Interview by Niki Kaloudas, May 11, 2021

Edited by Laura Murray

Niki

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me about your very exciting research in Cultural Studies!

Maybe we can start with what the path was that led you to Cultural Studies?

Roy

I'm really excited to kick off this conversation with you Niki. Well, I applied for this program during the last year of my undergrad which I did in the Film and Media department at Queen’s. And at the time I was really confused, and kind of anxious about my future, and my parents would just say go do an MA if you haven't decided on your career path. I can survive at Queen's, so I didn't feel it necessary to leave. And I prefer to do filmmaking rather than writing papers! So when I heard about Research Creation, Cultural Studies seemed like the perfect fit. Research Creation is a combination of reading, writing, creation, community based engagement. I just love the sense of diversity in this approach instead of just reading and writing. So this is what attracted me to the program, and I’ve never regretted it.

Niki

Awesome. So, can you describe your MA project?

Roy

When I applied, I was going to do virtual reality (VR) based recreation, an interactive documentary about historical movie theaters. The idea was to have people virtually navigate the space like what you do for those real estate videos — and people would click on different parts and pop up into small clips of documentary. But of course, that didn't happen because of COVID. There's no way I could go into theaters. So instead, I made a linear documentary. The kind of theoretical approach or methodological approach I apply for my creation is I interview people from any background possible. So instead of talking with theater owners, I interview a lot of regular patrons, whatever background they're from, and hear their voices. I feel like it's kind of a democratization of research. And people love watching a documentary. If I write a paper, it's only for academia; it's not going to make the same impact as a visual project.

Niki

So the next question is, what motivates you as a scholar, activist or artist? Or filmmaker?

Roy

With this project, what inspires me most is to preserve and maintain the culture of cinema. I feel like in today's world, the way we watch film has been largely transformed, has been digitized, we watch film or streaming media. But watching a movie isn't about the media itself, it’s about the way we engage with the media. And the way we used to engage with media is on the verge of extinction.

And I feel like telling the stories is meaningful. Everyone I talked to had a deep connection, emotional connection to the theatre. Especially for someone in my generation, I didn't grow up in that cinema going culture. So I'm an outsider. And I feel this is just really fascinating.

Niki

You really are preserving something. Like you say, in the past, there was a lot more of social activity engaging with the media, as opposed to now where people are in their bedroom with their laptop on the bed watching Netflix. It's really important research and I'm looking forward to the documentary.

Can you say more about how your research developed?

Roy

I loved the Cultural Studies course CUST 803, Historiography (now it has a different name, Cultural Studies Past and Present). That course, it just opened so many doors, it introduced us to a genealogy of serious debates. My undergraduate is from Film and Media, so I never really thought about issues outside of that curriculum. And from Cultural Studies, taking different courses, I feel like the word can be viewed from different perspectives and angles. And so it made me more open minded.

Funny story: it was last October I was driving to Toronto on a casual family trip. In Kingston, we have the Screening Room, which I also made a documentary about. On my way to Toronto, it made me wonder, were there any screening rooms like this in Toronto. So I just kept researching that question, and I landed on this project. Honestly, it was totally accidental but it was really meant to be. Because doing my undergrad, I mainly talked about film series, films themselves. So I was analyzing films, the specific content. But to approach film from a social historical or cultural perspective is a perfect combination, or marriage between Film Studies and Cultural Studies, even Sociology. Without all the courses I took in Cultural Studies, I wouldn't have been able to land on this project.

Niki

So the next question is, and I know you've talked about this a little bit, but what are some of the key experiences you've had inside or outside the classroom that have enriched your work?

Roy

It's a really good question. And it's such a shame that I paid for tuition for two years, but only was able to enjoy the campus environment for one year! But during the first year when we were on campus, Cultural Studies was very supportive. We had a lot of reminders of events going on on-campus, although I didn’t attend all of them, but it's just a good sense to feel like someone's around. The environment is really welcoming and inclusive. Even during COVID, I still would look to the emails CUST sent every week. It just didn’t feel like I was by myself, even though we're physically apart. I felt like someone's always looking after me, both my supervisor and the program with others.

I was also a Research Assistant at the Union Gallery on campus and this was an entirely different world for me. It just opened many doors, and now I really enjoy Museum Studies. I did a VR project for them of the graduating Fine Art class student art. It’s called Together, Apart, and that was a big success. Another really cool project I worked on for Union Gallery was a show called Lens/Visions which featured eleven short films and video projects.

Niki

So the last question is what do you hope to do next? So what are in the plans once this film gets released?

Roy

Well honestly, I haven't really thought about it so far. I really want to be a freelance filmmaker for the next few years at least. And just gain more experience you know: the filmmaking industry in Toronto is a good industry. And maybe curating and making visual media museum installations.

But I would like my work to emphasize things that matter in our society, instead of just enjoying a production group for the next Netflix show, which we have a lot of in Toronto right now. I feel like media should be used in an empowerment way, that's what I learned from Cultural Studies. Especially nowadays, everyone can be a creator. So how are we going to use this to empower marginalized voices and hold important conversations politically and socially, economically? This is what this CUST degree has prepared me for.

Niki

Well, thank you so much for this inspiring interview. And I'm really looking forward to seeing what's in the future for you. Maybe we'll have to check back and interview you in another five years!

Roy

Sure! Thank you, Niki!

Watch Roy's film Revue Cinema: Reel Community — and check out his thesis, Reel Communities: The Contemporary Practice of Independent Movie Theatres in Toronto