Q&A: Video editor Shaun Ryan of Crooked Gentlemen

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2019/02/16/qa-video-editor-shaun-ryan-of-crooked-gentlemen/

This Sunday, OTT presents Homecoming 2 from the National Basketball Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

One of the featured matches on the card is a grudge match between Jordan Devlin and David Starr. The feud received added attention over the past two weeks with the release of a promotional video outlining their history and what is at stake in Sunday’s match.

The man behind the video is editor Shaun Ryan from the Crooked Gentleman production outlet. Shaun was kind enough to chat with us about his background, the production of the video, his influences and reaction to the widely-praised video.

First Shaun, can you tell us a bit about your production background and what brought you to Crooked Gentlemen and working with OTT?

Thanks so much for having me, John! It’s an honour to be asked to do this Q&A. I suppose my love of wrestling & the start of my production background is very much linked. Growing up all I ever wanted to be was a wrestler.

I was 15 when the first wrestling school in Ireland opened by Paul Tracey & Fergal Devitt, I trained with them for one year before my knees fell apart dislocating constantly, even when I wasn’t wrestling, they’d pop out. Being so young with injuries I really didn’t think it was possible to continue as a viable career choice. Thankfully my parents had gotten me a camera to film my matches, so I began focusing more on filming & editing. I still did backyard wrestling so I would spend hours upon hours teaching myself how to edit by cutting together packages & really fell in love with editing.

I fell out of film making for a few years after college but then the DSLR boom happened and it was so accessible to make cinematic content for next to no cost. I wrote & directed a no-budget feature film called ‘Limp’. From there, I got the chance to direct a few music videos for a friend’s band ‘The Funeral Suits’. They really took off and the videos went viral so after that, I was pretty much set for making music videos within the industry & it’s really what I’ve specialized in over the years.

I had met Jeff Doyle coming to work on his first feature film ‘Jack & Ralph Plan A Murder’ and we quickly became the best of friends. We enjoyed working with each other so much we decided to start a company together and so that’s where ‘Crooked Gentlemen’ came from. We’ve been working around the clock supporting each other through the bad times and celebrating the good times together ever since.

Running the company and making other people’s deadlines it’s easy to lose sight of making time for your own passion projects. We had gotten some new gear and I saw OTT had ‘Scrappermania IV’ coming up. I contacted OTT owner Joe Cabray and I asked him if I could come film at the show, I offered to put together a highlight package of the night for free.

For me shooting and editing that first OTT show connected with me on a deeper level that reminded me why I first enjoyed film making. I felt euphoric running around the building trying to get shots. Wrestling is something that’s always been so incredibly special to me, I love it. It broke my heart not being able to do it anymore. To have found a place in the industry after so long just means the world to me. Making these videos is the happiest I’ve felt in my film career.

Take us through the beginning stages of a project like this, who do you collaborate with and where do the ideas begin as you set out to produce a feature at this magnitude?

After the show that the turn happened at in November, I was so excited to get working on the package I pretty much made an entire package from what I’d shot. I will usually make a narrative skeleton set out on a music bed with the content we do have and a guide for myself for what I’d like to put in the blank spaces. I had sent the guys the cut of what I had done, and they were really impressed with what I had gotten together with the content I did have so they made the time to let me shoot more content for it.

I had really wanted to get the rain footage for it, even in my initial plan I kept thinking of that Blade Runner line “Lost like tears in rain” but also in the larger context of the story for using that thunder and lightning footage was a reference to the song that Starr & Devlin came out to at ‘A Haven for Monsters’, for that first Walter loss, it was Pat Benatar’s ‘We Belong’ which has the line “We belong to the night, we belong to the thunder.”

In terms of collaboration with the edits, I’m very much left up to my own devices. Joe has been incredible to work with at giving me space and time to be creative. He has trusted my vision with packages and allowed me the freedom to create. The finished product that goes out has 99% of the time been the version I’ve sent on as my first full cut. The initial plan I had for the package went out the window when we got into those interviews the content, we got shaped the video and I scrapped the original piece.

Can you give us a sense of the time involved before the finished product is produced?

I think we shot the interviews on 21st of January and I delivered the finished video on the 7th of February. It’s difficult to say how much time was purely spent on it because I was juggling a couple of projects at the same time but whenever I could I was doing bits and pieces on it late into the nights.

As an editor, are there influences that you have drawn from for inspiration and styles you have seen that transition well with your form of storytelling?

