“One Tree Hill,” “Revolution,” “Sleepy Hollow” – the locations for some of viewers’ favorite scenes – were handpicked and scouted by none other than Geoffrey John Morgan Ryan.
He started his decades-long film career as the assistant director for the 1977 movie “A Bridge Too Far,” based off his father’s novel of the same name. Within the close-knit Wilmington film community, Ryan’s name and friendly demeanor was well-known.
Eventually, thanks in part to his ability to immediately bond with others, Ryan became a highly sought-after location manager.
Ryan, of Wilmington, died Sept. 20, 2015, at the age of 62.
As a location manager, Ryan was the first point of contact for the general public, according to Kasey Kiser, a fellow location manager. Ryan was given scripts and he’d use his extensive knowledge of the Wilmington area to choose the perfect locations for scenes. It was then Ryan’s job to convince the owner to let them use the property for the movie, a task sometimes easier said than done.
Kiser said he and Ryan would knock on the doors of random houses, introduce themselves as being part of the film crew and ask to “come into the house and film with 100 of our closest friends.” Fairly often, people didn’t believe them.
When he did secure the perfect spot, Ryan then kept in contact with the owners and their neighbors to ensure they didn’t have any qualms over the filming, Kiser said, and if they weren’t on board at first, Ryan was often able to change their minds with his friendly personality.
“He was like a teddy bear,” Kiser said. “He immediately bonded with anyone he spoke with. He just had an attitude that made you immediately trust him.”
In this line of work, location managers were on call 24/7, Kiser said. During filming, he’d sometimes respond to a call at 3 a.m. from a neighbor who couldn’t sleep because of the production lights. He was also in charge of getting permits from the city and speaking with the police and fire departments when road closures were necessary.
In addition to locally filmed TV series, Kiser said Ryan also worked on “The Last Starfighter,” the first movie to use special effects in place of real fighting, and “Escape from New York,” in which he doubled as a stand-in for Kurt Russell. He was also the location manager for “Halloween II” and “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” among many, many others.
Kiser first met Ryan during the 2007 filming of “Bolden!,” where they “hit it off right off the bat” due to their shared loved of superheroes and comics.
“He was a very friendly, open guy,” Kiser said. “He was basically everyone’s immediate best friend.”
It was a similar situation with another location manager, Vick Griffin. Griffin knew who Ryan was for a long time, but he really got to know him when the two were put in charge of digitally converting the entire Screen Gems photo collection during a “tied-to-the-hip” two-week photo scanning job. They then worked almost exclusively with each other for seven years and affectionately referred to each other as “brother from another mother.”
“He was my oldest and closest friend in the industry,” Griffin said.
One of Griffin’s favorite memories of Ryan is from the mid-1980s when Ryan was scouting Wilmington with a producer. It was a “period film” and the producer wanted a location that had an early-1900s feel. The producer was disappointed in the findings and asked Ryan if there were any other older places. Ryan replied, “They’re not making any more new old stuff.”
“We still use that quote,” Griffin said.
Kiser said Ryan moved to Wilmington about 30 years ago and became the first name people thought of when they considered Wilmington locations.
Griffin remembers Ryan as extremely patient and loyal with a wonderful work ethic. Ryan was a Yankee by birth, but easily had a “comfortable gift of gab” that’s so beloved in the south.
“He was the best scout I ever knew, a guy who could talk to anyone,” Griffin said.
Ryan was preceded in death by his parents, Cornelius J. Ryan and Kathryn Morgan Ryan, of New York and his wife and soulmate, Cheryl Edgar Ryan, of Wilmington.
He leaves behind his beautiful daughter, Chayne Ashton Ryan, of Wilmington; sister and friend, Victoria Ryan Bida; niece, Kate Bida and nephew, Morgan Bida, of Rochester, New York; and a large film industry family who loved and admired him.
The family will have a memorial service beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, at EUE/Screen Gems Studios on 23rd Street. The family will receive friends after the service.
Memorials may be made to the Geoff Ryan Memorial Fund created by Kiser. All proceeds will go to Ryan’s daughter, Chayne, to help her in any way she needs.
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Amanda Thames is the obituary writer for Port City Daily. Reach her at 910-772-6319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.