Saturday 25 April 2015

Pioneering the Future of The Art Film With PAH-FEST Winner Ryan Leaneagh

In our modern day and age when we hear the name “Coppola,” most people will instantly associate it with the successful family of film and wine gurus. Christopher Coppola – Brother to Nicholas Cage and Marc Coppola, nephew to Francis Ford Coppola, and cousin of Sophia Coppola, is no exception to this legacy of excellence, but Christopher likes to do things a little bit differently.

Passionate about telling the stories and projecting the voices of everyday people across the U.S. and overseas, Christopher is the mastermind behind “PAH-FEST,” a groundbreaking digital media festival that celebrates creativity by giving young people an opportunity to discover their inner artist and share the findings with the world. PAH-FEST, short for “Project Accessible Hollywood,” has held events in many U.S. cities as well as in Belize, Germany, and Slovenia. Focused on showcasing the efforts of aspiring young artists new to film-making and empowering them to tell their story, PAH-FEST has worked with a variety of educational institutions. A recent PAH-FEST event in 2014 invited students from five Northern California Universities, including the San Francisco Art Institute, to create and share a “4K Art Film.” To ensure the students at SFAI were equipped with the latest and greatest in video editing software, PAH-FEST partnered with CyberLink to provide participants the newest version of PowerDirector to edit their 4K masterpieces. Our team got a chance to sit down with the winner of PAH-FEST’s 4K Art Film challenge, Ryan Leaneagh, and chat about PAH-FEST, PowerDirector, the future of film, and the journey of the modern filmmaker. 

Our discussion took place over an espresso at Café Zoetrope, an iconic example of San Francisco architecture and a well-known Coppola haunt. Ryan explained to us that his flame for filmmaking ignited at an early age, making his first film when he was just 10 years old. This early effort entitled “Snowbirds” focused on his aunt and uncle travelling around the U.S. in an RV. His filmic education continued into junior high and high school as he was fortunate enough to attend the prestigious Denver School of the Arts. The seven years that Ryan spent at this unique institution provided him with tools, hands-on experience, and theoretical knowledge about movies, film theory, and production that has thus far proven invaluable.

It’s noteworthy that Ryan’s first film centered on travel and exploration, since these topics have become a motif in his subsequent films and one of his great passions. At age 18, he is already a seasoned traveler, with his wanderlust taking him to far away destinations such as Belize. He’s already planning his next journey that will take him to Alaska to view the northern lights.

As we got to know Ryan a little more, it became very clear to us that he is truly a creative spirit with a passion for arts not limited only to film. He also paints, sculpts, makes “zines,” and is both a musician and a DJ. Oftentimes Ryan gets inspired from artists working outside the film sphere, including his mentor and punk/folk painter Alicia McCarthy. He believes that if you look closely, you will actually discover that all these diverse disciplines are intrinsically connected. Taking this notion of synthesis even further, Ryan also believes that science is parallel to art and hopes to study neuroscience at some point in his future. Both science and art are about exploration and pinpointing possibilities, making these fields closely linked.

Ryan ordered a second espresso, and our conversation returned to all things Coppola. PAH-FEST dared the participating students from SFAI to use 4K cinematography to unlock hidden details in their films, such as vibrant colors and captivating compositions. It also challenged them to formulate their narrative around the question, “What is Beauty?”

With its advanced video, audio, and color perfecting technologies, CyberLink’s PowerDirector was the perfect tool for these budding filmmakers to use to address these challenges. Although he had worked with other editing software before, Ryan was thrown head first into CyberLink’s PowerDirector software as a first-time user when creating his PAH-FEST entry with his team. Luckily, they quickly discovered that the software was near perfect for first-time users. He would also recommend PowerDirector for families interested in creating videos due to its intuitive and user-friendly interface. As an audio enthusiast, Ryan and his team enjoyed using the software’s tools to perfect the sound in his 4K film.

When asked about the future of film, Ryan commented that from here on out, new age art must “engulf the audience and allow them to be part of the movie viewing experience.” While he looks up to all-star directors and filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan and Rob Nilsson, winning an Oscar or a Grammy is not high on this aspiring filmmaker’s list of priorities. When looking toward the future, Ryan simply hopes to be working on large projects and collaborating with people who inspire him. Whatever projects he may work on in the future, Ryan’s biggest endeavor will be to ensure that he can continue to convey his own point of view and tell a meaningful story.

When we wrapped up our interview, Ryan provided some sage advice for aspiring filmmakers. “If you want to be a filmmaker, just start doing it. You’ll learn more from a semester of real life experience than you would from a semester in school. Just get out there and start making your dream a reality today.” We look forward to following the career of this prodigal artist and can’t wait to see what amazing things await him in the future.

The Eye from Ryan Leaneagh on Vimeo.


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