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Lights, camera, action: Film teacher inspires, pushes students to be best filmmakers they can be

Photo credit: Charlotte Burnap
Film teacher Andrew Ruiz instructs his Advanced Film class in the courtyard and teaches about cine lenses. Visual Arts Department Chair Marya Alford observed one of his classes, watching students take on collaborative positions to create a film. “It was really fun to see students enter different roles like cinematographer or director and just jump into those roles and take them seriously even if it wasn’t their first choice,” Alford said. “It is all working towards the final result of the film.”

Around the age of 6 years old, Andrew Ruiz stole his father’s tape recorder and used it to capture stories to show his family. Years later, he continues to use film to tell stories — and teaches Archer students how to tell their own.

Ruiz has been teaching for about 10 years, beginning in 2014. He said he has taught students from all levels, from high school to graduate school. He came to Archer last year as the school searched for a new film teacher. His original title was an artist in residence. Ruiz became the school’s film teacher at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year. He teaches four classes: eighth grade, introduction, intermediate, advanced and advanced study.

“I think that a lot of us were a bit like, ‘What’s it going to be like?’” sophomore Lily Savage said. “And then, very early into the school year, we were like, ‘Oh, this is what a film class should be.’”

Savage’s classmate, Belén Haro (‘26), said she quickly found the class to be unique and engaging. Both Haro and Savage had participated in Archer’s film classes since sixth and seventh grade; however, they took their first class with Ruiz their freshman year.

“From one class with Mr. Ruiz, I’ve learned more than I ever did … he allowed us to see in different types of lenses on how things were filmed,” Haro said. “I really think that his skill is incredible, and we’ve been really inspired, and we’ve learned so much.”  

Following last school year’s end, Ruiz decided to stay at Archer as the school’s film teacher, citing students’ supportive and compassionate behavior as a driving factor in his decision.

“Every student body has something special about them,” Ruiz said. “But the thing that I really love about this student community is the kindness and support that you guys show each other. It’s really rare. It’s rare to see students go out of their way to make sure that other students are being heard and feel included and are succeeding.”

For Visual Arts Department Chair Marya Alford, Ruiz’s emphasis on collaboration is especially exceptional. 

“The way that he works with students in terms of collaboration and depending on one another … was really beautiful to see because so much of art-making at times can be very independent,” Alford said. “And he is all about the idea of a team coming together to produce this final piece.”

When students begin the filmmaking process, Ruiz first shows them a couple of films and then explain what he wants his students to emulate from them, such as shot style, music or imagery. Then, they break off into groups, each student having their own role, such as a director, cinematographer or actor, working together to tell the story. 

“The reason why I chose film over other versions of storytelling is that I love how collaborative an art form it is,” Ruiz said. “You can’t make film in a vacuum — you have to work with other people.”

The reason why I chose film over other versions of storytelling is that I love how collaborative an art form it is. You can’t make film in a vacuum — you have to work with other people.”

— Film teacher Andrew Ruiz


The films Ruiz shows his students span a wide variety of styles and genres, from animation to horror. As his students advance in skill, Ruiz introduces them to new aspects of film, including more advanced cameras and boom operating.

“He really dives into the historical part of the film and why that’s revolutionary. Because he showed us a film and we were like, ‘Oh, it’s just a generic film,’” Haro said. “But then he told us, ‘this was the first film that did this, this and this and that.’” 

Alford highlighted Ruiz’s characteristic of being a “warm demander” as a unique part of who he is as an educator. She said when Ruiz’s students work on a project, he is kind and encouraging but also pushes them to be the best filmmakers they can be.

“Part of [a warm demander] means that you’re very supportive. And so, you’re warm and comforting to a group of students, to your classes, but you also are demanding of them. So, you’re not going to let them slide by if they don’t turn something in, or you’re not going to let them just do the average quality of work, right?” she said. “A great warm demander really instills comfort but also confidence within their students.”

Ruiz’s students said, thanks to Ruiz’s warm and approachable nature, they have found support and encouragement in his classroom. Savage said students often stop by his classroom 10-15 minutes before class starts to “hang out.”

“Something that sticks out about him is he’s a very welcoming person, and he’s very approachable, and he’s also extremely smart. And I think that we all feel very, very happy in his class,” Savage said.

Ruiz said he has sought to support and uplift his students both inside and outside of the classroom. He said he has experienced times of struggle and wished he had been able to tell himself to “stick with it.” He hopes to give his students the encouragement he may have lacked. 

“Life always throws curveballs, but so, to do something that you are passionate about, to do something that you care about, requires a certain level of determination,” Ruiz said. “I do hope that [my students] feel like this is a creative, encouraging space. I do hope that they know that I have got their back.”

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About the Contributor
Charlotte Burnap
Charlotte Burnap, Staff Reporter
Charlotte Burnap became a staff reporter in 2023. At Archer, she sings in choir and the Unaccompanied Minors, Archer's a cappella group. In her free time, you can find her listening to music, reading, or hanging out with her friends.

Comments (2)

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  • G

    Gabby KaplanJan 17, 2024 at 2:04 pm

    Great profile Charlotte! So proud of you!

  • M

    Meredith HoJan 12, 2024 at 5:54 pm

    Amazing feature Charlotte!