Thursday, April 12 at 2:30 PM Friday, April 13 at 9:15 PM
Shorts Block: Body Chronicles
Bonnie Kathleen Ryan | Los Angeles, CA | 7 min
Genre: Narrative Short
Whether it’s by shark’s tooth or surgeon’s saw, California surfer Abby will stop at nothing to cut her left arm off. This morbidly funny tale of obsession features a delightfully deranged lead performance from filmmaker Bonnie Kathleen Ryan.
We asked our filmmakers some questions about them and their work. For further questions, join us at the designated post-screening Q+A!
Bonnie Kathleen Ryan:
1. What is your connection to the South?
Growing up in Columbia, South Carolina was magical! I credit the supportive community, the rich history and the big-city-in-a-small-town vibe with the experience, confidence and belief that one could live as an artist. I spent my teenage years apprenticing at Trustus Theatre Company where I learned how to make envelope-pushing contemporary theatre. Looking back, it’s astonishing that at fifteen I was costume designing or running lights, or making props, or having my plays read and critiqued by John Tuttle. Those experiences live in my heart in every piece of art I make. I remember sitting on sidewalks in five points and painting for an entire evening, meeting every Monday night at Goatfeathers for Philosophy club, or having impromptu concerts by the fountain. I don’t know that other places aren’t like this, but somehow, I feel the south, with its troubled history and passion and heat gives rise to storytelling and art-making that will live with me wherever I go.
Similarly, my co-writer Trevor O. Munson grew up in Austin, Texas. Upon visiting Austin with him, I think there are many similarities between the two towns and it’s one of the big things we have in common. There is something unique and distinctly American both of these wonderful places and I think it comes through in our work. Our next project, Grandma’s House, a feminist feature film produced as part of Robert Rodriguez series Rebel Without a Crew, was set in and shot in Austin. We hope to keep making films in and about the south.
2. Where did you get your inspiration for this work?
Three Legged Dog film was born out of several lines of thought that all converge in a story. I have long been attracted to stories about characters, especially women, who want something they cannot have, and I’m fascinated with the role beauty plays in our lives. Three Legged Dog explores what it’s like to want something for oneself that society doesn’t deem beautiful. I am intrigued by the idea of a woman who wants to live in the body that makes her happy, even if the rest of the world is horrified by what she wants!
3. How did you start making films?
I’ve been taking baby-steps toward a career in directing for a long time. I started out as a theatre artist and actor and pursued film acting during my early years in Los Angeles. Then in 2012, I saw a Britt Marling/ Zal Batmanglii film, and when the credits rolled a nameless whole-body feeling came over me. I immediately went and sat in the theatre lobby and started writing what I was experiencing. I was surprised to discover it was jealousy! I realized didn’t want to just act in the film, I wanted to be the filmmaker. Soon after that I went on a weeklong writer’s retreat in Sedona, Arizona and wrote my first short film, “The Quantum Theory of Love.” When I returned to L.A., I took a development job assisting a television director and began refocusing my energy toward creating my own content.
4. Did anything interesting or funny happen on set during the shooting?
The funniest thing that happened on Three Legged Dog was before we started shooting! In true Hollywood fashion, I “discovered” the eponymous dog who stars in the movie while having lunch with my sister at Chateau Marmont. At a nearby table, I noticed Jonah Hill having lunch with his friend, Max Winkler (yeah the Fonze’s son), and Max’s three-legged German Shepard. I completely embarrassed my sister by immediately marching over and introducing myself. They thought I was a star-struck fan who wanted an autograph until I explained that I was actually a director in desperate need of a three-legged dog for my upcoming film. A director himself, Max graciously agreed to let me cast his German Shepherd, Hammie and I commenced filming a week later! For his part, Jonah was mildly offended that I didn’t want to cast his very cute four-legged French Bulldog, Carmella, in the movie and accused me of giving Carmella an inferiority complex.
5. What do you look forward to the most during Indie Grits?
For me, Indie Grits is a homecoming celebration. It is a thrill and honor to be coming back to Columbia to screen Three Legged Dog at the Nickolodean. My teenage-self still doesn’t quite believe that a film I directed will play on the same screen where I began my film education! I spent hours writing at Immaculate Consumption and wandering the banks of river, having late night beers at the Hunter Gatherer… I don’t know if these places still exist, but this will be my version of a high school reunion. I can’t wait to celebrate, see all the films, art, music and of course eat all the shrimp and grits I can stuff my face with.
6. Why should someone see your film?
People should see Three Legged Dog because it’s a weird, provocative, beautiful story and because you haven’t seen anything quite like it before. It’s 6 minutes in the mind of a person with a unique perspective on the world that you have probably never met. Abby is a complex character and I don’t think there is a clear right or wrong in the story, but I hope people are intrigued by her. The movie raises questions but doesn’t answer them, so my hope is that it leaves the viewer thinking about big philosophical questions like, Who has autonomy over our bodies? Who decides what is valuable? And what qualifies as attractive and why?