Skip to content

The Ruttle Report - Those eight months seem like a lifetime ago

I often let myself think back to those life-altering eight months out on Canada's West Coast.
Ruttle Report Pic

When I was younger, I wanted a life in the movies. Yep, that was where I was headed if my young mind and heart had any say in the matter.

It all started for me as a teenager. I was always a movie buff, but I really got thrown into the art of actually MAKING these things through my buddy Kevin, who is an absolute whiz when it comes to editing and helping to bring something creative come to life on-screen. It began with school projects, such as making a video for our English class centered on the happenings of the novel 'Cowboys Don't Cry'.

From there, it only blossomed further. Any time that a school subject could be turned into a movie project, we jumped at the opportunity. It wasn't much longer until we were trying to make a go at this whole movie thing outside of school assignments and outside the classroom, too. Kevin and I would get together on weekends, usually out at his family's farm near Macrorie, and come up with unique little projects that would very quickly eat away at our weekends. But hey, that was cool with us. If we weren't busy making movies, we were busy watching them with enough popcorn and pop to drown Siskel and Ebert.

This love of writing scripts and watching them come to life only grew as I got older. Once I got my driver's license, BOOM, I was able to motor myself around and work around my own schedule instead of having to nicely ask Mom and Dad to drop me off at INSERT FRIEND'S NAME HERE. I would simply sign out the video camera from the school library (remember when you had to do that, older OHS students?), make sure I did so on a Friday so I'd have it for the entire weekend, and it was even better when it was a long weekend or just before a weeklong break. From there, I'd grab my friends, come up with a basic story idea, and go scout locations. One of our favorite filming spots was down in the Outlook Regional Park. Man, the memories we made down there! Not exactly anything that's Oscar-worthy, but hey, we were kids and we were having fun.

As I got older, this whole making movies thing was still very fun, but I'd started to look at the business side of it and really threw myself into screenwriting. I began exploring the history of film and just let it become my obsession. I just thought about movies day in and day out. I can remember a Life Transitions class with Mr. McPhail where he made a bet with us students to see who could come up with the closest score when it came to deciding who were going to be the latest Oscar winners just before the Academy Awards were set to air. I'm proud to say that I won that bet, along with - can you guess? - my buddy Kevin. Mr. McPhail handed us each $5, which I'm sure was spent rather smartly as opposed to going on a slurpie run to the D&E downtown during spare period.

Time continued on, and so the natural thing for me to consider as I was looking at my Grade 12 year was deciding what that next step was going to be in my future. I decided on going to film school, but the question was, 'Where?' Well, that question tried to answer itself when I heard that representatives from the Vancouver Film School were going around Western Canada, holding a number of informational events designed to draw up interest and hopefully snag a few new students here and there. I remember telling my mom about it, and so off we were to Saskatoon, where the event was being held at one of the hotels down on Spadina Crescent. We walked in, and of course we were gifted with all sorts of promotional material, even a few bags of microwave popcorn for good measure. That was a nice touch, seeing how this was an event for a FILM school and all.

The presentation was cool and all, but I still just wasn't sure that Vancouver was where I wanted to be. Looking back on it, I think the full-year class schedule and the tuition costs, along with the knowledge that I'd be attempting to live my daily life in Vancouver of all places just made the decision for me.

And then Victoria came a-callin'.

I discovered that there was a film school in the smaller, on-the-island city of Victoria, and it was much more in-line with what I was looking for. Much lower tuition costs, and the course would take about eight months. I was very, very interested. So, after putting together and sending in my application package and a few phone calls later, I was now a student of the Victoria Motion Picture School. Awesome. Now what...?

Well, that summer of 2005 was an interesting one. I was enjoying the sunny days and the calming nights, but I knew my time in Saskatchewan was drawing to a close. Soon enough, it was September, and my mom and I were packing up the minivan good and tight before setting course for the capital city of British Columbia. Getting out there was a journey in itself, including one wrong turn that eventually took Mom and I to the American border, but we eventually got there. What made the transition into living as a student in a city that I'd never been to before was the fact that I wound up living in the basement suite of the house that belonged to the family of one of my classmates. I'm telling you, folks, the stars managed to align themselves just right with that one. I certainly lucked out.

So, here was this crazy thing called film school. It started in September 2005, and we were off to the races almost from the get-go. My classmates were from all over Canada and then some. One was from the Bahamas, one was from Germany, a couple from Calgary, another one from Saskatchewan, and then me. I can honestly say it was the most interesting, life-filled, creatively-fulfilling, and outright fun I've ever had going to a place that was technically still called a "school". My classmates and I managed to gel from the start, and some of the projects that we worked on were incredible slices of life that really opened our eyes to the big, scary and unpredictable world that's out there.

I remember shooting a haunting rape scene in the back alley behind a nightclub and having to shoo away a drug addict before the cameras started rolling. Gotta love that night life, eh, folks? The scene unfolded, the actors did their part, and afterward there was just this uncomfortable silence. I looked at the cameraman, who met my gaze, and we just started clapping and applauding the actors involved in the scene. I can remember on the drive back to the apartment that night, I was thinking to myself, 'No one back home will believe what I did tonight, and they surely won't believe that it was part of a school assignment'. But it's true.

Such was life in the big city while trying to learn more about this thing that was a dream of mine. It was, in a word, incredible. I wouldn't change a thing about it.

Those eight months I spent out in Victoria were 16 years ago. We graduated in May 2006. Life has gone on, with only a small handful of us actually managing to make it in the industry as far as getting steady work that you can build a life on. I think that for most of us, it was simply about giving something different a try and seeing what sticks.

My life is much different today, but I often let myself remember those eight months.

For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.