An Interview With Screenwriter Ryan Peyton

J.R. Waller, MBA

Introduction

I find the creative process fascinating. It’s one of the things I’ve always relished about being an author.

World building, living vicariously through imaginary characters, communicating with audiences…I love it all!

Moreover, I’ve always believed that art is collaborative, and that there is inherent value in sharing artistic ideas with fellow artists.

I’m always intrigued to learn what drives other Christian artists to create and what we can teach each other.

I hold these sentiments for two reasons. First, the sharing of creative insights strengthens artistic endeavor.

Second, it helps artists build essential support networks.

As such, I never pass up the chance for a good interview, especially with an artist who works in media more unfamiliar to me.” I’ve always believed that art is collaborative, and that there is inherent value in sharing artistic ideas with fellow artists.”

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing director, playwright, Christian screenwriter, and videographer Ryan Peyton to learn about his upcoming screenplay The Hard Road, and his plans to open his own production company.

And what a fun time it was!

Normally, I interview in a quiet, subdued setting, but Ryan and I decided to forgo the structured for the organic in the form of a local nondescript diner outside Orlando, Florida.

So, there we sat, waitresses shouting, plates clanging and “orders up” echoing from the kitchen like clockwork.

While it might not be the first location that comes to mind for an interview, for us it was the perfect atmosphere for a relaxed and insightful meeting.

After a few minutes of jawing our orders arrived (gyro and Phillie cheese-steak anyone?) and I began to take copious notes on my laptop as the questions commenced.

Now, before we jump into the meat and potatoes of the affair, a little about Ryan…

About Ryan

Known for his creative spirit, Ryan spent nearly two decades as a professional magician with his ministry Thin Air Magic before branching out into screenwriting and production.

Ryan is at once an avid outdoors-man and ministry professional. He serves as the Junior Church pastor at Starlight Baptist Church in Winter Springs, Florida and has done numerous dramatic productions for churches throughout his career.

Be sure to follow his Facebook group Beginner Filmmaking and stay tuned for our upcoming release of The Hard Road.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for future Bible lessons on The Grater Heritage from Ryan.

The Interview

Note: Comments below in bold are questions by J.R. and comments in italics are Ryan’s responses.

For those unfamiliar, who is Ryan Peyton?

Oh…that’s hard!

I told you I pull no punches (laughs).

I’m the shy quiet type until you get to know me, but I’m still outgoing and spontaneous. I’d also say I have compassion for people.“I would define [art] based on how one uses it. I use it to explain my life to others, particularly my testimony, to me art for the Christian is a vehicle for that.”

You used to be a magician? What kind of magic did you perform?

All kinds. Stage, and close up. I’d make things disappear, and reappear. Probably my most famous trick was what I called the “dollar and orange trick” in which I’d make a dollar vanish and it would then appear inside an orange. People loved it!

What was being a magician like? I mean, that’s not a common profession.

It was interesting, and a lot of fun. It was all geared toward telling the Gospel. I would incorporate evangelism throughout. It was really a sermon the entire way through, and the tricks were illustrations.

It was also interesting because I always felt like being on stage was something I had to overcome. It helped me overcome my fear of speaking.

I really enjoyed interacting with the crowd and seeing people’s reactions and their faces.

That’s awesome! Speaking of the Gospel, how did God reach you?

At a camp service, I was 22 years old. I was raised in a Christian home, in fact my grandfather was a pastor for 50 years. Under his ministry I professed Christ as a young kid but later in life had some doubts until I went to camp. Basically, I thought I was saved but I was convicted at camp because I had never really had a change in my life up to that point.“…even though I start and quit I always come back to what I’m working on. The devil tries to stop you because art is a powerful tool in the hands of a Christian, you have to stick with it and press on.”

How do you define art as a Christian?

I would define it based on how one uses it. I use it to explain my life to others, particularly my testimony, to me art for the Christian is a vehicle for that.

Where does your creativity come from?

From my mind first and foremost. I also get inspiration from watching videos, shows and other people’s work. I never try to copy people but studying them challenges me to think about how I can improve and change things.

John Hughes and Stanley Kubrick films have been hugely influential on me. Morgan Freeman as well, and how he brings characters to life. I’m also inspired by everyday items and situations, I see them and I’m like “Hey, that can make a good story.” Basically I’m in a constant state of thinking about things (laughs).

How did you get into storytelling?

When I was 16 years old, I wrote half a book.

Half (laughs)?

Yep, then I went back to finish it. I left it then realized how much I enjoyed the writing process and seeing characters come to life, so I finished it. Also, envisioning how they come to life on screen, I love that. Ultimately, I enjoy the entire process really.

Do feel you like you live the lives of your characters? I know I do!

Yep, especially when it comes to me thinking about how they would react to things. I envision them as real.“Success is not being wealthy, its doing what you like and being happy with it.”

To date, what story are you most proud of?

The one I’m working on right now. I don’t have a working title yet, but it’s about a government that’s taken over Christianity. In it you can’t meet, you’ll get arrested. It’s about a group striving to find life and still serve God in society. They’re a remnant, it’s about why they are still here and what they’re going to do about it.

We’re publishing The Hard Road soon, tell me more about it.

It’s about a reporter who meets a man and decides to write a story about his life and how through the book the reporter is able to reach his family for Christ.

You have your hands in a lot of different genres of art, which medium do you enjoy the most?

Directing.

Why?

I get to tell a story from my point of view. Whereas actors just act based on what the director tells them, as a director I get to play out my stories. A director gets to tell a story in the way he wants it told, I like that.

What is one thing you want people take away from your art?

My passion and the time I spend on it, and that there is a meaning behind it.

What are some of your long-term goals?

I want and plan to open a production company. I’d also like to be the actual director of a full-scale movie and see that come to fruition. Also, I’d like to write several new scripts as plays or films. “Don’t give up on your dreams.”

What drives you?

Family and being able to witness from a different perspective and in a unique way. People being able to watch my films and “get it” when it comes to the Gospel.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to be artists?

Don’t give up on your dreams. For me, even though I start and quit I always come back to what I’m working on. The devil tries to stop you because art is a powerful tool in the hands of a Christian, you have to stick with it and press on. Being consistent is critical. Also, success is not being wealthy, its doing what you like and being happy with it.

Any advice for churches that are considering incorporating drama into their ministries?

It’s always a fantastic idea, and I always highly recommend it. It brings the Bible to life in a unique way where people can visualize it, instead of just reading about it. Using good actors, not just church members, having a film crew and just putting in the time and doing it right and correctly are key.

Ryan, what’s the future hold? You know I’m gonna ask that! (laughs)

More writing and a production company!

Be sure to be on the lookout for The Hard Road and subscribe to Ryan on YouTube and follow him on Beginner Filmmaking.

PS – My cheese-steak was delicious!

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