We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan O’Quinn and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was focused on the acting side of my career. I had a good agent and manager and spent my time trying to get the next audition in order to get in the room and get a shot and booking the job. If I booked the job, my focus shifted to preparing for the role and, at the risk of way over-simplifying the job, hitting my mark and saying my lines!
When I moved into producing and owning my own company, I find there is far less down time. My work life balance is blurred nowadays for a number of reasons. As an independent film producer and the final arbiter of all decisions at the company, I can’t really unplug. I have a staff of people I am responsible for and I am constantly looking ahead to make sure they all continue to have a job. Additionally, my wife of 20 years is my business partner and co-founder of the company. That said, it is quite difficult to unplug and have dinner conversations or weekends that do not somehow involve the company or the industry. In my current stage of life and career I am reminded of the scene in ‘The Player” when Tim Robbins jokingly asks, “Can we talk about something other than Hollywood for a change?”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Although I am in “Hollywood” and a part of the film and television machine, I have a specialty sub-genre of the industry where I have focused my career for almost two decades. In 2003 I ankled full-time pursuit of a television-actor career and went on the road doing stand-up and improv comedy for large-platform faith events. I was an emcee and comedian at Christian conferences, youth events and music festivals. After 20 years on the road and having 3 kids under age 5, I knew it was time to leave road-life behind and focus on staying home in LA and raising a family while diving into the producing side of the business.
Having amassed a large Rolodex of gatekeepers and influencers in the faith and family genre of entertainment, I was well-positioned to open a production company that focused on positive content. In 2016 we released a film called “Believe” that I produced and starred in and was the first film under the Damascus Road banner. Following a theatrical release and a successful home entertainment run with that project, we started gathering scripts and looking closely at other projects that would fit the brand. We now greenlight several pictures per year and work with some amazing, talented creatives who have like-minded goals of releasing high-quality family content into the world.
I live in Calabasas and, like most Angelenos, found myself complaining constantly about the traffic on the freeways and how frustrated I was spending hours in a car getting to another part of the city. My wife discovered an excellent production office (the former home of DTS Surround Sound) a few exits away in nearly Westlake Village and that has been a goldmine of a find for our company and our family. It means, barring meetings in other parts of the city, everything we do on a regular basis is in the Malibu, Westlake, Agoura, Calabasas area, The “bubble” of the Conejo Valley in many ways has kept us sane and we have an excellent support system personally and professionally that continues to challenge us to be the best we can be and holds us accountable to stick to the brand and goal of creating family content with a lofty goal of changing the world.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Any visit to LA must start on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I used to live near Fountain/La Brea and I still think the heartbeat of the city is in Hollywood. Although Hollywood the idea and Hollywood the place can be a different thing, I still believe the physical attractions of the Hollywood sign, the Chinese Theatre and the stars on the sidewalk are an excellent reminder of what this city has to offer and the dreams that are possible here.
Southern California is synonymous with beach culture so the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade are also a must-see in LA. The pier is iconic SoCal and the adjacent Muscle Beach and Venice must be included.
As we move up the coast, and closer to my home, Malibu is also on my list of recommendations. Albeit a small town with a unique city center, the beach vibe of First Point, Zuma Beach and El Matador are perfect for catching a wave and relaxing away from the hustle.
Olvera Street in downtown is another hidden gem that is worth a visit. It’s the oldest street in the City of LA and a great way to step back in time to experience the roots of our amazing city.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have an excellent support system in my life and career and had the good fortune of a supportive family from the time I broke the news to them that I was moving 3,000 miles away to pursue a seemingly insane goal. My parents, who have since passed, were very supportive of my decision to move to Hollywood. As a parent I can now understand the trepidation of allowing your only child to move to the other side of the continent. Couple that with the inconsistent nature of the film industry and I have a whole new appreciation for the respect and faith my parents had in my decision.
My wife never desired to be in the entertainment industry. Because she loves me and loves me well, she has not only come alongside my life choices (which obviously affects our entire family) but is now my business partner and the best film producer I know. She is the first to talk me through issues and solutions and how best to work through the nuances of our crazy career. She is the my rock in every situation and there is literally no way I could survive or our company would be successful without her valuable support and expertise.
My close friends are also an instrumental part of my support system. About 8 years ago I made an intentional decision to surround myself with solid male friends, most of whom are in the entertainment industry, and we gather socially every other week to hang out. Simultaneously my wife engaged a group of mom-friends that all meet regularly and we switch off every other week and go out for a night with our respective pals.
My group started as a fire-pit collection of dudes that accidentally spawned into a viral video company called “Dad Dudes”. From our fire-pit conversations that inevitably led to constantly cracking each other up, we eventually wrote a little script and released a viral video in 2014 called “Dads Respond to Disney’s Frozen”. It was a comedic send-up of Dads who are constantly singing Disney songs because they are surrounded by small kids. The went viral in every sense of the word and spawned a TV pilot and my book, “Parenting Rules” among other things. Since that time our group has expanded to more than a dozen solid friends who has my back in every situation and vice versa. We are there for each other in life, business, sickness and health. Doing life with people you know, like and trust is genuinely one of the greatest bonuses in life and I credit these people with being a major part of my story.
Other: Damascusroadprods.com (company page)