Ryan Curtis is a former US Army Engineer and after leaving the military he decided to move to Los Angeles to follow his dream of working in the film and television industry.
Currently the host of Go90 series ‘Oscar Mike’, where he meets stunt drivers, pilots, MMA fighters and more who teach him about their jobs and how the military helped them get to where they are today.
What is the story behind you becoming a US Army Engineer?
I originally joined the Army to be a helicopter pilot. I was in college at the time and ROTC programs want you to participate in a local National Guard or Reserve unit. The closest unit to my school happened to be an engineering company. Well, luckily for me, I joined the Army on August 29, 2001… twelve days before September 11. Needless to say, my world was turned upside down. It’s probably the single greatest joke the Army has ever told. “Sure, you can fly Apache helicopters! Just sign here… welcome to the Engineers, soldier!”
For those who might not be familiar, what does a US Army Engineer do?
The Engineer branch in the Army is pretty cool actually. They handle quite a lot of different jobs and the stress and pressure on the soldiers have exponentially multiplied in the years since I joined. Engineers handle things from mine and I.E.D. (improvised explosive devises) detection to route clearance, explosive breaching, building and construction, and writing all of Taylor Swift’s songs.
What was the inspiration behind your show ‘Oscar Mike’?
So much of the media is focused on the negative narrative of returning military veterans. Things like PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and veteran suicides are absolutely a problem but we wanted to showcase military veterans that are doing positive things in society. We want to flip the narrative! I love cars, sports, and music so we looked to find veterans that are tastemakers and tomorrow’s leaders, added an adrenaline twist and ‘Oscar Mike’ was born. Plus it was an excuse for me to live out every 12-year-old boy’s fantasy!
Which career featured in ‘Oscar Mike’ is your favorite and why?
Oh man! I don’t think I could choose just one. I will say that out of all the crazy things we did in each episode (stock car racing, extreme kayaking, guns, blowing things up…) the most nervous I got was jumping in a recording booth and rapping for the first time. It took me a few moments to psych myself up. Luckily TMR (The Marine Rapper) was a great teacher. Now I’m the most gangster rapper you know! Probably the greatest of all time to be honest.
How did you get involved with ‘No Sh*t There I Was’?
We were just about to finish up ‘Oscar Mike’ and our production partners, We Are The Mighty, just got ‘No Sh*t’ green-lit. They were looking for a showrunner and liked what we did with ‘Oscar Mike’ and asked me to jump on board. I had never worked in animation before, but I just mastered the art of rapping so I thought “sure, why not”? I jumped at the chance.
How did you find out about all the veterans you have profiled on your shows?
Research… and a ton of it. Between the two shows, we probably reached out to hundreds of veterans. I have to give it up to my producer Bryan Eliacin; he did wonders in that area. We also utilized We Are The Mighty’s reach and contacts and tapped into a non-profit I work with called Veterans in Film and Television to help find people. They helped a ton.
There aren’t really too many shows made about/for veterans. What has the response been like from the veteran community?
So far it’s been amazing. Shedding veterans in a positive light have really resonated with the community. It’s been awesome because they have to like the shows first and foremost. Now we just need to get as many eyes on the shows as possible to spread the message and make more veteran programming!
Do you have any other shows you are working on at the moment?
One of the big things we are doing is cultivating military veteran talent in the film industry so we can build on each others’ successes. Currently, we are packaging a few shows to pitch to networks and I’m in development on a feature film with GrindStone and Lionsgate. I’m pretty pumped about it… I’m actually doing cartwheels at this very moment. Boom!
Ryan grew up outside of Boston on welfare and food stamps. The oldest of seven children, he attended Fitchburg State University (UMASS) on a basketball scholarship while studying Broadcast Journalism and Theater. Additionally, Ryan directed the new Go90 series ‘No Sh*t, There I Was’.
The show animates funny first-hand accounts from the mouths of actual military veterans, including stories about a scary Tow Jump, getting sprayed by a skunk in Afghanistan and how a rapping Marine decided to invite Betty White to the Marine Corps Ball but ended up taking Linda Hamilton instead. The series is also currently available to watch on Go90.