Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Interview with non-fiction writer Ryan Uytdewilligen

I’d like to introduce you to Ryan Uytdewilligen. Ryan has a passion for movies and is here talking about his non-fiction film history book, 101 Most Influential Coming of Age Movies.

Ryan Uytdewilligen was born in Lethbridge Alberta and raised on a farm just north of the city. It was there that his family and surroundings would give him countless stories and inspiration for novels and screenplays. He grew up participating in 4-H as any good country kid should and graduated from Kate Andrews High School with aspirations to write and perform.

He studied Broadcast Journalism at Lethbridge College which led to several years as a reporter, freelance writer and blogger, On Air Traffic News Anchor, Media relations for the Vancouver International Film Festival, and a copywriter for various radio stations. He made the move to Vancouver in 2014 to pursue creative writing, studying film and television at Vancouver Film School.

Ryan sold his first screenplay in 2015 to Look to the Sky Productions. The script is currently in development and led the company to hire Ryan to write two separate scripts for development. In 2016, Ryan published two books – the first a nonfiction film history called 101 Most Influential Coming of Age Movies through Algora Publishing. His second book and first fiction work was released in mid September, a young adult novel called Tractor through Sartoris Literary.

Ryan continues to write screenplays, novels, and nonfiction works. He has written and produced two short films, Tea Time (2014) and Even the Devil Swiped Right (2015), written sketch comedy for the Vancouver television show Unfiltered, and has given creative writing lectures at Oklahoma State University, Vancouver Film School, and other media outlets. He hopes to have his second fiction novel released next year and get one of his features into production.

Welcome, Ryan. Please tell us about your current release.
The book is a film history book that explores the evolution of coming of age movies. It looks back at the past 100 years, picks the best and brightest movies about growing up, and explains why they were relevant, important, or changed how cinema/ children grew.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’m a big film nerd. I love all things movies, particularly all things John Hughes and classical fifties melodramas. This genre just seemed like a perfect fit for me and an untapped market. It gave me an excuse to re-watch all these movies and explore their pasts.

Excerpt from 101 Most Influential Coming of Age Movies:
Before George Lucas changed cinema forever with his landmark sci-fi epic Star Wars (1977), he captured the little things in life like graduating from High School, leaving town, and trying to pick up chicks. He was still accompanied by Han Solo, giving Harrison Ford his biggest role thus far, only ironically behind the wheel of a ’55 Chevy. The neat flick captures life on one last night between a group of friends who cruise around in search of futures. Loosely based on Lucas’ own experiences, the film was shot in San Rafael but made to look and feel like his home town of Modesto. Between the hip life lessons of DJ Wolfman Jack are some of the most classic songs of the era from The Beach Boys to Buddy Holly, now nearing the border of old and recent. Famously earning five Oscars and inspiring the long running fifties hit Happy Days, American Graffiti is a slice of life in young middle class America, featuring a soon to be all star cast. Fun and loosely structured, it would be fair to say if these teens didn’t come of age, there would be no Luke Skywalker or Millennium Falcon.

Originally named Another Slow Night in Modesto by Francis Ford Coppola, we follow a group of teens on a fairly slow night made exciting by their antics. Fresh faced Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss are two best friends with plans to leave their little town. Howard suggests to his girlfriend that should have an open relationship which goes over like a lead balloon. Dreyfuss on the other hand spends his last hours searching for the gorgeous Blonde in the T-Bird while trying to join the hell razing Pharaoh’s gang. Their nerdy pal Terry just wants to find a girl, blowing his chances by getting drunk and his borrowed car stolen. Then there’s the rebel of the pack John Mills, stuck with a chatty fourteen-year-old girl while putting up with a slew of insults from Ford’s character Bob Falfa, bent on racing him all night.

Shot in sequence, the film is a joy to watch as all these storylines unfold, much like a typical night on the town. A quintessential coming of age film, American Graffiti is pure fun as it quietly highlights graduation issues like high school sweetheart relationships or debating whether you should move to a new town. There is no big epiphany or plot twist to resolve — it works as a collective medley of teens from every class and social group trying to overcome a miniscule problem that is for them their biggest life challenge. These types of films have become all too popular — with a few classic teen adventures borrowing the format to showcase one crazy night in a small town. American Graffiti certainly became the most popular to utilize that format. The mix of classic tunes, believable actors, and interesting situations landed it straight on the Oscar’s Best Picture list and in baby boomer’s hearts.

The audience is “treated” to the somewhat somber epilogue that shows just what happened to the four boys. Their decisions ultimately check out but prove that early love and missed opportunity don’t lead to the best of situations. Nonetheless, the mistakes and adventures are what shape our futures and the kind of person you’ll grow up to be. For a further look, the psychedelic More American Graffiti was released in 1979, but lacked in naive innocence found in the original.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I published my own coming-of-age fiction story, a novel about a farm boy in the southern sixties called Tractor. John, the teenager, must pick up an old tractor for a crotchety farmer and drive in back across the Southern US. Along the way there’s love, adventure, danger, and a colorful coming of age story. Next up will be a nonfiction history of my hometown, Lethbridge Alberta.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I studied journalism and took a commercial writing job simply because the title of it was “creative writer.” That sounded like heaven to me and I did that job for a year. I had always written stories in some capacity but I decided to follow my dreams and become a screenwriter. I studied at Vancouver Film School and have written screenplays and novels ever since.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Yes, I write full time. I get up in the morning, drink a lot of coffee, and peruse writing job boards. Then I’ll send projects out to publishers and producers all morning and get cracking on a writing project in the afternoon. Evenings are usually reserved for watching or reading inspiration.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I can name you ever Best Picture Oscar winner from memory. The majority of acting wins as well. Movie trivia, particularly Academy Award history is my thing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be an actor. I always went to summer camps and starred in a few high school plays. But it just seemed unattainable and creating the stories for actors seemed a bit more of what I wanted to do. I still act and work as an extra in film occasionally.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Reading is important as is watching classical film. Do what you like, but understanding classic works in both mediums is one of the most important pastimes as person can do in my opinion. It gives us glimpses of past days gone by and can inspire us at any age! In other words, watch and read as much black and white as you can!


Thanks for being here, Ryan!

No comments: