Valley man mixes history, film into career

Correspondent photo / Gary S. Angelo.... Chris Rutushin works on digitizing a film reel in his production office at the Stewart Media Archives Center at The Mahoning Valley Historical Society at The Arms Museum.

YOUNGSTOWN — From a very young age, Chris Rutushin had an appreciation for film production.

Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, “Star Wars” was all the rage for any child who had a creative imagination — and it was this film that inspired the creative spark in Rutushin.

“My parents bought me a VHS camera, and my brother Michael and I used to make films. I really liked ‘Star Wars’ growing up. I remember watching the documentary, ‘The Making of Star Wars’ and it was at this point where I became obsessed with how film productions and special effects were made,” Rutushin said.

Rutushin is a multimedia specialist for the Stewart Media Archives Center at The Mahoning Valley Historical Society at The Arms Museum. Rutushin digitizes, splices and repairs old film reels of Youngstown’s past.

The Stewart Media Archives Center honors the legacy of Warren P. Williamson Jr., founder of WKBN Broadcasting Corp. and his grandson, Lowry A. Stewart, for whom the center is named. The center includes historical photographs, business records, broadcasting equipment, WKBN news film from 1955 to 2000, viewing stations and audio records.

“Previously, I worked in news for a while at WFMJ-TV during the late 1990s and into the early 2000s. I always loved history, and I am involved in a profession that I went to college for. I also create mini-documentaries and promotional videos for the society. It’s a multi-faceted profession that involves archiving, presentation and film production,” he said.

Rutushin said he always had a fascination with history and his job at the archives center further fuels his passion for Youngstown’s unique past.

“I get requests that are interesting. I got a request from the podcast, ‘Crooked City: The Emerald Triangle (True Crime Podcast),’ who were doing a 15-episode series on the crime history in Youngstown. They needed historical sound bites so I digitized all of these historical files dealing with crime in the Mahoning Valley. Some of these recordings became a part of the podcast , which I think is worth listening to. I think it was cool that I had a little bit of a hand in contributing to that podcast,” Rutushin said.

Rutushin graduated from Boardman High School in 1994 and then started at Youngstown State University for its telecommunications program. He then decided to transfer to Ohio University for its program and directing department, which he felt at the time offered more hands-on opportunities. Rutushin earned his telecommunications degree from OU.

“It was good to get away from my hometown and meet people who were like-minded, who played in bands and who were interested in film,” Rutushin said.

In 1998, Rutushin took an internship for the “Today” show. He started in the mail room, and later was answering phones. Then Samantha Holman, who was the assistant for “Today” show personality Gene Shalit asked Rutushin to go to film screenings.

“It was cool, you found yourself in the green room with many celebrities from Danny DeVito to the singer-songwriter, Jewel. I was getting experience learning about lighting and camera direction. I did not do those tasks, but I watched and observed.

“I then graduated and then went back to Ohio University and did a senior thesis. I graduated and waited on tables and then took a job at WFMJ-TV as a photojournalist. I also worked in news in Las Vegas … during the early 2000’s to 2004,” Rutushin said.

Rutushin also has had experience working in numerous local productions, including as a cinematographer for the TV series “Tea & Coffee” and the 2016 film, “Saturday Scout Club.” During the 2000s, he directed his own film, “Fine Tune,” and was involved with camera and electrical department work for the TV series “Fat N’ Furious: Rolling Thunder.”

“The inspiration for my film, ‘Fine Tune’ was getting a better sense of who my great-grandfather from Italy was. When I was making that film I was getting attached to my Italian roots. We finished the script in Los Angeles. I was working with writer Jenean D. Atwood, and she helped co-write the script with me. She encouraged me to go back to Youngstown to make the film,” Rutushin said.

He also has a passion for music, During his childhood, Rutushin recalls music always being played in his house. Rutushin said that his mother had his great-grandmother’s player piano in their home.

“My dad also had records. One of the records he had was The Beatles’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’ That record pretty much did it for me. At the time when I was a kid, I did not know that there was a film that accompanied that record.

“My grandfather also had 45s. When my brother and I did well in school, my mother would take us to the record shop to pick out 45s. I remember my grandfather had a tape recorder, and he would record my brother and I being DJs and playing our 45s like a radio show. He would also sing with us,” Rutushin said.

During the mid to late 2000s, Rutushin booked shows at Youngstown’s Cedar’s Lounge. He was promoting numerous regional, local and touring acts. He then decided to start his own band, The Disillusionists, which he said showcased the darker side of his songwriting. Then in 2009, Rutushin wanted to write more upbeat Brit-pop and folk-infused songs so he formed Radio Lark. The band released the albums “The Firefly Sessions” (2012), “Stolen Oranges” (2015), “Wildflower” EP 2018 plus numerous singles.

Rutushin also has fused his support of local music with his love of film and directing. He has directed numerous music videos for the local acts Deadbeat Poets, Matt Palka, The Infidels, The Vindys and Demos Papadimas.

“I always liked the idea of collaborating and writing songs with other musicians. I like writing songs and being in the studio more than being a performer. Radio Lark has been a wonderful outlet for me. I would love to get back into the studio to record and write more music. … I have been busy with my job,” Rutushin said.



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