In an exclusive interview Flickering Myth sat down with Riley J. Ewing to talk about his latest film Unplugged releasing November 12th…
Can you tell us about life before filmmaking, where did you spend your childhood?
I grew up in Overland Park, Kansas (just outside of Kansas City). I was very much a theatre kid growing up. I spent most of my time doing whatever plays, musicals, or random artsy projects I could get myself involved in. I loved watching movies and cartoons. When I would be home sick from school, my mom would take the day off and go the library to give me my “film education” showing me classic movies that would shape my taste for years to come. I knew I wanted to be an actor from a young age, but I didn’t know I wanted to be a filmmaker until I was in college. I attended the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music to get a degree in Music Theatre. After graduating college, I immediately moved to New York City where I began auditioning for shows around town. I started writing and directing my own short films.
If you weren’t a filmmaker what would your career be?
I honestly haven’t allowed myself to consider any options other than being an actor and a filmmaker. It has and will always be my passion.
Can you tell us about your new film, Unplugged. What is the backstory and what inspired the idea for the film?
Unplugged is a sci-fi allegory for the way we are all becoming entwined with our devices. I was riding the train home after a long and hard day in the city, and I remember looking out into the train car and all I saw was the top of people’s heads as they were slumped over into their phones. It was sad to me. When I write, I always try to leave a glimmer of hope of improving things. I sat down and the script for Unplugged poured out of me in a single afternoon.
You had quite a lot of help and support to make this movie. Who do you want to thank the most?
I absolutely could NOT have done this without the help of my excellent friends and collaborators. None of this would be possible without the visual genius of my Director of Photographer, Jacob Mallin. He was one of the first people I showed the script to and was essential in helping me put together all of the pieces to make it happen. Another person I couldn’t have done it without was my fellow producer, and editor, Heerak Shah. Heerak and I met while taking comedy classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade and have worked together ever since. The film’s score was brought to life by the crazy- talented Brandon Rosiar and mixed by Zach Kochuyt. And of course, I have to mention my brilliant co- star, Sydnee Williams who was so generous as an actor and was such a delight to have on set. I’m so lucky to have had the team I had, and all of the success of this film is due to them!
What are the highs and lows for you of filmmaking?
The adrenaline rush of making a movie is honestly euphoric for me. You spend so much time in the early stages imagining what it could look like and planning as much as you can. To watch it all come together (even the parts that weren’t intended) is an incredibly surreal experience.
The lows of this project were the fact that all of its success came during a pandemic. This was the first time I have had a film play internationally. Due to the pandemic, I couldn’t attend any of these wonderful events. The film has (as of now) screened at 9 festivals on 3 continents. While I have loved watching the film find an audience, it’s been sad to not be there for these festivals.
Do you have a specific preference of the genre or types of projects you both want to spearhead?
I have no interest in being cornered into one style or genre as a writer, director, or actor. At the end of the day, I love stories. Good stories are not defined by a particular genre, and neither is my work. I can tell you I am excited by the idea of all the different ways and mediums to tell stories. Right now, I am cooking up a few different ideas. I have begun pre-production on my first animated short in collaboration with Comic Artist Jill Burke of VV Comics. I’m also working on developing a sci-fi pilot with my longtime collaborators, Heerak Shah, Priyanka Shah, and Bollywood star, Omi Vaidya (Three Idiots, The Office, Arrested Development), currently titled, American Aliens.
Can you tell us your top 5 films of all time? Do you have a specific “go to”?
Asking a filmmaker what their favorite movies are is like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite! I often come back to films like Twelve Angry Men, Interstellar, Whiplash, The Florida Project, and The Social Network.
During the pandemic, I spent a month back in my parents’ basement, where I first fell in love with watching movies. It was nostalgic and refreshing. My mom and I would have watch parties every night tackling a different cinematic masterpiece from past generations.
Anytime, I’m feeling down, a guilty pleasure film of mine is Hook. There’s just something magical about it, and it moves me with every viewing.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just that I am so lucky to have had the opportunities I have had. I know not everyone has the advantages and privileges I have had, and I know there are several filmmakers out there who are struggling to have their voices heard, and I’d love to encourage them to keep pushing, keep creating, keep inspiring. We need all of those voices. Stories are how we as humans make sense of the world and they have been since people could paint on cave walls. I’m so grateful to get to follow my dreams.
How can people find out more about you?
Many thanks to Riley J. Ewing for taking the time for this interview.
Source via www.flickeringmyth.com