Behind the Scenes: Meet the winner of the AT&T Film Awards “Best Film Shot on Mobile”
In October, we called for submissions for the 3rd edition of the AT&T Film Awards, an open competition seeking imaginative, undiscovered short films from aspiring storytellers. Filmmakers answered the call, with 664 outstanding entries vying for a shot at prizes including cash awards, trips, camera equipment kits, and a summer film program at the USC Cinematic School of the Arts. Now here’s your chance to get to know more about the winner of the Best Film Shot on Mobile category, Ryan Riffle for his short action/adventure film, ONE MAN JOB.
Q: Describe your project and what you aim to achieve with it.
A: My project consists of 11 actors, lots of action, and one long camera take with no cuts. We want to show people the power of filming with a phone. We also hope to show a new type of entertainment to those who are filmmakers.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your short film?
A: This project was made for the AT&T contest specifically. We didn’t want to submit an old film, but instead we wanted to submit something new and fresh for the contest. I wanted to do something big. I shot a film with a phone once before, using different camera angles and other stuff to make it feel like a film shot with a regular camera. This time, I wanted to challenge myself and my cast by doing it in one camera angle. Then, we decided to go with a more simple approach to the story line: an agent who rescues a female hostage and “can’t” kill anyone. The simple storyline made it easier to film in one take.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your team and how you worked together to create your entry.
A: Film crew: Ryan Riffle (Director, videographer, producer, editor)
- As far as the film crew, I was the only one. Jack Toth, a local filmmaker from Tucson, shot behind the scenes for the film, which was super helpful (you see his footage during the end credits). He followed me for most of the filming!
- The other crew is all actors who have been in multiple films with me. They are so awesome and willing to take time out of their day to pursue this with me, even if ther’s no guarantee.
- Other actors/actresses are Desiree Coss, Eric Flores, James Gorday, Marcus Wilson, Michael Ochotorena, Nelson Nakano, Rafael Acuna, Sarai Elizabeth, Stephen Huffman, Shae Savage, and Dylan Villerot. Location provided by Tanya Barnett.
Q: What do you find most interesting about making short films?
A: Being able to tell a story within a few minutes. People’s attention spans are decreasing, so it’s easier to get an amazing story across in a few minutes. We decided to tackle filming in one take to keep their attention. People seem to be interested in that, or at least I am!
I’ve always done films with $0 budget, to show people that you don’t need money to make amazing, high quality videos.
Q: What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
A: The biggest challenge of the film, as you can probably guess, was getting it done in one take. Really, everything is a challenge in a one take. We only messed up four times, which is pretty good in my opinion. We did get right to the end of the pool scene and then messed up right before he got knocked in the pool, so we had to reset!
I was able to choreograph the big fight scene at the end in about 10 minutes. Then, while the actors practiced that scene for about an hour, I had to leave to do placements of the other crew and practice other scenes. So that scene alone, with all the action, punches, and kicks, was tricky to pull off.
Also, shout out to James Gorday (who played the agent) for remembering every fight move, gunshot, and line of dialogue in the film.
Q: Is this the first time you’ve entered your work in a contest?
A: This is not the first time I’ve entered into a contest. I’ve actually entered over a hundred contests, so I’ve lost plenty of them! That’s how contests work though; there’s never a guarantee. You can’t give up, you HAVE to keep going. It’s almost an addiction.
My brother Richard Riffle and I have had the amazing privilege of winning contests for brands such as Doritos, Pringles, Ace Hardware, Warner Brothers (Lego Cardboard Swede), and some other smaller ones.
Q: How did you first get interested in filmmaking?
a: The youth pastor at our church back in Salem, Oregon, Joseph Castaneda, put on a red carpet event called “No Ball,” where they played films that people in the youth group had made. For those of us who never got invited to go to a school dance called “Snow Ball,” this event was the next best thing. We rode a limo up to the front of the church and felt like real directors. My twin brother Richard, best friend Aaron and I did a 30 minute non-edited film called “Zorro Is Coming to Town.” It was amazingly terrible, but that was 15 years ago. I ended up doing a few of those throughout my time at the church and the passion never left. My twin brother and I did projects in high school using video, and we also did projects for other people. Flash forward to 15 years later, and I’m still doing film. My twin brother and I have filmed over 1000 short films!
- I now work full time at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona doing video and photos of the animals!
- Our YouTube channel is youtube.com/user/CoolTwinSkittles
Q: What does the AT&T Film Awards and contests like this mean to you?
A: It means a lot. It gives filmmakers a chance at being creative in ways we never thought. I had no plans to do a film on a phone in the near future, but this gave me a chance to stretch my skills and do something bigger.
Q: Who have been your biggest influencers in the film industry (directors, writers, teachers, etc.) and what have you learned from them?
A: You know, it’s weird, because I don’t have a ton of influencers. I’ve always done my own thing. I’m pretty sure I’ve had more of an influence through YouTube with channels like “Freddiew” and “Corridordigital”.
Q: What advice do you have for new filmmakers just getting started in the field?
A: Keep going. I can’t stress that enough! I’ve done over a hundred contests and have only won a handful. It’s discouraging, of course, but you also build up a sweet reel. I’ve failed and wanted to quit, but I have this passion. If you have a true passion for filmmaking, nothing will stop you! You also don’t need money to make a great film. All you need is a camera and friends! Almost all 1000+ of my short films have had a budget of $0. I’m also always open to answering people’s questions about filmmaking. It’s a crazy field, but one worth getting into.
Q: What inspired you to film your short using just a Smartphone?
A: I’ve done so many films using a regular camera. I really wanted to challenge myself and my team with doing something new. That’s also what AT&T is about, doing something new and stretching entertainment in ways people have never seen. That’s what we wanted to tackle with this film. Doing it in one take really puts pressure on you, but it makes it so much more entertaining for the viewers, which is what matters in the end! We also wanted to make it a high suspense action, which you all hopefully enjoyed as well.
Q: What video technologies do you see shaping the future of film and content creation?
A: I see phones doing a lot for the future of this industry. Someday, I hope someone makes a feature length film that comes out in theatres that was all filmed on an iPhone. Heck, I’ll jump on that!
Q: What are your future plans for your project?
A: For now, we will see where this contest takes us. I have a ton of films in my head and some big ones in the works right now. A small shout out, if I may, to a new feature film called “Max Reload and the Nether Blasters,” which I’ll be playing a part in! I’m very excited for that! I like to act as well as direct.
Q: What do you hope to do with the prize money?
A: Heartfelt moment coming up, bring your tissues! My amazing wife works as a librarian at a high school. She isn’t on full salary yet, which means she usually has to find a job during the summer. Having two dogs (one being a puppy), my dream has been for her to be able to take a break during the summer. Winning this contest means I can give my wife the opportunity to not work for a few months and take a break that she deserves and needs.
- I’ll spend a little on videos and equipment as well! Seems only fair 🙂
- Also, a good portion of it will be shared with the cast and crew as well!