Ryan Darbonne

is an improv actor, film & stage director, writer, and comedian who has directed a variety of music videos, films, and plays in Austin! We chatted with him about his past work and what we can looking forward to seeing created by him in the future!

What pushed you down this career path?

Ryan Darbonne: I'm a sucker for financial instability and emotional distress...AND I was fortunate enough to have a step-father who introduced me to films I probably shouldn't have watched at a young age (e.g. The Professional, Akira and Natural Born Killers to name a few...). As long as I could remember, I've always wanted to be a writer (shouts outs R.L. Stine and Scholastic Book Fair). When I started getting more into film, I loved the idea of combining not only elements of writing but visual arts and music as well. The more and more I do it, I see film as an ever evolving art form that a person can never truly master and that keeps it exciting for me. 

Also I didn't want to get a "real" job. 

Tell us about A FINE AFFAIR. How did you chose that story?

Ryan performing at "Dre Day"

RD: A FINE AFFAIR, co-written by my friend/creative partner Carina Hinojosa, is about an upperclass Black family in Atlanta waiting for their daughter to show up at a Cotillion. The entire play has two locations: Backstage at a ballroom and in the woods. There have been two iterations of AFA (the first being a different story, with a different cast) but they all deal with death and family dynamics. 

I chose the story because I wanted to tell a story featuring a well-to-do black family going through shit (there's a better way to phrase this). I think cotillons are really interesting tradition, albeit a little dated, and served as a good backdrop for everything. 

How is directing plays different than directing films? How is it similar?

RD: With live theatre, you don't have the luxury of calling cut and adjusting an actors performance once the play is on its feet; that was a hard thing to get used to. However, there's beauty in that. Performances change and you get a truly organic experience every show that you can't get with a film. They're similar in a sense that they're both very collaborative. It's a group of creatives working together to serve a story. 

What role do you play in interpreting the music when directing a music video?

Ryan (right) performing on stage at Sound On Sound festival

Ryan (right) performing on stage at Sound On Sound festival

RD: With music videos, I tend to take a step back and let the band decide what they want to do. On set, I see myself as a interpreter for whatever crazy, and financially infeasible, idea the musicians might have. 

In saying that, my creative freedom with music videos typically comes in the editing room. 

Tell us about what you do at ColdTown and your improv background.

RD: I've been involved with ColdTowne for three years having graduated from their improv program.  I'm in an award winning improv troupe, Sugar Water Purple, that also happens to be one of two all black improv troupes in Austin (SAD!). We have a weekly show every Wednesday night, at 10pm, called Can We Kick It?

What is your sense of humor like and how do you think it affects your work?

RD: I have a dark and absurdist sense of humor. As a result, I tend to have a very pessimistic (read: Negative) view of the world sometimes, which in turn leads me to want to tell darker stories. However, even though I skew towards dark, I do try and take a step back to insert some semblance of positivity in the stories that I write. 

Ryan on the set of "I AM TX"

Ryan on the set of "I AM TX"

What are some things that you are most excited about that you have in the works right now?

RD: Currently, I am in the post-production phase for a short film I wrote/directed and edited (at Motion Media Arts Center!) called I AM TX. It's a narrative about black punk musicians in Austin, and follows a band on their last night tour as the deal with an ignorant cast of characters. It's a project that has been all-consuming for the past year and I'm ready to show the world. However, it won't have any official premieres until 2019 (Sundance, u up?). 


MEMBER MONDAYS is a weekly interview series highlighting current members & alumni of the Austin School of Film + Austin Cinemaker Space community! Each week, we’ll be featuring one of our incredibly eclectic community members and take a deep dive into their work. Gaining an insight into what makes them, them.