Act of Memory, by Jack Ryder

Act of Memory’ is a 12 minute short film written and directed by Jack Ryder and produced by David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers and Laura Crampsie. Based upon the homonymous award winning short story by American author Mary Grace Dembeck, Ryder transported the story (originally set in Brooklyn) to London’s Southwark in 1948.

“..for as long as I could remember, the tree had always been at the centre of our celebrations”, from the very first second of the film we are taken into an emotional journey with the family Christmas tree as the epicentre of Ryder’s tale. The film narrates a woman’s childhood memory of her beloved father, who introduced the family tradition of decorating the Christmas tree always starting with an angel that he bought the year Maria was born. Ryder’s immense emphasis on the omnipresent element of an expressive ‘eye language’ introduces us, through his protagonist’s flashbacks, to a personal/family drama of losing a parent at a young age and the battle for acceptance and reconciliation in the years to come.

Accompanied by the mesmerising music of Jack Hues and the outstanding cinematography of Pawel Biel, Ryder’s film has an impressive cast; Claire Skinner (winner of the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award and the Time Out Best Actress Award) as the mother, Owen Teale (Tony Award winner) as the father and Anna Massey (a BAFTA and Laurence Olivier Award winner) in her very last screen appearance as the older Maria. Ryder’s ‘Act of Memory’ is an insightful piece of work, which travelled around the world in early 2012 and I would personally treat as a resilient teaser for a forthcoming film making career.

Jack Ryder talked to REVma -/+ about his film:

REVma -/+: ‘Act of Memory’ is based on the homonymous short story by Mary Grace Dembeck, set at Christmas. What made you choose a Christmas story for your very first movie as a director?
J.R.: When I was flicking through endless channels during the Christmas period about two years ago, I was so surpised that there were so many bad Christmas films now. My memory went back to an animated, silent film I watched every Christmas when I was a boy called ‘The Snowman’. Another favourite of mine growing up was “It’s a wonderful life” and I wanted to make something with that classical theme in mind. I started looking at short stories and my brother recommended a wonderful book called ‘True tales of American life’ by Paul Auster. When I came across Mary’s story the idea instantly fell into place and I knew there and then that this was the story I wanted to tell.

REVma -/+: You have pursued a successful career as an actor in British theatre and television. Is film making a dream coming true or a personal goal for you?
J.R.: I feel very lucky to have been in this industry for 14 years now. I started acting when I was sixteen and I’ve had many ups and downs but you learn to deal with that through time and with experience, it’s the nature of our business. Any one who has a career in this industry is fortunate. Film making in many ways is definitely a dream coming true. I work predominantly in theatre and that I feel is essential for young directors because you get very close to actors in that environment. Film is a different beast completely but for me my goal is still the same in wanting to get the best performance out of the actors. I feel very fortunate to have been able to make a film, it’s rare to get these things off the ground and it was such an amazing experience to have completed the whole journey and to see it on the big screen.

REVma -/+: Your film has travelled around the world in 2012, from Cannes to Newport Beach Film Festival and Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival. What feedback have you received so far and does this have an impact on your future plans as a film director?
J.R.: The feedback has been wonderful. It’s always a bit nerver racking hearing people’s thoughts on something you’ve made but so far it’s been very positive and we are very grateful for being selected for such prestigious festivals around the world. I never intended that to be the case. I just knew the film I wanted to make and was lucky enough to be able to make it. It does have an impact in terms of the opportunities the festivals can bring to you. You get to meet other film makers and can potentially pitch your next project to producers. My future plan is to make a feature. I have recently obtained the rights to a psychological thriller called ‘Ghost Girl’ by Torey Hayden and I plan to make that next year.