By Brynn Farren
Haunted by horrifying visions of the future? If you’re a soon-to- be graduate of any arts program at Ryerson, this might be the case.
Stephen Dunn is an award- winning director and a graduate from Ryerson University’s film program. He recently held a screening at
Ryerson for his award-winning film Closet Monster that took home the award for Best Canadian Film at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015.
But in an industry so competitive, how does a guy like Dunn stand out? His secret is an unrelenting perseverance in pursuing his passion, despite an innate fear of failure.
Fear, according to Dunn, never leaves you and it is what helps shape how you move forward in life. It was Dunn’s fear of not having stability that made him work so hard, and that continues to motivate and propel him forward, he said.
Closet Monster, Dunn’s most recent feat, is an inventive and affecting stylistic drama that chronicles a teen’s struggle in finding his path in life. “It’s a very personal movie. I wanted to make it because I needed to get something off my chest,” Dunn said.
Dunn said creating the film was a selfish act. He focused on his art and represented his own experience. He said he was motivated by his fears and that by overcoming them he epitomizes what it means to be truly fearless.
“I’m driven by creating a sense of stability in my life because I never really came from it. So I’m really afraid of falling back to that,” Dunn said. It’s about “changing your mindset to thinking more positive.”
Many believe that creating stability of any sort is the most “adult” thing you can do: financial stability, emotional stability and stability in relationships. Dunn said that because post-graduate life in his field offered no stability or structure, he had to be very independently organized.
“One of the most important things pursuing a career in the arts is that you have to be really independent … you can’t wait for opportunities to come to you,” Dunn said. This comes from a guy who, during his time at Ryerson, leveraged his student status.
He took advantage of every school service, every piece of equipment available and applied for every grant he could. Dunn was always involved: in school, in his work, and with his passions.
Dunn recalls getting so many rejection letters on grant requests he sent out. “I got so used to that kind of rejection and sometimes things would come through and I would get a break, get a grant so I would … just hustle constantly, it felt like. I still am.”