Student gets 20k from Ryerson for film project

Where is Kyle Walker, and how far are you willing to go to find him?

That is the central question in a feature film project that is being developed by students and alumni from Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD). The creative mind behind the project is Luke Villemaire, a 20-year-old film student who has partnered up with Ryerson alumnus Neil Hansen to produce the film.

The project has already secured $20,000 from the Ryerson Communication & Design Society (RCDS), and $50,000 worth of equipment and post-production services from Hansen’s local production company, Crimson Fish.

Villemaire, who is the vice-president of finance at RCDS, said he’s not stopping until he raises at least another $30,000.

“We’re looking at getting support from other schools around Ryerson,” he said.

“Because a lot of the film takes place in a [television] studio, I’ve met with the dean of FCAD to see the possibility of using some of the studio space in Ryerson because that would save us thousands of dollars.”

The film, which Villemaire describes as a “mix between Gone Girl and Nightcrawler,” follows a group of journalists who want to uncover the mysterious disappearance of Kyle Walker, a boy from a nearby town. “The film explores themes that we often face in the industry [and] how much you’re willing to sacrifice to get ahead.”

The idea of the project is to encourage collaboration between students hailing from different fields across FCAD, explained Villemaire. “We want filmmakers to be working with interior design students, and journalism students to be working with media students.”

Casey Yuen, president of the RCDS, said collaborative film projects among FCAD students are rare. “Not all of our programs are in one building,” she said. “We don’t have an opportunity to meet each other on a social level or even an educational level.”

Yuen says collaborations between students and alumni provide opportunities to connect and learn industry ropes beyond the classroom. “We really want to mimic what is out there in real life situations.”

Villemaire said he thinks more opportunities are opening up in the Canadian film industry. “A year ago, I’d say the Canadian film industry was in a difficult time in that we just don’t have an audience — people are watching American content,” he said.

But the aspiring filmmaker said he’s seen a lot of strong films at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, including Sleeping Giant and The Rainbow Kid — both are films made by Ryerson alumni.

“I’m really proud to say I’m a Ryerson student and look at a film up there and say, that could be me in a few years screening my film at TIFF.”

See our update about the controversy over Villemaire’s position with the RCDS.


  1. Isn’t it kinda fishy that the vice-president of finance of RCDS was rewarded 20 k for a film by RCDS?

  2. Luke Villemaire says:

    Just to address any concerns from Ally’s comment- I was required to go through the same process as any other student when applying for funding from the organization. I also declined to vote at the board meeting and was not present during deliberation in order to maintain those boundaries. The money ultimately isn’t going to me, it’s going towards the project which will engage 50+ FCAD students (all of whom pay a yearly fee to the society just as I do). Would be more than happy to address any concerns- feel free to contact me directly! My info can be found on

  3. Yup, well that’s not a total Conflict of Interest! Vice President of Finance of RCDS giving himself $20,000?

  4. Hey Luke.
    It is entirely irrelevant that you “went through the same process” and “were not at the board meeting.” Your job representing the student body as one of the top members of the RCDS is to use your vantage point to help OTHER students fulfill their OWN projects.
    This is just a massive vanity piece that’s going to use the money funded by your own governing body’s hands to encourage bad behaviour.
    It would have been appropriate to see you trying to encourage other people’s work rather than your own, considering how that is what your privileged position is meant to endorse.

    • Hi Chason –

      My name is Sarah Quan – I’m working on this film project with Luke. To your point and everyone elses I do see why you think this would be a conflict of interest but I can guarantee you that the money was not given away because of his position, but because he presented a project that gave the RCDS an opportunity to be apart of something that purposely made an effort to include ALL FCAD students as well as its minorities within that. I was in the pitch room with him and his presentation was well researched, ticked all of the the RCDS’ ideals, and was presented as so.

      Remember, these grants are open to ALL of FCAD, and everyone has the opportunity to present their projects to the RCDS. The entire point of having a community like this is to support each other and their respective work. This is a passion project for Luke and the rest of the team, and we’re more than happy to talk about the process with you further.

      • I’m sure it ticked all of the RCDS’ ideals, Luke helped create them. Your reasoning for his funding is nice and all but it does not negate his position and the influence it has on the board’s decision. If you want to pitch a community project by all means go ahead but don’t join the RCDS board for it. It’s a clear bias, quit deluding yourself into thinking Luke actually earned this money.

        I like the idea of the RCDS but it clearly can’t function as a fair group. Dismantle the board and reinstate it under proper administration. I don’t trust this clique with my money.

    • That’s a great point, Chason. It doesn’t matter that he’ll supposedly get 50 people to work on this, what a lame reason for the funding. All he’s doing is giving his friends an opportunity to help make his film. He’s not encouraging student art, he’s encouraging everyone to help him out and elevate his production. The RCDS took our money and funnelled it into their own shitty idea. Thanks for helping the students.

