Ever wonder what kind of filmmaking magic goes into the making of a music video?
Dedicated to the singer/songwriter’s grandparents, Evelyn and William K. Ross, the video pays tribute to the couple’s lasting love through their on-screen depiction as a pair of figurines hand carved by Quebec artist Agnes Dube.
“My grandparents bought those figurines in the ’50s, so they’ve been around since my dad was a kid. They were always up on display, but I wasn’t allowed to play with them,” laughed the Class of 2019 graduate, noting that he inherited the wooden dolls from his parents a few years ago.
“I’ve had them in my living room at all the places I’ve lived, and I always thought it would be nice to put them in one of my music videos.”
Shot here in Toronto while the former Red Autumn Fall frontman was still enrolled in TFS’s Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre program, the first half of the All For You music video enlisted the help of cinematographer Aaron Bird and photographer Jen Squires.
“For the beach scenes, I’d raised enough money to hire my friend, Aaron, a DP who owns his own RED camera. He’s a great cinematographer who just came back from doing a documentary in Europe with the Cousteau family for National Geographic,” Ross said.
“All the movement with the figurines was basically me hiding behind rocks all day while Aaron was shooting.”
But when Bird was called away for another overseas job, Ross decided to pull out his own Sigma camera to finish the remaining scenes himself.
“Most of that part of the shoot was one hand on the camera, and one hand moving the figures or holding a light, so it was very awkward, but it all worked out,” he laughed.
Born in the Northwest Territories, Ross grew up in Norman Wells – a small town situated on the north side of the Mackenzie River – until his father’s pursuit of med school brought the family south, first to Manitoba, then to Alberta.
Hailing from a family of mainly doctors and psychiatrists, Ross credits his sixth grade teacher for inspiring him to pursue his passion for performance.
“He was a really creative, crazy teacher. He got us doing plays and would take us to the movie theatre all the time,” he said, noting that the pair remain in contact to this day.
While living in Manitoba as a teen, Ross continued on his creative path, studying acting at Winnipeg’s Prairie Theatre Exchange for several years, which, in turn, lead to a string of local TV commercial gigs.
But after moving to Calgary, acting began to take back seat to music when Ross formed the band Red Autumn Fall with a group of likewise musically minded friends.
“We started playing shows to basically nobody, but then we played this one show – I think it was a Rock Against Racism benefit – and we got a bit of a break,” he said, explaining that one of the show’s headliners – singer-songwriter Anne Loree – gave the band her prime slot in the lineup of performers.
“Hers was the best spot, and it was a big, 1,000+ show. After that gig, we started selling out clubs and kind of blew up from there – from no people, to 500 to 1,000 per show.”
After making the move to Toronto, Ross’ music career continued to flourish. He’s since written and released more than 10 albums – both as a member of various bands and as a solo artist – and has shared the stage with big-name acts such as Oasis, 54-40, The Watchmen, Matthew Good, Blue Rodeo, Barenaked Ladies, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and The Pursuit Of Happiness, to name a few.
He also picked up some music video-making expertise along the way.
“The filmmaking skills were learned out of desperation to make music videos with my band, and not having any money or any funding to make them,” he said.
“I just keep investing in new equipment, and keep getting out there and shooting and learning more and more about editing. I’m out there almost every other day shooting and trying to get better. Every new video is a learning experience.”
It was initially that desire to continue honing his music video making skills that drew Ross to Toronto Film School, where his first instinct was to enroll in the Film Production program. But after some last-minute soul searching, he changed his mind and signed up for the Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre program, instead.
“I was really nervous to join the school, but it ended up being literally one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” he said of enrolling at TFS in 2017 – the same year he joined his father and sister in founding Green Boat Productions.
“I liked that the classes weren’t all warm fuzzies and hugs and kisses. I liked that it was really challenging. And I liked how the teachers were all working actors in the industry.”
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Ross’ time at TFS, however, was how well the Acting program prepared him for life outside the classroom.
“I’ve taken lots of acting classes over the years and I have a lot of friends in other acting programs that are really good, but TFS is great because it gives you all this training that you don’t get anywhere else – like on-camera auditioning and the business of acting,” he said.
“It was all really helpful – teaching you what to do after you graduate, because school’s a bubble, and after you graduate it’s hard. You’re out and alone all of a sudden, but they really prepare you for that.”
Since graduating from Toronto Film School in 2019, Ross has co-written an Indigenous-based short film with his mother based on some of her own personal experiences, and will be headed to Portugal in the near future to record his next album with former Morrissey guitarist Boz Boorer.
He’s also used his TFS training to land several acting gigs – from a lead role in the short film, The Dialogue, acting opposite The Revenant’s Arthur Redcloud, to three voiceover gigs for Storybooks’ Indigenous Storytelling.
“When I showed up at the studio for the voiceover audition a couple months ago, I was really nervous…but I was amazed at how all the training I’d gotten at TFS from voiceover class and auditioning and all that kind of stuff kicked in automatically,” he marvelled.
“Afterwards, I told my sister how there’s no way I could’ve done that, and there’s no way I would’ve gotten hired if I didn’t have that TFS training. It’s just incredible that, even after so much time had passed since I graduated, it really kicked in. It was really cool.”