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My Film Selected To Tallgrass Film Festival 2014

30 Sep

I am happy to announce my short film, “From Wichita With Love,” has been selected to screen at the 2014 Tallgrass Film Festival.  The screening will be the film’s world premiere and I invite anyone in the Wichita area to come to the Noon screening on October 19th to see what all the hubbub was back in June when we competed in the “Down To The Wire 24 Hour Film Race.”  My fearless team and I tackled a daunting task, competing in a 24 hour film race using film (not video) as our medium.  The film received “Honorable Mention” in the race’s showcase and will screen before a live audience for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks among 5 other films that competed.

From Wichita With Love Poster

20140621_172339After the festival I will speak more about the film, the process, the race, the festival, and the insanity of shooting on film in a 24 hour film race.  Til then, I have to thank Wade Davis and Kate Van Steenhuyse for producing this with me and pushing me to create something different.  A very special thanks to Chris DeVries who starred in the film alongside Wade Davis, two of my most favorite people who brought me to my knees with laughter and delivered amazing performances in what is my favorite film I’ve made to date.  Thank you to Cindy Hand for helping more than she realizes and going outside her comfort zone to create something artistic.  Thank you to Jim Siebert for calling me out on this idea and giving me the encouragement to try.  Thank you to Jonathan Dennill for staying up til the wee hours of the morning with Wade and I as we completed the post production and gave fantastic advice and outside perspective.  Thank you to David Thompson for his patience, his car, and his willingness to take on a non-speaking role last-minute.  Very special thanks to Conan Fugit for volunteering his time in weeks of planning and very late night to conduct a last-minute telecine to digital for submission.  Thanks to Nick Brown and the entire staff at Moler’s Camera for working with me in planning and tech to make sure this was all physically possible.  Thank you to Melissa Gerlach and her dog Mocha, Tamara Winfrey and Myra DeGrandmont for watching my children, and everyone who made the film happen.  Thank you to Tallgrass Film Festival, Creative Rush, my fellow DTTW Film Racers, the Tallgrass selection committee, and anyone who chuckled when they saw this film.  Last, and dearly important, thank you to Luna…our cat.  She hates doing anything but she put up with all of us filming her and keeping her up way past her bedtime.  She’s a sweet old cat and despite the fact that she pee’d in my file cabinet in 2004 I must remember that at 17 years of cat-age, I’m lucky for every day my wife Kate and I get to spend with her and she will be forever immortalized in this dorky 3 1/2 minute film with her spot-on performance as “Steve.”

20140621_210737In all honesty, this film stirred my tanks and reminded me what I like to make as a filmmaker and artist.  It reminded me why I do what I do.  It reminded me that just because video is easier it doesn’t mean its the best option.  It also introduced me to new friends and turned good friends into best friends.  What more can you ask for in life than to make something fun with people you love?  So come join us on Sunday October 19th for the world premiere of “From Wichita With Love.”  Hopefully, it will make you laugh.  We had a lot of fun making it.  Tickets $10.

"From Wichita With Love" being rinsed after being developed by hand.

“From Wichita With Love” being rinsed after being developed by hand.

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Forgotten Birthday Prank

23 Jul

It is well-known that I am the prankster around the office…and beware the person that invokes my pranks.  However, it is I that got pranked this week with an amazingly executed classic:  The Forgotten Birthday.

EeyoreBalloonFor my boss Chris’s birthday I rigged his office chair with an airhorn.  My co-worker Karen we threw a fake party complete with streamers and crumbs since she took the day off.  Linda had her office so decked out with party favors she couldn’t get in the door.  For me…nothing.  Huh?  As a kid I dreaded my birthday because it was in July so I never got to have the cake party at school…I was part of that summer group where we all celebrated with one cake on a day near the end of school.  Sucked.  One summer I had a pool party with a handful of friends who were in town and it has remained in my memory since as epic!  As an adult, I have been out of town for my birthday almost every year, so I rarely partake in the office celebration of cake and ice cream around the conference table.  Til this year.

This year I was in town and Linda pulled me aside and said, “Ryan, you said if you were ever in town for your birthday you wanted one of those cookie cakes…is that still true?”  She remembered!  My heart swelled!  It was what all the cool kids with school-time birthdays got when we were kids and I always wanted one!  I nodded yes to Linda and the excitement grew, and grew, and grew til it was the Friday before my birthday.  Party time for sure!  Nothing.  No cookie cake.  No “Happy Birthday.”  Just, “Have a good weekend.”  So…I did.

