Next Level Spotlight: Casey

Oct 26, 2022
From the set of 'Casey' (2022)

This series highlights some of our Next Level Grant recipients. In this spotlight, we spoke with Rylee Syme about the making of her short film, ‘Casey’.

Rylee Syme is a filmmaker born and raised in Utah operating out of Salt Lake City. She has been making short films with friends and collaborators for the past 10 years through an artist collective called Nighttimer Productions

Casey is the story of David and Keith, two men taking their long-distance relationship to the next level when David moves into Keith’s home. The house feels cold and surprisingly unwelcome to David, evidenced not only by new tension between the two, but also by strange occurrences suggesting the presence of a third man in the relationship: Casey, the partner who went missing five years before. As the specter of Casey seems to grow stronger, the strength of David and Keith’s bond is tested to the near breaking point. The film was produced by Avrec, directed by Rylee Syme and written by Brighton Ballard of the Nighttimer Production group, and stars Alexander Woods and Shawn Francis Saunders.

Rylee Syme

What led you to tell this story?

My very talented friend and collaborator, Brighton Ballard, listened to a podcast that was interviewing the sister of a man who went on walk one evening and has been missing ever since. Brighton was really struck by how this man who had been missing for years still lingered so heavily in the lives of the people he mattered to without the closure of knowing what had happened to him. She ended up writing this story about guilt, grief and isolation and what ghosts in our lives might really feel like that I have found moving and scary and interesting from the moment she pitched it to me.

How did you prepare for this project?

We really wanted to work with Dallin and Jacquelyn Cerva at Avrec. At the time, they were test running something they called The Auteur Project where they had a very set budget for a 10-minute genre short film that they would produce. We were super insistent that we had the perfect project that totally fit those parameters (it didn’t). The project was probably too long, the scope too big, but we just mercilessly kept at it. Pre-Production was dozens of drafts over a year of the script to get it right. We rehearsed with the actors for weeks leading up the shoot. We spent hours meeting and meticulously planning with department heads to make sure when we got on set not a second was wasted.

We found the perfect location, but it meant we had to cut a day out of the schedule. We ended up shooting over two nights that were over when the sun came up. We moved an entire house worth of furniture out and then back in twice to completely redecorate, then reset the home we shot in. We had truly the best team. Looking back I have no idea how we did it. It was a blast!

What did you take away from this experience?

I have been working on this project in some capacity for 4 years, give or take. For something that is only 11 minutes long, it’s embarrassing how much I got from the experience of working on this film. It has been deeply rewarding and informative to carry around something for that long. It has restructured the way I view time and the general process of art making and filmmaking. It both feels like the accumulation of the years of work and experience my friends and I had been doing with Nighttimer Productions, as well as a finale of sorts. At the end of this project I feel like a better, stronger filmmaker. The process of making this project led to new, important relationships and connections. Overall, I feel deeply grateful for the experience of creating it with really wonderful and talented people all around.

What do you hope the audience takes away after seeing this film?

 I am sincerely interested in whatever anyone takes from this film. I guess I just hope they take away anything at all!

How did the Next Level Grant help you with this project?

We ran into multiple obstacles making this film that could have totally halted the project, but the funding we got from the Next Level Grant made it possible for us to fix those things and move on. I don’t know that we would have finished without it! There’s also been generally a huge feeling of support from the Utah Film Commission that has been so wonderful and appreciated. 

From the set of 'Casey' (2022)

Is this career path something you always wanted to pursue, and how did you initially get into the industry?

From the moment I understood filmmaking was a thing that existed, I wanted to be a part of it. For me, there is nothing else. How I got IN is that I switched to a film-focused High School my junior year and I am still making movies with the people I met there.

What do you like best about working in the Utah film industry?

It’s the people. You will meet someone working in this industry and it’s like you’re meeting someone who was born to do that thing. They are so talented and so happy to do what they’re doing and then they’re also the coolest, kindest, most collaborative human. It’s unreal.

What advice would you give to a local who is trying to get started in the film industry?

Find your people. I am making films because there is nothing better than making art with your friends. Find people who want to make movies/who are currently making movies. They will connect you to other people who are making movies and then those people will connect you to people who will hire you. The internet is your friend, use facebook groups, message that person on instagram, go to that meet up, sign up for that workshop.

How can audiences see this film?

We’re hosting a screening on October 27, 2022 at 7:30pm at Brewvies Cinema Pub and will most likely post it online at some time in the future!

Stay in the loop with Rylee Syme on Facebook and Instagram.