Filmmaker Spotlights: Ruth Holder
We are always excited to platform people whose work is making waves in the screen industry. Meet Ruth Holder - a filmmaker whose debut film has already been screened at the 2020 Birmingham Film Festival and has won her the 'Young Filmmaker Spotlight Award' at the Her International Film Festival. Check out her film at the end of the article!
Your film ‘Lost Identity’ is a really beautiful, emotive film, which truly deserves all its impressive awards. You call it an ‘experimental dance film’ that helped you to express your experience of bullying and mental health. What made you decide to use dance to express your personal experience?
Thank you so much! Even now I’m still speechless and grateful for the awards that the film has received. It’s funny, though, because I have two reasons for why I wanted Lost Identity to be a dance film. One, because I wouldn’t have to worry about dialogue and audio, and since this was my first film, that was something I was very stressed about. But I also wanted to challenge myself by conveying the subject and themes of the film visually, which I believe I did do really well.
You play a lot with light and dark as well as striking colour in your film, was this an intentional choice, or something that just felt right as you went along?
I’m glad that you noticed that! When I saw The Old Print Works, the location where the film takes place, they had a brightly lit room upstairs and a darker, eerier room downstairs and it perfectly conveyed the theme of 'appearance vs reality' in the film.
The idea of colour came to me later on when me and May, the actress in the film, were discussing how to convey its themes. I had the idea of the hall being separated into three colours: red, blue and green. May agreed, and felt that each colour could represent her different stages and emotions. In the end, we went with red, blue, and dark shadows, and I believe that without this, the film would not only look visually boring, but also wouldn’t illustrate the different stages that May goes through.
How did it feel to have your debut film screened at a festival? What was it like to watch an audience watch your film?
It was surreal! I couldn’t experience it in person because of COVID, so a lot of the festivals that I was selected for were held online. Nonetheless, I feel so blessed because I forgot that I had prayed and asked God for this, then when it happened I was so shocked and grateful! So I have to thank God because that was all Him!
You work a lot with organisations and groups in your home city of Birmingham, what does it mean to you to have that regional space to network and share experiences with fellow, local filmmakers?
It feels great! I've slowly started to build my network in Birmingham and I hope it continues to grow because I want Birmingham to become a hotspot for filming in the UK! This city is so diverse and full of talented people! The Birmingham Young Film Network (BYFN) is one of the few organizations that I believe will be an important factor for this to happen. It’s a network for young filmmakers, and I don’t think we’ve had that in Birmingham before. So shoutout to the BYFN! https://www.byfn.co.uk/
From such a young age you seem to have been acutely aware of the impact of your voice, never shying away from expressing your opinions. How did you find your voice?
I've never really had the courage to say what I wanted, even now I struggle with saying what’s on my mind. But when I left university to make Lost Identity I focused on building my public speaking skills and I gained confidence from that. But in 2020 and also this year, I’ve been focusing more on being comfortable with myself and that’s given me even more confidence to be able to speak up about things I’m passionate about.
Who are some of your inspirations, both on and off screen?
I always love answering this question because I get to talk about my favourite film Pacific Rim, which was directed by Guillermo del Toro! Pacific Rim is the reason I’m a filmmaker. It introduced me to the world of colour and I can’t see the world in any other way now because of it!
Even with films that I want to create, and the worlds I imagine in my head, the first thing I consider is how it will look visually. Pacific Rim taught me how to tell a narrative through visual storytelling and that influenced me a lot when creating Lost Identity.
Christopher Nolan is also another huge influence on me, especially in terms of creating huge scale narratives. The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception are two of my favourite films and they always manage to draw me into these massive worlds that he creates. This is what I aim to do with my own films.
What do you look for in a film or television show? Do you have any criteria in mind, or do you treat each watching experience individually?
I like to be surprised. I want to see something different but lately, reboots and franchises have taken over cinema and television, few are good but many are clearly cash-grabs. I want to see creatives take risks and create something we’ve never seen before.
However, if there’s a type of film/television show that I love over anything, it’s the ones that give me a feeling of escapism: ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Witcher’ are some of my favourites, and did this really well. I want more shows that take you into a whole new world.
Though short film features often in film festivals, it’s often an overlooked genre in terms of everyday watching/streaming for most audiences (such as on Netflix, Amazon etc.). In your opinion, what makes short films important? Do you think short films are valued enough, and why?
Short films are often seen as a medium in which a filmmaker can learn and practise their craft, a piece of work that can be submitted to festivals, which will, in turn, help a filmmaker get their name out in the industry with the accolades they receive. I think because this is usually the main reason why filmmakers create short films, the perspective on the genre has never really changed from this. I’m still early into my filmmaking career, so I don’t know how my outlook on short films will change but I appreciate that it gives filmmakers a space and medium to develop their storytelling and filmmaking skills.
What do you think the future of the short film scene looks like? How might we encourage more people to appreciate short films?
Honestly, I don’t know. A lot of people consume content on Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max these days, so if they started to see the potential in short content and commissioned creatives to create short films for their streaming sites, that would definitely motivate a lot of people to create short films. But I don’t really know how or if the future of short filmmaking will change from what it is today, it’ll be interesting to see if it does.
You seem to be always learning, always striving for the next project and next achievement. Where do you hope to take your career in film in the future?
My future is in God’s hands and I want to follow the plan He has set out for me, so I aim to stay obedient to Him. I personally just love creating stories and I want to continue to do so, especially with feature films because I have so many stories that I want to tell!
Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self?
There’s so much I want to tell my younger self, so much! But I’d say: Put yourself first. All those people you changed yourself for weren't worth it. They made you feel worthless but you are beautiful and capable of so much. And all that time you thought you'd be a director at 40, well you did it at 19 (I think I’d love hearing this the most!).
What will your next project be? Why have you chosen it? How can we support it?
My next project is a Cyberpunk short film called BLUE, which follows two young bounty hunters who band together to find a high-profile runaway. Cyberpunk is known for being a genre that discusses technological advancement and societal issues, which is at the core of BLUE’s story.
I want to use this film to discuss how lost this generation is. As young people, we have always struggled with finding our purpose in life and figuring out what career we should pursue. Something that’s constantly been drilled into us since we entered education. But during the pandemic, I’ve seen how so many young people have become distraught and hopeless not knowing what the future holds for them.
It was also important to me to see myself represented in a genre that I love. So all of the main characters in this film are black. There’s not a lot of black men and women in main roles in science fiction, and it’s important to me to not only see myself represented in film but also be a part of the change that I want to see.
So far, I have a producer working with me to make this film a reality but to keep updated with the progress please follow me on my social media accounts: @ruthholder_ on Instagram and Twitter.
Ruth Holder is an award-winning writer/director from the UK. Film-making has been a passion of hers ever since she watched Guillermo's 'Pacific Rim' in the cinema when she was 13. Since then she's dreamed of seeing her films on the silver screen. If you're also a fan of Pacific Rim, you'd instantly be drift-compatible! Check out her debut film, Lost Identity below!