Writer of Talk Like Somebody's Listening nominated for 2022/23 Edition
Ryan Costello is an actor and writer from Reno, NV. Some of his written works include "Start Over" (2011 Superior One-Act Play, Nevada State Thespian Festival) and "Cody Stanfield I Know You Stole My Gameboy Color in the Third Grade and Now the World Does Too" (2016 SOU Winter Production with multiple KCACTF Honors). His first screenplay, Ears, was a semi-finalist in Screencraft's 2018 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Screenplay Competition and the recipient of the Mary Hughes Screenplay Award in the 2019 Cordillera International Film Festival.
He is a graduate of Southern Oregon University's Theater Arts program and continues to work and volunteer in Reno's growing theater community.
What is your project about?
Talk Like Somebody's Listening is a story about a young man named Noel: a late night TV obsessive with severe social anxiety who discovers that he has a unique talent for communicating with people, but only when he pretends to be a talk show host. After a chance meeting with a wannabe Internet celebrity named Laney, the two form an unlikely partnership to broadcast Noel to the world, bringing him newfound fame and new relationships with neighbors he's never taken the chance to meet before. But what will happen to these new friendships when Noel puts the microphone down?
What are your ambitions with your project?
I wrote this story specifically to be produced in one place: my hometown of Reno, Nevada. Reno has a funny little reputation within the movies: it's a town of quick marriages and quicker divorces with a seedy underbelly for anybody that can't quite take the trip down to Vegas. I really wanted to explore a different side to the city: just a few blocks away from the casinos and hotels is a city full of people from all walks of life doing their best to make their own fun in their own little corner of the world. Due to the Late Night theme and Reno's long history of being a somewhat easy punchline, I thought it was an appropriate setting for a story about getting to know people beyond what's on the surface. If I'm ever lucky enough to have this script produced, my largest goal would be to make sure it utilizes and benefits the Reno community.
Share a memorable experience from your project's production. What pleasantly surprised you?
Sometimes you get half of an idea in your head and you don't figure out the other half until much later. I came up with the idea of a recluse hosting a talk show from his apartment building back in 2019 shortly after completing my first feature screenplay. I was always amazed to hear that talk show legends like Johnny Carson and David Letterman were more introverted in person than they appeared on television, so that seemed like an interesting topic to explore. I sat with this idea and tried to flesh it out, but could never find the element to make it a "feature length" idea.
The next year, like many cities around the country in 2020, Reno declared a state of emergency due to a riot that erupted following a protest in our downtown area. A great deal of the riot took place in front of a community theatre that my wife and I frequent, so the following morning I grabbed a broom and a trash bag with the intention of just trying to offer whatever help I could. When I got there I discovered that the entire block was full of people who had the same idea. People were cleaning up, boarding windows, and having deep, respectful conversations about the state of our city and where we go from here.
When I revisited the talk show idea, those images continued to resonate with me. Once I recognized that this was a story about community, it was very easy to fill in the blanks. Talk Like Somebody's Listening ends with Noel realizing that he loves his city as he watches neighbors of different backgrounds and viewpoints work together to clean up the damage left by a riot, that came from a very real place.
Why should distributors consider your film?
Well, first of all it'd be cheap to make!!
But more importantly I believe it to be extremely relevant in the way the film portrays anxiety and parasocial relationships. In our turbulent times, I believe that people clamor for what's consistent. For me growing up, that was always Late Night TV. For the new generation that's podcast hosts, YouTubers, influencers... I actually think that many people would find Noel, who feels more comfortable with a Late Night personality he's never met than his next door neighbor, very relatable.
On top of that I believe this film to be a fun underdog story with a diverse and unique cast, a modern message that supports common ground while absolutely rejecting prejudice and violence, and a sense of humor that never relies on cruelty. It's a PG-13 comedy that the whole family would probably get a kick out of.
Which cinematic themes interest you the most?
The one film trope that really gets to me without fail is the one where the whole town comes together to help or support one deserving person. I'm a sucker for "It's a Wonderful Life" moments, or moments like in "Cinema Paradiso" where Salvatore recognizes personalities he's known his whole life working in the movie theatre paying respect to their beloved projectionist... or, yes, the end of "Paddington 2," the best movie about British people befriending a bear I have ever seen (sorry Christopher Robin).