I feel my natural instincts for editing the packages are derived from the things I’ve enjoyed in wrestling packages as a fan. Psychologically, I think I like using VHS effects or those old TV screens, those tropes remind me of my childhood watching wrestling. I’m not sure if that resonates with anybody else but for me it makes it feel more special.

For editing, I think working with music videos over the years has helped teach me to condense narrative, polished my skills editing to music and has helped me get better at visually expressing emotion without the luxury of words.

You received great praise for your work producing the promotional video for the rematch between Walter and Jordan Devlin. How did you arrive at the comparison of Devlin’s story to Frank Bruno and Mike Tyson?

I can’t take any credit for that comparison, but I was fucking delighted when I heard it. It was Aonghus Óg McAnally who had said that in the sit-down interview with Jordan and I just pounced on it in the edit.

I thought it was a really clever idea from Aonghus to create similarities between Tyson & Walter as it instantly gives Walter more credibility to a casual fan who might not know him but knows a household name like Tyson is a bad, bad motherfucker.

I think anything like that where you can create more spectacle makes things feel more special like the Ospreay/Walter package. I had heard Ospreay say on Aonghus’s podcast about wanting to walk the title out at the Tokyo Dome. So, I really wanted him to say that in his interview so I could use Tokyo Dome footage. It just makes the stakes higher and creates more spectacle, I think.

Were you present for the interviews that were conducted with Devlin and Starr? I’m curious if you go into the interviewing process aware of the direction you want to go or leave it open-ended to allow their answers to assist with the storytelling?

Yeah, I directed the shoot and was manning one of the cameras. I had a three-person crew including myself & Joe was there helping us out as well. I think the main thing I said to the guys was that I wanted to experience the emotions of the journey.

Rather than starting off heated at each other, I wanted them to speak fondly about getting to know each other. From there we took the descent bit-by-bit (getting to know each other, coming to OTT, Walter coming ETC.)

I thought the performances they were giving were fantastic and I could hear the soundbites I wanted to use as they spoke. I really didn’t have to prompt them or give input on a lot of what they were doing or saying maybe just helping rephrase something or if a line came to mind.

Some have compared this video to the famous WrestleMania X-7 video with “My Way” by Limp Bizkit for The Rock and Steve Austin. Are there certain promotional videos that come to mind within the wrestling genre that has had a lasting impact on you?

I just remember as a kid always loving the videos they play before matches even before I knew what they were called. I loved those Todd Pettengill narrated packages like Goldust vs Razor Ramon that I can still hear in my head from Royal Rumble 1996.

I remember HBK vs Bret Hart at WrestleMania 12 with the fucking upside-down press ups, losing my mind wondering how he could possibly do that and trying to copy it and failing miserably.

More modern stuff, of course, would be all the Dave Sahadi stuff. I suppose he’s like the pioneer for cinematic wrestling promo packages I love the visuals and editing in all his stuff I’ve seen, and I think he did a lot to enhance TNA’s credibility and perception when he worked for them.

Are there people around you that you trusted to give the finished product a fresh set of eyes and that provide you with constructive criticism along the way?

Usually, I’ll send clips to Joe as I work to show him where I’m thinking of going with something or I’ll send to Jeff who I work with cuts of what I’m doing along the way. But I don’t really get criticism or that sort of thing, it’s always been more encouragement than anything. That’s something I really enjoy about working for OTT that I am allowed the freedom to create. I have a lot of jobs that might get micromanaged by a client so that all your heart is taken out of them till you’re just a puppet for them.

I’m given the opportunity to express myself with these videos that I rarely get the chance to elsewhere. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Was there a specific comment or message you have received over the past week that stood out above the rest?

The response was crazy but I suppose the thing that stood out most was my older brother Colin telling me that “It’s amazing that all these people are saying how great you are but I know how hard you have had to work to become who you are and I’m very proud of you”. That really meant the world to me to have all the sacrifice & graft I’ve put into my work be acknowledged by someone that has watched over me my whole life.
How about feedback from colleagues or viewers online that have stuck with you since the release?

I don’t know. It all really blends into one crazy endorphin filled whirlwind really. I’ve just seen so many people I respect react so positively to it that I was blown away. I was watching the Vice documentary on CZW the same week and then after the video went out, I had DJ Hyde pop up in my messages telling me how much he enjoyed it, that was very surreal.