If you’ve ever hung out with an Australian wolf pack, you know how much fun they can be. Take director Tim Gonzo Ryan for example. He’s hung out with vigilante superheros in Seattle, practically parkoured through Detroit’s decay and drank with Juggalos in Cave-in-Rock (Illinois). If Hunter S. Thompson had a slightly less hardcore, illegitimate Australian son, Tim ‘Gonzo’ Ryan would be a candidate.
Poke around the corners of Canadian Netflix or Australia’s SBS2 and you’ll come across a gem of a travel show gem called Unplanned America. It’s a TV documentary series about three Aussies (Ryan, Pawel Jarecki and Nick Maherwho) who travel to the United States, buy a beat up Toyota and drive 20,000 miles across 35 states. Along the way, they hang out with completely intriguing American sub-cultures: from chilling with King L the reigning deity of the Chicago drill rap scene or watching the the mega-flexible Latino and African American dancers of New York’s underground voguing and ballroom dance scene at Escuellita.
Unplanned America is currently my favourite travel. Ryan and his crew offer up thoughtful and hilarious vignettes that peer unflinching into the common threads of uncommon American lives. Ryan and his travel buddies are sincere but probing, cocky but self-depracating, both combos that contribute to the series total watchability (if that’s a word).
So, here’s a glimpse into one of the masterminds behind Unplanned America and meet Tim Gonzo Ryan and his f*#king awesome job.
So how did you get that f*#king awesome job? Can you describe what your job is and what it is that you do?
I’m one of three guys behind the Australian documentary TV series Unplanned America on Netflix, a show which explores various cultures and communities – large and small – throughout the USA. This means we’ve spent time on patrol with Real Life Superheroes in Seattle, explored the gay undergound voguing scene in NYC, been behind the scenes of porn parody Austin Powers XXX, gotten down with clown at The Gathering of the Juggalos and a whole bunch more things we never thought we’d ever be involved with, and that was just in the first series. It’s very much a low-budget, independent documentary production where myself,Nick and Parv do pretty much everything from pre-production through to post-production including hosting the show in our amateur (yet hopefully endearing) way.
Did you have to give anything up to get here?
All three of us rolled the dice when it came to making the series, saving up our money and quitting our jobs to hit the road in the USA for six months with open minds and a belief that our background in television production would be enough to self-fund and eventually sell our own TV series. There was never any guarantees and it was almost two years after we finished filming that we finally saw the fruits of our labour make it to the small screen.
Who or what has been your mentor/inspiration along the way?
A definite point of inspiration early on for us was documentarian Louis Theroux, particularly his series Weird Weekends.
In three words or less, what’s the best part of your job?
My own boss.
In three words or less, what’s the worst part of your job?
Boss is cheap.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember being about 4 and wanting to be a zoo-keeper or a director. Somewhere along the way I realised I wasn’t much on animal person, fortunately my other dream has kinda come to fruition.
What is your drink of choice?
Where was the last place you travelled?
Had a weekend away in Melbourne, does that count? It’s a great city. My last international destination was back to the USA to make another two series of Unplanned America!
What’s on your playlist right now?
Sufjan Stevens, White Lung, Run The Jewels have all been getting a bit of play, but I’ve also been going through a nostalgia phase listening to some old Deftones, Brand New and as I’m typing I’m listening to the excellent Jimmy Eat World EP – Stay On My Side Tonight.
What are your top three reads vis a vis your career (books, magazines, manuals, podcasts)?
Having the nickname “Gonzo”, albeit because a friend thought I looked like the muppet, it’s hard to go past Hunter S Thompson’s stuff – I most recently read Hell’s Angels while filming the last series but all time fave of his is Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
I’ve somewhat recently discovered NPR’s excellent podcast series Snap Judgement, which ties seemingly unrelated stories together around a common theme, a cool device which we coincidentally did in our first series.
Any advice for someone who’s looking to lock down their f*#king awesome job?
I’m sure it’s different for every job, but in my experience it was about learning the ropes and having that background knowledge in my field. And also, then believing in myself and the two guys I make the show with that we took the plunge and gave it our all. We didn’t want to wait around for someone to offer us our dream job, we went out and made it happen.
What does the future behold for your f*#king awesome job?
Well, we spent October 2014 – February 2015 back in the States filming a couple more series of Unplanned America. Fortunately the show did pretty well for the local braodcaster SBS2 that picked us up here in Australia and we were able to go back to film some more episodes. The second series just finished airing here in Australia and now we’re getting into the edit for the third series. And we’re pretty excited that both the second and third series will be coming to Netflix! Beyond this year, we really don’t know. Maybe more Unplanned America, maybe a completely new adventure.
*I want to insert a HUGE caveat here. I did not come up with this column name, my favourite, now deceased magazine – Readymade – did. I hope to emulate their ethos here (the questions are from my brain with a bit of audience testing from friends/family). As an extrovert and general lover of the human race, I am inspired by people who LOVE their jobs. So I thought I would dedicate some space on the world wide web to profiling people who have f*#king awesome jobs: who they are, how they got there and what advice would they give others.*