In the late 1980s I created a parallel spelling of my name [Bruis/Bruce] as a way of preserving my creative identity in a context dominated by false dichotomies of the "left brain / right brain" kind. When I wrote and directed for the screen, composed songs, played music etc., I was "Bruis", but "Bruce" if producing, negotiating, managing, putting on a suit... This made it easier to continue to do all the things I liked and was good at, and to avoid maturing into a singular and fixed identity, which is the more common pathway as we age and gain recognition for our achievements. But it was also a capitulation to false conceptualizations of creativity - two masks designed to present coherent, integrated human nature as a simplistic and easily assimilated binary code. Thirty years later I am dedicated to correcting these definitional prisons, especially in education, so use the two names interchangeably without assigning either to a particular realm of activity.
At this website you can access Bruis/Bruce, the filmmaker, musician, educator, philosopher of creativity, and relentlessly curious human being. Click on the small envelop icon anywhere you see it to send me an email.
I started making things at around 3 years old by cooking with my mother and copying what I saw my father doing with wood and metal. I learned to weld before I was in high school because my bike broke and we couldn't afford to take it to a shop, and I absorbed a great deal from farmers I grew up around without realizing at the time that I was being taught. During my early teens my father built a 60' ferro cement yacht (ketch rigged) in the back yard, which I hated because his obsession with the project fractured our family - I also did not much enjoy holding the steel frames while he welded them, rain or shine.
In my last year of high school, students were asked to select a career counseling session to attend. I checked all the boxes, but was told that I had to pick either sciences or arts, which was a problem because I liked and did well at both (when I turned up). I won the English prize and was already writing poetry and short prose, so reluctantly settled on art. The Deputy Principal called me to his office to tell me there is no point studying art when you have ability with science. He then assigned me to the science careers program. In protest I did not attend school for Careers Day.
The next year I enrolled in sciences at university, and can barely remember being engaged with or learning anything before that extremely patient institution finally decided it no longer required my services. Over the following decade I became a musician, a songwriter, and a filmmaker - all things I learned the same way I learned cooking, woodwork, gardening etc. as a child. It was a slow process, but things stuck and they were customized: I learned - maybe even invented - my own ways of making... of creating.
This was rewarding, but I craved mentorship. In my 30s, and with much trepidation, I enrolled at a different university as a part time student studying English literature, then switched to philosophy, which it turned out I was very good at. All my study was accomplished by sneaking away for lectures, first from a full time job, and then from film projects I was either producing or directing. In the period from 1999 to 2001, I was awarded a University of Auckland philosophy prize, won the New Zealand Best Drama Award for a tele feature called Lawless, and earned my graduate degree in philosophy with 1st class honors.
I felt strongly that something was very wrong in the way learning is theorized, formalized, and managed, and was particularly concerned about screen education. Aspiring filmmakers found it difficult to make an impact without attending film school, yet most educational institutions already showed signs of responding to technological advances and growing economic pressures by standardizing and compartmentalizing the learning. From my perspective, right when creativity was crucial, it was being marginalized.
In 1999 I addressed this in a presentation at the UFVA Conference in Boston, MA, and two years later was hired to lead the Columbia College Chicago Film & Video (later Cinema Art + Science) Department. I served in that position from September 1, 2001 until I stepped down May 31, 2017. For most of those 16 years we were able to bring creativity to the center of film education through imaginative strategic planning, innovative curriculum development, careful fiscal management, and the creation of the Media Production Center, a unique "laboratory for modeling professional screen practice." By every measure the program was extremely successful.
After 2008 there was a gradual but steady dilution of the role active creative practitioners play in arts education leadership and administration. This seemed an inexorable process, and it awakened me to the need for new ways of looking at creativity and how humans learn and develop as creators. As far as I could see, higher education was making assumptions about these things based on incomplete or outdated models. I converged my experience in filmmaking, music, higher education leadership, and philosophy to identify a PhD topic: Creativity and imagining in human development, education, art, and science from the perspective of embodied/extended theories of mind. I have been writing, presenting and publishing on this subject ever since, and am on target to complete my dissertation mid-2018. I continue to produce and direct for the screen, teach aspiring filmmakers as a full professor at Columbia College Chicago, and participate in the University of Auckland Creative Research Initiative as a Senior Research Fellow.