“Amateur Porn Star Killer 3″is here (along with a 3D “APSK”, and Shane Ryan (writer/director/producer) once again plays the killer who uses a video camera to capture his victim’s last moments. Along for the ride this time is adult film star Regan Reese. Like the first two chapters in this franchise, the third film is plagued by controversy. If you have no clue about these movies, let’s just say they are very realistic artistic snuff films with actual intercourse. They are disturbing and do nothing to put viewers at ease.
Since I had interviewed Ryan for the first film, I thought it would be fitting to see how things have gone now that he has (sort of) finished the series. Did the DVD releases, a host of praise and negative criticism, and all kinds of personal hell change this once witty and optimistic director? Perhaps a bit, but the very first thing I wanted to know was why Ryan chose Reese. She seems so perfect for the role that I had to assume it was created for her.
“It wasn’t created for anybody,”Ryan corrected. “Just like how ‘APSK’ 1 and 2 weren’t created for Michiko or Kai [the female leads in the first two films, respectively], but when I came across them I realized they’d be right for it. It’s also about finding somebody who has an understanding of the movies. It’s obviously not going to be a simple ‘yes”or ‘no”with most people, given the subject matter. That’s the most important part. From there the characters kind of write themselves. It takes two hours to shoot these movies, but several months trying to find somebody who will do it.” Ryan noted that Reese was not the first person up for the role.
“I actually had met with many actresses beforehand,”Ryan says. “The first time I attempted to shoot it was March of 2008. I spent two months prepping the actress (unlike Michiko and Kai, who only took about an hour to prep). This girl was already pursuing modeling and such, so she was very iffy about everything, and then by the time we went to shoot she suddenly said no, well aware of what the film was going to entail from the start.”
Ryan wasted two months worth of time and money dealing with this wannabe actress. Soon, however, he found another one who seemed worth pursuing. All went well before they began to shoot, and then the same thing happened: the actress bailed.
“Then I [tried] finding somebody in my own area,”Ryan continues, “like the first two films, instead of trying to work with people actually trying to pursue acting in big cities. I happen to come across this girl I thought was perfect, f*****g perfect. She did full nude modeling and everything and seemed really interested and everything, but then she completely blew me off. I had so much better luck when I worked with people who had no intentions of acting as a career.”
At this time, Ryan still had not found his leading female, and with summer approaching he knew he would have to find her soon if he were to make his deadline. And that’s just what happened. . . at a Troma party taking place at the Hustler store in Hollywood. “While I’m there,”Ryan says, “I meet a former porn star and [later I slammed] a door into Ron Jeremy while he’s plowing some chick in the bathroom. The girl I had just met was there with Ron, so we talk for a while more. She wants to be in the 3D film, so I try to work out things with her, and then Ron calls me the next week, saying he’s also interested. Anyway, she puts me in contact with this guy Matt ‘The Lord’ Zane, who does porn and is from the band Society 1. The girl had thought Matt could hook me up with somebody for ‘APSK’ 3, and that somebody turned out to be Regan, so that was that. We talked on the phone; she seemed awesome. Then we met up and shot. The girl [who] had actually hooked me up with all that in the first place disappeared before we could ever shoot her scene. Completely cut me off. It was weird. We were going to shoot and then she suddenly stopped returning my messages. And I didn’t get back in touch again with Ron for the 3D movie, so that sucked.”
When I had first heard of Ryan doing one of the films in 3D I had to admit I was stunned. It seemed like such a strange thing to do, though I gave him the benefit of a doubt and thought maybe he was going for the exploitation angle (though the title and subject matter seemed to have that covered). I was also under the impression the 3D film would actually be nothing more than a 3D version of the third film. I was wrong.
“The 3D film is a completely different movie from ‘APSK’ 3,”Ryan states. “Basically we have ‘APSK 3: The Final Chapter,”which ends the ‘APSK’ trilogy of faux snuff films, and then we have a fourth film — a parody of the trilogy — called ‘APSK 3D: Inside the Head,”which will also have a 2D version.” Ryan has some regrets about that title, however.
