Interview with Ryan Kruger, writer and director of Fried Barry
By James Whittington, Sunday 11th October 2020
Fried Barry

Anyone who as been to Grimmfest will know that the team behind the event try their very best to bring to their audience films that challenge and push as many envelopes as possible. Fried Barry from director Ryan Kruger is such a movie. Packed with mind-bending imagery and and emotional punch, this polarizing movie has to be seen just for its creativity and strong storytelling. Here, Ryan chats about this incredible movie.

HC: Where did Fried Barry come from?

RK: Fried Barry was born out of total frustration where I was in my career. I am known in South Africa as a music video director for doing narrative story telling within music vids and sharp visuals. Although I always came up with my concepts and bands trusted me and let me do anything I wanted. I was still in a box as I had to think about their audience and their music and it being able to get it on major music video channels. So, I was still in a box and couldn't really do my style. Originally it was just a 3 min experimental film that did really well. We had 59 official selections around the world at festivals and picked up 13 awards but what came from that was all these amazing pieces of fan art from all over the world. Which was a surprise because it was just a short experimental, but people just seemed to love the character. I never planned to do a feature film at all. I just looked at it as that short was a success and that's it. But where I was at the time I was in a bad place. I had an operation on my kidney and got sepsis and nearly died, went through a breakup and my cat got cancer and I went into depression. It was all to much for me at the same time. So while I was in this dark hole I just said to myself what is the number one thing I've always wanted to do with my life, and it was to make a film. I just got the idea the one night and I new that this was the film to make. I spent 3 days writing a brief scene break down. And a month later I was shooting the feature.

HC: It's like Trainspotting, meets Communion meets Starman via Jacob's Ladder with added rawness! Would you agree?

RK: I love all cinema. I was a kid in the 80s so that's my main influence in my movies. My two big references for this movie for the story was John Carpenter's "Starman" and an early 90s film "Bad Boy Bubby" and then I just made it my own with my style and story. But there's a lot of 80s references in Fried Barry like "ET" "Terminator" "Aliens" and so much more. A lot of people have mentioned Trainspotting so that's really cool to hear.

HC: There's a melancholic tone throughout the movie which gets darker each character Barry meets, are you making a point about how we, as people, react to those with different needs to us?

RK: Fried Barry is one crazy wacky movie; it's designed for you to go on this trip with him. It's a genre mashing film with elements of horror, sci-fi and even comedy. I wanted the audience to feel uncomfortable and make sure the film was really entertaining but also very unpredictable. I want the audience to feel dirty and after this movie and feel that they need to take shower afterwards its a road trip movie, but Barry is the car.

HC: Garry Green is outstanding as Barry, did you audition many people for the role?

RK: Gary is Fried Barry no one could of done this part. Gary did great he was always willing to do another take. Gary's background is that he does extra work behind the scenes in films and the odd time he gets featured. Gary has been an extra and featured bit parts in my projects over the years. As a director I love interesting faces and Gary has a very unique look. I didn't audition anybody for this film most of the cast I have worked with before and the odd person I had seen their work and wanted to work with them. I placed everybody in their roles which I knew they would be great at. As for Gary he was in the experimental short in 2017. And when I got this idea for the feature I had to mould and shape the movie around him as he isn't a trained actor. It had to be the perfect story and character that would make this film work. The cool thing about this film is that 80percent of this film is improv and work shopped on the day apart from the dialogue I wrote. But as an actor myself I love working with actors. I love that organic space to be free and feel where anything can happen. Gary was the only one that didn't improv because I had to work with him very closely to get exactly what I wanted otherwise the film would crash. So I needed a clean slate everyday with him. He didn't know what we were doing until I told him as I didn't want him to over think anything and be in the moment with him as the was no script. But I knew exactly what I needed him to do.

HC: This is your first feature as director, were you nervous at all on your first day on set?

RK: I was actually just really excited I had been waiting for this day my whole life. Over the years I've come close to making other films, but it just always faded away. I never would of guessed that my first film would be this film. But when I got the idea I just knew it was right and everything just fell into place. I think your first feature is so important I needed it to be bold and a unforgettable movie to show off my style as a filmmaker. I went out to make a cult style film and the response and awards and people reviewing it so far has been saying many amazing things like "cult classic" its crazy to hear that. But makes me smile. I surround myself with many great talented people and its not just my work. So many great artists brought this film to life.

HC: There is some incredibly complex scenes here, which sequence are you most proud of?

RK: There are so many scenes I love in this movie I think love the Alien abduction sequence in the ship, For me that screams my style and vibe. I also love the breakout scene in the asylum. But there's many moments I love in this film with the character I created it's the odd smiles and tones and making the audience feel a certain way.

HC: The soundtrack is outstanding, will it get a physical release?

RK: The score is amazing Haezer did a fantastic job it will be released next year. It's very important to me that the film had a certain feel and tone and music to drive it. Haezer is such a pleasure to work with and I think my visuals and his sound just fit together so well. He has also done all my sound design for my experimental films.

HC: Do you believe the existence of aliens?

RK: Hell yes! I think it's a fact the universe is a huge place its impossible to be the only ones. But there's a lot of interesting things out there that should have been on the front of every newspaper and every news channel But wasn't. The Canadian military of defence released information about 5 years ago in a big government conference with a lot of government officials saying they have been working with us for a while. To me that's better than any UFO video on YouTube. But the day and age we live in we need to see that funky alien getting interviewed. If Gary Green turned and said to me "Ryan I am an alien", I wouldn't be surprised ha ha.

HC: What's the film industry like in South Africa?

RK: The film industry is still growing in South Africa. We are more of a service country. We have a lot of big films and TV series that get shot here from overseas. Our industry is known for comedies, dramas and historical and apartheid films. But over the last few years there has been a lot more films and there's some great stuff getting made recently. I just know that the SA audience are sick of seeing the same things all the time getting made weather you're a filmgoer or in the industry. Sadly there's a lot of people that don't support our local films but that's why I think as filmmakers we need to change that up and make stuff we want to make and not what people think is going to do well or not. If we don't the industry will never grow. We have so many amazing talented people here and I can't wait to see what happens in the next few years. That's what is great about Fried Barry is that its defiantly the first of its kind to come out of SA there has never been or anything close like this film to come out here. So its really breaking that mould. And to be a apart of that is amazing.

HC: Will you be nervous when it gets its UK premiere at Grimmfest?

RK: I think the film is in good hands at Grimmfest always wanted to screen a film there. I never really get nervous about what I do. I am more excited to see people's reactions really. As I said earlier its one of those films you either like or hate but the right audience will love it. It's important to stay true to yourself and make what you want to make. The film isn't for everyone and that's ok we all have different taste. If we all liked the same things life would be boring. I just feel that this film weather you like or not you will talk about it and that's what is important. There are many films we watch or turn off and don't tell anyone about because it's not worth a conversation. So, if people are talking about Barry then I've done my job.

HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?

RK: From now until the end of the year Fried Barry is hitting festivals and has a major release next year. I am finishing off some experimental films and looking at my next film for next year.

HC: Ryan Kruger, thank you very much.

RK: Absolute pleasure, thank you for your time.

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