Posted by Valentina Valentini on June 29, 2012 at 11:15 am
If you remember my April 6 post (which I’m sure you do), about Russell Simpson and Nina Jamil’s quest to ‘do it on their own,’ writing and starring in their own pilot – Sunset Bar – you should realize that I’ve become fascinated with people ‘just doing it’ as Nike would say. this is another ‘just doing it’ story…
Ryan Philander Grew up in Minnesota and got out of the cold as soon as he could. He went to Whittier College here in sunny California to play soccer, and while there he ended up in a couple film classes, which he quickly learned he really, really liked. After two years at Whittier, he transferred to Chapman and got his hands dirty shooting and cutting and directing – really getting in the trenches – trying it all out while he had the facilities and freedom to do so.
After graduating, he moved to Venice and started as a production assistant, moving up to assistant editor on Joe Millionaire. Since then, he has been lead editor on many television projects and made a handful of shorts, but embarked on his biggest task to date – writing, producing and directing a pilot for a TV show – last year.
“In the past few years, TV series have become less of the red-headed stepchild,” says Philander. “It’s such a writers’ forum – you get to tell a 10-hour movie and develop everybody’s storylines. With Underbelly I got to introduce all these characters, but I didn’t have to finish them off and round them out, because of course I have ideas for the rest of the season written.”
Underbelly is an ensemble cast performance with half a dozen simultaneous stories interwoven through varying degrees of separation in Los Angeles. Some characters are seeking fame, others love, sobriety, money, and some are just trying to get through adolescence. With some solid television talent attached, like Andy Dick, Reid Scott from HBO’s hysterically brilliant Veep, and David Clayton Rogers from Jane By Design and the upcoming anticipated web series from Warner Bros., H+, this cast easily could draw eyes on merit alone.
Philander was completely hands on with his no-budget pilot pitch episode. For all the locations he and the producers called in favors, and besides writing, directing and producing, he shot most of it, edited it, did the sound design, and cooked lunch every day. (That last part isn’t true…but it sounded good.)
The other two producers, Lauren Ziemeski and Lije Sarki, who also are part of the ensemble cast, took on the project on top of their own workload, and all three pulled together their resources on what would be an 18 month-long project.
“Lije likes to say that there is this triumvirate,” explains Philander. “You can shoot things good, fast and cheap, but you only get two out of the three. With Underbelly we got good and cheap.”
They’ve been sharing DVDs with the cast and their managers and have been lining up meetings. Mums the word though as well all know that talking about anything we’ve pitched is serious jinx territory.
Philander acknowledges that end goal is to always get your work seen. We’re here at the end of pilot season and if six months down the road he still hasn’t heard anything from the meetings, he will consider that a failure only in the short run.
“It’s not a failure if you consider it as ‘I’ve made a pilot,’” he says. “Who doesn’t want the accolades and the money? But I’m going to do it whether I’m paid or not. It’s what I love doing and I’ll continue to do it because of that.”