“I must say how much I hate the f*****g title. I wanted it to be called ‘APSK 3D: The Movie”since it was a spoof, like ‘Scary Movie.” But originally ‘APSK 3D’ was to come out the same day as ‘APSK 3,’ so it was confusing [to] the buyers. I was told [by the distributor] that I had to change the title, but the problem is that I work at night so I sleep during the early day. I got all these calls in the morning and was told I have to come up with a new title like that hour, so by late afternoon when I got the messages it was too late. I wasn’t expecting any problems so I didn’t know I was going to be on call the next day.” When it comes to the title, Ryan thinks it’s just “retarded.” He was given the opportunity to come up with other titles and decided on ‘Smut, Mayhem and Jesus,”describing it as “f*****g perfect”for the film. He came up with other choices in case that wasn’t well received, but things were not to go his way.
“When you’re making movies with no money, you at least want creative control over your own title. I just found out the title I liked was overlooked with the rest [of the titles I had thought of] because they said if they had seen that one they would have picked it.”
Ryan goes on to explain that the 3D was done simply because the distributor told him to do it. “I didn’t want to,”he says. “I don’t even like 3D or know anything about it, plus I thought it wouldn’t work for the movie.” The distributor insisted, however, and Ryan took it as a chance to “mock”his own series and have some fun with it.
If you know the history of the film series, this problem is slight when compared to all the other things that have occurred. Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Netflix refused to carry the first two films. “Between all of them,”a bitter Ryan says, “they carry films like ‘Brown Bunny,”‘Baise Moi,”‘Irreversible,”and ” Songs,”full of dick sucking, brain bashing, anal raping, throwing up on cocks, Oscar actresses swallowing cum, etc., but no ‘APSK.’ Whatever, goddamn c**t w***e hypocritical fucks! Canada wouldn’t accept it unless it was carried in the red light district.”
The third film ran into an entirely new obstacle. Remember, though, that this is Ryan’s version of what transpired. I have left out the real name of the DVD manufacturer to avoid legal issues.
“I guess the DVDs [of all the movies in the series] have been getting made by X. Well, X was going to do the third, as usual, since they apparently do all of Cinema Epoch’s [the distributor] movies, but then [refused]. Then X said no [to all the future ‘APSK’ films and reprinting of the first two] and ruled them as porn, even thought they did the other ones. And then banned Cinema Epoch entirely. Cinema Epoch had to convince them they work on all kinds of films with big stars and not to ban them entirely because of ‘APSK’ 3. It took six weeks to find another company to make the DVDs, and I guess Cinema Epoch got back their right to do all other films. . . I think. It’s such bullshit. Again, X, the company who did ‘Brown Bunny.’” He laughs. “I heard [a company know for its family films] just signed some deal with them, but [that company’s] more perverted than any company out there.” After the refusal of the manufacturer to print the DVD, the search for a new manufacturer, and a re-edit of the film after several hard drive crashes, the original deadline on the movie was missed. One question remains, though: Why did X think ‘APSK’ 3 was porn, but the other two weren’t? Ryan thinks he knows.
“APSK’ 3 doesn’t have any more sex than ‘APSK’ 2. It’s just that it’s all at the beginning this time instead of the end. What I realized in this day of greedy Internet lazy w****s is that everybody rips s**t off ‘cause they’re [too] f*****g pathetic with their lives to actually have to respect the artist. There’s no such thing as respect nowadays. When I saw how bad ‘APSK’ 2 got ripped off, it pissed me off. But what pissed me off worse was that people were watching the movie to see sex, then turning it off five minutes in and writing shitty reviews and telling people it didn’t even have nudity when it had full blown penetration.”
Ryan figured that if people were going to rip him off, he would at least make sure they knew there was sex in the movie and put a lot of it right at the beginning. “The problem was, X saw this upfront and it had the opposite reaction of the Internet fucks. They immediately deemed it porn and banned the films.”
All of this can be mentally taxing on a filmmaker, and Ryan is no exception. Throw in the fact that he is playing a murderer, and things get even more convoluted. “It’s weird,”Ryan says, “’cause it’s not like the method acting of Daniel Day Lewis and staying in character for several months straight. It’s just been a day here or a day there (less than ten days total over four years of being in that character, not counting the 3D movie which probably added 30 days). But to be in that mindset, especially since we’re improvising and incorporating our own characteristics, it’s. . . well, not good.” Ryan goes on to explain that the full effect didn’t really hit him “until just a few weeks ago.” He discovered he was getting “extremely angry”and found that he had “quick flashes of violence”that were how his character would have attacked someone. He even began saying “mean things”in the character’s manner.
