VSS grad shares love of film with the world

Filmmaker Ryan Bouman got his start behind the lens in his hometown of Vernon

Vernon-raised filmmaker Ryan Bouman is making a name for himself filming documentaries and promotional videos for non-profit projects in Africa and Haiti.

Vernon-raised filmmaker Ryan Bouman is making a name for himself filming documentaries and promotional videos for non-profit projects in Africa and Haiti.

It was a choice between a spatula or a lens.

Back in high school, when Ryan Bouman wasn’t helping out at his parents’ bakery, he was working the cameras and video editing equipment available to him through his media production and film studies classes at Vernon Secondary School.

In Grade 11, he saved up enough money from his bakery job at Sweet Caroline’s, owned by his parents Roy and Caroline Bouman, and bought his first video camera, followed by his first iMac, complete with a full editing suite.

“It was there that my love for video work and films really took off,” said Bouman. “Back then it was pretty rare for a high school student to have their own computer.”

Now 27 and married, Bouman runs his own film production company in Calgary, and has travelled the world shooting various projects.

His first major one came in November, 2013, when he was hired to go to Uganda to film a video for a non-profit organization.

“It had always been a dream of mine to be able to go to Africa, and it was pretty surreal to actually be going,” said Bouman. “I spent a week in a village in Uganda, filming the community and showing how it has grown in the last 10 years.”

Bouman decided to stay an extra three days to do a passion project for a company (DuncanAfrica) building guitars in Uganda.

“Every morning I was picked up by a Boda-Boda (motorcycle taxi) and would drive through the hills of Uganda to this workshop with my gear bungie chorded to the front,” he said.

Bouman credits his media teacher at VSS, Mike Sawka, for fostering his interest in filmmaking and editing.

“I remember he would give me access to the computers to edit projects during lunch hours and after school,” said Bouman. “He saw that I had a passion for this stuff and just let me roll with it, and allowed me a lot of creative freedom to make the projects my own. I am very thankful to him for that.”

In his 20th year of teaching, Sawka continues to instruct students in media and video production at VSS,  and says he remembers Bouman for his enthusiasm.

“He was an exceptional student and I’ve followed his journey since he graduated. I  knew he was going to do well with it,” said Sawka, adding he recalls Bouman spending extra time on his projects.

“One thing with the media class is that when a kid really enjoyed working with video, a one-hour class was never enough, so I’d allow them to work on their breaks, during lunch hour or after school.”

Sawka continues to encourage his students to pursue a career in filmmaking, production and media arts and besides Bouman, has seen a few other of his other graduating students succeed.

“Jody Hill is similar to Ryan in that he has his own video business in Kelowna, while one of my former students, Sheena Johnson, works on the set of Game of Thrones,” he said. “Vancouver is a happening place for movies and TV, and those kids looked into those avenues.”

Bouman opted to take a different path after he graduated, working various jobs, including doing some projects for Vernon Alliance Church and Eagle Bay summer camp, where he created video memories for campers to take home.

“I went to a few interviews at various film schools in Vancouver, but nothing seemed to feel right. The cost was really tough to justify and I was feeling pretty discouraged,” he said.

It was around that time, in 2008, that the DSLR video revolution started.

Using the video component on a digital lens reflex camera (which allows the photographer to interchange lenses), gave creative freedom to budget videographers and filmmakers, who were always used to shooting on a camera with a fixed lens, said Bouman.

“All of a sudden you could shoot cinema-style videos on a camera that cost $2,500,” he said.

After seeing some footage from a DSLR camera online, Bouman went down to the store that day and bought one.

“I began honing my skills and shot a wedding for some friends, and it actually turned out really well. People started to notice my work and I started to get hired for more weddings. I remember thinking, ‘wow I could actually make this work.’”

Bouman also put his editing skills to good use, and still edits all his own work using Adobe Premier Pro as well as the rest of the Creative Suite process.

“It’s where you get to see all your hard work really pay off,” he said.

After attending some workshops in the U.S. on video production and indie film making, and spending the following summer shooting more weddings, Bouman decided to follow his girlfriend Kristen Boda (now his wife) to Calgary.

“Businesses in Calgary started to see my work and the work continued to come in,” he said.

Bouman has since been to Africa two more times, shooting for non-profits in Burundi and Ethiopia, and he recently returned from a trip where he created a promotional film for Clean Water for Haiti, which employs Haitians to build water filters for their own use.

“Haiti is one of the world’s most impoverished nations, and to see these people empowered to help their own people was really amazing to watch and I am proud to have been able to tell their story,” said Bouman. “These experiences have really expanded my world view.”

He also just wrapped up a film project on the wild horses of Alberta, and hopes to do more film work in Vernon in the future.

“I get hired for projects in Vernon every once in a while, but mostly Vernon is a place of rest for me. Kirsten and I love to visit our family and friends there,” said Bouman. “It would be cool to do more projects in Vernon as there is so much of it that is still a part of who I am. I really do love what I get to do. It has put me to meet some amazing people, see the world, and gives me a creative outlet daily.”

To view some of Bouman’s film work, visit vimeo.com/ryanboumanfilm.