"Explain your actors the nuances of the characters, then let them do what they do so well. It&#
Ronn Kilby has more than 3 decades experience in TV, working for 6 stations around the country as art director, writer/producer, and senior creative director -- ending up at the NBC owned station in San Diego, where he was Manager of Advertising & Promotion. After 12 years at KNSD, he left at the end of 2004 to start his own boutique production house, working on documentaries, commercials and corporate videos. Ronn earned a B.S. from Regents College, University of the State of New York, and an A.A.S. in Media Advertising Arts from TCC in Portsmouth, Virginia, where he also taught photography for 7 years. An accomplished musician and composer, he designs and builds guitars, makes beer, and enjoys solo international motorcycle touring. His current passion is making quality micro-budget films with extremely talented cast and crew... films that inspire, amuse and make people think.
Ronn's latest comedy, SKIN, recently won five awards at Festigious, including Best Picture. In "Skin", when a socially awkward Midwestern woman inherits a porn studio, she plans to take the money and run - until her dead father and a band of misfits force her to face her fears, and learn that misfits are people too.
Here's the interview with Ronn.
Ronn, congratulations on winning Best Picture, an Honorable Mention: Director, Best Indie Feature, Best Ensemble and Best Editing. Tell us a bit on how you got started in the film world. What sparked your interest in visual storytelling?
Growing up, I was always creative and driven. My parents sort of passively encouraged me by mostly ignoring the whole thing. As in, "very nice - get me a beer." So I was never really discouraged. As a teenager I ping-ponged between music and visual arts. It was inevitable I would combine the two into filmmaking at some point.
Was the road always pretty smooth, or did you encounter many challenges getting into the industry?
I have to go with "smooth," although it did not seem so at the time. My first job in TV was as an Art Director at a station where they welcomed experimentation (and someone who could wear many hats). Looking back, I know I was blessed with some really great bosses, mentors and cohorts. At every step of the way I was encouraged to do more, stretch, attempt the impossible, and always take it up another notch. I also learned to BE a mentor, and seeing what "my kids" have done over the years is really the best part.
With more than 3 decades of experience in TV, mainly working as an art director, writer producer, and senior creative director - what are some of the highlights / memorable moments of your career so far?
One time, when everyone was going nuts with high-end computer generated 3D logo animation on TV, I decided to actually build a huge 3D logo that the talent could interact with in real time. We shot on 35mm film. Lots of choreography. For that campaign I wrote and arranged the music, and flew the sax player from Miami Sound Machine in to do the sax parts in studio. My boss loved it. It won some awards too, which is always nice.
In 2004 you established your own boutique production house, working on documentaries, commercial and corporate videos. What type of productions do you enjoy the most?
Documentaries are challenging. The good ones take forever to finish, but it's a great problem to solve. Commercial production is the most stressful, because there is so much money on the table. Plus on a big shoot , between the client, the agency and you, there are essentially 5 producers. Not fun. But very rewarding when it works.
Let's talk about Skin. What was the inspiration for the screenplay? Is this based on true events from your personal experience?
I think I originally dreamed the storyline. I wrote the story and tried to get a writer but in the end I wrote it myself. The first script was a 100 page feature. It took 2 months to write the first draft, and I think I did about 6 re-writes. It was selected by the Beverly Hills Film Festival Screenplay Competition. I shopped it around, but no takers, so I put it away. A year ago I pulled it out and re-wrote it to make a 40 pager that I could shoot on a micro budget.
What are some references that you had in mind when thinking about the directorial vision for Skin?
Blanche's story arc dictated everything. Music, lighting, color palette, wardrobe - it all evolves as her character grows.
The film features fantastic ensemble work. So well done! How did you find the incredible Michelle Way? What was it like working with her?
Duane Weekly (who plays Spike) introduced me to Diane Sargent (Amber) and Stephen Scott (Carlos). Then Diane introduced me to Michelle. I was shooting some demos for all 4 in my studio, when it occurred to me that Michelle could be Blanche. I sent her the script. When I decided to actually shoot it, I offered her the role. She far exceeded my expectations. She attacked it. She lived the role for months. Her future is bright and I expect to be part of it.
What was your favorite scene to direct?
The mini horse with little cowpoke. Also the orgasm scene. The out-takes are killer.
Do you have any tips for filmmakers who are about to direct their first project?
Cast well - rehearse - then let it happen. By that I mean I cast the perfect actor (I previously worked with most of the actors on commercials etc.) for each role, explain the nuances of the character, then let them do what they do so well. Minor tweaks for technical reasons aside, it's that easy. I think doing so many 48-Hour Films taught me a lot about that. Also trust your editor. You are the guardian of the story, but you also get married to each shot. Get a great editor (like Mike Towe) and let them do their magic, even if it's painful.
What are you currently working on?
A script that's a modern version of "Same Time Next Year" - that takes place at Comic-Con over a 20 year period.
Where can our readers follow more of your work?
Is there anything you wish to add or anyone you wish to thank?
My wife (also the film's EP) Marti. She kept the show going and never gave up (she also fed everyone). The last credit on screen dedicates the film to my sister, who passed away during production. She was my number one mentor and unconditional supporter. Thanks, Peggy K. Rayl.
Skin - Trailer