Accomplished filmmaker, writer and photographer Aaron Ruell extends his talent to the roster of Culver City-based Sanctuary Content. Across mediums, Ruell’s work is marked by an innate talent for art direction, sincerity and observational comedy, resulting in timeless narratives with widespread audience appeal.
Ruell burst onto the scene at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival with the premiere of two short films Everything’s Gone Green and Mary. While many filmmakers rank Sundance as a pinnacle of their career, Ruell’s star was just beginning to shine. It was there that Ruell connected with Executive Producer Preston Lee, who first ushered Ruell’s imaginative vision into the commercial world via Über Content, before he went on to sign with production houses Biscuit and Holiday Films (where he remains repped in Canada).
“For lack of a better term, Preston essentially ‘discovered’ me at the Sundance festival,” Ruell explains. “Since then, we’ve always maintained a rapport outside of the professional world, so I’m equally excited to have him back in my daily life as a friend as I am as my EP.”
Ruell has helmed commercials for brands including VW, Sonic, Serta, Charter, MasterCard, Kona Beer, McDonald’s, T-Mobile, Nintendo, Burger King, Ritz and Citibank. His ads for Coca-Cola and Kerrygold were platforms for Ruell to craft classic coming of age stories, showcasing his ability to invoke the growing pains that resonate with today’s adolescents, as well as adults rechanneling their own time of teenage turmoil.
As such, he looks for ways to sync the emotional and comedic beats in all facets of his work - from directing to accidentally falling into acting. Playing the character Kip in Napoleon Dynamite came about as a fluke, but it was an exclamation point in his career when the quirky film became a cult phenomenon.
These days you’ll find Ruell solely in the director’s chair, although he credits his time acting as a valuable reference point for how he engages with the talent to parlay their strongest performances. He is deeply involved in the casting process to the point where he banks the auditioning actor’s non-verbal physical behavior over scripted dialogue delivery. When it’s go-time, Ruell is uniquely qualified to ease an actor’s nerves and help them get settled into character, having stood there himself.
When he’s not directing, Portland-based Ruell is a prolific photographer for ad-land and beyond. His photography has been published in several books, and exhibited in solo shows in New Orleans, Paris and Milan.
Now bringing his distinct filmic vision to the Sanctuary roster, Ruell calls the signing a meaningful full circle moment. “Preston’s competitive nature is contagious and it’s reignited an excitement in me that had been lost. I’m looking at this next chapter at Sanctuary as the best one yet.”
“To be reunited with Aaron is literally beyond words,” says Lee. “I've been a huge fan of his talent since our very first meeting and I’m equally as thrilled to again have the opportunity to work with someone that is a real friend. We share a similar vision for pursuing great creative in the ad space and at the same time, are looking forward to developing long-format projects together.”