The Backseat, a coming of age comedic drama directed by Ryan O’Leary explores love, rock ‘n’ roll and hemorrhoids. Yup, hemorrhoids. The film captures the sometimes not-so-easy relationships that high school students encounter, while also having to deal with bad sexual experiences and embarrassing medical problems.
Red River Noise spoke to director Ryan O’Leary about his first feature film that draws from his own personal experiences and the films he hopes to make. The Backseat was selected for the RxSM film expo and has been selected for The Victoria TX Independent Film Festival on Thursday, Apr. 3 at 10 p.m. at the Downtown Bar & Grill.
What inspired you to create the film?
Ryan O’Leary: Pretty much up until my second year of film school, I was trying to do bullshit…just trying to write movies. Not that they didn’t mean anything to me, but they weren’t based on any reality or personal experience. So I wrote a short film about having hemorrhoids when I was 16. Yeah… so when I wrote that it got around to some of the professors and people were suddenly really supportive. That short ended up playing at a few different festivals and it was a good experience. So I started to write that into a feature….and do whatever I could to have it made. Sure enough, summer of 2012 we shot it.
After writing a story on a personal experience and getting support for it, has that sort of shaped the way you’ve started to write feature stories?
O’Leary: Absolutely. It even helps, like, the passion projects that I’m working on in a sense that it’s very personal and drawn from real life 100 percent. But I guess what I’ve learned over the last few years is that what makes movies interesting is not something tangible. The people involved have their own unique point of view and I think that’s so much more valuable than any talent or any training.
So what does it feel like to share a personal story, film it and then see it unfold. I’m sure that an experience in itself.
O’Leary: It’s interesting. There’s stuff that I wrote in the movie that aren’t supposed to be funny, but people will end up laughing at. One thing that has been kind of uncomfortable and makes it even harder to hide is that pretty much the clothes the lead actor, Chris [Bellant] wears in the movie are my own clothes from high school and college and stuff that I still wear. It’s strange.
How do you hope your movie translates to audiences?
O’Leary: I hope they enjoy it. I hope they find it funny, but more importantly I hope they can relate to it on some level and if not maybe learn something about themselves. I want to make the kind of movies that stick with people. I really look to movies that I look up to like Adventureland, Superbad, stuff like that where it’s great in the moment, but it’s in those days, and months and weeks following when you reflect back. I don’t know if I could make someone feel less lonely about some sort of feeling. Hopefully someone can find comfort in some of that.
O’Leary: Yeah. I really wanted to tell a story about…I think about the high school romance stuff and it’s built up as if it’s going to work, and in this movie you can tell that [the characters] are connecting over material things. I feel for a lot of people, until they get older, that’s how they get into relationships and continue them.
So like the lead character, you were in a band. Are your music days over?
O’Leary: I was in band throughout high school. I started with a friend of mine when I was in sixth grade and it somehow lasted all the way through high school. And much like the band in the movie, we managed to play a lot of shows. We played the CBGB’s before it closed and some other legitimate places. I don’t understand how because we weren’t that good and we didn’t have a following. But right now, I’m actually playing in two bands. They’re super casual things.
Did you help with any of the music played in the film?
O’Leary: One of the guys that was in my band in high school actually wrote three out of the four songs that are in the movie. I wrote one of them as well. All of the crappy bass playing you hear in the movie is me.
So you write music and scripts. Is the writing process different?
O’Leary: Music is a quick, emotional kind of thing. It’s good for stress too. It’s something I do, like I’ll get an idea and just get it out there. The film stuff is much more calculated and thought out. It’s definitely more of a work process.
What do you hope audiences take away from your film?
O’Leary: I hope that whatever bad or dumb experiences that happened to them when they were younger, or if they’re currently still in high school that it’s not necessarily that uncommon to really think you’re in love or to have a particularly bad sexual experience. I think that stuff kind of happens to everyone and I’m hoping that it opens up a conversation of some sort.
Watch the official trailer for The Backseat below: