The making of … Last of the Trysts

Posted: August 10, 2010 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

Wayde as Travis in Last of the Trysts

Tenacious filmmaker flies solo.

First published in The Calsheet newspaper in July 2010

A filmmaker has completed his first feature film which he filmed single-handedly, with zero backing, and with very limited funds. It took 5 years to complete and in the process he was robbed four times, labeled as a child abuser, a pornographer, a sadist and a Satanist.  Add to this the false promises of potential investors, interference from fly-by-night producers and the wrong advice from people in the industry.

Ryan Sean Davy’s film, Last of the Trysts, is about a young South African orphan, Malcolm Travis, who has a horrific experience on the city streets.  This incident sets him on a path of self-discovery, vengeance, and finally acceptance within a family of Native American Indians.  The film has been selected for screening at the New York International Film Festival in August this year.  Out of the 3000 films entered only 80 were chosen.

The film stars Wayde Davy, Zane Muller, Sung Yee Chow, Stephan Zeil, Raven Sioux, Natalie Buttress and Braam Spamers.  “I did a casting but I found many of the right faces in shopping malls and coffee shops,” says Ryan. “It’s been my dream to make a feature film since I was 14.  I knew I had to resign from the film industry as my own projects were always put on the back burner. A few years prior I had made a short film shot on super 16mm film stock. However, I learned the hard way that there are no returns in short films so I lost everything.  With my tail between my legs I left Johannesburg with nothing more than a backpack and few Rands to my name.”

Ryan ended up in Plettenberg Bay where he ran a stud farm.  He advertised for scripts however he found most of the content too South African and historical when he wanted to create something more universal.  He wrote the script himself.  In 2003 Plettenberg Bay was hit by tragedy when a little boy was brutally murdered. Ryan wanted to pay his respect to a young life lost by incorporating his story into the script.  “This created a scary but realistic element to the film.” says Ryan.

The hunt for equipment began. “I was funding the film with money that I made from managing the farm,” he explains. “It wasn’t enough, so I took on another job which led to running two farms by day and pre-producing a feature film by night; something only a mad man will do.”

Ryan could only afford the DVX 100 3ccd Panasonic camera. “I would have preferred a camera with a half inch sensor to get a better performance from the lens shooting with a shallower depth of field,” he explains. “I couldn’t afford anything more the than the 1/3” sensor that the DVX housed which boasts the ability to make a telecine transfer more reliable on the 25 progressive scan option.” 

He used construction lights for night scenes and then manipulated the camera’s internal gamma and color temperature settings to compensate and maximize broadcast capacity.   “All exterior scenes were filmed at sunrise and sunset and at three quarter backlit to give it that arty feel,” Ryan explains. “Night scenes were sometimes lit using car lights but this limited camera movements so as not to include shiny big chunk of metal in the middle of the wilderness.”

“It would have been nice to have 12 x 12 (feet) polystyrene boards for reflective light and 4k lights for those forest night scenes,” He says. “I also shot a large part of the film in a game reserve.  Set ups at night with limited crew added an element of real danger which led to frightening encounters with hippo and puff adders.”

Ryan built his own dolly, “Which was a horrible bulky thing,” he recalls. “It served its purpose although I had to do away with aerial and crane shots which would’ve added production value to the picture when the time comes to sell the film abroad.  I tried to do an aerial shoot of galloping horses from a Microlight but the DVX is a small, lightweight camera so I could not keep the shot steady enough to use for the film. It would have distracted from the emotion that I was hoping to take the audience through in that particular scene. Switching to IOS (internal stabilizer) mode was not an option either, as it would lessen my quality, and I was already putting the DVX under enough pressure for what I was hoping would be a theatrical release. Transport had become an issue when my production vehicle broke down so for three to four months of the year I was producing the film using only my bicycle.”

Ryan says the movie was filmed on the end of the lens to try and separate the subjects from the background as much as possible. “Which in film standards I suppose was equivalent to approximately a 300mm lens,” he explains.  “Now imagine making a full length feature film, using an Arri 35 camera, or a Red One for instance, and being told that you can only have a 300mm lens, well, most guys would laugh and walk away; others might see it as a challenge.

“For wide shots I moved the camera back to maintain a shallow depth of field to give it that theatrical element.  I knew I would be recreating the entire soundtrack from foley, the natural sounds such as footsteps, to ADR, additional dialogue recording, so clean sound wasn’t absolutely essential as long as I had a reference track. I would generally talk to the actors while they were performing in the scene to help them reach the emotion that was necessary for the character they were portraying, however with the camera so far away, this became impossible.  The longer audio cables became tricky when we had horses running through the scene, collecting the cables as they gallop past, spooking them further.  Once a horse hurtled toward the mountain with an audio cable wrapped around its one leg, a camera attached to the other, creating a cloud of dust and a camera man dragging behind with his hands in the air shouting, ‘Woo horsie!’

On top of all this you have to manage tape stock, do the labeling, camera maintenance, setups, story boards, coaching actors – which is really about psychology, catering, costumes, transport, props, sets and of course, maintaining story and continuity. This is a big challenge for one person. I would shoot what I could until I was clean out of cash, then work like a mad man for three months to get enough money to shoot another scene or build another set, and so on.  It was very stressful, hell actually. My hair is turning grey at the age of 36, I lost 10kg’s, and my tear ducts have run dry.” 

Last of the Trysts has also been entered for selection at the Hollywood International Film Festival, the Edmonton Festival, the Colorado International, The New Zealand International Film Festival, and thereafter, a list of other festivals to follow. 

Astrid Stark

  1. David V Davy says:

    Astrid, thanks for the coverage you have provided for Ryan here. He really does deserve success, if for no other reason than he is so dedicated to his work. Be blessed. Dave Davy (Ryan’s Dad)


  2. astridstark1 says:

    Hi David,

    I am in awe of Ryan’s commitment and dedication to every project that he tackles. He also makes a great interviewee and has brilliant stories to tell which makes my job so easy. All the best. Astrid


  3. Peter Akan says:

    Hi David,

    I am totally encouraged by Astrid’s zeal. I long to meet such a person face to face. Do you think you can make that happen. I am totally encouraged. Big up to Astrid.


  4. David V Davy says:

    Greetings Peter, I received your message a few minutes ago (if I check the dates it seems hardly possible it took so long?) and immediately tried to reach Ryan, only to get his mailbox. I have nonetheless left a message with details of your quest and I am sure once he has a signal, he will respond.

    I cannot provide you with detail but Ryan is committed for about a month on a filming project of some note and he has promised to keep me updated on his whereabouts. Thus, I know he will call or SMS and I will then secure a commitment from him and relate this back to you at the very least.

    Kind regards and be blessed



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s