Today we bring you an interview with actor, writer, and filmmaker Bryan Larkin of Dead End. Last year at Fighting Spirit Film Festival, he won Best Actor for his film Dead End. Bryan has an impressive portfolio, having worked with Donnie Yen and Andy Lau on Chasing the Dragon. His other works include London Has Fallen and Outlander, so stay tuned to get to know him.
What was your favourite part of growing up in Scotland?
We always had magical winters. Amazing snowball fights. That and the 'banter'. The Scots are less reserved on calling out BS. It's a great grounding for life.
I know that you were a bodybuilding champion when you were younger, could you tell us how you got started as a bodybuilder?
Like many kids growing up I got bullied a lot. I was a bit of a loner. So I veered towards non team sports, like athletics and lifting weights to build myself up so they leave me alone. It worked.
Has your history of bodybuilding helped out with stunts in films?
Yes. The fitter, stronger and more agile your body is it helps enormously. I left the sport in my early twenties after I got ill from salmonella poisoning and dropped 60 pounds of body weight, but my days studying karate as a kid gave me the appreciation and discipline for movement and this has also helped with stunt work.
What was your highlight of your career as a bodybuilder?
I won the junior East and Mr Caledonia titles and came runner up in the Junior Mr Scotland. I was training for the Junior Mr Britain title when I got ill. It was a wonderful but short-lived period of my life.
Describe yourself in three films?
Running in Traffic - vulnerable.
Outpost 3 - savage.
Chasing The Dragon - detestable.
What interested you in filmmaking?
I was passionate about developing myself as a screen actor and although my training was mostly in theatre, I started making films to teach myself the discipline of acting for the camera. From there it developed into another passion for telling stories.
What’s the best part of being a filmmaker?
There's many I could mention. I think for me one of the them has to be when you are looking through a camera lens and you just know what's happening on the set resonates with you. There's substance there. A truth. That there's a chance an audience will be entertained. It's also equally rewarding to see people you work with lock onto the process of creating. You can see their passion. That's infectious.
Where is your favourite place you’ve travelled to for work?
I've had wonderful experiences in LA, Hong Kong, and Canada among others. Hong Kong has so many recent memories for me. Discovering the Hong Kong film industry was phenomenal. The challenge for me was what approach I should take to fit in. I wanted to join the flow. The Hong Kong approach is very raw. You could get left behind if you don't prepare. The talent work fast, they work hard, and they expect the same from you.
What are your favourite kind of stories to write?
I just love the moment when a great idea hits me and that you truly believe in your idea. I love character driven thrillers. I love drama and action. Creating flawed, vulnerable, tough, and troubled characters are my favourite.
What is the best part of writing?
The most satisfying moment for me is figuring out who the characters are, and want they want and why. What are their fundamental needs? What makes them tick and how they talk. I work visually and I need a strong motivation to write.
What is the most challenging part of writing?
Figuring out what is at the heart of a scene. Where the conflict lies? If there's no conflict of some kind then there’s no point in the scene. That's tough, but when you find it, the dialogue comes naturally.
Do you have any advice when writing?
Meditate. It's the most effective method for stirring your creative energy. Secondly, only write what you want the reader to see and NOT what you want then to feel. Write what happens. Describe the action in short gripping sentences in no more than three lines then move on. Don't correct your spelling and grammar while you type. Just get that idea, scene or sequence out of your head and get it on the page. Writing is 'rewriting' . When have churned out half a dozen pages or you can write anymore then go back over it and refine it. Shorten it. Polish it, make it more gripping to read. Then take a break, put the kettle on, sit back, meditate again and every so often, take some pride in your work. It's a process. It take weeks, months and even years to write something worth while.
I also like to start with a few index cards. Just a few with the central characters. Who are they. What do they want? Why? What do they need? Why. Otherwise you have nothing to start from
How did you come up with the idea for Dead End?
I was in Hong Kong and became captivated with landscape. My imagination ran wild with thoughts of what would happen on such a broad and diverse landscape.
What was the writing process like?
I'd write a few key scenes, improve with Julian my co-actor, and then go back and refine the script. It was a very organic process. I also knew that I'd be travelling more later so kept it open to develop the characters journey to different places. I'd then write what came naturally to the story. It was a very enjoyable way to make a film. Very different to what I had done previously.
Would you ever want to do a feature length film for Dead End?
I'm giving it some serious thought. For now I have several other projects going on and I'm keen to see where it could go.
How did you prepare for your role on Dead End?
There was very little preparation as I was shooting Chasing The Dragon at the same time. When we wrapped with Donnie Yen we'd race out to shoot Dead End and vice versa. It was madness but we all got a kick out of it.