LINCOLN — As a child, Ryan Olsen knew he was interested in films.
“I was really fond of George Lucas in ‘Star Wars,’ Tim Burton in ‘Beetlejuice,’ and the old-man-in-a-suit ‘Godzilla’ films by Toho Limited Studios,” Olsen said. “My friend and I, Michael Andersen, set out to make actual claymations when we were kids. We had Godzilla attacking paper buildings that we made. It has evolved into a sense of film and understanding. I just stuck with it.”
Olsen is making his filmmaking dreams a reality by directing his first short film, “Say Goodbye Grace: A Detective Story.”
After graduating from Kearney High School in 2003, Olsen went on to major in film studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He said he was often asked why he didn’t pursue a major in filmmaking instead of film studies. Olsen said he didn’t want to just know how to make a film. He wanted to learn how to make a good film.
“We studied what exactly made a film good,” Olsen said. “I don’t think they teach you that exactly in filmmaking. I think they teach you how to make a film, but they don’t teach you why films are good. What I learned in film studies is that you have to set up the camera perfectly. You have to have your vision, the storyboard, characters, actors, background and the mise-en-scene. You are waiting for that one spark that makes the shot worthwhile.”
Since graduating from UNL in 2008, Olsen has worked on a number of projects, including a public service announcement for the state on the dangers of texting and driving and commercials for Lincoln-area businesses.
Olsen formed his own production company, POW! Productions LLC in 2011.
His directing debut follows Grace Crawford, a detective who returns to her office one evening to find an old friend dying at her desk. His final request is for Grace to finish a case he regrets ever starting.
According to the short film’s official synopsis: “What follows is a brutal story of deceit, loss and retribution. In the end, Grace has to decide what’s more important: her life or the investigation.”
“It is very much a dark story,” Olsen said. “It is a very dark film. It is what is called a neon noir. The film ‘Drive’ is considered a neon noir. It is going to be very dark with a lot of black and dark colors contrasted with a lot of bright neon lights.”
Olsen is a co-writer for “Say Goodbye Grace.” The original story, “Crawford: Private Eye” was written by Daniel Grzeskowiak. After reading the story, Olsen asked Grzeskowiak if he could turn it into a short film. Olsen made a few changes to the story, including renaming it to “Say Goodbye Grace.”
“Since it is a short film, we don’t have time to really get into a lot of characters, so the best way to stop from emotionally getting attached is killing off some characters immediately,” he said. “That also progresses the story rather rapidly. It creates a sense of urgency in the film. That is really what I think the original screenplay was lacking was urgency and excitement. I killed off a few characters to initiate a sense of excitement.”
“Say Goodbye Grace” takes place over the course of two nights with the majority of the story occurring in one night. In order to make the film seem more realistic, Olsen will be shooting the film from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. Aug. 12-15.
“I do not want to fake nighttime shooting. Usually you have that light blue tint and cannot fake night shoots whatsoever,” he said. “You always have to beat the clock. If you are out in the middle of nowhere shooting a film in a sealed container and cannot block off sunlight, you have to make sure that you adhere to that schedule as best as possible. When the schedule runs up here, it kind of ruins the film. We do not want the last shot to be dawn when the rest of the shots are night.”
In addition to being shot entirely at night, “Say Goodbye Grace” will be filmed in Lincoln and Omaha and use Nebraska talent. Lindsey Oelling and Ben Gothier star as the film’s leads. Michael Lang of Omaha is the cinematographer, and Wetworks SFX Studios of Omaha is creating the special effects.
“Lincoln and Omaha has a very unique look, and there are a lot of passionate, artistic people here in Nebraska,” Olsen said. “I think they are all hungry for experience. I want to just give local people that opportunity to work beside me on something that I was passionate about.”
In order to raise the funds for the short film’s $20,000 budget, POW! Productions launched a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter. Olsen said he asked for $9,000 to supplement funds received from individual investors. Kickstarter saw “Say Goodbye Grace” and awarded POW! Productions with a “Projects We Love” endorsement. The campaign garnered extra attention from the endorsement and brought in $9,180 in 30 days.
“I am just somebody who wants to make film and make a story,” Olsen said. “If somebody wants to show it, I would be honored, but I am not sure I would be at the point where I would ask them to please show it. I think it needs to stand on its own. I think the film needs to say something. This is what I aim for it to do. I want people to show it, and theaters to be excited to show it.”