My wife Kate and I played golf together on Saturday (my birthday) and she played fantastically.  It was extremely relaxing!  A new set of clubs had been the gift from my folks earlier in the year so it seemed fitting that they be used on the actual day…and I shot well.  Kate’s parents had got me a grill for Father’s Day / Birthday so after golf we grilled up chicken breasts, hot dogs for the kids, and corn on the cobb.  That night I got to rent a stupid action flick OnDemand and all seemed awesome.

Sunday I realized I got text messages from my mom, dad, and sister on my birthday…but no phone call.  I knew my sister was dead in the middle of a theater production and my folks were hosting guests so it made sense.  By the time Monday rolled around I was sure the office was going to throw me a party with cookie cake, my dad would call in to sing, and it would be fun.  Nope.  Nothing.  No one even asked me how my birthday went.  Down trodden and significantly older, I resigned to the fact that my office had forgotten about my birthday and my family wasn’t going to call.  I worked late, turned off the lights, and went home to cry in my beer.

Then, Tuesday I walked in the front door to this:



Yup…the ole Forgotten Birthday Prank.  The office folks NAILED IT!  They got me with the party favors over the door, the confetti everywhere, and I checked under the chair…yup…a valiant attempt at the airhorn under the chair.  I removed the airhorn before sitting and made sure to set it off next to Debbie, Karen and Dee’s office to make sure they were awake (better than coffee) since now I had to vacuum up my desk.  Later in the day my childish wish came true and the office assembled to eat cookie cake with me…which incidentally dyed everyone’s teeth dark blue thanks to the food coloring in the frosting…just like in middle school.


They had lovely cards for me in which they poked fun as if they had forgotten my birthday and I got a 24 oz box of peanut butter M&M’s wrapped in three layers of wrapping paper to keep me busy while they all laughed at me.  They…got…me…good.  So ole Eeyore brightened up and had a good time at the party…and ate his cake too…cookie cake.


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Air Horn Under The Chair Prank

12 Jun

Chris Prater SlappedToday is my boss’s birthday and I happen to have an amazing boss.  He gives me freedom to manage my projects at my own pace, encouragement and assistance when I need it, and is a valuable resource I can rely on whenever I need him.  He and my coworkers are why I love my job.  However, today is his birthday…which means its time to prank him!  So niceties aside, I got Chris good this morning with a classic prank.  Never in my life have I been a punctual person so I decided part 1 of my birthday gift to him would be showing up for work today an hour early.  It gave him quite the surprise…just not as big a surprise as the air horn I had taped to the bottom of his desk chair the night before.  Here’s the prank:


Finding a small air horn in Kansas was harder than I thought!  I kept finding the big ones at the hardware store but a big one wouldn’t fit under his chair and it would be very visible.  Finally I found exactly the one I was looking for at Gander Mountain, the Orion Mini Safety Signal Horn.  It was small, under $10, and most importantly: triggered from pressing the top (not the side).



Rigging the air horn to the chair requires some patience and duct tape.  In my case I used electrical tape to match the black base of the chair.  Be sure to understand the physics of the chair and ensure that the air horn button and chair will make contact once pressure is added by sitting down.

Air horn taped to bottom of chair and rigged to go off when seated.

Air horn taped to bottom of chair and rigged to go off when seated.


Add a Happy Birthday note so your unsuspecting victim knows where to send their ER bill for their heart attack.  I went with the classic “HOPE YOUR BIRTHDAY IS A BLAST!” note inside.  If you don’t want to be caught, leaving a note would not be recommended…though you could leave a forged note signed by a coworker.  Personally, I’d blame my coworker Dee.

I took full credit for this one. Happy Birthday Chris!

I took full credit for this one. Happy Birthday Chris!


Be sure the cleaning help or other coworkers do not interfere with the prank.  In my case I needed Chris’s chair to remain in the same spot because if it swiveled too much the air horn could scoot too far down and no longer work.  A quick note to the cleaning help detailing my needs alleviated my worries.

Now you have an accomplice as well.

Now you have an accomplice as well.

