When he was five, Ryan Bouman was fixated on his father’s video camera. Fuzzy family home videos show Bouman asking his father if he can look at the camera in his hands. Later, little Bouman would stare at the TV screen with the camera hooked up, amazed by what he saw.
“There was something about capturing a moment and being able to replay it that I just loved,” Bouman said. “I wanted to watch it over and over again.”
Bouman has always been inspired by storytelling. He found his passion using visuals to tell stories, rather than just words. This was a guiding factor fueling his decision to go into filmmaking. The inspiration Bouman felt when he first picked up his father’s camera has only grown with time.
With the help of his father, Bouman created one of his first videos in the late nineties for a seventh-grade science project. Students were allowed to choose their presentation medium but without access to the camera phones and video technology of the present, Bouman wasn’t sure what he would use to do the piece. His father’s bulky camcorder would have do the trick.
His passion grew from there. In 2003, when Bouman was in the eleventh grade, he bought a Canon handycam to shoot video with. The next year, he invested in his first editing system, spending a hefty $3,000.
Bouman put the equipment to good use. With his friend Josh Golding, Bouman started shooting short videos for his high school. They made videos about school events, departing teachers and funny music videos. These shorts were shown weekly at his high school in British Columbia.
School shoots were the first time Bouman could experiment with editing videos in different ways. For one video of a football game, he and Golding decided to have the video change colours on the drum beat. On each pound of the drum, the screen would change from red, to green, to blue.
“We did that and we thought it was so cool, you know?” Bouman said. “And it’s so bad now when we look back at that but those are the little things that I think we were trying to push ourselves to try.”
Bouman and Golding were dedicated to their projects. Multiple days of the week, Bouman and Golding would stay at school after hours working away on their latest video endeavor.
Golding said he learned a lot from Bouman. “He was constantly doing new things, so most of what I learned in class I actually learned from him because he would go and try a new thing first and then he would show me how to do it.”
Golding is no longer a filmmaker, but at the time he was inspired by Bouman’s fervor. “I think his passion for [filmmaking] was just contagious,” Golding said.
After high school, Bouman took a break from filmmaking. Rather than attending film school, he decided to take time to ponder his future. He had hoped to start a production company using the big camera he had. But it didn’t work out.
He wanted to do something more. It was difficult to do solo projects with one bulky camera, so he hopped on the bandwagon and bought his first Digital Single Lens Reflex camera.
The only problem was Bouman didn’t know where to start. He found himself at a crossroad: he could either be a late bloomer and attend film school or try a workshop he heard about in Minneapolis.
Figuring the workshop wouldn’t hurt, he traveled to Minneapolis for three days. It turned out the workshop was a good choice for Bouman. When it ended he felt inspired and had a vision of where he could take his career next.
“I would not be where I am today if I did not go and spend three days with those guys in Minneapolis,” he said.
With a new camera, and some motivation from Minneapolis, Bouman was ready to pursue his passion full time.
He began his career with small projects like weddings for friends, music projects and a video for a small business in the Okanagan. A larger company in Calgary saw the video and reached out, asking to hire Bouman to make videos for them.
“You start to have that income and you can start to do some passion projects and things that you really care about,” Bouman said.
Once he began making money from his filmmaking, he was able to follow his passion and travel for non-profit work. From Haiti and Burundi to Uganda and Ethiopia, Bouman has travelled the world making videos for non-profit organizations.
In Haiti, Bouman worked with a charity called Clean Water for Haiti and created a video showing the organization’s approach to maintaining safe, clean drinking water for the community. Through the use of simple and inexpensive biosand filters, the Haiti-based staff are helping locals avoid drinking contaminated water.
In Uganda, Bouman worked with Food for the Hungry and north Vancouver’s Capilano Christian Community (CapChurch) to create a video illustrating the successes in Bufukhula, Mbale, Uganda. After nine years, the community has broken the cycle of poverty. From education to savings groups, agriculture and more, Bouman captured the community thriving and told the story of how they got to where they are now.
When Bouman was in Ethiopia, he teamed up with Run for Water to create a narrative that followed two young girls, Maskerem and Dibe, along their journey to collect water for their family. This short shows the resilience of the two girls and highlights the importance of water to the survival of the community.
Recently, Bouman started working in Calgary at a company called Deluxe Design Group (DDG). Because he’s used to working alone, the new job has been an adjustment for the long-time freelancer.
“I think that I do want to move forward into that narrative, short film, feature-film world someday. That’s the big thing that I am trying to work toward, but the thing with that is that you need a team. I can’t do it all on my own,” Bouman said.
Bouman is learning to trust others with different aspects of the filmmaking process. DDG is helping him get used to working in a creative team environment.
“There is a reason the credits take so long to go through: because all these people come together to create this one piece,” Bouman said.
Team member at DDG, Brock Mitchell, views Bouman as both a colleague and a mentor.
“Working with Ryan has really opened my eyes to collaboration,” Mitchell said. “...Meeting Ryan and just seeing someone else who does the same thing I do [and] has the same sort of sensitivities and approaches to things, makes my work more realistic. I can look at the work that I do through a different eye.”
Bouman helped Mitchell learn the importance of letting emotional instincts drive his creative process. Mitchell said Bourman is aiding in pushing him toward a future making stories that speak to audiences on an emotional and visual level.
“I think as a general story teller, where I see him heading is in a more intentful position, creating more stories that are about him as much as they are his subject,” Mitchell said.
As Bouman steps away from freelance work and learns to thrive in DDG’s team environment, he says his high-quality videography and authentic approach to filming is something that will never change.
“I try to keep all my shots feeling very real and very true to the moment. [...] I like to allow people to be who they are and for me to just capture that, not trying to force them too much to be something specific for the piece.”
To see Bouman’s videography, visit his website at ryanboumanfilm.com.
- By Robyn Welsh