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Ryan Marley: directing via his inner child
Canada's Ryan Marley has directed some of the most popular children's educational and entertaining television programs.

For the most part, all societies across the world agree that caring for, providing for, and educating our children is paramount. We want them to have the best but not to become spoiled or feel entitled as a result. This lends itself as well to entertainment education.

In this regard, Canada may have a bit of an edge. Placing the most talented professionals in charge delivers positive results. Consider Canadian director Ryan Marley's work. The episodes he directs of the TV series Intervention (airing on A&E in the US) are among the most highly rated. His skills apply just as adeptly to some of Canada's most popular and beloved youth programs like Science Max: Experiments at Large and Zerby Derby. These shows offer much more than the entertaining passage of time; scientific knowledge and social/ethic paradigms challenge viewers to utilize reasoning in addition to being entertained. Marley confirms that he finds equal gratification and artistic enjoyment in all these varying productions but those geared to a younger demographic inject a little more "play" into the work day.

"On set I create an atmosphere where we are having as much fun as possible. If it's fun behind the camera the talent will be having fun on camera. The show is as funny as it is informative and I think that's really important. I won't leave a scene until everyone is trying not to laugh. The funny is the easiest way to hold an audience of any age. Kids (fans) are always coming by the set. I sit them in video village with headsets so I can gauge their reactions to the take. Sometimes it's surprising what their laughing at and we'll push farther into what makes them laugh to see if we can get a bigger reaction." declares Marley. His statement perfectly encapsulates what is present when watching Science Max: Experiments at Large. The show is often referred to as Mythbustersmeets Bill Nye the Science Guy. It's an appropriate description for a show that vacillates so continuously between fun and informative, winning two Canadian Screen Awards for Best Kids Series and earning Ryan a nomination for Best Direction in a Kids Series at the Canadian Screen Awards. Science Phil (the main character) spends all of his time away from the world performing science experiments in his lab. The program is a mixture of tech, science experiments which can be conducted in nearly any home, historical figures, and imagination.

Every generation has its own youth targeted programming. The most enduring and successful of these usually focus on something educational but presented in a fun and easily digestible way. Ryan wanted Science Max: Experiments at Large to follow this template. Sets were varied and engaging, ranging from a medieval castle to the workshop of Archimedes and even a 50s style Film Noir office. Ryan's focus on lighting gives a premeditated "magical" feel to the sets and the action. Science Phil's yellow lab coat had become an iconic look for Canada's younger generation and is already appearing as a popular Halloween costume. Of course, youth viewers these days have grown up expecting the most cutting edge SFX, and Marley had no intention of disappointing on this front. He remarks, "We have a lot of special effects on this show but we only have two visual effects. When Phil walks to the portal he opens up a screen in the air where he selects his adventure. He scrolls through a screen filled with information, selects his choices and then closes the air screen with his hands before turning on the portal and stepping through, turning into a million small cubes before disappearing. He then appears in his next location along with the other characters and whichever props he has thrown through the portal before he enters. Often the portal malfunctions (always funny) and things reappear as different objects or misshapen. Phil often comes through upside down…or underwater…or wearing unexpected clothing. All of this is CGI mixed with live action makes it interesting for young viewers. The beauty of these effects is that they're always motivated by science. For example, Phil makes a rocket fly using friction, or a thousand film canisters explode using Alka Seltzer, or turns sand into liquid using air; all science!"

If Science Max: Experiments at Large appeals to the brain, Marley's work on Zerby Derbyappeals to the heart. In a more low-tech but perennially enjoyable presentation, this kids series follows the live-action adventures of remote control cars, boats, planes, trains, and helicopters as they live out exciting adventures in Zerby Town and beyond. An international sensation that has been embraced in countries all over the world, Zerby Derby airs on TVO in Canada, Sprout Network in the US, BBC in England, and is called Zoubi Doubi when it appears in Spain. With over half a million YouTube viewers and nominations for Canadian Screen Awards, the show has proven itself both a critical and ratings hit.

The series is filmed in East Gwillimbury, Ontario where the town was converted for the set. While multiple "Zerbies" are controlled by different production team members, Ryan takes a very unique directorial role on the show. He explains, "The cars, boats, and planes are all very expressive and have many different adventures. During filming, I do the voices for all of them. I'm a former improv actor who became a director. Zerby Derby gives me the opportunity to connect my past with my present. It's incredibly fun, even if the final version features voice over talent rather than mine. The filming is always presenting new opportunities to be creative on the spot." These are sometimes of an unexpected and unique nature, such as when a dump truck character named Rex barrel rolled down a hillside and completely disintegrated, necessitating a reshoot with a completely new character. Ryan embraces the unexpected aspect of this. It all falls under the same heading for him as he states, "Honestly, I just really want to work on great projects. I love film, and documentary, and television. All of these mediums exist now on the Internet. I want to believe that the Internet will allow for more freedom of ideas but I'm not entirely sure that's true. We are in the age of content. For me it's about character over story. I love great characters, real or fictional. They inspire me, and I look forward to telling their stories for years to come."

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