Derek Rucas and I go way back. The year was 1999 and manual film strip SLR cameras were booming with Loblaws customers. How do I remember this? Well, Derek and I were devout Loblaws Photolab employees at the ripe age of sixteen. Fast-forward to today with phone cameras being all the rage, and digital advancements changing all kinds of industries. The film industry is no exception, as Derek is making a name for himself in the indie film circuit. He is a video content producer, screenplay writer, and filmmaker who has been showcased at several international short film festivals. I’m thrilled to feature Derek Rucas in this week’s Q&A blog!
Q: As a kid, were you always creative? And a lover of films?
I always wanted to do something creative. I was in a band for a little while in high school, but even before that, I liked being behind the camera. I even wrote a (fairly pathetic) screenplay for “Back To The Future Pt. IV”.
Q: What was your favourite movie growing up?
Back To The Future Pt. II was by far the movie that I watched most as a child. I believe it’s the best of the series because not only does it have a great storyline, it incorporates the original film’s story to make its own storyline that is much more interesting!
Q: What is your education background, and how did it lead you into your career path?
I have a Film Studies degree from Queen’s University but realistically, the piece of paper hasn’t really helped further my career as a filmmaker. At a point I realized, if you want to make a movie, you just have to go and make it. In terms of screenwriting, I was a coverage reader for a company that sold the rights to broadcast Hollywood films for the Asian market. I had to read over 100 screenplays in roughly a year, which helped me be able to grasp screenplay structure effectively.
Q: As a video producer and film maker, how have advancements in technology affected your trade? Is there a technological advancement to-date that stands out as a game changer in your industry?
Just the fact that technology is becoming more readily available for the average consumer makes it a lot easier for people to enter media production; whether it’s video production or film production. It democratizes filmmaking in particular, so we’re able to hear stories that we may not have heard in the past.
Q: In 2017, your short film “First is the Worst” made its rounds at several festivals worldwide. Tell us a little bit about the process of making that film, specifically writing the screenplay.
To be honest, the short film was a means to an end. I was in the middle of writing a feature length screenplay revolving around the same characters, but I didn’t have the means to fund an entire feature film by myself. What I ended up doing was writing a short script taking place in the same world and involving the same main character so I could direct a short film—in essence, a “calling card” for myself. The hope was that it would help me get some recognition down the road. Sure enough, I won the “Best Guerrilla Film” award at the Action on Film Festival that year, so I was pretty happy about that.
Q: What is your writing process when working on a film script?
I like to think about my idea for a long time before I even write anything down. Sometimes it will take hours. Once I’ve conjured up a bunch of random tidbits, I’ll start jotting them down in my notebook. Eventually, things will start making sense to me and I’ll create a scene outline for the script. And finally once that’s done, I’ll be time to actually start writing the screenplay.
[Let’s take a quick moment here to acknowledge the fact that you actually handwrite in a notebook. There's nothing like putting pen to paper. Am I right? Moving on...]
Q: Do you ever have to grapple with writer’s block when you know you have the general idea for a film script? If so, how do you overcome it?
Writers block happens to everyone (so I’m told, at least…) I’ll tend to take a break from writing and do something completely random to get my mind off things. Sometimes, I’ll take a walk and just think about the situation I left my characters in and talk myself through possible ways to get their stories to move forward.
Q: Any advice/tips for an aspiring screenplay writer that you’ve learned through the years?
Yes. If you want to write screenplays do two things: 1) read a lot of screenplays, not just 1 or 2, like, 20 or 30 is probably a good number, and 2) write screenplays. It seems simple but that’s the only way you’ll accomplish anything.
Q: What's next for you?
I've got a script I'm looking to produce in the coming year. Stay tuned!