Interview conducted by Solomiya Ostapyk
With an extensive background in entertainment, Ryan Boyko is well-suited to his current initiative: the creation of a feature film, “Enemy Aliens,” focused on Canadian internment operations during World War I. This film will honour the thousands of people who were stripped of their freedom and forced into work camps between 1914 and 1920. I asked Ryan some questions about this work-in-progress, his Ukrainian heritage, and what he plans to do next.
SO: What inspired you to work on this project?
RB: I realized that most people don’t even know about the internment in World War I, and I decided that if I’m going to work on a project of this magnitude that takes a full year, I want to do something that I’m interested in and something that’s going to make an impact for the greater community. I went out and got in contact with all of the major scholars and people that were interested or involved in either the redress campaign that took place in 2008, or the people that were involved in marking different internment sites across Canada over the last 20 years. I got in touch with all of these people in order to better equip myself to tell the story properly and to give it justice.
SO: What is your earliest memory of experiencing Ukrainian culture?
RB: I grew up in a home very rich in Ukrainian culture. We would always celebrate Ukrainian Christmas with my grandparents on my mother’s side at their place, and as far back as I can remember we experienced Ukrainian culture at home.
SO: How do you keep connected to your Ukrainian heritage?
RB: I’m quite involved in the Ukrainian community – I MC’d for the Toronto Ukrainian Festival for the last five years as well as for the UCC Triennial Conference last year. I’m currently involved with the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation, which deals with education-based initiatives across the country, and I recently did a speech for the Shevchenko Foundation for a Friends of the Shevchenko Foundation Fundraiser.
Unfortunately though, my Ukrainian language skills are greatly lacking. I went to Ukrainian elementary school until about grade 3, but after that my language skills sort of fell off, so I’ve got about grade 3 level skills. It’s not as good as I would like, but it’s a pretty good base.
SO: Can you tell us about an upcoming project of yours?
RB: The biggest upcoming project is the Enemy Aliens event. We have a historian-approved film script that we’re working on and we’re currently trying to raise an additional $35,000 for our development. We have $140,000 that will be topping off that $35,000 through the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund. With this project, we’re telling the story either through the feature film as planned, or, there’s also been a lot of interest in turning it into a television series. So, we’re looking into the development of a television series as well as the feature film, and then it will be just whichever network bites.
Along with this, we’re going to be doing a three-part documentary series on the War Measures Act. Part I deals with the internment of Ukrainians and other eastern Europeans during World War I, part II deals with the Japanese and Italian internment during World War 2, and the third part is about the 1970’s Quebec crisis. This three-part series is going to come out at the same time as the TV series or the feature film.
Then, along with that, we’re trying to get a partnership with Parks Canada and create an augmented reality, which is a new technology. Basically, people will be able to go to select internment sites, from either World War 1 or World War 2, and put on special goggles. Through the goggles, they’ll be able to see what it was like for the internees – they’ll be able to see the internees working and stuff like that. We’re trying to make it so that you can even download an app and use your tablet or smartphone to see the augmented reality.
SO: So it would be sort of like a “virtual reality” experience?
RB: Yes. Imagine just holding your phone up to the site and seeing the site through its camera, then pushing a special button, and all of a sudden the site would be overlaid with those images of the camp, of people working and doing different things. This is a big thing that we’re working on.
Visit the websites below for more information about Ryan Boyko, “Enemy Aliens,” and his production company, Armistice Films: