Teaching Through the Lens of Filmmaking

Scott Ballard is an independent filmmaker, cinematographer and overall storyteller who’s traveling for work around the Pacific Northwest, the U.S., and in several weeks, Japan. Here at Portland State, Ballard teaches informative and liberating film courses that allow students real-life experience with film production led by a grassroots and heartfelt expert immersed in the indie world. Portland State Vanguard sat down with Ballard to talk about his influences and philosophies on filmmaking.

Vanguard: How did you end up at PSU?

Scott Ballard: I have been working at [Portland Community College] and at the [Northwest] Film Center for several years, and before that I was working at the Seattle Film Institute. I have an MFA from Boston University. Combined with working in Portland for the past 10 years as an independent filmmaker helped me get the job here.

VG: What’d you do your undergrad in?

SB: English at Western Washington University.

VG: That explains the screenwriting.

SB: Yeah, it began with creative writing, with journalism, and I’ve always taken photographs.  Then all those things have woven through my life and wound up blossoming into filmmaking.

VG: What’s your favorite camera?

SB: I think every story defines which camera, what format needs to be used to capture it. I always love 16mm. I learned on an Arri SR2, I have an Aaton XTR—the 16mm is what lead me into filmmaking, the analog [to] the film celluloid.

VG: Favorite movie?

SB: It depends on what emotion and what part of life I am thinking about that I have a favorite movie for. [Films] have been so influential in exploring my emotions and my perspective of this world. If I had to pick one, The Wings of Desire opened a world of what filmmaking can be for me.

VG: Who is your favorite director?

SB: For a long time I have enjoyed the work of Kelly Reichardt. She is a filmmaker who has been making films in Oregon for a while. She balances a world of teaching and independent filmmaking, [and] she has a strong indie ethos which I admire a lot.

VG: Do you have a favorite director of photography?

SB: Roger Deakins is still my favorite DP for a lot of reasons. He very eloquently explains why each story comes to him and speaks to him. He states that his style is being open to the story, accepting what the story needs and then utilizing all his skills and talent to be able to express that story visually.

VG: Why indie film?

SB: Growing up in the NW, it’s always been an indie ethos. I was in bands early on. I grew up in Bellingham in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, and there’s a strong indie scene for music up there and that resonated with me—that punk rock spirit. It’s something I grew up with, and it’s become a part of my DNA.

VG: Is that part of the love for 16mm?

SB: Yes a love for pulling off beauty with low-fi. That can be a really amazing tool for exploring emotion and through that we can get a little more raw with things.

Below the shield: Visit ScottBallardFilms.com to see more of Scott’s work, and visit psuvanguard.com to see the full video interview with Scott online.