Interview by Jana Letonja

Model, actress, producer, writer and director Emily Ruhl is currently working on her first TV series ’13th Stepping’, which she wrote and will star in. The series is being produced through her production company, Public School Pictures. Emily also hosts the Public School Pictures Podcast, where she chats with cast or crew members behind Public School Pictures’ productions.

Emily, tell us more about the ’13th Stepping’, the series you’re currently working on.

I’m currently neck-deep in developing my first TV series, ’13th Stepping’, a project that’s close to my heart. This is a passion project for me as I’m not only producing it, but also writing and starring in the series. It explores themes of growth, relationships and self-discovery. The series aims to offer a fresh and authentic perspective on modern life.

The series is being produced by your production company, Public School Pictures. What led you to begin your own production company?

I founded Public School Pictures as a way to bring my creative visions to life on my own terms. While my journey in the entertainment industry began as an actress, I wanted to expand my role and take on new challenges. Producing, directing and writing became passions of mine, and starting my own production company provided the platform to explore these aspects of storytelling.

Additionally, I saw an opportunity to make a difference by creating a space for emerging talent. Public School Pictures isn’t just about producing content, it’s about nurturing the next generation of filmmakers. I wanted to provide opportunities for fresh voices and diverse perspectives to be heard, supporting artists who might not otherwise have the chance to showcase their work.

What projects are you currently developing and working on with Public School Pictures, besides ’13th Stepping’?

I’m currently engaged in several exciting projects across different formats and genres. Public School Pictures’ slate reflects our commitment to diverse storytelling and supporting emerging talents. 

Besides ’13th Stepping’, we’re collaborating with director Jim Cummings on the upcoming short film ‘Pretty Sad’. Jim is known for his distinct storytelling style and we’re excited to bring his vision to life under the Public School Pictures banner.

Before producing, directing and writing, you were an actress first. How did you get into acting? Was acting what you wanted to do since a young age?

Acting has been a significant part of my journey. While I wear many hats now, my roots in the entertainment industry trace back to my passion for performing. During my childhood, I was drawn to storytelling in various forms – books, movies and theater. I was captivated by the way these mediums could transport me to different worlds and evoke powerful emotions. As I started participating in school plays and local theater productions, I realized how exhilarating it was to embody different characters and tell their stories.

Your producing, directorial and writing debut ‘BLUE MOON’ premiered in 2021 at NewFest in New York. What were you feeling before its premiere? Were you nervous at all or was it just pure excitement?

The premiere of ‘BLUE MOON’ was a whirlwind of emotions for me. It was a mix of excitement, anticipation and yes, a touch of nervousness. Seeing a project that I had poured my heart and soul into come to life on the big screen was both thrilling and nerve-wracking. I was excited to share the story we had crafted, the characters we had brought to life and the emotions we had woven into the narrative. The idea that the audience would finally experience the world of ‘BLUE MOON’ was incredibly gratifying.

At the same time, there’s always that nagging feeling of uncertainty before a premiere. Would the audience connect with the characters? Would they feel the emotions we had intended? It’s that mix of vulnerability and excitement that makes the experience so special. Overall, it was an unforgettable moment in my journey and I’m grateful for all the support and positive feedback ‘BLUE MOON’ received after its premiere. It taught me that embracing the nerves and stepping into the excitement is all part of the magic of filmmaking.

‘BLUE MOON’ won numerous awards. What does such recognition for a debut project mean to you, both personally and professionally?

Winning those awards for ‘BLUE MOON’ was truly an incredible and humbling experience. Personally, it was a validation of all the hard work, dedication and creative energy that my team and I poured into the project. It’s like seeing a dream come to life and knowing that others appreciate it and connect with the story we told. It gave me a deep sense of fulfillment and a boost of confidence in my creative abilities.

Professionally, the recognition opened doors and opportunities I might not have imagined before. It affirmed that my decision to venture into producing, directing and writing was the right path for me. Winning awards in various categories meant that not only was the story resonating with people, but the filmmaking itself was being acknowledged by industry peers. This recognition has encouraged me to continue pushing boundaries and exploring new creative avenues.

You as well host the Public School Pictures Podcast, where you chat with a cast or crew member from your productions. What made you start this podcast? What do you believe makes it stand out from the rest of podcasts we are able to listen to today?

