Secret Lives: Weekend filmmakers have the First Word

This is part of YFile‘s Secret Lives series showcasing the interests and hobbies York staff pursue in their free time.

When York staff members Ryan Kyriacopoulos and Dave Gibson say they have plans to work on their hobby over the weekend, they don’t just mean they’re going to spend a few hours being creative. They mean working for the whole weekend, sometimes non-stop into the night.

Dave Gibson and Ryan KyriacopoulosRight: From left, Gibson and Kyriacopoulos on the set

It’s like that in the film business, especially when you have to fit a full-time production schedule into your spare time.

Kyriacopoulos and Gibson have teamed up to make music videos, but we’re not talking your run-of-the-mill garage band demos – these are slick, well-crafted productions that show they’re serious about making films.

“The way we started off was as an expensive hobby really,” says Kyriacopoulos, who works as a student inquiries assistant with Undergraduate Student Services in the Faculty of Education. But when Gibson, a digital media support specialist with York’s Learning Technology Services, came into the picture, they started to get the business side working as well as the creative side.

The two are friends from school days. Gibson took on the role of producer while Kyriacopoulos – who took filmmaking courses at the Toronto Film School after undergraduate studies at York – serves as writer and director. Together they formed Riverlife Productions and their work is a collaboration that crosses over both partners’ areas of strength.

For crew, they use friends from the industry who share their interests in producing quality work. “We’re trying to build a small team that we can move from project to project,” Kyriacopoulos explains. “The one hope would be that as we move forward, we can bring them with us. Hopefully we can keep that community feel.”

Najjah Calibur Creft and 1st WordLeft: Najjah Calibur Creft and 1st Word

Their choice for a first project says a lot about what kind of operation they intend to run. The video “Where Would I Be” by 1st Word and Najjah Calibur Creft is a melodic rap tune about a son’s loving relationship with his parents. A gallery of family photos serves to frame the collection of takes of the two artists singing, including takes shot in front of Vari Hall and on the Vanier College basketball court.

A rap song extolling family values was a deliberate choice, not only because the filmmakers and singers are friends but also because it speaks to the quality of work both partners want to achieve.

“In general, a lot of times people have a negative association with rap music and the type of content that comes out of that and hip hop,” says Kyriacopoulos. “It’s one of the reasons we felt strongly about that song. We really like that the song has a positive message and challenges peoples’ expectations of the genre.”

“We’re very selective,” Gibson says. “At this point we have a lot of personal investment in these projects, so a lot of times what we will do is approach the musicians…and make sure they understand the way we work – that it is very much a joint effort and everyone’s contribution is important.

“We enjoy material that has some kind of integrity. We want to try and keep it that way,” says Gibson.

The decision to focus on artistic concerns has steered them away from more commercial projects, a decision that they admit, “may keep this as a hobby a bit longer.” And the two friends are in no hurry to change careers. Kyriacopoulos is interested in applying for the Graduate Program in Film Production at York and Gibson is enjoying the new role he began this year.

“I like working at York and I enjoy this atmosphere,” says Gibson. “I don’t know if I’d want to give up something like that.”

By David Fuller, YFile contributing writer