19th Mar2018

Interview: John Ryan Howard on ‘Beyond the Woods’

by Philip Rogers

With Beyond the Woods on DVD and VOD in both the UK and America, I got a chance to ask actor John Ryan Howard a few questions about how he got into acting, working with director Sean Breathnach and what we can expect from the film.

John-Ryan

How did you first get into acting?

Well the first acting I ever did was acting in homemade horror movies with a friend whose father owned a camera shop –  O’ Learys Camera World! I watched my first ever horror film – House 2: The Second Story (1987) – with that friend (Shane) and we used to regularly rent horror movies from the video store with notes from my mother. Then making our own films was the logical progression I guess! I got my own video camera at about 14 and continued making homemade horror films. They were terrible of course. Lol I actually watched one of them a few months back and watching myself act was beyond cringe! I couldn’t speak properly for one. I should probably burn that tape in case it ever gets out. My first proper introduction to acting was a part time evening course with the Gaiety School of Acting in Cork with a tutor by the name of Marcus Bale. I had huge fun at it and that course made me want to do acting as a career even more. It was also a real confidence boost that I probably needed at the time. I was 17 I think when I started taking proper classes. I went from part time courses to acting in student films to full-time training at Kinsale Further Education College which was fantastic tuition. Two amazing acting teachers – Belinda & Ian Wild – who I give massive credit to for everything I’ve learned about acting.

You play Ger in the new horror Beyond the Woods, what attracted you to the role?

What attracted me to the role? Sean Breathnach at the helm. I had seen a lot of Sean’s work previously and had met him at film festivals where we got chatting a lot and we seemed to have a very strong connection almost immediately. We seemed to love a lot of the same horror films and we wanted to work on the same type of horror films. I had worked briefly with Sean Breathnach on a short film and a music video prior to Beyond The Woods. When he offered me the role I stopped short of kissing his feet! Lol.

What preparation did you do for the role?

I played around with the script a lot in my kitchen, delivering my lines in as many different ways as I could think of until they sounded their most natural to me. The character was easy enough to relate to for me. I just thought of all the social situations I have been in in my life where I didn’t really want to be there but felt obligated on behalf of someone else. A break up then is also easy to relate to. All of that was the genesis of my starting point. With screen acting especially I think this quote by Gabriel Byrne sums it up best – “The camera photographs thought.”

For those who may be interested in watching Beyond the Woods, what can they expect from the film?

A very entertaining supernatural, character driven, psychological horror film that is heavy on atmosphere and tension. They can also expect some nice, classical horror homages from a director who really knows his horror films.

One of the strongest elements in the film was the natural chemistry of the cast. Did you work together previously or did you all develop a natural bond during the filming?

Half and half. I had only worked with Irene Kelleher on a music video directed by Sean Breathnach. I had done a film acting workshop years ago with Ruth Hayes and I knew Claire Loy to see around because of the Cork acting scene. I had never met or known Ross MacMahon, Mark Lawrence or Sean McGillicuddy before the movie. It only took a few minutes before I was getting on with all the cast or crew I didn’t know, everyone was completely sound and easy to work with. A lot of that chemistry was built pretty quickly and organically. More credit to Sean Breathnach for assembling a great team!

Did you face any challenges whilst shooting the film?

I had a bad case of sinusitis whereby I woke up every day during our January shoot with a pounding headache behind my left eye, drained of energy with hay fever symptoms. That coincided with -4 degrees and a freezing cold house to film in which hadn’t been occupied for about seven months at the time we started filming. Feeling perfectly healthy you would be exhausted after the exceptionally long shoot days/nights we were putting down but add in being sick and it was a whole lot harder.

You struggle with your sense of direction in the film, how are you with navigation normally?

As it turns out, not great! Lol The only place in the world I have great navigation in is Prague in the Czech Republic because I have gone there so many times, but I could get lost around Cork City where I live.

What was your favourite moment during filming?

There were many I would say. For some reason the scene just after I’m lost in the woods where I bump into Ross MacMahon’s character Shane where I ask him was he the one who was following me all along etc. We did a lot of takes of that because of fading light and ended up re-shooting a day or two later but I really enjoyed acting that scene. I loved the scene on the stairs with Irene Kelleher as well. I felt that scene was beautifully understated. The whole shoot was a rollercoaster for me though, the scenes involving the creature (Alan Riordan) were a huge buzz that was when you think to yourself yep, this is a horror movie! The type of horror movie I would have loved if I had rented it at age nine with a note from mammy! Lol

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment?

I’m working on a couple of short films – both comedy. I’m hoping a TV pilot I acted in a little while ago gets commissioned for a series, I’ll probably know soon enough. There’s a fantastic director attached to it who I have a deep respect and admiration for.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into acting?

Probably take as much acting classes and workshops as you can. Finding a great full-time acting course, I think is a must. The best of what I am as an actor stemmed from my full-time training with Belinda & Ian Wild. I have learned a lot from film acting workshops which are definitely important in building an actors technical prowess. It’s so hard and important to find great acting teachers there’s plenty of acting teachers out there no actor should ever listen to. Attending networking events like film festivals has proved very productive for me as well. Any chance to play a lead role on stage has proved to be an acting masterclass in itself for me. I think you learn an awful lot about film acting on stage and you learn nothing about stage doing film acting! Theatre can be invaluable in building a film actor. The advice I got years ago from David Suchet was “Be brave.”
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Check out our review of Beyond the Woods here, along with an interview with director Sean Breathnach. The film is available on DVD and VOD now.

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