Three film studies students at Ryerson University sat down to chat about their passion for film, current projects and what they hope to be doing after they graduate.
Veronica Rouby is in her first-year of film studies at Ryerson University. Rouby initially began her journey in photography, then later made a transfer to film studies. Growing up, she said she always saw this field as more fitting for her future career plans, while photography was mainly a hobby.
The transition between each program gave Rouby a better perspective visually as she made her way into the film program. “In a way it kind of felt like less of a shift, [film’s] the same, but with some movement added,” says Rouby.
Her passion for film ultimately began at age eight, when she watched Guillermo Del Toro’s R-rated Pan’s Labyrinth, a fantasy horror film set in the Spanish Civil War. Rouby was only allowed to watch it because her parents believed it was for children. “I was very much a wimp. I never read goosebumps; never into horror or anything like that. But that movie scared the shit out of me and I loved it,” she says.
Pan’s Labyrinth was a big deal for Rouby and initially got her intrigued with horror and the basic craft of film-making. Moving forward, she was influenced by her dad appreciation for older films with a specific style. “My dad was interested in cinema and so I saw the classics of Italian neorealism, old Japanese horror and post-World-War-Two stuff, I found that all really interesting,” says Rouby.
Both her parents lived in Montevideo, Uruguay, where they had a subscription to particular theatre allowing them to see as many movies as they wanted. They would go out to the particular theatre and watch films of the older classic cinema, eventually passing down this passion to Rouby.
Fortunately for Rouby, first-year film students are required to use 16 mm black-and white-film, invoking the look of older cinema. “I know some people can be really bothered by the absence of colour, but I really love a good contrast black-and-white image. It’s really striking,” she says.
Rouby’s most recent project, My Girlfriend is a Vampire, is an homage to the genre The story follows two girls, one seen as the ‘girl next door’ type and the other living a very gothic lifestyle. The premise of the movie is for audience members see the goth as more of a predator to becoming a vampire, but the plot takes a shift.
In the future, Rouby hopes to write and direct a feature-length film. “I would really love one passion project that I could create and say it’s mine, even if it doesn’t do that well financially,” she says.
Rebecca Collins is in her third-year of film studies, and tends to dive into films that focus on realistic aspects of life. She first discovered her love for film at age 12 when watching the Mike Mills’ film Beginners. The 2010 indie feature is known for both dramatic and comedic moments. “Growing up, I had watched all the Harry Potter movies, and that’s kind of what started my interest in cinema in general…then, I saw Beginners, and realized I wanted to get into filmmaking as a career,” says Collins.
As part of her third-year course work, Collins is working on a narrative film with a group of friends within the program. Their film tells the tale of two siblings who have been estranged for a long period, on bad terms. The plot is derived from Collins’ personal life – is something writer/director Mike Mills does often. “I feel like personally my own style and the script is based off of my own experiences from my relationship with my sibling,” she says.
Visually and stylistically, the film attempts to look as realistic as possible, in all aspects. When shooting, Collins strived to stay away from artificial lighting. She also used a hand-held film camera attached to the cinematographer, , allowing smooth motion and a less rigid feel.
Collins also mentioned how her inspiration changes from time to time. “Every couple of years, you just see something new and not try to replicate it but base as much work off of the idea as much as you can,” she says. The HBO mini-series Sharp Objects is Collins’ most recent influence. Although Collins is not a big fan of surrealism or fantasy, she says psychological dramas like Sharp Objects are a good mix of both real and far-fetched concepts.
In terms of a future career in film, Collins enjoys aspects of editing, writing and production design, “I like a lot of different aspects of film making … eventually, the goal will always be to write and direct my own stuff,” she says. Collins aims to invest time into raising as much money as possible to create her own films, saying it’s important to support yourself both creatively and financially.
So far, Collins’ film-school journey has taught her that the biggest aspect of the program is the opportunity to meet people who share the same goals as you, bringing in a lot of networking amongst students. “Coming to film school for four years and graduating with 50-60 people you know you can call up and work on projects with them. You are going into the industry already having connections made,” says Collins.
Josh Fagen started his film journey in Quebec. He’s a third-year film studies student from Montreal who originally attended McGill University, where he majored in cultural studies with a minor in world cinema and art history.
Fagen was taking a film elective when his professor introduced him to films under the horror and surrealism genres. For him, this was a new experience, as most of the films he had been exposed to were mainstream blockbusters. “It was through that class where I really realised that these other films that aren’t seen as much or don’t make as much money but still have value to them through an artistic form,” he says.
The specific film that impacted Fagen was the 1986 mystery drama Blue Velvet by David Lynch. “[The film] showed me that you can work in a world of metaphor in film and not everything that you see on screen has to necessarily mean literally what you’re seeing,” he says. Fagen later watched the rest of Lynch’s films. He really appreciates the symbolism and blend of horror, surrealism and absurdism that the director’s catalogue portrays.
Once Fagen made the switch to Ryerson, he was looking forward to expressing his passion for film in Toronto; he says it’s the place to be for film in Canada.
In Fagen’s first semester of his third year, he worked on documentary films. One focused on waste disposal within Toronto, and the process collecting and transferring garbage to the United States and other Ontario cities like Sarnia. Another documentary was about Hotel Waverly, an abandoned hotel on Spadina Avenue. “I didn’t grow up watching documentaries or even liking documentaries, but making your own opens up doors,” says Fagen.
At the moment, Fagen is developing a surreal horror film about a girl trying to get over a traumatic event from her childhood. Fagen is heavily influenced by the horror genre: “I like the physical response you get when watching a horror movie. You’re not just a passive audience member; you’re engaged in the film,” he says. He enjoys the mood and atmosphere that this category of film does so effectively.
Fagen has recently found himself more so drawn to television than film. “There is a lot more television content that is more in tuned with my preferences than films that actually make it into theatres,” he says. Some his favorites include David Lynch’s third season return of Twin Peaks in 2017, and the drama series The Leftovers.
In the future, Fagen is trying to focus on building technical skills while in school, such as sound editing, recording and design. This will provide a more stable income, and keep options open to hopefully write and direct a film, Fagen says. “One of the downfalls of being in the creative arts field is the lack of security in terms of jobs, it’s not the type of program where you just graduate and your pretty much set with plenty of jobs available,” he says.
Fagen is also considering doing more school after his undergrad, possibly a masters related to film. “I have always been interested in teaching film because of my own experience with my teacher that inspired me, I feel like I could also inspire others,” he says.