Ryan Findley: From doing gutters to the set for ‘Lorelei’

The McMinnville actor and construction contractor says he is selective about the roles he accepts. “I don’t want to be a dancing monkey.”

Ryan Findley plays the leader of a biker gang in “Lorelei,” a filmed-in-Oregon story about a felon who reconnects with his high school girlfriend, a single mother of three kids.
Ryan Findley plays the leader of a biker gang in “Lorelei,” a filmed-in-Oregon story about a felon who reconnects with his high school girlfriend, a single mother of three kids.

In the opening scene of Sabrina Doyle’s film Lorelei, an inmate (Pablo Schreiber) who has done his time walks toward the prison gate under a drab Oregon sky. The shot cuts to reveal his point of view: Waiting for him outside the prison are his old biker gang buddies, flanking a tall, bearded man (clearly the leader) in a flannel shirt and vest with goggles perched on a grubby cap.

That man is Kurt, and he is played by Ryan Findley, a McMinnville construction contractor who, when time permits, keeps busy with his “hobby” of acting for both stage and screen. Over the years, he’s appeared in plays and musicals at Gallery Theater in McMinnville, including The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, A Few Good Men, The Music Man, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

On screen, he’s divided his time among shorts, a few feature films, and several TV series, including the shot-in-Portland Grimm and Portlandia. Along with Lorelei, which is described as a film about “love, regret, and second chances,” his most recent credits include a 12-minute baseball-themed short of which he is particularly proud, Summer Lightning, and The Dark Divide. As luck would have it, when word that he has a beard (which he grew for Lorelei) got back to his agent, he also landed a role as a grizzled trapper in First Cow, which was shot in Oregon at around the same time as Lorelei

“I went from doing gutters to the set for Lorelei, but then I’d have a conflict, because I’m needed on set for First Cow. They made sure I could be on both sets,” Findley said, marveling at the fact that he was a working actor shuttling between two productions. “That was one of those moments, this is what it’s like! It was amazing.”

Findley was joined by Doyle (interviewed last week for ArtsWatch by Marc Mohan) and cinematographer Stephen Parr last Saturday at McMinnville Cinema 10, where the film was screened for a nearly full auditorium. Prior to the screening, Findley and I chatted about the film and his work.

I really, really enjoyed Lorelei. I think it will become known as one of the best films that’s been shot in Oregon.

Findley: That’s cool to hear. And honestly, I don’t know how to say it, but I felt that, too. It was like, “You guys are really hitting the spot.”

How did you end up in the film?

His role as Kurt tapped Ryan Findley’s experience riding motorcycles – which he says consisted of running paychecks from Salem to Dundee one time. Photo courtesy: Ryan Findley
His role as Kurt tapped Findley’s experience riding motorcycles – which he says consisted of running paychecks from Salem to Dundee one time. Photo courtesy: Ryan Findley

I was actually on my way home from filming an independent movie in Seattle about baseball, where my son and I were lucky enough to be cast. My agent, Dennis Troutman, called me, and said “Hey, there’s an audition tomorrow, can you make it?” I couldn’t, so he said, “Maybe we can get you in today.” He snuck me in, and it worked out. They were like, “Do you ride motorcycles?”

Well, you do, right?

I rode from Dundee to Salem one time to pick up paychecks for our construction company. They said, “Take the motorcycle, because it gets the best gas mileage.” So that was about my experience.

What did you know about the story and the character when you auditioned?

The only thing they really shared was that I needed to be a strong leader, and I needed to be able to hold my own.

How many days were you on the set?

I think they shot 28 days in Oregon, and I was on set 18. I really felt super lucky every time I got to step on set. It was such a killer group of people, you were just excited to get to work. It’s like, “This is what I’m going to do today? OK!”

I saw a picture on Facebook of you and Pablo chilling between takes. What was it like to work with him?

We met the day before the table read, and right away, I felt pretty close with him. We were on the same page. But the entire team was incredible. They were so helpful and willing, like, “Let’s get into this, let’s talk about this.” Sabrina would settle me down and say, “I know you have to be feeling anxious because you’re getting ready to go on set, so let’s breathe.” It was incredible, the team understood what I needed to give them the best performance I could.

Ryan Findley and his son, Jaquin, attended the Seattle International Film Festival for the screening of “Summer Lightning,” a 12-minute short about baseball, that both appeared in.
Findley and his son, Jaquin, attended the Seattle International Film Festival for the screening of “Summer Lightning,” a 12-minute short about baseball, that both appeared in.

How much rehearsal do you get for a film like this?

It depended on the scene. The scene in the living room, they gave us at least a couple hours until it felt good. It was very organic. They said, “You guys feel this out for a little bit, and we’re going to start bringing equipment in.” I don’t think a lot of people are given that opportunity. They were amazing about not settling for fixing it later, you know what I mean?

What are you working on right now?

I just finished putting in a 20-foot six-by-six [addition] at my uncle’s pole barn. Is that what you meant by work? I still run and operate a construction business. As far as acting goes, I’m not in production right now. I don’t turn a lot of things away, but I’m more selective. I don’t want to be a dancing monkey. I need to enjoy it.

About the author

David Bates is an award-winning Oregon journalist with more than 20 years as a newspaper editor and reporter in the Willamette Valley, covering virtually every topic imaginable and with a strong background in arts/culture journalism. He has lived in Yamhill County since 1996 and is currently a freelance writer whose clients have included the McMinnville News-RegisterOregon Wine Press, and Indulge, a food-oriented publication. He has a B.S. degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and a long history of involvement in the theater arts, acting and on occasion directing for Gallery Players of Oregon and other theaters in Oregon.

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