By: Nadia Brophy
Across all creative industries, there is a journey artists must take to establish themselves, meet their personal goals and create content they are proud of.
Three film studies students at Ryerson University gave CanCulture a behind-the-scenes look into how their creative journeys have been progressing thus far. Students Tyler Hall, Hayden Salter and Julia Batista share how they got inspired to pursue filmmaking, the projects they have created and what they intend to do next in their careers.
Tyler Hall’s filmmaking journey began with a fascination for storytelling, which first manifested during his childhood years. Throughout his youth, Hall’s mother ran a home daycare where himself and the children who attended would experiment with a dress-up box, creating several different kinds of characters and narratives using the variety of clothes. Hall would also play with action figures and make up stories about them, bringing the narratives to life as he played.
At age 10, Hall picked up his first video camera, opening himself up to a new world of storytelling. He would produce his first amateur film at age 16 which lead him to experiment with video editing. From that point on, Hall was inspired to continuing adding to his arsenal of filmmaking skills, including working with computer generated animation, which lead to his creation of 15 animated short films within a five year period.
While Hall had always been a creative person himself, he attributes much of his inspiration to the people he grew up with. “I was surrounded by creatives growing up and was inspired by a lot of my friends and family to continue pursuing film,” said Hall.
He credits one of his close friends for introducing him to the world of editing, as throughout their friendship, he would observe his expertise in cutting video game footage together to create montages. He would also frequently attend the band practices and concerts of friends who were musicians, where he developed an acute understanding of rhythm and pacing that he believes “really paid off for film editing.”
In 2017, Hall was accepted to the film studies program at Ryerson University where he would put his skills to use in several creative and collaborative projects, including his psychological thriller Nosebleed. In the roles of cinematographer, producer and editor, Hall was assigned to collaborate with other student filmmakers on the task of adapting a script written by a student in the year above them. After reading the script for Nosebleed, which tells the dark story of a woman struggling with mental illness, Hall’s group was inspired to take an avant-garde approach to their storytelling.
“There are many ways to shoot a script,” said Hall. “You can take it Hollywood style narrative and lead a straightforward path for your viewer, or you can get experimental and become non-linear, bringing your viewers into a maze.”
To achieve this nonlinear experience for the audience, Hall’s group portrayed the story from the perspective of the mentally ill woman with the intention of showing “what it would be like to be in such an unstable, ever-changing mental state.” Adding to their experimentalism, the filmmakers chose to cast a man to play the main character’s mother.
“We wanted the film to feel surreal and dark with elements of symbolism and unanswered questions,” said Hall.
In the future, Hall hopes to continue creating psychological films with creative plot twists that play with the expectations of his audience.
“I hope to one day make a twist as good as The Sixth Sense,” Hall expressed.
First-year film studies student Hayden Salter was first introduced to the word of filmmaking through photography. In his early high school years, Salter created an Instagram account where he would showcase his wide range of photographic skills, from city and landscape photography to profiles and intricate nature shots. Salter recalls entering high school feeling shy and insecure in the new chapter of his life, so he turned to photography as a medium for self expression. He began to gain confidence in himself after his Instagram page gained popularity across the school where he received positive feedback from his peers.
“It felt like I was getting validation, because people would see what I was doing and they liked what I was doing,” said Salter.
While photography ultimately opened Salter up to the world of artistic expression, he believes film is the most effective medium for getting a message across to an audience, an aim he credits as being the reason he first got into filmmaking.
“Film grabs all the different components of sound, video, and you put it all together into this one image that you construct and you can share it with the world,” said Salter. “I just think that’s incredible. It captivates all the senses.”
Salter uses film to spread messages surrounding topics important to him including his latest short film Brink, which showcases the anxieties that come with entering into adulthood and how he overcame his fear in making life changing decisions for his future.
The idea for Brink came into fruition during Salter’s senior year in high school after he attended an assembly addressing university applications. He remembers going home that evening and translating his worries towards the prospect of university into a script, which he wrote as a conversation between two people representing two opposing thoughts in his head.
“One side of me was saying that you’re going to embark in this whole new world with all these opportunities and meet new people,” said Salter. “The other side of me was saying I don’t want to go into this new world. I have everything that I want right now and I’m sheltered and secure.”
The film concludes with the message that life will always change and move forward and despite how fearful one may be, they have to move along with it.
And Salter did just that, resulting in an acceptance to the film studies program at Ryerson University where he continues to add to his experience as a filmmaker. Currently, Salter creates action-packed promotional videos for sports games as well as music videos, but hopes to one day pursue a career in writing and directing narrative pieces.
“I want my films to mean something,” said Salter.
Julia Batista’s journey into filmmaking began during her time in elementary school. During her grade 7 year, teachers began giving students the option to explore several creative mediums in order to complete their assignments. Always, and without hesitation, Batista would opt to create and edit a film. And it wasn’t just that Batista thought making a film was a more appealing option than writing a poem or designing a poster, for example, she also did it because she thoroughly enjoyed the process of editing a piece.
“Actually physically putting all the clips together, rearranging them, zooming in on a program to the seconds and milliseconds and fine cutting the footage, that’s what I really liked,” said Batista. “I thought, if I could do that everyday, I really wouldn’t mind it.”
Years later, when she arrived in the film studies program at Ryerson University, Batista was opened up to a world of opportunities in the filmmaking industry. For some time, she intended on pursuing cinematography as she found herself enjoying camera operating on set. However, Batista recalls having a recent epiphany that changed her career focus entirely. She now desires to pursue the career of a producer, which focuses heavily on organizing and planning a film, as she claims this role would be the perfect fit for her personality type.
“I’m extremely type A, I consider myself to be very organized and efficient,” said Batista. “I live my personal life this way, so it just makes so much sense to take on that role in the production of a film.”
While the role of a producer may be her chosen path, Batista has gained experience in several different filmmaking roles, including that of writer and director on her short film Expiration Date, a portrayal of the influence that toxic relationships have on one’s mental state. The film, created as a project for her first year production class, tasked Batista and her peers to work entirely on a 16mm Bolex film camera. Batista chose to work with double exposures to convey the moments when the film’s main character relives past memories of his relationship. She explained that since her team had to work with a Bolex, in order to create the double exposures, she had to physically rewind the film and precisely coordinate when to stop and expose it to the right amount of light. When this process is successful, as shown in Batista’s piece, it creates a ghostly overlapping image that portrays the past and present intersecting with one another.
“It took a lot of planning, slowly taking the steps, and patience with the actors,” said Batista of the double exposure process. “Once you roll the film, you can’t go back and look. But it turned out really well and I’m proud of it.”
In the future, Batista intends to work within the niche of documentary filmmaking. She hopes to produce films with a specific focus on the state of the environment, an issue she has advocated for and been passionate about for many years. She intends to take her documentaries international to explore the industry in countries like Australia, where documentary filmmaking is a widely popular medium.
“There’s just something about documentaries when it’s a really beautiful, cinematic piece,” said Batista. “At the end you realize it was all real. Real people, real stories. And yet it still feels like you were watching a movie. That’s what gets me about documentaries, I really love that kind of stuff.”