Who is Ryan Byrne?
It’s a difficult question to answer.
The self-described “jack of all trades and a master of none” is a model, musician, writer, dancer, videographer, actor, producer and the owner and director of ACE Studios, a media production company.
He is also an optimist and positive thinker.
At the top of Byrne’s Facebook page is written: “It's not what you THINK, it's what you BELIEVE.”
Byrne adapted this philosophy from a book called Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, which was introduced to him by former Sault resident Mike Prentice.
“I remember the moment vividly as time figuratively stopped when I shook his hand to say goodbye that day,” says Byrne.
“I wasn’t sure of my path in life at that point and trusted that his recommendation would lead me somewhere better than the life I was living.”
In many ways, it did.
Later that same year, using Hill’s principles, Byrne wrote and published his first major project, a 353-page novel called The Long Road.
After the publication of that book, Byrne believed anything was possible.
He not only began using his newfound outlook personally but also for his business, ACE Studios.
His company has produced three feature films, including the horror All Hallows’ Eve: October 30th.
It has produced music, music videos, a local bar, and kept a busy production schedule.
“I do things I’m passionate about, no matter how big or how challenging … I find the only way to stay in the fight is to love what you do.”
It’s hard not to be inspired by Byrne’s sheer will and determination.
He has achieved most goals he set for himself.
“I picked this lifestyle because it feels like I’m always on an adventure and to me, that’s what living is,” he says.
“I try to think of life like a giant puzzle of opportunity and therefore choose my adventures wisely, but aggressively.”
That translates into persistence.
“Persisting means keeping 5,000 things in your brain and continuing to fit the pieces together in different ways until you achieve the result you are looking for.”
Byrne and ACE Studios are now in the preproduction stage of The Summer Nights, a musical film based on a song and music video he released almost 10 years ago.
A music fan in his high school days, Byrne embraced pop sensibilities of artists like ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys and Britney.
Not only the music but the style, choreography and dancing in the videos.
Fast forward a few years and Byrne was putting those influences into his own projects.
“I had just finished doing Footloose [production with The Musical Comedy Guild] with a great group of people … [and] had just returned home from a four-year stint as a model in Asia and my confidence was pretty high. I spent time doing dinner theatre with Michael Hennessey to gain experience. And then Studio Dance Arts needed a stand-in male to perform in one of their numbers ... I was excited to try something new. I’ve always been fascinated by the history of music and the world of dance.”
Byrne loves how free and expressive the art form is.
Travelling with Studio Dance Arts into the U.S., Byrne learned a lot about the dancing world.
“I was blown away by everything I saw. It was three [full] days of dance … During my downtime, I just sat in the theatre and watched. I loved the music and the passion from the dancers. To me, it was all magical.”
It was on that tour that Byrne wrote a song called, The Summer Nights.
He thought the song was special and wanted to bring it to life by releasing a music video that not only captured the spirit of his early musical influences but the skills of the dancers he had toured with.
With sponsorship graciously provided by Great Lakes Honda, Byrne created the biggest local music video production the city had seen at that time.
Over the years, he recognized some of the video’s limitations and developed a “resurrection plan” for it.
“I went with my gut on everything on that project [and] followed my instincts like a madman … It was that collaborative and collective effort that [created] something truly special. I owe everyone who gave their time a great deal of gratitude and sincerely hope the experience was as fun for them as it was for me.”
The “resurrection plan” turned out to be the transformation of that music video into a big-screen musical.
“Story mixed with music is what does it for me,” says Byrne.
“I connect deeply with music and I love film. When mixed, it provides a heightened level of entertainment experience.”
Much like the original video was in its time, Byrne says the film will be the “biggest collaboration of local talent in the history of our city” and the first to feature an original soundtrack.
“I generally always make bold acclamations,” laughs Byrne.