  5. @ Sarah Quan –

    The issue here is that one project, is receiving a large sum of money. What is the final output? How will a film bring facilities and students together after it’s done? Yeah it’ll bring people together once to produce it, but there’s nothing left of it after – but just a film.

    These funds should help induce creativity and help support projects that have an impact on the community and ultimately are NOT used for academic credit – which clearly Villemaire is benefitting from.

    I hope you can justify spending such a sum – while there are students working several jobs to pay tuition. Students who can’t afford to eat because of the burdening expenses of their projects. You folks should be ashamed of yourselves.

    • @ Jorge –

      “Yeah it’ll bring people together once to produce it, but there’s nothing left of it after – but just a film.”

      You could say that about most artistic endeavours. What’s left after a dancer is done dancing? How does an art exhibit bring people together after it’s run is over? A fashion show? A musical? When someone does a series of investigative journalism pieces, do you say “well, there’s just a bunch of articles afterwards!”

      “and ultimately are NOT used for academic credit – which clearly Villemaire is benefitting from”

      Where does it say in the article he’s using it for academic credit, and it’s not just a side project?

      “I hope you can justify spending such a sum – while there are students working several jobs to pay tuition. Students who can’t afford to eat because of the burdening expenses of their projects.”

      Literally you could say this about any artistic grant. Why are you in this program, wasting your time on film/design/fashion/whatever? Money that you pay for tuition could be going towards feeding the poor. And if you don’t like the nature of this fund, then complain about that, not about this specific project.

      This grant is an investment: both in creative, driven and passionate students who are willing to go above and beyond the requirements of their degree to make projects, and in Ryerson in general. If this project goes through the festival circuit and does well, don’t you think that will raise FCAD’s reputation? Do you think that won’t affect you, who will have the faculty and the university’s name attached to yours upon graduation, and your opportunities for employment?

      Funds like these – which are almost always earmarked in budgets for a specific purpose i.e. creative endeavours – usually go underused. If you’re so offended that it isn’t going to feed poor students, maybe consider submitting your own proposal.

    • Hi Jorge – I feel like your frustration is a lot bigger than this situation specifically.

      Yes – our project in particular did receive a lot of money because the film requires it. Feature films typically work on budgets much higher than ours – even Canadian films. Also note that this is not our only source of funding. We intend to raise another $15k through crowd funding and have another $50k coming in from our partnership with Crimson Fish.

      The final output of this project is a film that we intend to take to festivals around the world – with Ryerson’s and RCDS’ name on it. If it is successful, which we hope it will be, all of the students of FCAD as well as Ryerson will benefit because it will promote celebration of the arts as well as the school and its willingness to support creative independent endeavours. I should also mention that making a film is much more complex than simply a few weeks in production. Our timeline for this film is well over a year, and includes over 50+ FCAD students throughout that process. This is not a selfish endeavour – Luke built this film around the idea that he could bring in as many Ryerson students as possible – to not only celebrate their talents but also give them experience in a higher budget project which not a lot of people will have – as you so mention in your comment (re: burdening expenses of their projects).

      This film can also attract more prospective students to the school, give good publicity, and general school pride. Please keep in mind that like I said in previous comments, ANYONE in FCAD can apply for this grant and ask for the same amount of money or less.

      Also, this film is actually not being used for any academic credit whatsoever, these grants are strictly for projects outside of the curriculum based on what we’ve been told. In addition, these grants are set aside for creative grants and projects outside of the curriculum – and are not intended for any other use. Your point about students working several jobs to pay tuition is a separate issue entirely.

      Luke, myself and the rest of the team are completely open to speaking with you about any further concerns you may have as we want to be as transparent about this process as possible- but I feel like your feelings are a little displaced here. Please let me know if you’re interested in talking about this with Luke or myself about this on another forum. Also, if you want a clearer idea of the funding process, there is a new article on this website that clarifies some protocols for you.

      • “Vanity piece” is right. A board member created a pandering pitch to present to his buddies and received a resounding unanimous vote in support of his project. Couldn’t have had at least one member throw away their vote and say no, just to look a little less suspicious? The RCDS even sucks at corruption.

        Yeah Sarah, no shit other people can pitch for the money but guess what, they ain’t gonna get it. I know students who pitched more substantial projects and received less than 10% of Luke’s grant. I love that you preach the additional $65k as if that makes the 20k grant more reasonable. It’s the opposite. Many students don’t have those kinds of external fundraising opportunities and are being turned away from the RCDS grants because all the money has been wasted on this garbage pitch. Films are expensive to make but if you can’t make a student film on $65k then please reevaluate your effectiveness as a producer. The film does not require the full 20k grant, it’s that simple!

        I know you plan on taking this around the world, every damn filmmaker has the same dream. Don’t spin this as if you’re doing us all a favour by making this film on our money. The students won’t be getting a “high-budget” on-set experience, it’s a bloated student production. Hey, you don’t happen to be paying these 50 people do you? That would be good “high-budget experience”.

