Award-winning filmmaker Ruth Gregory’s professional storytelling career began at the age of 15, when the astute South Whidbey Falcon walked into the office of the Island Independent and asked for a job.
Gregory sought more than a chance to demonstrate and refine her writing chops; she sought the opportunity to share the stories of her community.
“That was my first experience creating work and having people actually receive it,” she said of her experience as a contributing writer for the now defunct newspaper.
Eventually, she tried her hand at another form of storytelling.
While still in high school, she filmed her first documentary, a film discussing the May 4, 1970 shooting at Kent State University in which members of the National Guard shot into a crowd of student demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine.
It was admitted to the National History Day Competition in Washington D.C.
In the years since, Gregory has produced eight critically acclaimed documentaries, one of which, “Maikuru,” won best documentary short at the Seattle International Film Festival.
Gregory will be showing “Maikuru” and other selected short documentaries at a Films and Filmmakers event at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8 at The Clyde in Langley. Regular admission prices apply.
Gregory will also be discussing the films’ backstories and answering audience questions. In addition, she will provide a preview of her new sci-fi web series “Music of the Spheres,” which she hopes to begin filming this summer.
“Music of the Spheres” tells the tale of Angela Burke, a 32-year-old philosophy graduate student, and her attempts to mend a broken family through the employment of a mystical space and time altering device.
Gregory noted that the inspiration for her films comes from “very unexpected places.” She added that she always has her ears and eyes open for unusual and intriguing things.
“Music of the Spheres” draws some inspiration from Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” and “Cosmos” with Neil Degrasse Tyson.
Her documentaries have spanned topics from human trafficking in “Maikuru” to murder in “Hazzard,” autism and medical cannabis in “A Dose for Dominic,” and female ski jumpers’ fight to compete in the Winter Olympics in “Jump Like a Girl.”
“In her documentary work Ruth has covered issues that a lot of filmmakers have been too afraid to touch,” wrote Luke Ware, Gregory’s colleague, in an email to The Record. “In ‘Music of the Spheres’ she wants to prove that strong female leads can have brains and think for themselves. Ruth’s work gets to the core of her subjects and asks audiences to think beyond their comfort zones.”
Sunday’s event will be both a homecoming experience for Gregory, who now resides in Pullman, and her second time showing at the theater. “Jump Like a Girl” premiered at The Clyde in 2005.
Gregory explained that men’s ski jumping had been a part of the Winter Olympics since the competitions’ inception, but the International Olympic Committee had declined to include the women’s counterpart citing few participating athletes and countries. In 2014, female ski jumpers were finally afforded the opportunity to compete at the Olympic level.
Gregory explained that her primary interest and objective in the majority of her projects is the pursuit of social justice. She explores the ways in which the media focuses upon a concentrated scope of life and seeks to demonstrate the stories that lie outside of that scope.
“Maikuru,” a story of a young man who is the “by-product” of human trafficking, is exemplative of this. The film tells the tale of Maikuru’s ability to sustain a hopeful outlook despite his tumultuous childhood, his mother having been trafficked.
Gregory described her artistic style as one which focuses on the story, ensuring that the concept of the piece comes through clearly.
“You get a lot of my writing background in it; film was kind of a by-product of writing,” she said.
The poignant 7-minute documentary, “A Dose for Dominic,” is as emotional as it is relevant to current political and societal events. The film, which discusses a couple’s use of medical cannabis to treat their severely autistic son, is one which Gregory said she is likely most proud of.
“Usually whenever you work on a film, by the time you’re done editing and adding the music, you’ve watched it a million times. It’s like an old hat,” said Gregory, explaining that “A Dose for Dominic” evokes a welling of emotion every time she views it.”But that one touched me deep inside.”
When not making documentaries or web series, Gregory works at Washington State University as an emerging technology and multimedia specialist.
She has also volunteered with Reel Grrrls and University Beyond Bars.
The Films and Filmmakers event will also kick off Gregory’s fundraising campaign via Kickstarter for “Music of the Spheres.” With the seed money, Gregory said she hopes to create a self-sustaining web series which will span several seasons and serve as a financial model which other artists can emulate.
For more information about the web series, visit wheresangela.com or the Facebook page at facebook.com/musicofthespheresseries.