How Hollywood’s Changing: Ryan Fleck

Ryan Gosling in Ryan Fleck’s debut feature, Half Nelson

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He’s friends with mumblecore stalwarts the Duplass brothers, used non-actors in low-budget hits Sugar and Half Nelson, and has understated, intimate aesthetic: so far, so indie new-wave. But 33-year-old filmmaker Ryan Fleck wouldn’t mind making the next Ocean’s Eleven.

“I’m not opposed to doing a $50m movie some day if the right story comes along,” he confesses, praising Steven Soderbergh’s decision to juggle huge blockbusters like the “Ocean’s” trilogy with experimental, no-budget fare. “Although I haven’t read an action script that felt appealing yet. The kind of stories that I am drawn to tend to be a bit more character based.”

Soderbergh was 26 when he won the Palme D’Or, and Fleck’s got the same precocious drive. He’s been co-writing and -directing with partner Anna Boden ever since they fell for each other at NYU’s film school, and they won a short film prize at Sundance back in 2004, when Fleck was 27. The couple’s first feature, Half Nelson, about a drug-addled teacher befriending a young student, earned rave reviews and an Oscar nomination for its star, Ryan Gosling. It was followed up last year by Sugar, about a Dominican baseball hotshot playing in the minor leagues, which has a mixture of English and Spanish dialogue and actors who were recruited at ball parks.

It cemented Fleck and Boden’s reputation as hot property, and the couple’s latest project, coming-of-age story It’s Kind of A Funny Story, has the backing of Universal offshoot Focus Features, although it’s still “low budget by studio standards”. But he’s used to being resourceful. “The studios have kind of been falling apart one by one,” Fleck sighs, “so I think our ability to make movies cheaply is going to help us in the future. Everybody is scared about finding money to make movies, even in the independent world. We’re right at the cusp of seeing what’s going to happen next.”

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