The thing about Emily Diana Ruth is that I believed her without hesitation and with every bone in my body when she told me, “I just don’t want people to think that I’m cool at all.”
In an age when other so-called YouTube personalities are preoccupied with Twitter networking and personal branding, Emily allows her work speak for itself. Indeed, she has managed to amass a following of over 10,000 subscribers in the two years since she started her channel, emilieofnewgloom, based on the sheer quality of her work. And quality it is, for sure.
I had heard about Emily’s channel from a number of people over the past year or so, and I had also heard about a short film that actress Laura Spencer (the Lizzie Bennet Diaries) had been filming last summer. But it wasn’t until Spencer tweeted links to behind the scenes footage of the film that I connected the dots. This was Emily’s film, and she was documenting the entire process.
I was completely intrigued. I watched all 50-some minutes of “The Making of The Water’s Fine” in one sitting. I mean, I was aware of some of Emily’s other video projects already, so I knew that she had a unique vision, but this went beyond anything else I had seen before. This wasn’t just behind the scenes footage — this was a detailed, step-by-step manual of sorts for aspiring independent film makers. As Emily’s father puts it, “you’re gonna make a movie about making a movie, too, huh?”
I asked Emily what she was thinking when she uploaded the first “Making of” video back in April 2012. “It was scary at the beginning,” she said. “I started with no concrete sense of, ‘the film is going to happen.'” But the documentation process became a means of accountability for her. The very fact that people were watching and commenting on the video and saying that they were excited about the film gave her the external pressure to make the film a reality, and the “making of” episodes kept on coming.
Each episode covers a specific aspect of Emily’s filmmaking process, from screenwriting to location scouting on to casting and shooting. She told me that she wanted to show her viewers that anyone could do something like this, that making movies is “extremely unglamourous” and also extremely possible if you approach it with the right attitude. An example of that comes in the 5th episode, in which she breaks down the funding and budgeting process. At the end of the video, she casually announces that she’ll be funding through indiegogo, which is a far cry from the usual theatrics you see when internet personalities launch crowdfunding campaigns. But, again, Emily was able to prove that sometimes, success follows where talent and hard-work lead; they raised $7126 with a goal of only $3000.
And speaking of crowdfunding: “It’s going to get to the point where it’s annoying probably pretty soon.” Emily acknowledged that her high level of transparency and the amount of work that she had already put into the project helped her chances of successfully crowdfunding. It’s an important lesson to learn for the aspiring filmmakers out there, because, while the Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter might have raised a whopping $2 million in a day, not every project has the built-in fanbase, and, as Emily pointed out, at some point the crowds are going to be over-saturated with potential projects to fund.
After funding was taken care of and pre-production was ironed out, Emily and her cast and crew spent a week shooting the film at a cabin in Huntsville, Ontario.
“Usually you’ll have 25, 30 people” working on a project like this, but cast and crew together on TWF added up to only about 10 people, so everyone had multiple hats to wear. For Emily, that meant having to learn how to do things she never thought she’d be able to do. She said it felt like “walking uphill, with the wind blowing against you, and you’re, like, naked.” Between directing a talented cast of actors one-on-one to juggling various aspects of production, she had her hands full, as did the rest of the crew. But despite the chaos and the set-backs (including lead-actress Spencer having her luggage and her entire wardrobe for the film lost by the airport), they were able to pull it all off.
The process is still far from complete. Emily is still releasing making-of videos. The film is picture locked, but things like coloring and sound editing have yet to reach their final stages. And then comes the festival circuit, for which Emily plans to use the remaining indiegogo funds. As for the future, she says that she is ready to move on and make something new. When I asked her whether she would consider documenting the process for her next project, she said, “I think I would do it again.” Here’s hoping she does!