Make sure the evidence is destroyed.

Make sure the note is easy to find and then destroyed.


Document, document, document.  While I had hoped to get a camera in place to record Chris’s reaction this morning…he came in early!  On his birthday!  So all I have is the video test the night before and Chris’s reaction interview after (in which he is a very good sport).  So…enjoy!

The Night Before:

Chris’s Reaction:

Remember, the rules of pranking are:

  1. Is the person I’m pranking going to find this funny?
  2. If the person I’m pranking won’t find it funny…can I still get away with it?
  3. Be prepared to accept any consequences foreseen and unforeseen.
  4. Video and camera documentation is the best.
  5. Watch your back for the inevitable future.

Special thanks to Chris Prater, David Smith, Dee Lanzrath, Williams Ace Hardware, Gander Mountain in Wichita, the office cleaning services, American Armed Forces stationed worldwide, Bud Light, the internet, Skittles, and of course my loving family…without whom (and free time) I would never act out such childish pranks.

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Finding Your Tribe

30 Apr
Flag of Wichita

Flag of Wichita

We’ve all heard the phrase “You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone.”  However, maybe you just need an outside perspective to appreciate them.  Harvester Arts (an organization I am Co-founder of) brought visiting artist George Ferrandi to Wichita for a two-week residency.  Like any time someone visits your city for the first time you take them around, show them your city’s history, and share stories of why your “home” is relevant.  As a native Wichitan who moved away for 15 years and came home, I’m full of fun facts for visitors such as what companies were founded here, where historic moments took place, the evolution of Wichita neighborhoods from a brothel-laden cow town to an art district, and what a Knork is.  After a year of being recognized by outsiders as being from a place where the Wichita State Shockers basketball team plays…it was great to be reminded of Wichita’s vast history and find comfort in calling it my “home.”

George Ferrandi

George Ferrandi

George Ferrandi is a performance artist (among other art forms such as sculpture) who came to Wichita to create a performance piece in our newly founded Harvester Arts 5,000 square foot work space and gallery.  The show itself was one of the most moving experiences of my life that changed the way I view performance art, let alone myself and my relationship with my wife.  Yeah…it was that good.  However, my experience of the performance is heavily influenced because I got to spend two weeks with George before her Final Friday show.  I got to drive her along the Arkansas River, I got to show her what a Kansas sky looks like, I got to walk through long prairie grass in a gale force wind on a sunny day, I got to huddle next to her by the bonfire with a lunar eclipse and unveiled stars overhead, I got to share whiskey from the bottle with her, I got to share time with her, and most of all…I got to share stories with her.

Wichita Mainstreet, 1875-500Wichita was a trading post long ago and last week, in Wichita’s modern evolution, I got to trade stories with George Ferrandi…the commodities people like us treasure most.  We shared stories of how we met our significant others and the parallels of the experiences.  We shared stories of near death and dying of laughter.  We shared stories of, as she might say, our tribes.  So when I sat down in the gallery last Friday night, put the head phones on my head, looked across the table at my lovely wife, and began hearing George’s soothing voice in my ears spinning stories…it had a very profound effect on me…and I couldn’t hold the emotions back.

Tears ran down my face as I looked into my wife’s eyes.  Tears ran down hers as well.  George’s piece had successfully explored the relationships of friends as she had set out to do…but the experience was life changing.  I’m not going to critique the piece or speak heavily about it (that’s for the art critics and patrons to express), but I will tell you that I personally was deeply moved.  What I will tell you is that George speaks about “your tribe” in this piece.  Your people.  Your home.  In some cases we move away from our tribe as we go to college, pursue a career, and so on.  In other cases we stay with our tribe and form strong bonds that can only come from small-town living.  In my case I got both.  I left my tribe in the pursuit of knowledge, education, and happiness.  Then, I brought what I learned home and expanded my tribe.  As George’s voice wrapped up in the headphones she told us that we got to “decide when the piece was over”…so my wife Kate and I just sat there staring at each other in wonder.  Neither one of us wanted it to end.  We both were overwhelmed by what we had brought to our home, the journey George had then taken us on, the joy and sadness of her stories, and the realization that George’s residency was done…and she would be going home.

We had brought George into our tribe.  She had invited us to be part of hers.  We were each other’s people…and now she had to leave and go back to New York.

