How do films get made? How is a play staged? Who are the people “behind the curtain?” There are many steps, many problems that are solved and hours spent working to get any project on its feet. Long before an actor ever says “I can’t work in these conditions” does the work actually start. The role of an actor is crucial, but in my opinion, it is not the most important. Which is why more credit is due, and not just by giving them a nomination for a local award, let us all say “thank you!” Because whether it’s in the world of dance, theatre or film, these people deserve the acknowledgement and gratitude for their work behind the scenes.

In this mini-series, “Behind the Scenes” you will get a chance to hear from those who get the ball rolling so that art can be created. So its time for me to stop talking and welcome, a dear work colleague and friend Ryan Cooper, who is an Ojibwe, two spirited and LGBTQ filmmaker from Treaty One Territory Peguis First Nations.

Ryan, what is life behind the camera like? 

I thought it would be amazing, glamorous and easy (LOL) before I actually got into the industry. It’s much more complicated, intense and overwhelming, but the excitement of achieving and pulling something together is one of the most amazing thrilling and blissful feelings that I’ve ever got to experience.

What has your experience as a Director been like? 

Honestly, I haven’t really directed as much as people think I have. I more or less produce and write. So speaking from that perspective it’s been incredibly insightful to see how the business aspect of the industry works, learning all of the numbers, the marketing, and distribution plans for a film and/or series. It is very exciting to see how the industry works from around the globe.

Where does the job as writer start?

From a writers perspective, it’s from the conception of an idea and through that concept, we work on what the industry calls a series “Bible.” I’ve been more or less working on the series rather then film at the moment. So as a writer, I work on the one page series “Bible,” then a script is developed. Then, when I have all of the creative materials, I put on my producer hat. I go out into the world in search of broadcasters, streamers, or any type of funder that would be interested in putting my show in active development. Once that is done, we are hoping for a green-light for production and that’s when the fun and putting a real team together begins. 

Why did you choose the artist path? 

To be completely honest, this sounds so corny but I feel like the artists pass was a destined path so it chose me.

Do you have a system or method you use while working with others on set? 

I think that we just need to go on set with an open mind and open heart and respect each other. Also know that each day is going to have its problems and that we have to work together to solve each problem on each day. I also think that being on set needs to be looked at like it’s a family putting together a piece of art for the world to see.

The whole hierarchy thing that’s happening on sets and has been happening is not something I gel with.

Are the days/nights long on set? 

I try really hard on my own subs to keep it at 10 hours a day. But as a person that used to work on crew 12 to 14 hour days we’re not really that rare LOL I’ll just say that.

What is the day in the life as a producer like? 

As a producer on set, it is very intense because you’re trying to put out little fires everywhere. Trying to solve problems as they appear, and they appear a lot some days. So being comfortable with being uncomfortable is a skill that you should learn.

Is there a film that was rewarding for you that you will always look back too? 

Not really, it’s more or less my work ethic from my family that I look back on and how they solved problems. There hasn’t really been a film in my life that really affected me to the point of wanting to get into this industry. I’ve always been a creative and I guess filmmaking is my medium for art.

What are your current project? 

Ryan’s answer: I currently have two telefilm talent to watch projects that I will be producing in 2021 Covid allowing LOL. I also have four television series that are in development with different funders.

What’s next for you? 

Hopefully get back on set, I miss it very much.

What are some words of inspiration you would give young artists who like the behind the scenes work?

I would say just keep doing what you’re doing and you will reach the position you want to reach, but you have to put in the work.

Check out Ryan Cooper on Instagram. Photo Credit: Roger Boyer

Behind the Scenes is a series dedicated to show appreciation for the thousands of crew members around the world who work in the arts field. From backstage and behind the scenes or even in the office building at your local school, they are the ones behind the curtain helping to create the magic.

This article is the first of eight in the Behind the Scenes series.