“Greyscale” and beyond
Ryan Dunlap, a director/writer/actor and former Tulsan, talks about professional filmmaking in Tulsa.
You might already know about the movie “Greyscale,” which was filmed primarily in and around Tulsa from September 2008 to April 2009.
The feature-length film exhibits more than 30 Tulsa-area locations, with more than 100 cast and crew.
Seasoned Hollywood actors such as Doug Jones (“Hellboy” and “Pan’s Labyrinth”), Tim Russ (“Star Trek: Voyager”) and Anthony Tyler Quinn (“Boy Meets World”) appear among the leading roles, along with many Tulsa-based actors.
And the man behind it all — the director, writer, producer and star of “Greyscale” — is Ryan Dunlap. Born and raised in these parts, he studied film at The University of Tulsa and began making this movie two years after graduating.
When I asked him recently about shooting “Greyscale” locally, Dunlap said, “It was literally a lifetime of favors being called in to use all those places. And I had great support from TU when it came to using their resources for a few scenes.”
Dunlap and I chatted briefly via e-mail a couple of months ago, just after I’d had a chance to see “Greyscale.”
It’s a tidy, stylized, quick-moving film — a modern-day film-noir drama about an ex-private-eye-turned-colorblind-visual-artist and his allegedly deceased wife.
Clearly, Dunlap has done his homework; “Greyscale” succeeds as a shadows-and-trench-coats homage as well as a tough, intricately plotted detective story.
It’s neo-noir, as they say, with pretty solid footing. Also — and this may be the film’s greatest strength — “Greyscale” is an engaging movie from a strictly visual standpoint.
It’s presented primarily in black and white — with a top-to-bottom emphasis on darkness — but there are also some important splashes of color throughout. The vividness, or simply the high contrast, that Dunlap achieves with this palette can be remarkable and telling and fresh.
And crucial to the film’s story.
The title came to him before the story, says Dunlap, who has loved noir films since his university days.
“When I set out to make a feature film, I didn’t know what sort of resources I was going to have,” he says. “I had an education in most everything film-related, except lighting, so I decided that (even if I had) to make the film a one-man show, going the black-and-white route would cover up my inexperience with lighting.”
He ended up with a great crew and director of photography, “but the black-and-white idea stuck, and the crew really excelled at achieving the classic style of film noir.”
Delving into what would motivate the use of black and white, he landed on achromatopsia — complete color blindness. And so a major theme took hold, even before he scripted the first draft.
“Greyscale” remains in post-production but was screened in Tulsa last summer at a private event for the film’s cast, crew and their families.
And the film has opened doors. Because of “Greyscale,” Dunlap is now a full-time, salaried director in Nashville, Tenn., where he is creating a feature-length documentary for BrightBulb Entertainment.
“Leaving Tulsa was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” he says. “ … I couldn’t have made ‘Greyscale’ anywhere else but Tulsa because getting the film made, as I said before, required a lifetime of relationships and accumulated favors.
“But the tough reality is that there isn’t an infrastructure for a Tulsa-based film industry currently, and unless you have the money and relationships to keep making films, you’re not going to find steady work.”
When will we get to see “Greyscale”? And how?
“We’re still tweaking the last bits of the film before going to distributors to see what outlets we will have for it,” Dunlap says. “Once we get a distribution offer, we’ll know whether ‘Greyscale’ will get a limited theatrical run, will go straight to DVD or will be available on VOD (Video on Demand).”
Meanwhile, interested parties can learn much more at www.greyscalemovie.com.
Scott Gregory hosts “All This Jazz” on Public Radio 89.5 KWGS, where he’s also the producer and editor of “StudioTulsa.”