Director Kyle Rankin says shooting B-roll footage as a student changed the course of his career.
Rankin attended the University of Maine at the time, shooting breaking news footage for the local NBC affiliate. He recalled the “jubilation” select footage sparked within the news division, a stark contrast to the pain suffered by those in sharp focus.
One such assignment had him capture a sobbing man standing in front of his blazing home.
“Talk about exploitation,” Rankin says of those experiences. “I knew I didn’t want to do that.”
It’s why he approached a gritty thriller set during a school shooting with more than the usual amount of care. His “Run Hide Fight” follows a feisty teen (Isabel May) as she attempts to rescue fellow students held hostage during a school invasion.
What sounds like grindhouse exploitation turns into a tense snapshot of modern teen life. The film tackles tough subjects like school violence, social media and more, squeezing ripe action beats in between.
Rankin had the idea for a thriller set during a school shooting for some time but approached the concept with caution. Mass shootings hit the news cycle every few months, and Hollywood studios wouldn’t be lunging at his concept.
Or so he thought.
UTA, a powerful Hollywood agency, snagged the script early on after the company’s younger agents connected with the material.
“Hey, this is our world. Someone should be talking about this,” he recalls of the reaction.
Still, the touchy subject matter gave him pause. He even anticipated some of the reactions he’d likely face. And he was eventually right.
“I envisioned someone saying, ‘how could you … given the victims [of real-world shootings],” he says. “I thought, ‘how could I not?’ The right picture could be honoring them.”
His wife reminded him of the Hollywood double standard his script evoked. For years audiences have watched female characters get assaulted and raped, sometimes in critically acclaimed films.
Why couldn’t he tell his story his way?
The project eventually found its way into the hands of Dallas Sonnier, a renegade movie producer who specializes in tough subjects larger studios avoid.
“He said, ‘I love this script and if you go with me I’ll make the movie,’” Rankin says. They did just that, but after a debut screening at last year’s Venice Film Festival the distribution circuit gave “Run Hide Fight” the cold cinematic shoulder.
That’s when The Daily Wire came calling. [Editor’s note: This reporter contributes to The Daily Wire]
The conservative web site bought the film’s exclusive rights, framing it as its entry into movie and TV production.
“I’m forever in debt to those guys. Jeremy [Boreing] and Ben [Shapiro] are incredibly smart and talented,” Rankin says. “They had the courage to put out a movie that I love from start to finish and that has everything I wanna say in it.”
“Run Hide Fight” marks Rankin’s fifth outing as a feature film director. He started his career with “The Battle of Shaker Heights,” a film born from the reality show “Project Greenlight” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Yet Rankin sees “Run Hide Fight” as a new beginning, of sorts.
“I will say my writing went to a new level, with a [better] understanding of what a director does,” he says of the experience. “I didn’t expect that.”
Part of that maturation involved connecting with his cast and crew on a more organic level. Think of a parent using all the skills at his disposal to counsel a child.
“This time I was open to other things coming in,” he says, including better incorporating cast feedback during the production. “’Sorry I dropped that line’ … you should have dropped that line, it’s a crap line and move on.”
“I was more open to the happenstance of it all. It was way more fun,” he says. “This is what my heroes do, leave the door open for the mess, for the bumps and thorns.”
Parents know there’s little time for self-reflection on a day-to-day basis. That clarity, the director and father says, came out during the “Run Hide Fight” shoot.
“You don’t have time to be so self-absorbed. It’s an indulgence you can’t afford any more,” he says.