RYAN J BROWN.
We sit down with the LGBTQ filmmaker and BAFTA winner to discuss his critically acclaimed work.
“I remember buying the Harry Enfield and Chums script when I was 10 and reading it religiously - which looking back was crazy inappropriate!” Ryan J Brown laughs. This is how the 26-year-old writer first discovered his love of screenwriting. Growing up in Scunthorpe, he’s always been a self-confessed TV and film buff, making “shit home movies with literally anyone I could force to be in them”, but never really thought about making a living from screenwriting until last year, when he won the BAFTA New Writing prize and was a finalist of the ‘Write to Greenlight’ Green Door and Lionsgate UK TV Competition.
“The BAFTA comp was life changing, it has opened up so many doors and continues to do so,” he gushes. “The Green Door one was run by Idris Elba who is a machine, he’s so busy but makes time for nurturing new talent which is rare. I’m thankful these initiatives exist as I don’t think many young writers would break through.”
Winning with his LGBTQ crime drama We Are Your Children, the thriller follows the story of San Francisco’s “Doodler” serial killer and has been described as “a kind of True Detective meets Paris is Burning”, a description Brown says he’ll “happily take”. “We Are Your Children is a thriller inspired by true events,” he tells me. “It’s about a female detective, a gay activist and a Drag Queen uniting to stop a serial killer in 1970’s San Francisco. It gives an insight into the LGBTQ community’s involvement in some of the worst unsolved serial murders committed. A killer in the mid 70’s in San Francisco seduced and killed at least 14 gay men (and probably a lot more) and got away with it. The prejudiced police and press weren’t interested, it was barely reported. The guy was eventually caught but the survivors were scared of being outed and refused to testify, so he was let go and he remains free! The whole story is so tragic and even more so that nobody has heard of it. I was incensed and felt like I had to do something. It explores the relationship between fear and desire, tolerance and acceptance. It’s a really strangerthan-fiction tale but it’s also so relevant.”
With the main characters all members of the LGBTQ community, I ask Brown what draws him towards writing about these characters. “They say write what you know!” He replies. “The characters I find most interesting are those living in the margins of society, as someone from within those margins I enjoy giving a voice to a section of society that rarely gets one. The characters I wish I’d seen more of when I was a kid. There’s loads of work still to be done in making British TV diverse. I’m experimenting and still working out what works, whether it’s a 40+, crime fighting, ferociously unapologetic drag queen or a young guy suffering from depressions whose sexuality is the 5th most important thing about him.”
Now working on a new “sadcom” called I’m Still Here - a Robin Williams inspired show following a young, working class, gay man called Joe and his experience with depression - Brown is further establishing himself as an exciting new writer and voice for the LGBTQ community. I ask him what his next big project is, but Brown can’t give much away. “I hate people posting those overly vague, attention seeking ‘Watch this space. Big things happening, hun’ posts on social media. But now I’m starting to get their ambiguity as I have a few really cool commissions I’m working on that I’m unable to say anything about. I recently finished working on a new BBC3 comedy and I’ve got a horror pilot (something I’d really like to crack on British TV) that’s been making waves, it’s a finalist in another drama competition next week, so fingers crossed.” He pauses. “I’m also currently trying to raise my puppy sausage dog to be more humble…”