Student has a passion for making films
Ask up-and-comer Ryan Knight, 20, what makes a great filmmaker and he’ll tell you it starts with a passion for storytelling.
“I love telling any story that is compelling,” says Knight in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. He is just wrapping up a summer program in film and digital cinematography at the University of Southern California (USC) before coming back to Toronto to complete his undergraduate studies at York University’s film program. “I am into character dramas and like seeing how someone can be affected internally by people around them.”
It was after watching Saving Private Ryan, at age 13, that Knight first realized he wanted to be a filmmaker. “I was intensely touched by this film…(and it) made me realize that I want to tell stories.”
With 14 short films to his credit, Knight has a knack for telling powerful stories, evident in his two recent projects, Away From The Line, which reflects on the Second World War’s Battle of the Bulge, and The Road Of the World, a narrative film about a family man called to duty during the First World War.
His keen eye for historical detail and cinematography has already won him acclaim.
The latter film claimed first prize in the Make Shorts Not War! film contest, co-sponsored by the National Film Board of Canada. This enabled Knight to serve as the board’s official English-language cinematographer at the July 1 remembrance ceremony in France, marking the 90th anniversary battles of the Somme and Beaumont Hamel. The other film scored three nominations at the 2005 YoungCuts Film Festival — an annual international event that showcases young filmmakers.
Recently, he also learned that The Road Of The World and his newly completed film, Norman, will both be screened at this year’s YoungCuts in Montreal, taking place later this month. The Toronto schedule has yet to be announced, according to a festival spokesperson.
In spite of all this success, Knight is still down-to-earth. He continues to lend his talents to community causes, in particular, developing a short film for the Beatrice Watson-Acheson Foundation — an organization dedicated to animal welfare — and teaching at the Annex Children’s Theatre.
After York, Knight aspires to attend the graduate film program at the USC School of Cinema and Television.
Notable alumni include Ron Howard and Robert Zemeckis. Never one to sever his roots, Knight will take Canada with him wherever he goes.
“The one thing I am never going to do is forget which country raised me,” he says.
Knight knows the road to success is not always easy. “I’ve embraced that the industry is going to take a bite out of you, chew you up, and spit you out…you just have to be thick-skinned (and know) that if this is what you want, you’re going to work hard to get it.”