Director Aaron Ruell Finds Sanctuary For Spots
Aaron Ruell
  • CULVER CITY, Calif.
  • --

Filmmaker, writer and photographer Aaron Ruell has joined the directorial roster of Sanctuary Content where he reunites with executive producer Preston Lee.

Ruell first burst onto the scene at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival with the premiere of two shorts, Everything’s Gone Green and Mary. It was at that fest that Ruell connected with EP Lee who first ushered the director into the commercialmaking world via Über Content. Ruell later went onto sign with production houses Biscuit Filmworks in the U.S. and Holiday Films in Canada. Holiday continues to rep him in the Canadian ad market.

“For lack of a better term, Preston essentially ‘discovered’ me at the Sundance festival,” Ruell explained. “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 Volkswagen, Sonic, Serta, Charter, MasterCard, Kona Beer, McDonald’s, T-Mobile, Nintendo, Burger King, Ritz and Citibank. His work is marked by a talent for art direction, sincerity and observational comedy. Ruell’s ads for Coca-Cola and Kerrygold were platforms for him 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 elicit 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.

“To be reunited with Aaron is literally beyond words,” said 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.”


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