||Ruckus and Lane Skye are a husband and wife team of writers and directors who gained international interest from their work scripting Becky, which pits a thirteen-year-old girl (Lulu Wilson) against neo-Nazis (led by Kevin James). They followed this up with The Devil to Pay, a thriller starring Danielle Deadwyler as a young mother who must take the law into her own hands to protect her son, a film reminiscent of the heyday of 1970s rural thrillers, in a good way. The Skyes were good enough to answer some questions about these films and their careers.
TSI: Were you always movie fans? What were your favourites growing up?
RUCKUS: Yes, we connected over our love for movies long before we ever considered trying to make one. Fav films growing up: E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies.
LANE: In fact, our first official date was at a second run dollar theater. Fav films growing up: Heathers, The Last Unicorn, Pump Up The Volume.
TSI: How did you two meet? What made you realise you would be a good writing team?
RUCKUS: We met at a restaurant that we both worked at. We dated for years and we came to writing long after we were married. It was not anything we ever planned on, but came to organically because we are both innately creative people and realized that we like spending time together making things.
LANE: We've always worked together in one capacity or another. In our early years together, we tried to find a bunch of different ways to collaborate, but nothing felt as right as making a film together. Once we tried that, everything sort of clicked and we knew we'd found our thing.
TSI: Was it difficult to break into the film industry?
RUCKUS: I feel like we are still trying to break in.
TSI: With Becky you had a big success, what inspired that screenplay?
RUCKUS: Yes, the response has been amazing and we feel very fortunate to have been involved with the project. All due credit to Nick Morris who wrote the original script. We were brought on to rewrite it once the directors were hired. So while we did a lot of work and spent a very long time writing on the film, the original concept and characters are all Nick's creation.
TSI: Did your experiences on Becky spur you on to direct, or was that always the plan?
RUCKUS: Directing was always the plan. In fact, we shot The Devil To Pay before Becky got shot. It just took longer for the film to get released.
LANE: We always wanted to direct and we only really started writing so that we would have scripts to film. However, it's grown to be a passion of ours on its own and now we love writing scripts for other people to make. It's our chance to help create more art in the world than we could if we only wrote things for us to direct.
TSI: How do you work out who does what when you're writing and directing? Is it easier with two people?
RUCKUS: I would not say it's easier with two people. But I do think we elevate each other, so the collaborate result is better than if either of us was doing it on our own, so it's worth the extra effort that being a team requires.
LANE: In writing, we both fight for the best idea and what will make the script the strongest. We try to remove ego and do what serves the story, no matter whose idea it was. On set we have a rule that we don't move on from a scene or a set-up until we are both happy.
TSI: How did you choose the locations for The Devil to Pay? Are you familiar with that area?
RUCKUS: We shot the film in Hiawassee, Georgia which is about two hours north of Atlanta. We met an amazing woman named Michelle Moreland who had property up there and became a producer on the film. She was our local connection and helped us get all the locations. It is not an exaggeration to say that the film would not exist if it were not for Michelle.
TSI: Have you ever seen the 1970s thriller Prime Cut? The Devil to Pay reminded me of it in tone, though the plot is different.
RUCKUS: Actually haven't seen that one, but will take it as a compliment. We love late 60's / early 70's films. Two that probably did have an influence on this film are In The Heat Of The Night and Deliverance.
TSI: How did you set about casting? Did you have a say in Becky, or did you have more influence with The Devil to Pay?
RUCKUS: On The Devil To Pay, we wrote the role of Lemon specifically for Danielle Deadwyler and when she agreed to do it we knew we had a film. We happen to be friends with many of the actors in the film and also wrote those roles for those specific actors. We are fortunate that every actor we wrote a specific role for was available and agreed to do the film. That almost never happens.
LANE: On Becky, Lulu was already cast by the time we came on board to write, so we had a lot of fun working on that script knowing who would play that character. Jon and Cary kept us in the loop as the cast came together, but we did not have any real influence on that one.
TSI: How did you get the idea for the fire cult in The Devil to Pay? Do you like to put the horror genre in your work?
RUCKUS: The premise of the film is that this community at the top of the mountain is comprised of outsiders (from the rest of America) and that even within this outsider community there were outsiders (the Cult).
LANE: We always try to start with a foundation of grounded human drama and then blend in dark humor and a touch of the macabre. That probably stems from our love of Southern Gothic literature. We like to say that we write heart-warming films where people are murdered.
TSI: How are you coping with the pandemic? Have you noticed the film industry struggling this year?
RUCKUS: Yes, the industry is definitely struggling. We do a lot of screenwriting for producers and other directors, so we feel very fortunate to have work right now that we are able to do safely from our home. We have many, many actors and crew members friends who are hurting because so much production is shut down.
TSI: Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us that we can look forward to?
RUCKUS: We've been talking to Danielle about a sequel to The Devil To Pay where we follow Lemon down the mountain and she becomes a vigilante fighting injustice in the big city.
Many thanks to the Skyes for their contributions, and check out their movies, readers, they're something different and entertaining in thrillers, so well worth supporting.