Robert Cuffley: my career started with NSI believing in me

Robert Cuffley

Photo by Shawn Fulton

Storytelling is more important than ever as we all face the unique challenges this year has brought us.

Stories entertain, inspire and transform. They remind us of where we come from and where we can go. We need more stories to free our imaginations and open our hearts to create a path of understanding and healing.

To mark the season of giving during December, we’re sharing impact stories from our alumni and board members to show the power of story in action.

Current NSI students are blessed by the commitment of NSI’s Board of Directors – 100% of whom have donated to NSI’s annual fund. Please join them in supporting our students by donating today and making the power of story even more powerful.

Today’s impact story comes from Robert Cuffley – an alumnus of NSI Drama Prize and NSI Features First.

Robert participated in NSI’s inaugural Features First program through which he developed Turning Paige. Robert believes having NSI attached to the film gave him confidence going forward in his career.

His horror film, Bright Hill Road, premiered at Calgary International Film Festival in October 2020 and will be available to stream in January 2021.

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If you could describe your experience with NSI in three words what would they be?

Persistence, virtue, professionalism.

How did your training through NSI help you get to the place you’re at in your career today?

I was part of the very first NSI Features First program and the experience was invaluable to getting my first movie, Turning Paige, made in 2002.

The process of going through NSI Features First taught me how to pitch the project, but also how to get better at working with the cast. Not to mention the confidence that having NSI’s name on my first film gave me.

I went on to teach young, emerging filmmakers through an NSI boot camp, attend an intensive week-long producer’s workshop through NSI and also to serve as producer on NSI Drama Prize short film, Game Seven.

How did your instructors, mentors and peers influence you to become a better storyteller?

Likely my best memory and most valuable assistance came from spending time with actor and director Charles Martin Smith (American Graffiti, Never Cry Wolf, The Untouchables). A kind and talented man who helped me polish my skills.

What advice or encouragement would you give a prospective applicant considering NSI programs?

Make best efforts to have everything they ask for in your application. Ideally, look at it like your pitch should answer every question someone should have. So, you need to anticipate the questions you might get from investors or juries and answer them within the pitch.

What has your career trajectory looked like between when you completed training and now?

I have gone on to make television and award-winning films, among them five feature films. This coming spring will be my sixth feature film with me as director. It all started with NSI believing in me.

What skills did you acquire in your NSI program that you did not have before?

How to best communicate with actors.

What project(s) are you currently working on?

My first horror feature – Bright Hill Road – just premiered at Calgary International Film Festival and will be available to stream January 12, 2021.

Next spring, I’m set to direct a feature version of a short I directed that is being written by former Manitoban and gifted novelist, Susie Moloney.

Where can people find out more about your work online?

I’m on Twitter as @RobertCuffley and/or @NDfilmcorp.

What is your favourite Canadian film / TV show / web series?

My favourite Canadian film is The Changeling from 1980, directed by Peter Medak and starring George C. Scott.

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Got alumni news?

If you're an NSI graduate with news to share about your latest project, get in touch and we'll get the word out on our website in alumni news, and social channels.

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Keep the story going and donate today

At NSI, we’re passionate about nurturing storytellers because stories connect us all.

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