Ryan Kruger is best known for directing music videos and has just adapted one of his many short films, Fried Barry into a star-studded and mind-bending indie feature film. Spling caught up with Kruger to find out more…
Your feature film is based on the short film of the same name… what originally inspired you?
The Fried Barry short is from an 8-part series of experimental shorts I started making in 2017. Coming from a background of music videos and commercials, it can be frustrating to work within the rigid confines of a client’s brief or music label’s expectations. The experimental series and particularly Fried Barry gave me and my crew an opportunity to take the brakes off and make something completely off-the-wall. The original concept was very simple – a drug addict off of his mind in a dilapidated building – but the execution was very stylised and gave me an opportunity to try things I usually never would have had the chance to do.
Gary Green has a very particular look – did you create Fried Barry with him in mind?
I’ve cast Gary in a number of small roles over the years in various short films and music videos because he has such an interesting look. I always wanted to give him the opportunity to take on a lead role and he performed brilliantly in the short. I couldn’t imagine Fried Barry without Gary – he has internalised the character and I don’t think any actor could play Barry quite like Gary does.
You’ve assembled a stellar ensemble in Chanelle de Jager, Sean Cameron Michael, Grant Swanby and Deon Lotz… what was it like directing some of South Africa’s most experienced acting talent?
I’ve worked with many of the cast before in some capacity and given how talented they are, I was very excited to have them acting in my first feature. They really are some of the best actors to come out of South Africa and it was very humbling that they believed in the film and agreed to come on this journey with me.
I understand Fried Barry includes well over 100 actors – what do you feel this brought to the film?
Fried Barry is essentially a road movie. We follow Barry on his insane journey through Cape Town where he meets dozens of crazy characters – some of them have pivotal scenes and others are just passing through. I love having interesting characters in my work and I wanted my first feature to be brimming with great minor characters. I think this helps the world of the film feel strangely alive and unpredictable – you never know who Barry might meet next on his bizarre journey.
Fried Barry deals with alien abduction… did this story evolve from the short or was it always bubbling under?
The sci-fi angle was necessary to broaden the concept for Fried Barry from a short into a substantial and entertaining feature. There’s a surreal edge to the short which isn’t explained and left mostly to the viewer’s imagination, but I wanted to explore this idea further with the feature. When the short got released and I started getting fan art and questions about whether it would be turned into a feature, it started to get the cogs turning. I wrote the scene breakdown in about 3 days and a month later, we were shooting. To be honest, I never expected to expand on the story of the short but once the writing process began, it flowed very naturally.
If you had to choose, which would you say is more important to you – character or story?
It’s difficult to just choose one but I do lean more towards character. Reason being, if you have rich, believable characters in an unbelievable story, then the movie is still plausible and enjoyable. I’m reminded by the classic Robert McKee quote – “Story is character”. If your characters are weak, then the whole story falls apart anyway!
You’ve got a wealth of experience directing music videos… how did your approach change in attacking a longer format film?
It was a natural and welcome progression to direct a full-length feature. Although I’m known for music videos, I’ve been making short films since I was a teenager. Even with my music videos, a lot of my later work is story-based as opposed to just showing the artist’s performance – so it wasn’t such a shock to transition to directing a full-length feature.
You describe your projects as a “Ryan Kruger Thing”… do you aim to create out-of-the-box content?
There is a dark and strange side to my stories but I try not to be a one-trick pony. I enjoy a variety of genres and stories – even the human and relatable ones.
I try to emulate Danny Boyle in that way where he can go from Trainspotting to 28 Days Later and The Beach, effortlessly moving between different genres and styles but still maintaining his status as an amazing storyteller.
Your directorial style is typically dark, gritty, dynamic and urgent – what do you put this down to and which directors have inspired you most?
I try to place extraordinary circumstances in real-life situations. It gives me great pleasure in contrasting big concepts with the rawness of human behaviour and emotion while placing special emphasis on the aesthetic of my work. Although I do my best at switching from gritty, edgy and dark to commercial and clean-cut, I think my strength lies within my adaptability and constantly striving to perfect my craft by openly exploring different styles. My biggest inspirations are David Cronenberg, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Chris Cunningham.
Based on your journey with the film, when you hear the title Fried Barry, what springs to mind?
When I hear the title “Fried Barry”, it just makes me so excited to see the final product when it’s all put together. I’ve been wanting to make a feature for the past 10 years and I never imagined that Fried Barry would be my first. Fried Barry is always going to be hugely significant for me and making this movie will be an experience I’ll never forget.
Do you think there’s scope for more niche films like Fried Barry and could you envision a sequel?
I think there’s a quiet resurgence of strange and surreal film that’s taking place in world cinema today. As distribution becomes less centralised, indie filmmakers are being given great opportunities to create outlandish work that is accessible to a wide audience. South African feature filmmakers have definitely been creating more risky work over the past few years, but I would love to see more movies like Fried Barry coming out of South Africa.
I would like to see how the feature is received before considering a sequel but I definitely have some ideas for more Fried Barry!
‘Fried Barry’ has been described as a cult-style, indie and genre-bending film – how do you think audiences are going to respond?
I’ll be the first to say: this movie isn’t going to please everyone! It’s weird, it’s edgy and it can be a harrowing viewing experience for a lot of people. I am confident, however, that audiences have never seen a movie like this one. People who are looking for something mind-bending and completely different will be in for a treat.