It also doesn’t help that Ryan is shooting the film in such a realistic way. “There’s nobody else in the room. No crew. No camera guy. Just me being the character, and the girl being the victim, so it really doesn’t feel good at all. I’ve had a bunch of stupid fucks say s**t about me playing these roles, how much fun it must be, how I just love to bang these girls, and how there’s no artistic merit whatsoever. What the f**k? I mean, come on, bitch. You think it’s fun to call a girl a ‘bitch’ and a ‘dirty skank’ while trying to keep a hard-on and beating her around with the intentions of pretending to kill her?”
Ryan’s mental state isn’t the only thing that changed due to these films. So did his film career. “I sort of finally have a ‘film career”because of these films,”Ryan answers, “but people also only look at me as having made just these films. I never even liked horror films much, but [now I] am looked at as a horror director. I think that’s been both bad and good. The entire trilogy has no blood in it at all. That’s a first for horror films, but it’s also pissed off horror fanatics who wanted a slasher film. It’s made some people think I don’t know movies are supposed to have blood, or that I’m trying too hard to keep the costs down, even though I used to pound on that blood in some of my short films they never saw. Blame Carl Franklin. I got the idea from him about no blood and [doing the] killing off screen.”
Ryan also admits that the “rape thing”hurt his career, too. “Unless they’ve seen my short films, [they think] I only know rape when, in fact, more than half of the short films I made, as well as the music videos, had either no nudity or rape in them. Of course, people just make assumptions and label me the way they want. Or people are just way off in their nicer assumptions, even when they’ve seen both my violent and non-violent films. I remember somebody from Film Threat had made one of those nicer, but completely wrong assumptions. I’d say my two favorite short films I made were ‘Isolation,”which you reviewed, and ‘The Cleansing.” There’s one, sort of, sex scene in ‘Isolation,”but no nudity or rape in either. People never saw those, though. And when they do, their assumptions are wrong because of ‘APSK’. The reviewer [Film Threat’s Matthew Sorrento] had said that perhaps my co-director had persuaded me to watch ‘About Schmidt”one night instead of ‘Cabin Fever.” That’s pretty funny for several reasons. One is that the co-director, Karen, basically just held the camera for half the time and spat out a few ideas. I gave her co-director credit because I was giving credit to people who helped me because I didn’t want my name taking over everything and also because I’m a straight white male,”he laughs.
“At that point,”he explains, “I was desperately trying to get into film festivals and was running out of money. If you’re gay, or Hispanic, or Jewish, or a woman, you have festivals designed just for you, so I was recruiting every type of minority I could to help me out. So ‘The Cleansing”was totally my thing, but because of ‘APSK’ the reviewer automatically assumed I would be the one to watch ‘Cabin Fever,”not ‘About Schmidt,”even though I’m a huge Alexander Payne fan and have not liked one of Eli Roth’s films. My point is, that is definitely a negative thing about the ‘APSK’ films — the few people who know who I am probably have me figured completely wrong.”
Of course, there’s also the reaction of the women involved. Due to the film’s subject matter, I had to wonder if any of the women thought Ryan was actually going to kill them.
Ryan laughs when he gives his answer. “I think Sunny Lane, the porn star, thought something like that. She was weirded out by my synopsis and/or title of the movie, so I had to explain it better as a comedy (this was the 3D one). I can’t remember exactly how it’s gone down, but I did have people react like that a few times. Either they thought I really wanted to rape them, or beat them, or something. It was weird. They didn’t understand it was a movie. Nobody I ever ended up using thought that, though, once we were shooting, but I’ve had bizarre reactions. . . especially since I do not use actors or people from LA. It’s mostly people from my small town. Surprisingly, it’s been pretty easy getting girls. . . sort of. Thank goodness these movies have been easy to shoot on a whim, because otherwise it’d be hard. Usually when I come across somebody it’s very random, so I need to think quick. When I’ve tried to interview people or plan for later dates it almost always falls through.”
