Ryan Turner has been obsessed with film ever since he got a Lego Studios set as a young kid. Working in stop motion, he created all sorts of movies — even using little Lego Spielbergs. Now living in LA, Ryan’s moved on to working with humans. His clients range from Richard Branson and the Marriott Hotels to comedy YouTube Channels. His videos have garnered millions of views and he’s had numerous viral hits under his belt; the latest of which, “A Date in 2025”, had a very successful film festival run and internet release.
Ryan continues to approach each film with creativity and passion and never forgets the tedious lessons he learned with his Legos — like how Harry Potter and R2D2 have great on-screen chemistry. You can see all of his work on his website: www.ryanturnerproductions.com
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
You know, I actually wouldn’t mind living in the world of “A Date in 2025”. The majority of people live in isolation, but it’s also a world that has a lot of cool technology at its disposal. Having advanced Augmented Reality would be super useful for meetings and more. I’d also love a sentient AI assistant that has your best intentions in mind. It’s not as though people can’t leave their apartments, it’s just become normalized not to. I imagine people still visit nature and have a blast outside. I’d be one of those people. I mean come on, who wouldn’t want to drink a pizza shake while talking to a sassy Alexa? Besides that, I’d also love to live in the world of San Junipero from Black Mirror. While we don’t see much of the world outside of the retirement home, the idea of being able to live in a virtual paradise as we get older would be super cool. It’s also a good sign that they regulate the use of the virtual world. They know the danger of overreliance on the technology, and allow people to enjoy it for limited periods of time.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
I’m a huge fan of Ceasar from the new Planet of the Apes series. What an absolutely great leader. He’s not the strongest, but he makes up for it with intelligence and balls of steel. He’s faced with a ton of difficult decisions and takes each one as it comes like a champ. You also can’t help but love his entourage – like Maurice. I want to be Maurice’s friend so bad.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
I’m on the side of optimism here. I do recognize the danger of advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning, but I feel as though they will work with us not against us. Machines and humans will always be different and will provide different tools. Humans are better at creative tasks where machines are better at crunching numbers and searching databases. We will, hopefully, use each other to make a better world for everyone. That being said, I still thank my Siri and Alexa everytime I use them. One can never be too safe! In terms of making a film, that’s such a challenging task that if a robot was able to pull that off, I’d be the first one at their premiere cheering them on!
In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?
Oh man that’s a fun question! I gotta have Darth Vader in there. Force slam-dunks would be pretty unstoppable. I’d get Ripley from Alien because she’s just so badass. Neo as center to stop anything coming his way. Bender from Futurama for comedic relief. Cesar would be captain; can’t beat his leadership. Judge Dredd as the ref, and Michael Crichton would be the coach because if anyone can make this team work it’s him.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
The way I’ve learned to discern between good and bad is time. I’ve come up with so many ideas that made me say, “This is the best idea ever!” But when I went back and looked at it a few months later, I saw it for what it really was. I’ve had plenty of bad ideas. I tried to write a movie like Snatch, but set in a suburb. Let’s just say it’s a lot less cool when the characters have American accents and aren’t gangsters. The best way to get past those bad ideas is just to start fleshing them out and see if they have legs. I also love to bring in collaborators that keep me honest and poke holes in what I’m pitching. It’s important, however, when you do find that great idea that withstands the test of time to never forget that first feeling you had with it. After months of hard work, it’s important to hold onto the core of what you loved in the idea and let that drive you through any adversity.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
I definitely am a sci-fi nerd. I geek out over shows like Westworld and went to my first Comic Con this year (I was in heaven). But I’m also just a nerd in general. I grew up playing trading card games, painting Warhammer competitively, and geeking out over Lord of the Rings. While I do wonder where humanity is heading, a big thing I’ve been working on in my life is to be more present. I’m a big believer in fate, so I’m simply doing my best to bring joy to people and steer us away from a Terminator-esque future.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
Maybe it’s because the analog I dealt with were DV Tapes, but I was quick to welcome the digital revolution. I used to do After Effects tutorials in my free time growing up, and I’ve only ever known digital editing. Digitizing film has opened up the medium to so many more people and voices and that’s been great for humanity as a whole. Platforms like YouTube are amazing resources. There’s a tutorial for everything now! I’m also a very techy guy. I have an Alexa and smart lights and recently was gifted an Apple Watch which makes me feel like James Bond. I’m not the first adopter of new technology, but I’m definitely going to be one of the first. That being said, the thing I love about film is the physical aspect. Green screens are great, but there’s nothing that can beat an intricately built set that brings one’s imagination to life. In our short we built the counselor pyramid, and the only VFX added were the animations on it. Our final location was a real place in Hollywood. It’s a stunning location that felt very futuristic. While these things can be replicated in post, there is a tangible difference when the actors are experiencing things they can actually see. I just did a short where we created a completely artificial arm. It looked so lifelike that people didn’t even need to pretend to be disgusted. It’s hard to beat practical sets and props.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
For “A Date in 2025” we took a lot of inspiration from two places: Japan and Silicon Valley. Japan always seems like it exists in the future – from fashion to their cities – and funny enough they already had a sort of BodyBuddy/human companion. We took their models and made it more ridiculous, but the basis for what it looked like came from Japan. The pizza shake idea came from companies like Soylent in Silicon Valley. If you can have an entire meal in a drink, why not have junkfood versions? The making of the pizza shake was inspired by movies like Back to the Future. There’s something so satisfying about putting powder in a drink and having it come out as something completely formed. Our goal was to have a very grounded future world (no flying cars and whatnot) while also having everything slightly different. Daniel’s treadmill was a normal treadmill without handles (not recommended). His Counselor band was a fitbit with VFX added. Daniel’s VR goggles were actually steampunk goggles we modified. And his stimulax belt, which only makes a brief appearance, was a glorified jock strap with a vibrating octopus on it. Our mission was to take familiar objects and add in a slight sci-fi twist. Technology is growing at an exponential rate, so we’ll see pretty soon how accurate our predictions were.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Star Wars Philip K. Dick Practical Utopia Post Apocalypse