Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up on a ranch just east of the Waterton Lakes National Park and have lived in southern Alberta most of my life. Many people do not know that I am disabled. I am an amputee, having lost my left leg to a blood clot as an infant. Navigating life with a permanent disability is incredibly challenging and there are new challenges and obstacles to face every day, but I've been incredibly blessed to have an amazing family and a lot of support from friends and mentors in my life. I graduated from Cardston High School, where, despite my disability, I lettered in football, but also loved music, movies, video games and comics. I did well academically and always had university ambitions. My father completed both a bachelor's and master's in Education at the University of Lethbridge, so it always seemed like a great choice for me to go to university here and it was! Never did I imagine that so many of the things I enjoyed in my youth would eventually become such a big part of my life and my career. I also met my wife Aubrey and we got married while I was a student here in 1999.
The names of both the department and the degree actually changed after I graduated, but that seems appropriate given I changed my major a few times during my undergraduate studies. It was a liberal education requirement course in Fine Arts that ultimately changed the path of my education and my career. The course revealed something that I had never expected, that I had a passion and a real talent for storytelling and filmmaking. The experience in that course motivated me to change my major a final time, and then take every film-related course offered at ULethbridge, which at the time was very few. I had some amazing professors who agreed to supervise independent studies with me and whose encouragement and validation of my dream to be a professional filmmaker inspired me to go to film school and complete my graduate studies, which I did, earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Department of Film at the University of Regina.
How long have you been at ULethbridge and what do you do here?
“How long” is a bit difficult for me to calculate because, after completing graduate studies, I worked as a sessional instructor at a few different post-secondary institutions, including a few semesters on and off at the University of Lethbridge, before I accepted a tenure-track appointment at a university in the United States. I returned to ULethbridge as an Assistant Professor in 2008 and have been here ever since. It's been incredible to share my passion for storytelling and the art of filmmaking with hundreds of students over the past 15 years. I'm a practicing filmmaker, screenwriter and creative researcher, with many years of experience as an academic administrator and higher education leader as well.
What's the best part of your job?
Making an impact on students' lives and their careers is definitely the best part of my job. There are many examples of this in my career, but this year is the 10th anniversary of my award-winning film Common Chord, a feature film project that I directed and, because it was conceived primarily as a way to provide practical hands-on experience for students interested in filmmaking, it made a huge impact on students. The film had its world premiere at the 2013 Calgary International Film Festival and recently I connected with a number of my former students who worked on the film, many of whom enrolled in a practicum course I developed. They all relayed what an incredible experience they had working on that film with me here at the university. Their experience on the film jump-started their careers in truly meaningful ways, and having that kind of impact – the kind that helps students believe in themselves, their potential and their dreams — is the best part of my job. There are other amazing things as well. I've spent a lot of the last decade focused on advocating for and facilitating the work of many of my amazing colleagues and being a part of the institutional narrative in various administrative and leadership roles. That work has been incredibly rewarding, especially the efforts made to help improve our workplace and make this university an amazing place to learn, create and grow. Of course, getting to write screenplays and make films as part of my job is incredible. Recently, I've been able to devote more time to my creative practice as a screenwriter and will be holding a table read of a short script I completed entitled Ruse coming up on October 10. I am planning to hold another table read for episodes of a western web series I'm writing entitled Windswept later on this year or in the early spring and will also be working to secure production funding.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Spending time with my wife Aubrey and our family is my top priority. No matter what we're doing, when we're doing it together my life feels like it has a deeper meaning and purpose. I love cooking breakfast food and grilling burgers or steaks on the BBQ. I also enjoy listening to music, drawing, playing retro Xbox video games, watching the History channel or National Geographic, and re-watching any of my many favourite TV shows or movies but especially The West Wing, Firefly, The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, and the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The opportunity to travel is also something I greatly enjoy and visiting the Yucatan in Mexico was extra special to me. No matter where I go, once I've been some place new I feel changed somehow and that is amazing to me.