A black student struggles with being labeled as he attempts to escape a rut.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Ryan Larkin & Actor Reale Kgobokoe
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
RYAN: Reale and I made this film because it’s a story we are both extremely close to. As an African-American actor and a half Chinese filmmaker, we have both lived the experience that Jason, the film's protagonist, embodies. We know what it’s like to be judged quickly based on our appearance, and we know how the feeling of being judged affects one's self-image over time.
REALE: I signed on a bit later in the process. Ryan reached out to me with the script and of course I had to do it. One, because I love telling great stories. And two, because I had worked with Ryan before and was assured of his ability and professionalism. He's a great director.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
RYAN: Stuck is worth watching because it offers a unique way to process the idea of being labeled. Have you ever felt awkward meeting someone for the first time, as if they disliked you for no explainable reason? Stuck unpacks that complex feeling by externalizing it, representing the uncomfortable feeling of being labeled with the physical labels that Jason must wear each day.
REALE: Because it's a coming of age story that is relevant and nuanced in its message. You will take something from it that the person next to you doesn't, and that will lead to healthy and vociferous discussions. Possibly even debate. There's nothing on the nose or preachy about this film, and that in and of itself is an important protest against a lot of what we are seeing in the industry today.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
RYAN: Through Jason, Stuck proposes that our interactions with others are tied to the way we perceive ourselves. I wrote this story because I am fascinated by the theme of alienation at both a personal and societal level. It is easier than ever to contact people, but it is harder than ever to communicate with them: making Stuck helped me wrap my head around why this is the case.
REALE: Depending on how you interpret it, there are important messages about identity and perception. How you see yourself has a lot to do with how you think other people see you. But ultimately, its how you see yourself that matters.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
RYAN: I wrote Stuck during my lunch breaks at the studio where I used to work. The protagonist of the film was originally a Chinese-American man, like me, but after several rounds of notes from my friends and coworkers, I decided to write about an African-American boy and a Chinese-American girl. Both cultures have a complicated place in American history that naturally affect how my characters perceive themselves and others. When Reale came on board, our combined real-life experience helped me realize Jason and Alayna as they appear in the finished film.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
RYAN: The feedback has been very positive. Stuck won the AT&T-hosted competition it was created for, and after completing its festival run, the film was acquired by Discover Indie Film on Amazon Prime Video.
REALE: Overwhelmingly positive. A lot of people said they could relate wholeheartedly with Jason and his struggle. Some commiserated at the tendency of people to judge others too quickly. Others exclaimed that the only person standing in your way is yourself. An interesting dichotomy.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
RYAN: Interestingly, I've found that some people interpret the film's resolution differently depending on the politics they bring into the screening. I don't want to spoil too much, but something very simple happens to Jason that could have a variety of implications. I have my own opinion, of course, but I greatly enjoy the debate.
REALE: No. It has only affirmed it. I remember a time at the Cinema at the Edge film festival when one of the audience members who had just seen the film told me that his entire view on social issues surrounding identity had been challenged. That was a very satisfying moment for me.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
RYAN: Firstly, I am hoping to spread the word about the film! Stuck is available now on Amazon Prime Video as part of the hit show "Discover Indie Film." Secondly, as I finally begin developing my first feature, I'm hoping to reach as many potential collaborators as possible. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @rlarkin124.
REALE: I want people to be entertained. But I also want them to think. To not lazily adopt a black or white approach to issues. Also, and more expectedly, I'm hoping that people will see my performance and like it. This is the early stage of what I'm praying will be an illustrious career.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
RYAN: All of the above are welcome. I love getting my work seen, and I'd be down to speak with anyone interested in helping to make that happen.
REALE: Producers, film festival directors and Journalists!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
RYAN: My former mentor always said that if a film makes a single viewer think, it's already changed the world. So I suppose I want Stuck to continue changing the world.
REALE: Hopefully, people will be inspired and realise that the battle (whatever it is) starts in the mind.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
RYAN: "How does Jason escape the labels' influence?"
REALE: How much do the labels we give ourselves have to do with the labels other people give us, and do those labels affect the labels we give to other people?
Would you like to add anything else?
RYAN: Check me out on social media if you'd like to see more of my work or reach out about a collab!:
REALE: I love film and acting! My hope is to work with some notable, visionary filmmakers and have a thriving career in this industry. Perhaps this could be a step in that direction.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
RYAN: I am in the process of writing my first feature: a horror-comedy about a deadly game between rival Instagram influencers! Hopefully, I'll have more on this soon.
REALE: I just wrapped a dark comedy short with Ryan called, A Virgin Sacrifice. There are also three other shorts I acted in that are currently in production: Once Upon a Time in 'Muriica'by James Lee, Initiation by Legend Mairs, and Something in the water by Logan Perkins.
I'm part of a hip hop improv team called Buzz Buzz. We perform every third Thursday of every month at the Edgemar Theater in Santa Monica.
Interview: June 2019
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
A black student struggles with being labeled as he attempts to escape a rut.
Director: Ryan Larkin
Producer: Ryan Larkin
Writer: Ryan Larkin
About the writer, director and producer:
RYAN LARKIN is a writer/director from Long Island, NY. He began making films as an undergraduate at Cornell University, shooting with a hand-cranked 16mm camera. Ryan went on to receive an MFA degree in Film Production at Loyola Marymount University. As a half-Chinese filmmaker, Ryan is interested in cultural clashes, social alienation, and generational identity. His work often explores these themes by finding creative ways to visualize abstract concepts. Ryan is currently developing his first feature-length film, and he is excited to see his filmmaking style continue to grow and evolve.
Key cast: Reale Kgobokoe (Jason), Qingge Gao (Alayna), Nancy Nazari (Jason's Teacher), Edwin Legette (Jason's Father), Kay Ewing Donato (Woman with Dog)
Looking for: distributors, film festival directors
Hashtags used: #STUCK #filmmaking #indiefilmmaking #shortfilm #magicalrealism #directing #diversity
Made in association with: AT&T, IBM Watson
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? "You can watch Stuck on the hit Amazon Prime Video show Discover Indie Film today!