The women have had various reasons for acting in these pseudo-snuff films. “Several girls have told me they only did it because they were experimenting or acting out,”Ryan explains, “but didn’t regret doing it. They just wouldn’t do it again. Several girls who acted nude with me in their first film wouldn’t do it again in later films, but still stood behind the film they did it in. But then there’s a few girls who have come back months, even years later and said they didn’t want to be in the film anymore, which is kind of impossible at that point, and it’s usually people who did the least explicit stuff. Most of the time it’s because of having a new boyfriend, and once I think it was a career change. You gotta make sure you get those contracts signed upfront (which, unfortunately, I’ve been too trusting of people before), and also explain in every detail your intentions [with] the films. I try to make sure I’ve over-explained every angle so they’re one hundred percent clear, but even then women change their minds a f*****g lot.”
Strangely, it was a guy who gave Ryan the most problems.
“I think the only time I really had somebody freak out over a role was a guy, but that was upfront, so I ended up playing the part when I was actually looking to just direct. So the fucks that say I just want to get laid — I tried to get [another] guy instead before, but it didn’t happen.”
Ryan is also surprised the concept has become a franchise. He’s not even sure it was good to have done two sequels. He had a fine time doing the second film and trying to make it different from the first, and he enjoyed concluding the series and even making fun of it with the 3D film. He also played a “spin-off”of the character in two other films, but he admits that he is “goddamn sick of this nasty f**k.” “[I] am dying to explore other characters and ideas I’ve been wanting to do. People have talked about me making a fourth ‘APSK’ film, or I guess a fifth counting the 3D one, and I’m like, ‘F**k. No. I’m done. Come on!” Maybe if somebody else made the movie and I just acted … maybe. Or if I made a million dollars, okay, I guess. But I haven’t made s**t yet, and I feel like I’m working my a*s off on a series of films that isn’t paying the rent, but is f*****g me up in the head and making me look and feel like a perverted filmmaker and, even worse, a perverted human being. I want something else now. I need something else.”
Ryan also feels that the people who hate the “APSK”series won’t want to watch his future films, and that the people who like them will most likely be “disappointed”with anything he wants to do. Then there are the distributors.
Ryan’s distributor told the director that one of the films he is finishing up (which he originally started back in 2003) isn’t the type of movie the distributor could bill as “from the director of ‘APSK.'” Ryan thought this was a good thing, as people who hated those films may never want to see another one of his movies, though it does have its obvious problems for the distributor. Ryan, it seems, has worked himself into a hole, and the critics don’t help.
As to be expected, critics have either loved or hated the films. Some of the ones who want to present an image of “cool”claim to be indifferent. Ryan has his own ideas on the subject.
“It’s harder for me to read a lukewarm review than a hateful one. It’s gotten to the point where I laugh out loud at really bad reviews, and sometimes I get angry at the really good ones because I feel like the critic liked it for completely wrong reasons. Or I’ll just cringe at how assuming some are. A few critics had said that Michiko [the female star of the first film] and I were a couple. One even said we were married. I’ve never been married! What the f**k? It’s hilarious. Some people say I got it distributed because I had connections, but I had no connections with the company [that] put it out. My connections actually fell through; I had to do it on my own. Somebody, actually several people, said that Kai in ‘APSK’ 2 was some dumb actress who thought she’d make it big. That’s f*****g hilarious because Kai had no intentions of becoming an actress. She just did it to do it. Lots of people said it sucked because I was too cheap to use blood, but it’s because I didn’t want to use f*****g blood!”
One thing I haven’t seen mentioned by critics, including myself, is how sad the films actually are. Ryan has created scenes that are played out in real life. . . and probably not that much differently. He makes us into voyeurs of females who have gotten themselves into situations from which they can’t escape. I asked the director if he ever really thought about that, what it really means, and what role it puts the audience in.
“We live in a generation of voyeurism,”Ryan answers. “An AFI short film that took six months to make, shot on real film with real actors and a budget of $30,000 might only get 100 hits on You Tube or MySpace, while so-called hidden footage of the girl next door undressing, shot in ten seconds with two cents by some twelve-year-old, will spit out 100,000 hits a day. I figured this out when my short films [which I put hard work into] were getting 20 hits a year. I tried making commercials for my website with shots of girls in bras at the beginning and ranked in over a million hits the first week, and it actually sent tens of thousands over to the site to watch my shorts. Then I got banned.”
