We had the good fortune of connecting with Shaun Rylee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shaun, why did you pursue a creative career?
Creativity has always been central in my life. When I was younger, I was a ballerina and a perfectionist. I also took to drawing, making things from different mediums, writing, escaping into books to learn as much as possible about anything and everything, recording fake radio shows in my bedroom and acting in music videos and films I made at home. I was always creating but in the process, I learned to let go of the perfectionism and fall into flowing with the creative sparks and the process of it all. That’s really the exciting part, making something and enjoying everything that goes into it. That’s what fulfills my soul and that’s what pushes me to reach every personal milestone with my art that I can.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
It’s only more recently that I’ve become more aware of how difficult it is being a female filmmaker. I have always trusted my instincts and never taken no for an answer in my career because I know what I am capable of and all that I still want to do. That also makes me embrace my voice even more, knowing the industry needs different voices that have been underrepresented for too long. Writing has always been a strength of mine and I have so many stories to tell, so I started screenwriting. My topics gravitate toward psychology, mental health and other true-to-life real issues like human trafficking. The first two features I wrote are inspired by actual events from my life. Instead of selling works I’m extremely proud of, I wanted to maintain creative control as an independent filmmaker. Of course, that isn’t the easiest route but I’ve always taken the road less-travelled. It’s also an asset to go from acting to screenwriting because having that perspective of telling the story onscreen gives important insight when building the story and all of its elements too. Character development is one of my favorite parts as a result.
When creating, you can have an incredible vision but always expect that something will not go as planned, no matter how hard you’ve fought to get there. People see the finished project but getting there is never easy. We filmed ‘Question Everything,’ a film I wrote, directed and costarred in, on the shores of the Salton Sea during the pandemic with the smallest crew of two, plus my costar and myself. In August in record heat (117F). There was no way to truly prepare for the elements that had been cooperative when our DP had scouted the location just a couple weeks prior. It truly took team effort to get through the long day of desert filming and adjusting the whole production to keep everyone safe. Pretty sure none of us have ever sweat that much in our lives! It was truly like living a desert mirage in real time. Everyone maintained a great attitude throughout and kept the end goal in mind and it really shows in the film.
That is something I want people to know, that even as protective as I am about my art, I know you have to be reasonable and adapt and keep what’s important safe- the people involved. We can still tell a really great story and sometimes, the changes end up enhancing it. I’m confident in my writing but it’s all of the creatives involved when shooting that bring the vision to life and I will always choose people that I know bring their best skills to the table for a common goal. I would work with those three again and again because they believed in and trusted my voice and let a woman lead. I always feel I am capable of doing a lot of things on my own but the reality is, you need others to bring their strengths to the table too and creatively, you all enhance one another. There are so many stories that need to be told and room for everyone to be heard. Art really is a collaboration of voices and perseverance.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Just recently, I got a place in Las Vegas. It’s such an incredible city and I don’t imagine it will ever be a problem encouraging people to visit as things open back up. The Strip, of course, is a must because there is a lot of differing ambiance from one casino resort to the next and free photo ops everywhere you turn. During a week, we’d likely first go straight to the Bellagio conservatory for their seasonal floral display. It’s so beautiful and of course, much can be said about the art that is created with each display. I also like to switch things up and have smaller lunches and dinners where we can try a couple different shareables for the most variety. I love Hell’s Kitchen, Mon Ami Gabi, Hexx, Tom’s Urban… Trying a couple fancy drinks at different places is fun too. The Chandelier Bar at Cosmopolitan feels swanky and an experience you can only have in Vegas. Trying new places for food and drink is really what Vegas is all about. My area west of the Strip also has the best vegan options with Bronze Cafe, Garden Grill and everything between all the way down to NoButcher. I could go on forever- we truly have a Mecca of restaurants here. Also, I would bring someone to the manmade lakes and a park that overlooks the city. You can see the Strip in the distance on clear days. It’s a city for foodies and photo ops! It’s a short plane ride or reasonable drive from LA. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My grandmother, aunt and mother have all been cheerleaders in my journey.
Black&White Vegas photo- taken by Joannabelle Osorio Headshot- by Sean Kara Art install at Salton Sea- Scott Engrotti In car film still- Mikyla Jonck Bed film still- Stefano Milla