Q&A - JUNE 2017
I have had the pleasure of knowing Nick Ruff for the better part of a decade. During that time, I have witnessed Nick turn from the wide-eyed kid from rural Maryland to a multiple time Emmy nominated filmmaker. I am constantly inspired by the curiosity, drive, and passion he puts forth with every aspect of his life. These attributes are easily seen throughout his diverse body of work. Spanning from the football fields of Texas (The Roughnecks) to the impoverished regions of the Dominican Republic (Return to Esperanza) to even the far reaches of space (Visioneer) Nick’s portfolio only scratches the surface of a man that is so immensely talented and genuine. Enjoy this quick Q&A and get to know a little about the man I am proud to call my colleague and friend.
- Michael Mitchell - Executive Producer, Reflection Pictures
Q: Thanks for sitting down to do this.
Nick: Absolutely. My pleasure.
Q: Let’s jump right in. What was your intro into the industry?
Nick: My first actual paid break into the industry was when I was in college. I got a paid gig to shoot and edit a reality sizzle reel through a little company in Philadelphia. Not long after that, my producer transferred to NBC Universal and she brought me with her. That little job spiraled into working at NBC Uni for a couple years.
Q: One minute you are doing something for a small company in Philadelphia and the next one of the largest media conglomerates in the world is signing your check.
Nick: Yeah, exactly. It’s crazy how quickly things can happen.
Q: Coming up so quickly can be tricky. Did you have someone to guide or mentor you?
Nick: It’s more like mentors from afar. I grew up in a really small town and I was the only person doing what I was doing. I would come home and watch a lot of behind the scenes on DVDs. It was my film school after school.
Q: Are there any directors that inspired your visual style?
Nick: Tony Scott is a massive influence. Man on Fire is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s largely because of it’s style and how gripping the drama is. Oh and the music! That chaos and intensity makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Q: It’s that mix of powerful visuals and immersive sound. I get it.
Nick: Exactly. I remember realizing the impact of cinema while sitting in the theatre watching Titanic. There is one shot of the bright light shining down on a dead woman in the water. It lit up theatre and the music swelled and looking around everyone was crying. It blew me away. I wasn’t even watching the screen anymore. I was looking around at the audience. I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to create that ride of feelings cinema can give.
Q: Seems like you are hitting that mix of visuals and sound yourself. You have been nominated for 4 regional Emmys in editing. What goes through your head when you hear you have been nominated?
Nick: It’s really awesome. I wasn’t expecting any of them really. I work on one project and then move to the next and the next and I am lucky to get a little time to have a premiere party or a little celebratory time. It was nice to prolong that little blimp of celebration. It’s like building a house and getting to actually see it finally standing there. You have to soak it up because it goes so quickly.
Q: Is there any one of your four nominations that you are most proud of?
Nick: Yeah, I think it’s the documentary, Visioneer, because of the subject matter. The X Prize had such a cultural impact in space exploration especially with the growth and technology. It’s just so relevant to so many different industries. Even during the edit I knew I was working on something with impact. I think it came out very well.
Q: You are still very active as an editor. Anything you are working on edit wise to keep and eye out for?
Nick: I just finished with my lovely assistant editor, my wife Alyson, a documentary about Jack Canfield. He is the author of The Success Principles and co-author for Chicken Soup for The Soul. It’s called The Soul of Success. It’s a documentary about his life. We just wrapped that up and we are working on a couple other things.
Q: Sounds great. With all of that happening do you have any time for passion projects?
Nick: Yeah, I have a couple directing projects coming up. One is a short film. It’s a thriller set in a western. I am really excited to shoot that and get it in the festival circuit. I’m also working on a documentary about deep-sea sport fishing.
Q: That’s quite the spectrum.
Nick: Yeah, that’s the best part about film. You never know what you are going to be working on. I’m always looking to collaborate with my team. I enjoy creating a cinematic experience in whatever media. Whether that is short film, commercial, music video, or documentary.
Q: Do you think that your editing background helps you while directing?
Nick: Absolutely. My background in editing has definitely helped give me a sense for pacing and coverage. I think that gives me the pretext of what to do. It’s so important to have the fundamentals of editing to be able to put something together yourself.
Q: You have done a lot of documentary work. Even your scripted work lends itself to that very organic very natural feel. Is that something that is born out of your documentary experience?
Nick: That feel of gritty reality with tangible things happening to real people always speaks to me. Obviously my work in documentaries has helped. Honestly, I think I am attracted to that style because I was really affected by a handful of movies that came out in the early 2000's. There was a trend of taking the Hollywood blockbuster but making it feel more like a low budget documentary or a news reel. I think that is what really influenced me at a crucial time in my developmental years of creativity.
Q: Do you have a best day on set?
Nick: That’s a good question. The first one that comes to mind is when I was shooting Andy Grammer’s “Fresh Eyes” music video. We were doing makeovers for several guests at a homeless shelter in downtown LA. We were running behind schedule and we broke everyone on the crew for lunch. I decided to shoot through lunch to catch up. It was just me, a camera, and the man being made over. All of the sudden it was a pure moment of shooting something incredible. You could see how much even a haircut was affecting his spirit. It is incredible to be a part of such a special project.
Q: It’s amazing how far even a little self confidence will go.
Nick: Yeah, you usually don’t feel a social impact like that until the project is actually released. With this one though, we knew that it was making a difference even during the shoot. Although we were a very small part of that impact it was such a cool part to play.
Q: Thanks again for doing this. Best wishes with everything you have coming up.
Nick: Thanks for having me. Talk soon.