Ryan Bellgardt on his filmmaking career and his latest film, “Gremlin”

"...It seems obvious, but the biggest lesson I learned from doing that movie was that your movie will be better if you surround yourself with people better than you and then trust them to do their job..."

The President and Creative Director of Boiling Point Media, Ryan Bellgardt has been in love with filmmaking since he was a child. After building a successful production company in Oklahoma City that focused on music videos, commercials, and short form media, he began expanding into the world of feature length movie production. His first movie was Army of Frankensteins and he built off its success by creating his second film, Gremlin. Wanting to learn more about his most recent film and his career, Bellgardt allow me to interview him for ScifiPulse.

You can learn more about Bellgardt by following him on Twitter at @RyanBellgardt and check out his company’s homepage.

Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, when did you fall in love with television and film?

Ryan Bellgardt: I can thank my Dad for that. He would always show me movies like Terminator, Alien, Predator or Dune when I was around 10 years old. I remember sitting in front of the TV as he would sit by the VCR and fast forward through all the sex scenes. I really started to love escapism in movies. The idea of a completely new fictional world with monsters, creatures and robots was really exciting to me. That led to reading sci-fi and horror novels and eventually to me trying to create stories and worlds of my own. One negative side effect of seeing these movies this way is that I thought sex was only supposed to last 5 seconds (bad joke, sorry).

Yanes: On this note, was there a specific film or show that inspired you the most to pursue a career in this field?

Bellgardt: I don’t think there was a specific show or movie. In general, movies have always been sort of a comfort for me. I really didn’t start thinking about making them until about 4 years ago when we did Army of Frankensteins. I had directed plenty of videos and commercials before then, so I felt I was ready to take on a project like a feature film.

Yanes: I lived in the Midwest for years. Since your company, Boiling Point Media, is located in Oklahoma City, could you take a moment to discuss what it is like being a creative professional in the Midwest?

Bellgardt: I really love working here in Oklahoma City. I grew up here. It’s a small community where I find people are really excited about helping you make a movie. It’s still new and glamorous and exciting. It’s true what they say about the people here, they are very friendly. The downside is that sometimes we may be perceived as backwards or behind the times. I don’t think we are. The industry is really growing thanks to our amazing tax rebate for films produced here and the amount of local filmmakers that are choosing to stay. There’s no reason that what is produced here can’t compete on a national level. There’s a lot of talent in this part of the country.

Yanes: Since you’ve won an Emmy, what is the slickest way you’ve brought that up in a conversation?

Bellgardt: Honesty, I don’t bring it up unless someone asks about it. When they do, I always want to make sure and tell them that it took a lot of people to make that happen. I proudly display it in our office because it reminds me of the work it takes to get there. It’s symbolic of what is possible if you don’t give up. That’s important to me.

Yanes: Your first feature length movie was Army of Frankensteins. What are some key ways this project forced you to become a better film maker?

Bellgardt: It seems obvious, but the biggest lesson I learned from doing that movie was that your movie will be better if you surround yourself with people better than you and then trust them to do their job. Every moment in pre-production, on set, or in post is an opportunity to learn and get better.

Also, I’ve learned to understand what it is you’ve made. I was devastated when the movie was pirated and our IMDB rating went down to 2.8 stars out of 10, but it was a wakeup call. People don’t look at the movies we make and say, “Well, that’s a really nice try for a low budget movie made in Oklahoma from a first time director, I’ll give it a 10.” They compare our movies with movies that are many times the scope and budget and I love it that way. It motivates me to get better. I’m not trying to make the best Oklahoma movie. I’m trying to make the best movie I can.

Yanes: Your most recent project is Gremlin. What was the origin of this idea?

Bellgardt: I wanted to practice incorporating CG elements into live action footage so I proposed a short film to my team called, “Give it to Someone You Love”. The idea was to have a scary little short about a creature that comes out of a box. I could show the box mostly and then only show the actual creature at the end. I thought it was a clever way to represent the monster without having to render it in a ton of shots.

I wasn’t even going to mention it to our sales agent, but when we started talking about it, he got really excited and asked us to develop it into a feature. I started thinking of interesting ways to use a box with a little creature in it and how I could torment a family. I really wanted it to be a no win situation. I wanted the characters to be forced with the impossible decision to kill a loved one or die themselves. It was a really fun script to write because it just kept getting darker and darker. There was no way to beat this thing. After the first draft, we decided it was maybe a little too dark and we made some changes to the ending that I really like.

Yanes: Were there any classic movies you think influenced you while developing this film?

Bellgardt: I initially was thinking “It Follows, with a creature”. I really liked that movie and thought having a curse that can only be passed to a loved one was a fun and twisted way to get our characters in difficult situations. Generally, I love old Steven Spielberg movies and John Carpenter movies and really look at what they do when they make their films, but think I take inspiration subconsciously from stuff that happens in my life more than from a specific movie. For example, there’s a scene where Charlie, the young boy, spills some orange juice at a dinner table and gets in trouble. When my wife saw the scene, she commented that I had once told her about a time I spilled orange juice at the dinner table and got in trouble. She thought it was cool that I put that in the script and honestly, I didn’t remember it happening until she brought it up.

Yanes: Gremlin has a lot of cool and interesting shots. Which scene stands out the most to you?

Bellgardt: As far as cool shots go, I really loved the ending sequence. It was a lot of fun to visualize and make. I don’t want to give too much away but it features the monster getting really mad.

There are a lot of scenes that don’t involve the creature at all that I’m really happy with. For one, the hero and his son silently walking down the street is a cool shot because of the sun setting behind them, but I also like it because of what it means in the story.

Yanes: When people finish watching Gremlin, what do you hope that they take away from the story?

Bellgardt: I hope they are entertained and I hope they talk about what worked and what didn’t work for them. I hope they get scared or feel emotional at certain scenes. I hope they have fun watching the creature stalk and kill its victims.

Life can be hard and people can give up on the people that really matter in their life. The story is about remembering what is truly important and then fighting for it even when there is no hope or chance to survive. I hope people get that from it.

Yanes: Finally, what are some things you are working on that people can look forward to?

Bellgardt: Oh yes! We just finished our initial edit of our third feature film called, The Jurassic Games. It’s a story about 10 death row inmates that are competing on a futuristic virtual reality gameshow where they have to fight against dinosaurs and each other. It’s the Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park and it stars Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3) and Perrey Reeves (Entourage) as well as Adam Hampton and Katie Burgess who starred in Gremlin. We’re working towards a 2018 release for that one.

Remember, you can learn more about Bellgardt by following him on Twitter at @RyanBellgardt.

And remember to follow me on twitter @NicholasYanes, and to follow Scifipulse on twitter at @SciFiPulse and on facebook.

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