        The “burdening expenses of their projects” thing? Yeah, so how does this help? Because the other less expensive projects have less opportunity for funding now. They can go help the benevolent Luke on his own extremely expensive film but they can’t make their thousand dollar experimental art project. What even is your point?

        “This is not a selfish endeavour”. This is indeed a selfish endeavour. Instead of using his position to help the student body, Luke drained the board of its funds for his own “community project”. Guess what, a lot of people work on feature films, that’s just how it goes. And a lot of those people come from different specialties too! Gathering 50 FCAD students from different programs is not unique in the film world and using that as evidence in support of this funding decision is a weak, delusional attempt in rationalizing this bias. God, that’s so patronizing. Instead of letting people across FCAD make their own projects RCDS has decided to just lump everyone together in their vanity community project under the guise of an opportunity to work on Luke’s student movie.

        It doesn’t matter that 50+ FCAD students will supposedly help out with this. It doesn’t matter that Luke abstained from the board meetings. He’s on the board and used his position as a platform to fund his own project, and the board happily went along with it! It’s a conflict of interest and the fact that the board is so blatant with their favouritism and inconsistent criteria indicates that the group should be dissolved. None of your excuses or rationale can justify a conflict of interest like this. I voted in favour of the RCDS but if this is how they are going to choose to spend their money I would rather it disappear and save my $65.

        You won’t find many people in favour of this funding decision Sarah and you’re massively deluded if you think otherwise. Step away from the film and take a good look at this situation. RCDS is a scam. Your film is a scam.

        • Luke Villemaire says:

          Hey Jared,

          I feel you have a lot of misinformation and it doesn’t seem like you have a clear understanding of what the RCDS does or the sort of projects we’ve funded in the past. We have approximately an 80% (if not higher) acceptance rate and while $20,000 is the highest we’ve funded so far, there are several projects in contention that I am mentoring to help secure funding that exceeds that amount. Please ask any of the countless projects I’ve assisted in the past 4 months- I am very supportive and transparent about the process. Everyone has an equal opportunity to pitch and are given the same insight I have going into their pitch.

          I invite you to grab a coffee with me to explain your frustration. Would love the chance to properly educate you on the situation and value of this particular project.

  6. Luke Villemaire says:

    Just to clarify- me and the 40+ students working on the project are NOT receiving academic credit. This is completely seperate from our programs and the RCDS sets aside money specifically for students to collaborate and develop their skills outside of the classroom. If you have an idea for a project I invite you to come and pitch to the board!

  7. I’m very torn.

    On one hand, this is pretty dope. On the other hand (and yes I’ve read all the comments), it remains a conflict of interest. A major one. No matter how you spin it, it’s a conflict of interest. Not a single person outside of the involved project would ever see it otherwise.

    I genuinely hope that the results for the film are positive, because otherwise the RCDS is going to get into a lot of trouble. For a very young Student Board Operation, the RCDS could catch itself in very hot waters if this project fails to meet it’s already contested mission statement.

    Genuine questions though:

    Is this project going to operate under Equity or Equity inspired standards? If not, is this not encouraging bad behaviour and false expectations for film in ‘the real world?’

    Will ALL of the involved persons developing the film be directly associated with Ryerson? Are there any clauses or agreements that ensure that the actors (leads especially), camera crew, editors etc… are at least a Ryerson majority? If not, why not, and how is it justifiable?


  8. I love how so many students are reportedly involved in the project yet only one student is actually named and photographed in the article. Lovely representation of FCAD.

    • Hi Elisha –

      Allow me to introduce myself! My name is Sarah Quan, I’m working on this project with Luke.

      I want to point out that this article was very much a preliminary look into the beginnings of this project. In NO way whatsoever has this project been fully crewed. Luke made the decision to come to the RCDS before doing anything because he wanted the RCDS as well as FCAD to be as involved in the process as possible.

      As we are still in pre-production, we are always looking for FCAD students to join us. Luke is producing and also spearheading this project, and is therefore the only representation at this point in time. Right now our main goal is getting the word out about the project and recruiting people to the team – which evidently seems to be working!

      Again, this is a preliminary take into the project, and if you’re more interested – there is an update following this article.

  9. I find it fishy that the vp finace gets 2/3 of the student project budget given to him, but student groups and year end shows don’t get their full funding from the rcds. Student groups and year end shows benefit and involve way more people in fcad than this project will- so the decision to give him this much money is very…interesting.

    • Luke Villemaire says:

      Student groups and year end shows are receiving double the funding they have had access to in the past due to the RCDS. I’ve made it one of my goals this year to increase funding to both of those areas. I invite you to meet with me in person so I can walk you through the funding process and give you more accurate information as it seems you’ve been mislead. Feel free to contact me!

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