Friday, June 20, 2014

5 Questions with Ryan Murdock

Director Ryan Murdock

Filmmaker Ryan Murdock is ready to make a big splash at the AFI Docs Film Festival with his documentary feature debut Bronx Obama. Garnering interest in a movie about a Presidential impersonator isn't as easy as it sounds; yet alone registering enough pre-screening buzz to trump almost every other film in the festival. Murdock is a documentary maven, having worked on numerous projects for his Saving Daylights Productions company before hopping behind the camera. He was kind enough to answer our 5 Questions...

1. Congratulation on Bronx Obama, your first feature length documentary. You originally featured Louis Ortiz’s story on NPR’s This American Life as a radio segment. Did you know then, that it would develop into a full documentary; or did it happen along the way?

Murdock: I had started the documentary before we did This American Life, although I wasn't sure if there would be enough material for a feature length film. But I knew the 2012 election would provide a sort of pressure cooker for Louis, as well as a reevaluation of President Obama as our leader. The story in This American Life - more or less Louis' first term - turned out to be Act 1 of the film. Acts 2 & 3 were very dramatic, though not in the way I had anticipated.

2. Have you reached out to President Obama in regards to Bronx Obama? Has he had a chance to see it, or perhaps meet Mr. Ortiz at some point? I think it would make a killer White House screening, don’t you agree?

Murdock: We would love to screen at the White House - that would be an incredible honor. I know they are aware of the film, but I don't know if the big guy has seen it yet. It would be great if they could meet and have a "Dave" moment, but I'm more curious to see if Michelle will want to meet Louis.

3. Now that you’ve shared Louis Ortiz’s tale, any plans to tackle “the real deal?” Would you be interested in creating a documentary centered around President Obama?

Murdock: I think our country will be trying to unpack the meaning of Obama's presidency for a long time. America's identity is forever changed. I'm sure many films can, and will be made about his legacy. I heard Malia wants to be a filmmaker - maybe she should make a documentary. That would be an incredible film.

4. Do you enjoy the festival circuit? AFI Docs is a great “get.” Did you think you had a good shot at getting selected?

Murdock: Festivals have been great, especially with Louis in attendance. The audience loves seeing him, and getting their photo with him. Before the screenings, he usually goes down the box office line and shakes everyone's hand: People love it. AFIDocs is, of course, a top notch fest and DC and Silver Spring are the perfect places to show this film. For my first doc to be screened here, is an incredible feeling. 

5. What’s next for you? Another full feature doc? If so, can you give us a hint as to subject matter, etc.?

Murdock: I recently started a family, so I'm taking it a little slow on new projects right now. But I've got a few ideas on the back burner waiting for the right timing and opportunities to come about.