10155476_10152089786971818_3638390715056468528_nThe same weekend another performance group called The Bridge Club was in town for the Ulrich Museum.  Among the many things they do, they collect stories from local areas and build performances from them.  I donated the story of how Kate and I were on the road as digital nomads for 3 years and lived out of a 22″ camper for a period of time.  We documented our lives on video and constantly asked ourselves, “What makes a home?”  This was the very question The Bridge Club was asking of Wichita.  In a hotel in L.A.’s Koreatown in 2008 we answered that question.  “Home is where the cat is.”  Following The Bridge Club’s performance I spoke to them and they told me that they found the inspiration for their drawings in Wichita from a painting in my living room they had seen the week prior when we hosted a party for them.  I almost broke down in tears again.  It was my wife’s painting from when we first met.  It was a piece I stared at every time I visited Kate when we were dating and she framed it and gave it to me long before she knew she’d marry me, travel the country with me, move to Wichita with me, and start a family with me.  It has deep sentimental value.  The knowledge that a major portion of their performance was formed from its visual affirmed that I had learned a new life lesson and the world was trying to shake me into understanding a portion of the meaning of life:  Human connection.

20140427_170141That is why George’s piece brought me to tears.  That is why the past two weeks have been amazing.  That is why Wichita is my home.  Five years ago, figuring out that “home is where the cat is” was the last straw in abandoning my ties to a place and instead attaching myself to a being.  I had always called Wichita “home” because I was born here.  I always called New York City “home” because I came of age there.  I always called Bolton Landing “home” because it was where my family is from (going back to the 1700’s).  While these places speak to me, this weekend showed me that they are actually rooted in person, not place.  My tribe…my people.  I’ve learned you can move somewhere new and make it your home by joining a tribe and creating new stories.  I’ve learned that when you leave a place you never leave the tribe.  You can’t!  Its your people!  I learned that the cat was never “home.”  The cat lived in the domicile I called home but the connections to living beings, places, and stories are what make a home.  For me that is my wife Kate and my boys Max and Dodge.  My tribe.  My people.  My home.  That this revelation came from a performance piece by George is why she’ll forever be part of my tribe.  We’ve traded stories, shared experiences, and caused each other to look at our homes and love them more.

greatsealI love Kansas.  I love that this is my home.  I love that I get to go to sleep at night to the sound of long trains rumbling through the outskirts of town shooing off cows with a distant and forlorn “Woo woo!”  I love how much sky there is to look at, and every chance I can I place my bare feet on grass to look up at it.  I love that there are places you can’t get to with a car.  I love that on George’s last day in Kansas she got to see a bald eagle’s nest and the bald eagle flew over to see if we were friend or foe.  I love that my kids get to grow up here like I did.  I love that the people I know have very different opinions and politics than mine…but they agree to disagree.  I love the people Wichita attracts and how this city is growing.  I love that Wichita opened its arms to George Ferrandi.  I love that I found my tribe.  I love my tribe.  They, their stories, and all the decisions they and I have made have led to this point and are why I am in this place.  This is why I live in Wichita…my tribe.  My home.  “Ad Astra per Aspera.”  “To the Stars Through Difficulties.”  Kansas.  Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone…but sometimes you realize what you’ve got while its there and all it took was an outside perspective.  Welcome to my home.

Dodge, Dodge on the range.

Dodge, Dodge on the range.

George Ferrandi out on the windy prairie of her last day in Kansas.

George Ferrandi out on the windy prairie of her last day in Kansas.

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Harvester Arts Launches

28 Feb
Harvester Volunteers

Harvester Volunteers

Two years ago, my wife Kate and I set out to create something in Wichita, KS that would bring visiting artists to this city.  We called it *asterICT and the mission was simple:  “To break down barriers between contemporary artists and their audience by inviting emerging artists from a broad range of disciplines to Wichita, KS for performances, exhibitions, workshops, and casual conversation.  *asterICT brought contemporary arts to the community on an intimate level so artists and audiences could engage with each other and mutually benefit from a shared artistic dialog.”  Two years later, Kate has taken this project and founded a fully operational nonprofit arts organization with her business partner Kristin Beal…and Wichita is abuzz!  Tonight Harvester Arts officially launches.  Instead of me fumbling over how proud I am of the work Kate & Kristin have done to make this organization a reality, I’ll turn things over to Lindsey Herkommer of KMUW Public Radio and the F5 Newspaper:

Harvester Arts — Wichita’s newest art space — opens this Final Friday. They are kicking off their first Final Friday with a disco-themed shindig, and announcing the winner of their logo contest selected from a local open call.