“It’s my way of putting energy out into the universe to hold myself accountable to the vision. It helps with the hype, attention and general interest for the project ... You can make something creative, but if no one wants to watch it or buy it, then why are you doing it?”
Byrne believes in it because of the sheer scale of the concept.
“We’re creating everything from the ground up: story, music, dialogue, marketing, distribution and plan…creating the content in music and film locally,” he says.
Owning the content will allow him to sell licensing deals and provide the best opportunity to earn money for everyone.
Byrne believes this musical has the potential to be the flagship for the company.
“It’s about making a great movie.”
He hopes to have 15 to 25 soundtrack songs that have “commercial appeal” and “beautiful craftsmanship.”
Although he is not giving away the film’s storyline, he says it will be an “uplifting story of hope” using events of the modern world.
As someone who dreams big, Byrne has encountered his share of resistance and naysaying over the years.
“Every time I’ve tried to accomplish one of these tough creative projects, people have thought that I did not have the capabilities to [do it] … Some waited to see me fail.”
But failure isn’t in Byrne’s vocabulary.
“I expect to fall, but I always get up,” he says.
“I wholeheartedly believe I can do anything I set my mind to do and I’ve proven that many times over. So I just don’t place too much stock into what others think …”
Although Byrne hopes he can inspire others to create and think outside the box, he is keenly aware that people are sometimes quick to criticize, especially online.
But “nasty, troll comments” only inspire him to do better.
“I know the work I’ve put in. It’s an insane amount of commitment … and I believe I’ll always come up with a result.”
In addition to the film, Byrne is also preparing to “flip [his] company on its head” in the coming year, hinting that there will be a “live show and spectacle that re-brands everything the company has ever done.”
He hopes that in 2022, his company will achieve its true vision: to be “an entertainment company with a mix of Apple/Disney ideologies on a lower scale.”
Byrne also wants to help create prosperity for the arts sector in Ontario.
He recently released some controversial videos that voiced strong opinions and concerns over a perceived lack of political support for businesses after the third pandemic lockdown.
Byrne felt that the arts and entertainment sector was “left to die.”
“For a guy who’s spent 20 years fighting to earn a life worth living, it was absolutely insulting to me the way we were just left to fend for ourselves.”
He felt many businesses wouldn’t survive and that the Ontario government was “missing in action” for months when businesses needed their support the most.
His criticism also extends to a persistent, local negative attitude which he believes holds our city back.
“We don’t foster hope for a prosperous life,” he says
“People leave this town … because they believe there is no hope for them to live a life of individual prosperity. Foreigners see the potential here. We don’t see the potential in ourselves,” he says.
Byrne suggests that the same root cause attitude impacts issues like mental health and addictions.
“It’s not the 1980s anymore [and] working at the Steel Plant shouldn’t be the best job we offer to our people. And there’s more to life than just hockey too … I just look at our population and I see that it hasn’t changed in years. Sudbury is growing far more exponentially than us.”
He sees this challenge impacting the film sector.
“I see a few more groups in town trying to make a go of things, but it’s nowhere near as thriving as I’d hoped it would be.”
One problem he sees is the lack of originally crafted local projects with distribution deals.
“We need to start creating our own content locally that can hold up in the real world.”
That is exactly what he’s been trying to do.
One factor he believes is holding back progress is the long vetting processes required to secure resources that slows development in unproductive ways.
“They should be designed to treat you like a business partner and assist you if you have a great idea with merit,” he says.
“I want to live in a city that helps entrepreneurs push the community forward.”
“We [still] believe we are just little old Sault Ste. Marie … It’s why we haven’t changed in years.”
For Byrne, staying personally positive, creative and persistent is something that won’t change any time soon.
“That’s what I’ll continue to do for my remaining years … creating entertainment is what ignites my soul. Nothing will ever change my mind on that desire either. I’m in this for the long haul.”
Updates on the progress of The Summer Nights film will be done through press releases and call-to-action posts as the project advances.ACE’s YouTube page.