Ryan went on to justify his pseudo-snuff films. “We make fun of this lifestyle, and don’t accurately portray it. I wanted to show this for real. What it’s really like when things go bad, and things can very likely go bad. It is sad, and lots of people are oblivious to it. They don’t even understand when watching the ‘APSK’ movies that it’s meant to be sick. They want the girls to die. It’s very sad, actually. It’s not like you’re watching a fantasy action movie like ‘Die Hard”and can be like, ‘Yeah, Bruce, shoot those f*****s.” This is meant to be and feel real like all the bullshit we’re getting bombarded with every day online. But our generation is so far gone already I don’t think they even get it. Others, especially young guys (and girls), I’ve seen who liked the films did so because they got off on it. But then there are the select few who admit they popped the movie in hoping to be aroused and came out feeling dirty and ashamed. That’s what I’d like to hear because those people really did take it as being a real situation and felt the way a human being should feel if they were actually watching that situation played out for real.”
Ryan continues to lament about the current culture. “I see a lot of people get off on real footage of people being hurt and/or humiliated, and it is sick and disgusting and very sad. We don’t understand the difference between a movie and real footage. Pretty soon we’ll be taking our video cameras to the parks to beat and humiliate and sexually degrade people while filming it and then put it on MySpace for more friend requests and a spark of popularity. Oh wait, we already have.”
Near the end of the third film Ryan has several shots of the killer’s face, and it appears he is approaching the point of no return mentally. I asked Ryan if he gave any thought to where the killer was heading. After all, if you are a character for so long and so completely, I would expect there to be some kind of consideration of the character’s future.
“I most definitely thought about it,”Ryan says, “[but] I’d rather people come to their own conclusions. I’m working on a script with my brother. He wants to do a regular feature film about Brandon if we can get a decent budget. It wouldn’t follow the character exactly as he acted in the ‘APSK’ films. It would just be a spin-off done as a regular film, but it would show more about how he gets away with things, how other people come across the tapes, and the people after him. Less about the victims and the killings, more about whom it affects basically, and also what happens to him.”
Ryan has plans beyond that, however. “I have many ideas that I hope to move forward with. Things that would actually need budgets, like my ‘Romance Road Killers”film or ‘I Fell in Love with the Devil’s Daughter.” You can see some info on them on my site [www.alteregocinema.com]. They do both have sex and violence [and] actual blood this time. RRK deals with issues I went through in foster care [concerning] abused kids, social workers, falsely accused families, young love and more. And “.. Devil’s Daughter”features a lead Japanese character who only speaks in her native language while surrounded by a bunch of rednecks in a weird hick American town where people go missing, [with] cannibalism and more. Then we got that 2003 film, ‘Sex Kids Party a.k.a. The More The Better.”Hopefully that will be out soon. It’s got absolutely no violence or depressing bits like almost all my other films have, and deals with interracial gay, lesbian and straight relationships. There’s some Japanese and French speaking movies I’m trying to get together, a few other projects I might be co-directing and/or acting in and producing, a vampire love story I’ve been trying to do [and so on]. I also shot another film called ‘Ill-Fated Lovers”based on one of my relationships that was totally volatile.”
Ryan plans are big, but he understands the difficulty in trying to do these films on his own with little to no money. “And I mean no money,”Ryan repeats. “Like 30 dollar budgets. We’re hoping to shoot this film this month that would actually probably be a PG quirky romance movie. The title has varied slightly, but it’s called (most likely) ‘The Ugly Beautiful and Dyeing Girl”(spelled ‘dye”. And that’s a good [amount] for now. Unless I get tired of doing all this and not making money. I mean, I need to create or I’ll die. It’s not the money that motivates me, but it might have to be a little side thing, or I won’t be eating soon. Maybe I’ll be delivering pizzas again. It paid a hell of a lot more than making movies. And I got free pizza.”
It seems almost insane that a director of film series that has broken world records (lowest budget film to ever get national distribution) and has caused such controversy would have to consider going back to pizza delivery. Nonsense like the third installment of “The Mummy”series gets serious coverage, and the most innovative are left in the gutters trying to survive. All one has to do is examine the whole of Ryan’s body of work to see that he is more than “APSK.” A director/writer/actor who is not afraid to take chances and push boundaries, he can do comedy, drama, horror and music videos. Not all the attempts succeed, but viewers can easily see the talent there. The rest of the world has not caught on yet, though. . . and maybe never will.
Or, think of it this way: Do you really want the guy who created “APSK”showing up at your door with a pizza for your loving family? I didn’t think so.