Five Questions With... Ryan White, Director of THE KEEPERS

The second in our TV AND TALKS Series: From director Ryan White (NFF alum with The Case Against 8, Serena, Good Ol’ Freda) comes a new, riveting seven-part documentary series about the unsolved murder of a nun and the horrific secrets and pain that linger nearly five decades after her death.

Sister Cathy Cesnik, a beloved nun and Catholic high school teacher in Baltimore, went missing on November 7, 1969. In the 1990s, one of Sister Cathy’s former students – a woman only known as “Jane Doe” – came forward to reveal her own harrowing story and disturbing details about Sister Cathy's case – but the truth still remained elusive. White pieces together a larger story that goes beyond the death of a beloved schoolteacher to encompass clergy abuse, repressed memories, and allegations of an extensive cover-up. The Keepers is a Netflix Original Documentary Series.

We're thrilled to present an episode of the series followed by a conversation with Ryan White and “Jane Doe” herself.

Read more with Ryan below, and join us for the screening and conversation on Sunday, June 25 at 11:45 am!

Ryan White

Ryan White

NFF: You have a personal connection to this material, correct? Could you tell us how the story came to you?

Ryan: My aunt went to the high school that is the epicenter of The Keepers. She was Sister Cathy's student and a classmate of Jane Doe. She told me about the story a few years ago and I went to Baltimore to meet Jane Doe. That's how it all began.

NFF: The "true crime" genre is having a bit of a renaissance - do you have thoughts about why that is?

Ryan: I think Americans are interested in justice, and they get particularly angry when they watch and experience these stories about injustice. If there's any common denominator  of all these true crime series that have gained popularity, I think they are all stories of injustice and a lack of accountability.

NFF: The story here is unbelievably difficult and complicated - did you have a hard time staying objective as a filmmaker?

Ryan: I had to distance myself sometimes from the anger -- anger over what was done to the children and anger about the amount of corruption that's kept these stories buried. But I was also constantly reminding myself that I didn't have to live the pain that my subjects did -- so the least I could do was be a part of having their truths brought to light.

NFF: When you originally started working on The Keepers, did you always envision it as a multi-part show? Or was it meant to be a shorter, more contained movie, like your previous work?

Ryan: We began The Keepers before Serial, The Jinx, or Making A Murderer had come out, so there wasn't really a model yet for the episodic true crime format. But once each of those came out, we realized we might have some more dimensional ways to tell The Keepers. It was really good timing to have a true crime story that seemed to have so many layers and a distributor felt deserved a longer format.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?

Ryan: It's my fourth documentary to play here, so I'm thrilled to be back. But mostly I'm excited that Jane Doe will be joining me on stage and talking about her experience. It will be her first public appearance since the series came out last month.

Five Questions With... Davey Holmes, Creator/Executive Producer, and Lucy Walters, Star, of GET SHORTY

We're premiering a new screening and conversation series at #NFF2017 titled TV AND TALKS, featuring full episodes of GET SHORTY and THE KEEPERS. 

Based on Elmore Leonard’s 1990 New York Times bestseller, Get Shorty is a 10-episode dark comedy coming to EPIX later this year. Miles, played by Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, This Is 40, Love After Love), works as muscle for a murderous crime ring in Nevada but is attempting to become a movie producer and launder money through a Hollywood film. Three-time Emmy®-award winner Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond, Parenthood, The Big Sick) stars as Rick, a washed up producer who becomes Miles’ partner and guide through Hollywood. 

NFF is very pleased to present a screening of the first episode of Get Shorty, followed by a conversation with Creator/Executive Producer Davey Holmes (Shameless, In Treatment, Damages).

Read more from Davey and series star Lucy Walters below, and join us on Friday, June 23 at 1:45 PM at the White Heron!

NFF: Davey, when you were looking at adapting Get Shorty to a series, what inspired you to imagine this as a story that could last multiple years/seasons?

Davey: I believe any story can last multiple seasons if you care about, and believe in, the characters.  Certainly there are challenges if the premise of the show, the central conflict, seems to run its course early on.  As someone who has fought to make my way in the entertainment industry for several decades already, I don’t feel we're in danger of running out of material…  But I’m actually more interested in the dynamics of the characters.  Hollywood is simply a fun background.

NFF: Coming off shows like Shameless and Power, it seems you both have a penchant for anti-heroes. Can you talk a little about what draws you to these conflicted/complicated characters who aren't always "good"?

Davey: The ascension of the antihero on television was a God-given gift to writers like myself.  Heroes who struggle with the good and bad inside of them are so much more fun to write, and I think, to watch.  We’ve had enough great examples of this on television that there is now actually a backlash, with writers and critics wondering aloud if antiheroes are all played out.  But I think that’s nonsense.  If you’re imitating someone else’s approach to a character, yes, that’s going to be stale and limited.  So we try not to do that.  We find our own ways in.

Lucy: It was a shock to me how much people hated Holly [on Power] - they were throwing parties when she got killed! It's all a matter of perspective, and I loved Holly - I believe it is your job as an actor to never judge your character. You have to love them and believe in them and justify what they're doing. I guess I do feel drawn to the darker, shadowy roles - I think Lucy Walters suffers from being too accommodating, and both these women I've played recently are not trying to please anyone. There's something badass about getting to embody them!

NFF: Davey, you get to poke fun at Hollywood a bit. Are there any lines (or personalities) you don't want to cross?

Davey: So far, nothing seems off-limits, other than taking cracks at easy targets or being pointlessly cruel.  And we are fairly equal opportunity in who we go after: the “writer” characters on the show fare worse than anyone! 

NFF: Can you say a little about casting, and how putting together/finding this ensemble happened?

Davey: It’s something I’m incredibly proud of, that we managed to attract and find this group of actors.  We obsessed over it.  And we have a fantastic casting director, Rachel Tenner.  We reached out to Ray Romano early, as soon as we heard he was available, and he was excited about the project.  When Chris O’Dowd signed on, everything fell into place.  I’m incredibly proud of the whole ensemble.  Some actors came in to audition for roles that only had a line or two, and have grown into really big parts.  

Lucy: It's rare to read scripts that are just great and this one was GREAT - it felt fresh and real - I fell in love with Katie and it didn't feel like acting to read her. I was actually out of the country and sent in a self-tape for my initial audition - I was so pleasantly surprised to get the call that I needed to come to LA to read. I loved the script and the role and I'm so happy to be a part of the show.

NFF: What's been the most fun day of shooting?

Davey: That’s an impossible question.  First of all, it’s a big blur.  Second, there were countless moments that were so exciting, when the actors, director and crew not only lived up to the scene but transcended it, and the feeling on set was electric.  Those are moments everyone can feel, and if you’re even luckier, it translates to what you see on screen.

Lucy: I don't want to give away any spoilers for the series, but at least when shooting the pilot, we got to set up the world - it was so fun and there was so much possibility in figuring out who these people are. We shot this in New Mexico, and there's a different level of bonding that happens that when you're all together in the desert - we would go on hikes, and explore the state together, which I we were in the hot tub every night!