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Filmmaker Interview with Ryan Jafri

Interview by Chris Olson

Filmmaker Interview with Ryan Jafri

Hi Ryan, thanks for speaking with us. Where do we find you right now and what have you been up to?

My pleasure. Thanks for having me! Currently, I’m based in New York, a little north of Manhattan. In regards to your second question, 2022 has been a pretty busy year. My new short film was released and it has screened at various festivals throughout the country. That said, I’ve been spending a lot of time promoting the film, attending festivals, taking part in Q&As, interviews and just spreading the word grassroots style.

Your latest short film is The Call. How do you describe the film to a new audience?

The Call has a theme that many people can relate to regardless of the era in which it takes place. Despite the film's one setting and the protagonist's seemingly trivial predicament, its story still takes a deep dive into the darkest corners of the human condition. I saw The Call as an opportunity to create a metaphor of sorts for the anxious and paranoid times we live in.

Why did you want to tell this story?

The Call is a time capsule in a way but it’s also timeless at its core. Many people may find its story relatable despite it taking place in 1965. Man (the character wasn’t named purposely) has allowed his job to take over his life, actually more than that. He believes his job is his life. It has become his identity. Man cannot fathom a world without it as made clear in the film.

Through my own observations, I’ve seen the effect this outlook has on the lives of various people. Would it get the best of them as it did Man? Probably not. But I have noticed many people identify themselves solely by their occupation. This is sad to me because there’s so much more to us than just what we do from 9-5. I hope that can be a takeaway for those who watch my film.

The film is set in the 60s and has a noir visual style, such as the black-and-white, aspect ratio, and unsettling score. What was the research like for achieving this style? And how has the result been received by audiences?

I’ve always believed authenticity is vital in any film. The Call, taking place in 1965, required research on different facets of life during that time. For instance, the furniture and the character’s attire were picked carefully not only because that era had a distinct look but it also had to suit the character and the film.

The 4:3 aspect ratio was chosen due to its square-shaped presentation. I believe this would speak to the character’s state of mind and his increasing paranoia, especially in the last couple of scenes.

The score has impressed people greatly. Elizabeth P.W. did a fine job and her work is praised often. The references I gave her consisted mainly of scores from “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”

People have been very impressed by the level of detail in the production design ranging from the copy of “Life” magazine on the table to the vintage cabinet TV seen at the beginning of the film. And all that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting the style just right!

It looks and sounds amazing! Tom Martin plays the lead role and is the only on-screen presence. What was it like directing him?

Collaborating with Tom was a great experience. His dedication to his performance and the character blows my mind to this day.

Thorough research was done on aspects of his character ranging from appearance, mannerisms and motivations to analyzing the backstory and so on. Like you said, Tom’s character is the only on-screen presence throughout the film which is an uncommon scenario in movies.

During the production itself, the script supervisor read the other character’s lines out loud but not within Tom’s line of sight - this was done intentionally. I like to tell actors they should become the character; thus, if the character is talking into a phone with no one in sight, the same should go for Tom.

In the film, the character is fighting to keep intact what is most dear to him - his career. I asked Tom to think of what he holds dearest to him, think of what he would do to save it, and then channel that energy into his performance. And I feel he did that very well.

Yes, he's great, it's a really excellent performance! What are your plans for the film? And how can people see it?

I’d like for The Call to have legs. The film has been on the festival run throughout this year and that’s also the plan for 2023. A lot of hard work went into this film and I want to get it in front of as many people as possible via the big screen. But I understand attending a film festival may not be possible for some people. That’s why I hope to make the film available online post 2023.

Why do you make movies?

Wow, what a question. I make movies because it’s an amazing art form in which literature, music, the performing arts, and more come together to create a whole new entity called a film.

When I was a child I would watch movies just like every other kid. But as time went on I found myself analyzing the component parts of films I’d be watching. If I was discontent with a certain line of dialogue, angle or sequence, I would think of ways how it could be better.

Eventually, writing my own material came into play followed by bringing those words to life through filmmaking. I’ve had a passion for cinema, as well as making it, for a long time now and I don’t see that ever changing.

What’s next for you?

While managing the rest of The Call festival run, I’m writing another short which I plan to direct as well. There’s also another project in development called The Final Broadcast that I wrote with Ben Woodiwiss, co-writer of The Call. Connecting with like-minded individuals to talk shop and more is also a goal of mine. I feel there is a solidarity of sorts amongst most filmmakers. After all, the mind of an artist is a unique animal not all can understand.



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