Meet Ruby Ballantyne, Sparks Film School Alumnus & Emerging D.o.P.

This month, we caught up with Ruby Ballantyne, a Sparks Film School alumnus and a young filmmaker currently making waves in London’s film industry.

Ruby (she/they) is now working a Cinematographer and Director of Photography working within the film industry and had lots of impressive advice to share with aspiring young filmmakers looking to develop their own careers in film.

Ruby’s Journey:

Ruby Ballantyne attended Sparks Film School for several years as a teenager.

After this, Ruby went to study Film and Theatre at The University of Bristol, followed by a MA in Cinematography from London’s specialist Met Film School. Since then, she’s been building up her portfolio as a DoP (Director of Photography). Ruby most recently directed and produced the successful music video for ‘Annual Birthday Cry’ by artist Lexie Carroll.

Earlier this month, Ruby sat down with Sparks Film School founder and director Dan Farrell to share details of her most recent experiences in filmmaking, as well as lots of fond memories, many of which they happened to share.

It goes without saying, we are incredibly proud of Ruby Ballantyne, her achievements and success.

Dan, who taught many of Ruby’s classes with Sparks Film School, says:
Ruby was always an absolute star and a joy to teach. I remember she would always contribute, whatever she was doing. She would always bring energy, ideas and positivity to the crew. She was an instigator in making things happen and the others would rally around her. She had great influence, because she earned the respect of all her crew mates. It’s not a surprise she’s gone on to achieve fantastic things as a filmmaker, but I’m incredibly proud to see her love for film is still so strong, as well as her progress and her accomplishments.

Hi Ruby! It’s great to see you again! What are you currently working on?

My friend and I are currently working on a short film. We aim to submit the film to Panovision, who are currently looking for female DoP’s and Directors in a bursary scheme that provides free top quality camera and lighting equipment. I am a DoP and my friend is a Director/ Actor, so I said ‘Let’s apply and make a film!’

The film is about a woman in the 1600’s who is accused of being a witch by the townsfolk, and how she has this news broken to her by a man in the village. ‘The film has to be very short and the deadline is approaching, so we are working on that!’ Of course, if anyone needs any camera work – get in touch!

Ruby Ballantyne - Sparks Film School Alumnus - shooting on a gimbal with lighting in profile

Tell us about the Music Video you recently worked on for Lexie Carroll? What was the process like when working on that?

I knew Lexie as we’d worked on a couple of projects in the past together. I’d worked on the music videos for her songs ‘Familiar Stranger’ and ‘We’re Not Lonely Anymore’ before I went to film school. Since then she has received a lot of recognition! Her manager got in touch with me in July to see if I could do the music video to her latest song, to which I said yes!

Immediately I wanted to make a music video inspired by a Mrs Havisham figure at a birthday party nobody had turned up to, where by the end she has destroyed the party as she is done with the waiting around. I wanted to make the video feel appropriate and in line with the lyrics, as well as having a similar theme to the song. I had to ask some friends from film school to work with me on the project, and I had to acquire the lights and equipment from FOMO, who were really nice and supportive! 

I know we have lots of memories from your time at Sparks Film School. What did you do next after Sparks? What was your journey after leaving?

I knew I wanted to go into either film or theatre. So I went to the University of Bristol and did a joint honours in Theatre and Film,  which was great, but it wasn’t as specified in filmmaking as I’d like it to have been. After my three years there I then applied for an MA in Cinematography at The Met Film School which was amazing. I already knew a lot from my time with Sparks, this gave me the chance to learn about the intricacies of the camera and lighting department and all the other roles involved in film. I learnt a lot from my MA as it was so specialised.

What are your memories of your time with Sparks Film School?

I’ve got so many memories! I still show people the first film I made with Sparks and say ‘This was my beginnings and where I started!’

I loved my time at Sparks. It was so good for learning all the baselines of filmmaking. When I got to University, so many other people hadn’t even touched a camera, whereas I knew about quite a lot, all the roles on set, and I could do a lot of things there because of the grounding I had from Sparks.

Also, I loved the creativity of making a film each week – that was great! It definitely ‘sparked’ my love of film and it’s where I discovered I wanted to do this for a career. I loved my Saturdays with Sparks.

Ruby’s first film with Sparks ‘Heist’ can be viewed here:

Did you make any new friends at Sparks Film School?

Yes I did! Emma and Olly [fellow Sparks Film School alumni from Ruby’s class] are still my two best friends to this day. Everyone else, I still follow on Instagram and keep in touch with there too.

Do you have a favourite moment or memory?

I remember we made a film about a magician, and there was one scene where we tried to add as much comedy to it as possible. There was a lot of improvisation, which we all found hilarious! I remember in one shot someone tried to go into a fist bump and got aired by someone in the background. None of it was scripted and the improv moments were great.

I also remember a film about two scarves that were in love. We had to use invisible strings to make them move around and I found it really cute!

[This is also one of Dan’s favourite ever projects – inspired by a brief to make an emotional film about inanimate objects.]

What advice would you have for current Sparks Film School students thinking about becoming a filmmaker or pursuing a career in film?

I would say you are definitely in the right place to start learning about film.

If you can, start with making your own stuff and picking up the camera too. Do it as much as you can.

If you think you know which part of filmmaking you want to go into, research it, as there are so many roles within the film industry that you might never have even known existed that you could also love. I would say try learning as much as you can and to throw yourself into it.”

Ruby Ballantyne - Sparks Film School Alumnus - smiling on set whilst holding a camera on a steady cam rig.

Ruby Ballantyne – Filmmaking on Instagram

If you’d like to follow Ruby’s next steps, stay up to date with her filmmaking career via her Instagram.

If you’d like to know more about the film courses and opportunities for young filmmakers at Sparks Film School, then click here.

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