready for the viewing.
MSJ: When Did You Conceive The Story-Line For Your Film? Why Did You Name It “Ingrid?”
LEWIS-JAMES: Ingrid was the name of the main character, and since the film was originally based on the concept that a core group of extremely talented and trained actors could sort of jointly write, direct, and produce a great feature film, because at the end of the day the performances are what matter the most, I thus thought it prudent to name the project after a character over something that represented say the story or underlying moral or anything along that vine.
We considered things like that though; one option was called “Finding Justice,” which touched on the both story and message. But everyone is going to identify most with the character and the story second because she is a very strong heroine and Anna did Oscar-worthy stuff with the material. She earned the title, so-to-speak.
MSJ: What Is The Basic Story And What Kind Of Characters Are Introduced?
LEWIS-JAMES: One could say that the characters are all from Shakespeare so as to keep it simple, and the story is right out of great literature such as The Odyssey to keep it fun and adventurous. That would be a very dumbed-down way to describe a very complex method of creating a story that fits in with the stories in the world of cinema most of the people involved in the project loved the most, which all seemed to be a part of a genre best labeled simply as ‘classics.’
And of course beyond the story itself, what the message of the project would be took the most attention after the first principle of finding that great core group of actors/ artist collaborators to see the project through to the end was settled. And to see through all the way to the end such an enormous project, considering the number of characters, we needed something more than just an excuse to get together and be creative; we needed a truly grounded message of universal morality and an audience that we would relate to.
Then at that time the activist cause that felt the most current and actually I would say continues to be the most prevalent civil rights issue of our time even with all the other issues taking up so much of our air time these days, was actually women’s rights. I personally was raised by an unbelievably strong woman who instilled an activist spirit in all her children. Because of her we are activists over everything else, even artists.
The influence of people who have activist roots such as my mother and of course the greats such as Dr. King and Gandhi also had a larger influence on me than even any artist/ film maker I can think of because I was already naturally inclined to lean that way as a person. I can’t possibly say which part of me, the activist side or the artist side, came first.
MSJ: Is It The Kind Of Story Best Suited For Cable Or For A Theatrical Release And Why?
LEWIS-JAMES: It is suited for both evenly because it is a work that should be exhibited in the theaters for those interested from a student perspective to see it in full detail due to the emphasis the camera has on the performances and the raw emotions. That makes it a unique project within this industry because rarely are these professional feature length projects are so collaboratively created evenly between every member of a very large ensemble cast. That makes it a must see for anyone interested in acting as a profession and must-see films are always preferable in theaters for professional screening purposes. For everyone else, well, you wont regret seeing it in theaters but it isn’t Avatar 2 so don’t kill yourself if you’re too broke to afford the theater ticket, it will still look great later on TV.
MSJ: In Creating Your Characters Did You Have Real-Life Examples As The Center Piece?
LEWIS-JAMES: Yes I did, but I also stayed very traditional for my first project in a very “play-it-safe” sort of style. One could say Shakespeare knew the characters in this specific project better than I do.
MSJ: Who Would Be A Kind Of “Dream Cast” If You Had That Kind Of Casting Possibility And Why?
LEWIS-JAMES: My dream team would be the top actor names in the film world that also line up with the top names of actors who are Shakespearean trained. Personally I think that great or even just professional acting begins and ends with training in Shakespeare, yet I am not exactly a fanatic of theater beyond Shakespeare so my tastes in casting will always be a balance of Shakespearean trained and method film acting combined.
So of course Kenneth Branagh would be the first name to come to mind. Leonardo DiCaprio was great in Romeo and Juliet, and Claire Danes and Kate Winslet are both amazing in Shakespeare projects we have all seen. Daniel Day-Lewis of course has the training and is generally amazing. A few of the great character actors such as Jack Nicholson of course supersede my desire for everyone to be so familiar with Shakespeare to the point that yes it starts to look a bit obsessive…
MSJ: At What Stage Are You Now In The Production Process?
LEWIS-JAMES: Currently, I am wrapping up editing. I want the final product of this film to be as clean as an apple product, and like those apple products it feels like every month I come up with a better version. Sometimes the “wrapping up” part can actually feel like the longest stage of the process, but thankfully it is also the last stage. It will be submitted to festivals before and during summer so look for it at the end of this year. We’ll be posting a few publicity materials before then, so at least people know what the hell we are talking about.