From Ryerson to LA

Film Studies alumni Lucas Ford (featured image: left) and Matt Mitchell (featured image: right) are sharing their Ryerson experience and career stories here on WhyRyerson! Check out their interview below. 

1. Introduce yourself, your most recent position, and the program and year you graduated.

LF:  Hi, I’m Lucas Ford! I run an independent production company called Ford Films, where I develop and produce film and television in both Canada and the United States. Previously, and after graduating Ryerson’s film program in 2015, I worked at the Toronto International Film Festival as the coordinator to the director & CEO. Following two years at TIFF, I jumped over to New Metric Media where I had the opportunity to work on shows such as Letterkenny (Hulu/Crave), Bad Blood (Netflix/City) and What Would Sal Do? (Crave) before moving to Los Angeles.
MM:  My name is Matt Mitchell, I’m an independent film and television producer. Most recently I was a development producer at Proper Television (A Boat Rocker Media Company) in Toronto. Our shows included MasterChef Canada, Canada’s Worst Driver, and The Great Canadian Baking Show. My job was to expand the company’s slate of original series, and my specialty was U.S.-Canada co-productions. I graduated from Ryerson University’s image arts – film studies program in 2013.

2. What are your biggest accomplishments so far?

MM: When I graduated from Ryerson, I joined Muse Entertainment (The Kennedys, Tut) where over the next three years I was instrumental in growing their new unscripted division from one documentary on the History Channel, to three new original series on three different U.S. networks (A&E, Reelz and Velocity) by the time I was 25. I was hired by Proper Television to do the same there, where we had a large slate of shows in development with networks and one of the biggest years we had of shows in production. I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with some of the largest and most prolific production companies in Canada.
LF:  A big highlight of this past year was the opportunity to work with incredible companies like Fox Searchlight, MGM and Amazon Studios. Seeing the cases of Academy Awards and a-list talent coming in each week, you quickly realize that this is the big leagues. It was incredible to be part of and contribute to those teams. Coming from a small town in rural Ontario, it’s moments like these that you have to try to catch yourself and take it all in.

I’m also very proud of the independent film work my collaborators and I have been able to create fresh out of school and continue to create now. These projects can take you all over the world and I am grateful for the new friends and experiences I’ve gained along the way. Outside of this, having a couple of my films play on the CBC was a personal fave for the 12-year-old me.

3. What projects are you working on right now? What are you working on next?

MM: Right now I am co-writing and producing a short film set in Las Vegas in the 1950s. I’m also developing several TV/feature projects for later this year.
LF: A recent film I produced called “Game,” directed by fellow Ryerson Alum Joy Webster just premiered on CBC a couple of weeks back. Our new project “Buzzard” had just been completed, and we’re excited to begin our festival run. “The Sunset Channel” from another Ryerson collaborator, Matthew Kinahan, had its international premiere at the Reykjavik International Film Festival last fall, and has a handful of upcoming screenings slated. I also recently wrapped production on a new project in Los Angeles, and I’m developing my first feature film projects both in Canada and the US.

4. What do you look for in a project (scripted or unscripted) when considering taking it on?

MM: Since I come from an unscripted background, I’m really fascinated by stories about true characters and events. If they’re well-executed, they can offer us a unique perspective into the nature of the human condition. I’m also really passionate about stories that reflect the diversity and richness of the voices in the world, particularly underrepresented ones. In unscripted, the characters are paramount, and I use that same lens to look for character-driven stories in the scripted world.
LF:  I want to feel something when I’m reading new material. Does it allow me to reflect and ask questions? Does it make me laugh or cry?  Or is it just entertaining? If a couple of these are done well together with a distinct point-of-view, more often than not, I respond to it.

I also aim to work on projects I’m passionate about with people I love working with. While that may seem obvious, it’s essential to pick the right team. These things help when times get tough and make the long haul worth it in the end.

5. How would you describe your time as a student at Ryerson? What did your days and weeks look like?

LF: Ryerson was a game-changer for me; I couldn’t imagine doing it again any differently. I think being engaged in different associations/groups on campus made it worthwhile and enjoyable for me. Outside of class, you would have caught me watching Leaf games at the Ram in the Rye, playing pond hockey on Lake Devo, intramurals at the RAC or late night Metro runs!
MM: My time at Ryerson were the best years in my life. The people I met there are the people I am closest to today. I was very busy – I was the vice president of events of the Ryerson Residence Council, was an elected faculty director on the board of the Ryerson Students’ Union, had a job at the university’s career center, and had school on top of that. I was very involved and my days were back-to-back because of it, but I built lasting relationships during that time that I treasure to this day.

6. What opportunities at Ryerson led you to now?

LF: Ryerson was an amazing space to try new things, figure out what works and doesn’t work while developing your style and taste in filmmaking. One week I was helping organize the Ryerson Film Festival and the next I was working at TIFF.
MM: I think it’s important to note that since graduating school, I didn’t apply online to a single job. It was all word-of-mouth and referrals, which is why the relationships you build at Ryerson are so important. My first job out of Ryerson was from a call I got from a classmate who was working on the documentary for Muse Entertainment. They originally needed a post-production coordinator for one week, which turned into three years working in development in their unscripted division.

7. How did your experience/education at Ryerson influence your current work?

MM: Ryerson trains you as a filmmaker by teaching you storytelling principles with actual 16mm film at first. We were literally splicing and taping together film strips on a Steenbeck editing system. It seems archaic, but the extra steps actually force you to think of your story as a whole, which made me a better storyteller. The image arts program is also really strong in teaching you the visual language of filmmaking. The thesis films my class made were really high quality, they didn’t look or feel like student films and went on to critical acclaim at major festivals.
LF: While at Ryerson, we had the chance to learn all phases of the filmmaking process by diving head first into project-based work and experimentation. Simultaneously, we learned the theory and principles in our other coursework. I quickly figured out what I enjoyed and and the parts that didn’t quite hit for me. The holistic approach provided perspective that has informed the work I do today.

8. How would you describe Ryerson in a sentence to a new student?

LF: Unforgettable experiences, endless opportunities, and no regrets!
MM: The whole Ryerson experience – working with really talented people, living downtown, being involved – was transformative and eyeopening.

9. Do you continue to collaborate with your peers?

MM: Absolutely. Lucas and I continue to collaborate here in Los Angeles, and I have no doubt we will be collaborating in really big and exciting ways in the near future.
LF: All the time. Ryerson provided us with a network of incredibly talented collaborators and friends. Wherever it is in the world, I always want to bring them along for the ride, and also be included in theirs.

10. If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing when you were graduating Ryerson, what would it be?

MM: It’s great to have a long-term vision of where you want to end up, but there are so many ways to get there. There is no one right or wrong way. It can be messy, but it’s ok that it’s messy. Embrace different opportunities as they come and treasure the relationships you build during school, because they’ll stay with you for the rest of your life.
LF: Luck and preparation do eventually meet. When you put in hard work, including the long hours that no one else notices, you know that you’ll be ready to make the most of it when the right opportunity comes your way.

If you’d like to learn more about Lucas and Matt check out the links below!

Game on CBC


Playback article

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