Starting the Public School Pictures Podcast was a natural extension of my passion for storytelling and my desire to give a platform to the incredible people who bring our projects to life behind the scenes. I’ve always believed that every member of the cast and crew contributes to the magic of filmmaking and I wanted to provide a space where their voices could be heard.

What sets our podcast apart is its authenticity. It’s not just about promoting our projects, it’s about having real, unfiltered conversations. I believe in asking the kind of questions that get beyond the surface and reveal the heart of the creative process. It’s not just about the technical aspects, it’s about the personal journeys, challenges and inspirations that shape the work we do. By highlighting the stories and experiences of the people who often work behind the camera, we’re able to offer listeners a unique perspective on the filmmaking process. Our podcast aims to capture the camaraderie, the passion and the dedication that goes into every project. I hope that by sharing these insights, we’re able to connect with listeners on a deeper level and offer a glimpse into the human side of the entertainment industry.

Ultimately, our podcast is about celebrating collaboration, creativity and the love for storytelling. It’s about making the voices of those who make our projects come alive heard and I believe that’s what makes it stand out in the sea of podcasts available today.

Recently, Public School Pictures launched a 14-piece merchandise collection and introduced the non-profit Back To School program, which will herald the next generation of filmmakers by providing student with opportunities and exposure to the industry. Can you tell us more about the Back To School program. 

I’m incredibly excited about these new initiatives. The Back To School program holds a special place in my heart. It’s all about giving back and providing aspiring filmmakers with opportunities that I wish I had when I was starting out. The program aims to bridge the gap between education and the industry, offering students a chance to learn from professionals and make meaningful connections. Through mentorship, workshops, internships and more, we’re hoping to empower the next generation of filmmakers and help them kickstart their careers. It’s all about fostering diversity, inclusivity and creativity in the industry.

As for our merchandise collection, it’s a way for supporters to be part of our journey and show their love for storytelling. Each piece is carefully crafted to reflect the spirit of Public School Pictures and our commitment to quality and authenticity.

Why is it so important to provide students with these opportunities and exposure to the industry?

First and foremost, it’s about leveling the playing field. Many talented individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives might not have the means or connections to break into the industry. By offering opportunities like mentorship, internships and workshops, we’re opening doors for them to learn, grow and showcase their talents. Exposure to industry professionals helps students understand the inner workings of filmmaking, from pre-production to post-production. It allows them to network, make connections and learn from those who have already paved the way. This exposure not only builds skills, but also boosts confidence, showing them that their dreams are achievable.

Moreover, the industry benefits from this exchange of fresh perspectives and diverse voices. By nurturing emerging talents, we’re fostering innovation and inclusivity. The stories we tell and the perspectives we showcase become richer, more authentic and reflective of the world we live in. Ultimately, providing students with these opportunities is about investing in the future of filmmaking. It’s about empowering them to find their voices, tell their stories and contribute to the ever-evolving tapestry of entertainment. It’s a way of giving back and ensuring that the industry continues to grow, evolve and remain relevant in a changing world.

Besides working in the acting industry, what are you most passionate about in life?

Beyond my work in the acting industry, there are a few passions that truly light up my life. One of them is connecting with nature. Being outdoors, surrounded by the beauty and tranquility of the natural world, brings me a sense of peace and perspective that I cherish. Whether it’s hiking in the mountains, taking a stroll on the beach or simply spending time in a park, nature has a way of grounding me and reminding me of the bigger picture.

Travel is another big passion of mine. Exploring new places, cultures and cuisines is incredibly enriching. Traveling allows me to step out of my comfort zone, learn about different ways of life and appreciate the diversity that exists in our world. It’s a source of inspiration for my creative endeavors and a way to foster personal growth.

Lastly, I’m deeply passionate about connecting with people on a meaningful level. Meaningful conversations, forging genuine connections and making a positive impact in someone’s life are all things that fulfill me. Whether it’s through my work, my podcast or just everyday interactions, I believe that human connections are what truly makes life rich and fulfilling. These passions, along with my work in the entertainment industry, shape who I am and drive me to keep exploring, creating and making a difference in the world.