Currently screening on the festival circuit and racking up accolades and numerous awards, the exciting action-drama “Chasing Titles: Vol. 1” marks the filmmaking debut of Ryan Egypt, an entrepreneur/businessman turned storyteller who has crafted a nifty 28 minute piece that explores a dysfunctional Florida family threatening to be torn apart. Starring Brian Austin Green, Landon Gimenez, Clifton Powell, Barry Shabaka Henley, Haas Manning, Avery Mason, Terrance K. Richardson, and Erica Eynon, Chasing Titles: Vol. 1 is worth keeping your eyes out for in the coming months as it becomes more readily available to view, as it signals the emergence of a new voice in cinematic style. Back to the Movies’ Nick Clement spoke with Egypt about his film, his inspirations, and what’s in store next.
Thanks for chatting, Ryan. I really enjoyed your movie and I think it’s definitely the type of effort that will get you noticed. But I’d love to know, what does the title refer to?
Ryan: Thanks so much! Yeah, it’s a metaphorical title. It’s all about the next step for all of the characters in the film, what’s the next level you’re willing to go to, for better or for worse. It’s about forming the bigger picture, so I liked how the title reflects how the characters are chasing different titles in their lives.
Did you grow up as a movie-loving kid? What are some of your favorite films, or the films you grew up with?
Ryan: Well, I can remember watching “E.T.” and “Home Alone” a lot as a kid, like a ton of times. But I’ve got an older brother, so when you see “Casino” when you’re seven years old, you grow up quick! “Goodfellas” and “Scarface” are two of my favorite movies, I’ve seen both of those too many times to count. I grew up with gangster films more than anything else. All of my friends growing up were into movies, and a few of them did some acting jobs, but I learned pretty quick that being an actor wasn’t for me. I can remember the impact that “Scream” made when it came out, even though I’m not a big horror movie fan. “Titanic” is the one movie I saw in the theater with my father, and that film blew me away. I saw it three or four times along with everyone else, and I just couldn’t believe how James Cameron had accomplished it all. That’s a special and important movie for me.
What, or who, do you consider as inspirations to your work?
Ryan: I’m interested in people and society, and making observations about the world I see and the world we all live in. I Wanted to tell a gritty story about the way drugs and violence can rip a family apart and totally destroy people, and unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen to people in my lifetime, so I collected from my own experiences and tried to tell a story that could relate to anyone who sees it. I’m not a fan of the routine, and I wanted to see a dysfunctional family on-screen in a way that we normally don’t.
Considering what was likely a low-budget, your film packs some serious production values. Was that important to you, the aesthetic design of the film?
Ryan: Oh, absolutely. Just because this is a short film that was independently produced doesn’t mean it has to look bad or unprofessional. I can’t stand when I see something and it does feel like cinema, and I wanted my film to look like a real motion picture, even if we’re just under 30 minutes in length. I wanted to shoot the project just like a feature and employ as much of the same standards as possible.
How did you come about hiring your cinematographer, Roman Jakobi? He really gave the movie a distinct visual look, even shooting in full widescreen, which was great to see.
Ryan: Yeah, we shot 2.39:1, and I really wanted to do that from the outset. We also did a lot of storyboards and shotlisting so I knew exactly what I needed. I’d seen a bunch of reels and read through the resumes, and I wanted to work with Roman because he knows how to make stuff look great, and he wants it to look and feel like a full-blown movie. And he’s just a little “outside,” if you know what I mean? He brought a distinctive eye to the locations. He’s got tons of overseas experience and loves to operate the camera, which I’m not a fan of doing. One of my favorite films is “Jackie Brown,” and I saw that he worked on that early in his career, so that also helped! We shot digitally, using the Red Weapon and the Red Epic, both of which use 8K helium sensors, so the image is extremely crisp and vibrant, and shooting at night gives you some great atmospheric texture.
What was it like working with Brian Austin Green? I grew up with him, like so many others, from “90210,” but he hilariously played himself in Tony Scott’s “Domino,” which is one of my favorite films.
Ryan: Brian was so great to work with. He’s funny, super humble, always very cool, and wasn’t afraid to hustle to get this project made. Everyone hustled on this, and we had lots of problems that we overcame, but Brian was a leader and a great communicator. He was always interested in bringing creative ideas to me, but at the same time, he knew that I was looking for something specific. He never complained and I really loved working with him. He takes his craft very serious and came to the set every day read to work – how can you not respect that?
When will the entire world be able to see “Chasing Titles: Vol. 1”?
Ryan: We’re doing the awards season and festival circuit right now, and I’m doing private screenings in Los Angeles and I’ll be touring with the film. There’s plans for the film to air on Direct TV soon, and in 2018, we’ll get it out on disc. I wanted to treat this as a real release, build the buzz, let it play on the big screen for as long as possible, and then get it out on the streaming platforms and on Blu-ray. We’re just getting started.
What are you working on next?
Ryan: I’m currently re-writing “Chasing Titles: Vol. 2,” and that’s a one hour, 40 minute story, so it’s a full feature, and it’ll pick up right where “Vol. 1” finished. That’s how it all started, I initially had written the sequel, and the short film we shot serves as a prequel. And it was a chance for me to flex my muscles as a filmmaker before making a full-blown feature. I’m not sure if I’ll bring in another writer to work with me, so right now I’m re-writing it on my own, and I’m already getting into discussions about global distribution. I’d like to shoot it in the fourth quarter of 2018. My calling was to make films and I’m really excited about everything that’s coming up.