Ry Barrett leans into the genre-bending madness of his new film, Open Your Eyes, written and directed by Greg A. Sager.
In Open Your Eyes, Jason Miller (Ry Barrett) dives head first into his newest screenplay in an attempt to avoid dealing with a traumatic experience. With his mental state teetering on the edge, he meets Lisa (Joanna Saul), his neighbor from down the hall, and a relationship begins to form. As he becomes more intrigued with Lisa, Jason continues to burn the midnight oil to finish his script, strange and mysterious things begin to happen, causing him to question everything. With his mind unravelling and his life spinning out of control, Jason struggles to hold onto the one thing he wants most, hope.
Check out our Q & A with Ry!
How did you become involved with this project?
Ry: Well, I had worked with Greg Sager and Gary Elmer and the Matchbox Pictures team years prior, seven or eight years ago on a film called Kingdom Come, so we already knew each other and we were friends. We stayed in touch and we’d always talked about working on something again in the future. Greg contacted me about, I guess about a month into the lockdown last year and asked me if I would be interested in possibly coming on board a project, something he was working on. He said it was going to be really small, well cast and crew wise, obviously, because of the situation we were in, and I said ‘absolutely.’ I was losing my mind at the time out of boredom and I worked with them before and they are great people to work with.
How long did it take you to take all of you to put it together?
Ry: I think I got the script about a week after Greg had first contacted me. He wrote the script pretty quickly, it was I think a week or two tops and he sent it over. It was still somewhat of a work in progress, like he was still making some little changes here and there, but it was a full enough, front to back to start building on and working on… We were shooting, I think about three weeks after getting the initial script. Yeah, from that point on, it was about a two and a half, three week shoot and then we were back. It was a really quick experience from the point of jumping on board and getting there and shooting it and coming back. I mean, there were some certain elements to the film that Greg specifically wanted to shoot before the lockdown fully opened up because there’s a couple of moments and specific things, it’s hard not to talk about that without spoiling things. But yeah, there was a bit of a rush to start it as soon as possible. And then once we started shooting it, there wasn’t as much of a rush then. Yeah, two and a half weeks of actual shooting. I’m thinking I could be wrong on that, actually, because, you know, the pandemic timeline kind of plays with your mind with time.
How did you prepare to play your character?
Ry: Yeah, it was definitely a bit meta in itself. I think for everybody involved in a way, coming from the lockdown that we were in at that time, and I think everybody was experiencing a little bit of cabin fever, and just, you know, having something creative to sort of dive into and to put yourself into was a great thing so that definitely played into definitely played into the character itself. And for the prep for that, I was already in the mind frame of kind of where he is in some ways. So it was great to already know exactly what that kind of feels like, to be isolated in that way and to move throughout the story in the different levels. And sort of being in the situation that we were in real life, added to that in a huge way.
Did you enjoy working on a film like this versus the bigger productions from before COVID?
Ry: Yeah for sure. There’s, yeah, a lot of differences. Obviously, a lot of it was safety protocols, and we wanted to keep the number as small as possible. There was never more than five, six people, tops. Our sound guy was literally sitting in the parking lot and he would do the mixing out there and then come in and rearrange mics and set up according to how the scene was, but we had two cast and three crew on set. So that was a major difference, which also kind of afforded us a lot of freedom to make changes on the spot and on the day when we were shooting, and to kind of really let those scenes grow and the characters grow and if there were ideas that anyone came up with, Greg was absolutely open to hearing them. So that’s a big bonus because when you’re on bigger things with more people involved in both the creative side and the technical sides, there’s a lot more departments involved , whereas when there’s five people there, it’s a lot easier and quicker to just, you know, you can snap your fingers and make a couple of changes. So, those are the biggest differences and I would totally do it again if it’s the right script and it makes sense for what the project is. I don’t think you necessarily need a massive amount of people to pull off a small intimate character driven story. It just depends on what the story is and what is all involved in telling it.
I’m such a cat person and I loved watching the cat. What was it like acting alongside the cat?
Ry: I’m a cat guy too, I mean I love dogs and cats and all animals, I have two cats so I know how they can be. Boosh is the name of the kitty in the movie, and she’s a big fluffball, she’s such a sweetheart for the most part, but there’s some times where she doesn’t exactly want to do what you want the cat to do on camera. Greg was great at wrangling her, she’s his cat so he knew how to handle her and stuff and we became good friends on set. It’s always nice to have a pet on set between takes and setups that you can sit with and pet, and it just kind of helps you calm down and stuff between the more intense scenes. It was actually a lot of fun working with a cat, and she was great when we actually got her to do the specific things we wanted her to do. Ittook a few takes and we did have to be patient and be ready and willing to take a little extra time and eventually we got it and she actually did a great job. I think she might become a bit of a diva after the film comes out because I think she’s going to get some love. She even has her own Instagram page now.
It’s kind of hard to pin down what genre this film falls into, how would you describe this movie?
Ry: Yeah, it is a tough one to pin down exactly because it definitely falls into a lot of categories. I have to call it like a psychological thriller because it does involve a lot of what’s going on in this main character’s mind and what he’s going through but it’s also a bit of a mystery too because you don’t know exactly what these elements are that are interrupting his life. There’s a lot of possibilities that are sort of set up. Are other tenants in the building messing with him, is it a supernatural element, is he completely off the rails? It’s great at leading in different directions and setting up sort of mysteries that slowly unfold and you start to see why they are the way they are and what is exactly happening. So yeah, psychological thriller, mystery, some elements of horror and other tidbits in there but it’s hard to say much without spoiling… yeah it’s been tricky doing interviews and not completely spoiling things. But I think that also adds to some fun to anyone who hears or reads that. I think it builds some intrigue and to want to know what it is.
Are you able to explain the ending at all?
Ry: Well, I can’t. I’m not supposed to really, I can’t give away too much of what starts to unfold in the third act. We were mainly shooting in the one apartment building itself. And yeah, we do venture outside of that as well but it was very minimal to build this sort of claustrophobic feeling that the character is experiencing himself and living in his own world, in his own environment, working on this script that he’s trying to finish, but it definitely mirrors the things that he’s going through in his real life. And there is much more to that and what is happening as the story unfolds.
When you watched the ending to the film, were you satisfied with it?
Ry: Yeah, I really was. It’s always tough to watch a film that you’re in, especially when you’re in a lot of them just by yourself and stuff and it’s sometimes hard to watch and to not be too critical of yourself, and to look at it separately. But I’ve gotten better at doing that over the years, and to be less nitpicky with myself and to kind of look at everything as a whole. And I was really happy, I thought the way that it all plays out and the way that it adds to how you can look at the rest of the film after seeing it. It’s a great rewatchable film because it kind of changes everything around for a second viewing, and I know it’s also one of those films too, where I think some people will figure out some of the layers that unfold, but I don’t think they will figure out everything. A lot of it comes out of nowhere and yeah, I was really happy with how that played out and how it hangs on to those major secrets until the right moments.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Ry: The film comes out June 1. It should be available in all major streaming locations as well as blu rays and DVDs from Gravitas Ventures, and there’s also a preorder through iTunes. I’m not sure when exactly that date is, but if you do the preorder, you actually get some extra stuff. There’s some behind the scenes, bloopers and commentaries and just a bunch of extras that I don’t think you get with any of the other releases. So that’s a nice bonus to have if anyone wants to get some insight into the making of the film and some more details on how movies are shot in the midst of a pandemic. I also have another film out called Still the Water. It’s on a bunch of streaming platforms as well if anyone wants to check that out.