Meet the Makers: Ryan Craver
BY Sushma Khadepaun, October 16, 2018
Meet the Makers is an ongoing interview series highlighting current Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program students and faculty.
Ryan Craver is a Film Directing student from North Carolina, currently in his fourth year.
How did you get started in film?
My grandma raised me, and I like to think of her as this great, unknown documentarian. Her library shelves were filled with VHS tapes and home videos—she recorded everything. She has a powerful way of chronicling everyday life, and some of my earliest memories are of her filming me, letting me play with her camera, and watching myself back on the TV. My grandfather is also a huge movie buff. He grew up working in his family’s movie theaters, and his grandfather was an early pioneer of bringing theaters to the Southeast U.S. I’m not sure I could have had any other career. It’s no surprise that most of my work deals with family and memory.
Did you have a background/ education in cinema before starting the MFA Program?
I never wrote or made any substantial creative work before I was 23. My pre-Columbia degrees are in English and film studies, and I had planned on teaching in some capacity. I’m still passionate about teaching and academia, but I had to admit to myself that I was settling if I never at least tried to make a film.
How has the program helped/challenged/changed your path as a creator?
There was no path before the program. Now, I recognize that there’s no one correct way to become an artist apart from being honest and—most importantly—doing the work. Before, I sort of wallowed in all the unknowns and worried about how to attract opportunities, but during the past few years, it has become clear that I have to make the opportunities for myself. Which is scary, but also empowering.
How many films have you made while in the program and have you had the opportunity to showcase them anywhere?
I’ve written-produced two shorts as collaborations with classmates, and I’ve made one as a writer-director: Truck Slut. It’s an essay-narrative about a small town, gay teenager’s charged relationship with his sister and the South in general. I’m very excited to have it premiere at the New Orleans Film Festival. It was important to me to show at Southern festivals and festivals committed to diversity, so on those fronts, it doesn’t get better than NOFF.
What are you working on right now?
A lot of writing! I have a feature about the intersection of hormones and politics and a few shorts. The one I’m most excited about is a totally bonkers parody-turns-existential-queer-nightmare of this Depression-era family saga called The Waltons from the ‘70s.
What do you hope to do after graduation?
The dream is to write and direct features or television. But future speculation can produce a lot of anxiety, and there are a lot of things to look forward to apart from a career. Maintaining a work-life balance is essential for sanity. I hope to find the time and means to empower and support young people, especially in the queer community. I hope to get married and find a nice place to live. I hope that place at least has a dishwasher.
There are so many challenges in filmmaking and simply surviving as an artist. What keeps you going?
I stay inspired by other artists. I read, I go to the movies almost twice a week, and I’m subscribed to like five different streaming services at this point. The fact that so many beautiful, surprising, and flat-out “weird” (my least favorite word) things still get made and find an audience is very encouraging. I also keep my house clean, make my fiancé dinner, and when all hope is lost, go back home to North Carolina.
If there's one thing you wish you had known earlier, what would that be?
That I have the power to say no. I have a tendency to over-commit and put myself last. Be generous, but not at the expense of your own goals and sanity.