Harvester Arts, comprised of Kate Van Steenhuyse (Founder and CEO), Kristin Beal (Co-Founder and COO), and Ryan Gates (Co-Founder and Advisor), is dedicated to artistic cultivation and community engagement. This trio is making the second floor of Bluebird Arthouse, known as the NEST space, their creative home.

The aim of Harvester is to cultivate critical dialogue and new work in Wichita. This will be put into action in two phases.

Phase 1: they are looking beyond the city limits to bring nationally recognized artists to Wichita for a two-week residency. A residency provides artists dedicated time and space to they can experiment with their practice in another context. In these two weeks, artists will be introduced to our city, and we, in turn, will be introduced to their creative process. Harvester residencies will take place quarterly — a nice touch that sets them apart from the rapid rotation of monthly art exhibitions — and the first artist-in-residence will be revealed at their Final Friday disco party.

Phase 2: Harvester will organize satellite exhibitions beyond the NEST space in an effort to reach broader audiences and generate critical dialogue. These exhibitions will be the local response to the artist-in-residency, and an essential component to foster thoughtful conversation and encourage more risk taking in creating new artwork.

The local responses can take many different forms, and the community engagement can be as simple as some old fashion Midwest hospitality. Take the artist to lunch. Show them the sights. Let them borrow a book. Other ways to respond can be through art, writing, scholarly discussions, spoken word poetry … whatever we want, as long as we respond. Much of the success of the Harvester enterprise rests on us — the community.

Harvester is set-up as a non-profit which distinguishes them from commercial galleries. Since commercial galleries are concerned with making sales, they often submit to mass appeal and display art that lends itself to being a commodity. Harvester is not bound by these conventions. Instead, they will focus on installation and performance art — two types of art that have difficulty in the mainstream and do not lend easily to commodification. Both of these genres have been around since the 1960s and are widely accepted in contemporary art, yet are sorely underrepresented in Wichita.

In Ryan Wright’s article for the Wichita Eagle, he states, “[Harvester’s] goal is simple — to bring nationally established artists to Wichita to do two-week residencies and create new work, which will give local artists an opportunity to respond through creation of new work of their own.” While I agree with his synopsis of the mission, the goal is far from simple. This is a big undertaking with many moving parts: hosting an out-of-town artist, displaying their work in NEST space, assembling satellite exhibitions, and orchestrating community engagement. Each of these components plays an important role in addressing some of Wichita’s largest challenges facing the local art scene.

We have arts reporting, but we lack critical engagement with the visual arts. We also have many art exhibitions, but the recycling of old artwork is embarrassing. We have a bad habit of showing the same work year after year, venue after venue, and giving each other a pass when it happens (I’m guilty of it, too). Local artists that developed a niche style are too comfortable and continue to make new work that looks the same as their old work from decades past. Critical dialogue and critical writing — with multiple perspectives — is necessary to move forward and foster new work.

Harvester Arts is set-up to address these issues with a positive, community-friendly approach. By mobilizing the community around artist residencies, we will have opportunities for rich discussion, creative experimentation, and a chance to push Wichita to a national level. Let’s take that chance.

To read the article on F5 or read more of Lindsey’s articles please go to

Photo Booth

Photo Booth

So if you are in the Wichita area come party with us (and the few hundred who have RSVP’d) as we kick things off with a gallery showing of the over 40 logo design submissions we received, the awarding of a $500 prize to the winning design and the new face of Harvester, the reveal of Harvester’s first visiting artist, a showing of our 5,000 square foot space and a party for the ages with bar, heavy hour devours, DJ, and a celestial realm photo booth sure to transport you to a heavenly state!

Havester Launches Friday, February 28th 2014, 8-11 PM.  924 W. Douglas - bluebird Arthouse 2nd floor NEST Space.

Havester Launches Friday, February 28th 2014, 8-11 PM. 924 W. Douglas – bluebird Arthouse 2nd floor NEST Space.

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