Media that matters
Media that matters
Words by Jonathan Anderson and Bryan Weismiller
Mount Royal alumni Ryan Varty, Melissa Renwick and Jeremy Hunka have taken their camera skills to all four corners of the earth, delivering the stuff people really want to see. They entertain, earn awards, trigger change and shift perspectives along the way.
Cameraman, TSN Sports
TSN cameraman Ryan Varty is responsible for delivering highlights from premier sporting events to Canadians from coast to coast. It’s a job that requires flying in excess of 110,000 kilometres and sleeping in hotels for more than a third of the calendar year.
Varty, or “Varts” as he’s known to colleagues in the sports media fraternity, has been working behind the lens as a respected camera operator for the past 18 years. Delivering the visuals for North America’s most prominent sports competitions, Varty has filmed the green jacket presentation at Augusta for the Masters, and was on the floor seconds after the buzzer-beater shot at the NCAA’s (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Final Four Championship.
He credits the hands-on technical learning and mentorship he received in the Mount Royal Broadcasting diploma program for getting him to where he is today. Thirsty for knowledge and experience, a vital link to his eventual success came from former instructor (and also an alumnus of the Broadcasting diploma program), Irv Ratushniak. Varty and fellow student Pete Stewart, who is now the control room manager for the Calgary Flames, were walking down Mount Royal’s Main Street when Ratushniak stopped them with an opportunity.
“Irv told us the CBC was offering two practicum positions and asked us if we wanted them.”
They leapt at the chance and Varty says the CBC was the best place to hone his craft in the late ‘90s.
“I targeted those guys because of the talent they had demonstrated,” says Ratushniak.
With TSN since 2013, Varty admits that the World Junior Hockey Championships were on his radar as something he really wanted to take part in. In his youth, he recalls getting up early each Boxing Day to watch the tournament. Even for this seasoned veteran, the experience was an overwhelming whirlwind.
Photographer, Toronto Star
As a staff photographer for the Toronto Star, Melissa Renwick snaps pictures that are seen by more than a million eyeballs every day. In her time with Canada’s most-read newspaper, Renwick has completed a dizzying number of assignments that have taken her from One Yonge Street all the way to Bangladesh.
A graduate of Mount Royal’s Bachelor of Communication — Journalism program, one of Renwick’s first major pieces was a chilling look at Toronto’s criminal underworld. Branded “The Game,” Renwick and her colleagues investigated and documented sex crimes involving girls as young as 12 years old.
“The women I photographed were really at the heart of the story and showed incredible strength, courage and perseverance despite such traumatic life events,” she recalls.
“Their fearlessness was incredible to witness.”
Renwick and her colleagues staked out a highway motel known as a popular destination for human trafficking. The motel proved to be a revolving door for johns and they watched several men enter and leave the same room in half-hour intervals.
“It was there that the story became very real, because we saw it happening right in front of us,” Renwick says. “It was a deeply troubling scene that really affected my outlook towards men for many months after.”
For her efforts in exposing a dark subject, Renwick was awarded with the Picture Story of the Year from the News Photographers Association of Canada. Her photos were chosen from more than 2,000 images submitted by photographers from across the country. And earlier in 2016, Renwick was declared Photojournalist of the Year by the News Photographers Association of Canada for other work.
“It’s hugely exciting and a great honour to be recognized by my peers,” says Renwick.
Photography instructor Paul Coates taught Renwick in her first two years in Mount Royal’s Journalism program and believes providing a raw view of the world motivates people to take action and get involved in finding solutions.
DOCUMENTARIAN, UNION GOSPEL MISSION
Jeremy Hunka creates documentaries to tell the stories happening right now in the hope of creating change in the future. He filters and sorts visuals to raise awareness of both the good and the bad in the world, which often coexist in the same time and place.
After graduating from Mount Royal in 2007 with a Broadcasting diploma, Hunka’s experience began in front of the camera, but he now thrives behind it. He says his documentaries are not about abstract issues or policies, rather, something that directly affects the person or people he is filming.
There are profound reactions when you openly introduce a viewer directly to a person being affected by negative circumstances, he explains, and without those reactions the ability to incite action or change is lessened.
“The biggest thing I learned (at Mount Royal) was how to personalize a story and capture an issue through the lens of one person,” says Hunka.
As a former broadcaster and videographer with Medicine Hat’s CHAT News (his first job after graduation) Hunka produced, filmed, wrote and edited a five-part news series in Uganda and a 30-minute documentary in Kenya, for which he won both the National Radio-Television News Directors Association of Canada (now called the Radio Television Digital News Association), and the Dave Rogers Short and Long Feature Awards, respectively. He also delivered powerful documentaries as a freelance filmmaker with Save the Children Canada. Hunka and his wife, Alejandra Rivera, travelled to Kenya and Uganda, producing multiple short docs for the organization.
“There is this terrible practice in Africa where women and children are in rock quarries, crushing rocks with their bare hands to sell,” says Hunka of his time in Uganda. “We were able to get inside and film where the conditions were deplorable.”
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