Darks Side Magazine at FrightFest 2022 – James Whittington with Tom Ryan writer and director of Splinter

FrightFest 202 is well underway, and the Discovery screens are also all fired up and ready to go. One of the first movies showing on Discovery Screen 1 is Splinter so we had a chat with its director Tom Ryan.

DS: Where did the idea for Splinter come from and did it take long to get the script right?

TR: Splinter was an original story written by Theatre of Terror producer Todd Staruch. He was inspired to write the story after stepping on a splinter at home! Once I read it, I thought it was a great premise and I was determined to make it a part of our “Return to The Theatre of Terror” sequel anthology. I worked up the screenplay in a few weeks after that. There were some changes and additions, but we settled on the final draft very quickly.

DS: Did you have much of a budget to work to and what issues did that cause?

TR: Not as much as we would have liked to have had but just enough to get the job done. We rely on an incredible network of extremely talented friends and colleagues to make our big budget ideas possible on lower budgets. It’s about passion. The more you have, the more that’s possible.

DS: How did you go about casting the movie?

TR: I’d been dying to work with Jim Thalman who I’d met on the festival scene years ago. When I read the character of Scott Wills I thought of Jim. I thought of his emotional range and his investment in his work and knew he was the perfect fit. The rest of our cast seemed to emerge at the right time. I’d see Kristin Muri’s work in “Crazy for the Blonde”, and Quincy Saadeh was a young promising talent I was introduced to through the independent film community. A few of our actors landed their roles responding to casting calls.

DS: The effects are subtle but effective, did Jim Thalman, who plays Scott Wills go through much discomfort?

TR: He was in make-up for hours and had to undergo several stages of prosthetics over the course of the shoot. I know that cannot be easy. However, I think Jim used that “suffering” to inspire his performance and channel the discomfort his character was going through. Nothing makes it easier for an actor to fake a limp than to throw a stone in their shoe.

DS: The score almost becomes a character in itself, did that take long to get right?

TR: So much of the music was just accidental and yet somehow perfect. One Lenape performer in particular was the extremely talented Windwalker, who’s song “Ya-Ya-Sho-Na-Me-O” sets the tone for what we can expect for the rest of the film. She was so gracious and supportive of our movie and of course her music made such an impact on the score.

DS: The movie has a lot to say about how we treat the past and the environment plus “the sins of our fathers”, was this your goal from the start?

TR: Absolutely. I thought this story allowed us an opportunity to not only get a glimpse of past injustices but to also present our audience with a scenario that makes them second guess their expectations of karma and justice.

DS: Do you believe places can be cursed or have spells cast upon them?

TR: Yes and no. And not necessarily in that order.

DS: Splinter won the “‘Kevin Smith Award for Home Grown Feature’ at the Garden State Film Festival 2022”, what did that feel like, and do you think it’ll open many doors for you?
TR: Winning that award was a real honour and a wonderful surprise for our team. Kevin has done so much to bring attention to New Jersey independent film I believe every screening opens doors for us in respect to new fans, networking with other filmmakers, crew and talent, and generally growing our brand.

DS: Could you tell us more about “Return to The Theatre of Terror”?

TR: “Return to The Theatre of Terror” is the sequel anthology to our 2019 feature film ‘The Theatre of Terror” (available through Bayview Entertainment). The anthology delivers four stand alone, yet loosely connected, tales of terror in the vain of The Twilight Zone or Tales From the Crypt. The entries for this feature are the retro sci-fi time travel story, “Soothsayer”, our contemporary suspense thriller “Splinter”, the 80’s inspired “Robot” about a young boy living in an abusive home, and finally a paranormal short titled “Haunted”. All four films are done and I’m currently gearing up to shoot wrap-around narrative

DS: Will you be nervous when Splinter has its international premiere at FrightFest?

TR: I think “excitement” is the better word for it, but nerves definitely come into play when I’m screening my films. First and foremost a director wants picture and sound to look perfect. Then of course they look for the audience reaction. It’s very exciting to say the least. I know we did a great job on the film so I’m confident it will be well received.

DS: You’re a man of many talents, do you have a favourite job?

TR: Directing is my passion. I love every part of working with my cast and crew to make a movie.
DS: So, what are you up to at the moment?

TR: Editing, editing, and more editing! Look out for Return to The Theatre of Terror coming soon!!

DS: Tom Ryan, thank you very much.

TR: My pleasure! Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my work with your audience!