A trio of Kamloops filmmakers hope to shine a light on the disappearance of Ryan Shtuka through a documentary.
The 20-year-old from Beaumont, Alta., was last seen on Feb. 17 leaving a house party on Burfield Drive in Sun Peaks at about 2 a.m. to walk a short distance home.
A massive search effort from his parents and volunteers followed, but there has been no sign of Shtuka even after the snow melted in the ski resort.
With the trail appearing to get colder as the months pass, locals Russell Walton, Jared Featherstone and Allan McVicars have taken it upon themselves to share the story in an effort to contribute to the search.
In order to get the documentary made, the filmmakers are hoping for a successful grant through Storyhive, a public access competition from Telus that offers production grants and distribution opportunities to filmmakers in B.C. and Alberta.
“We really saw ourselves in Ryan,” said project lead Russell Walton. “From the way we look at it, it could have just as easily been one of us who disappeared because he was living a lifestyle really similar to us when we were 20 years old.”
The competition is fierce as more than 280 applicants are vying for 30 grants worth $50,000 in Storyhive’s 20 minute documentary category.
Half the grants are awarded to the projects with the most votes and the remaining 15 are chosen by a panel of judges.
Voting ended Aug. 2 and the filmmakers will find out in early September if their application will receive funding.
“It’s an interesting initiative because you need to be a filmmaker living in either B.C. or Alberta to qualify for the grants, so it’s a pretty cool way to get Western Canadian content made,” Walton said.
The trio were amazed at the positive response they received and thankful that the family is on board with the project, titled Peaks and Valleys: The Search for Ryan Shtuka.
In a Facebook post, Ryan’s mother Heather wrote that she is “incredibly grateful that these young filmmakers want to bring wider awareness to Ryan’s case.”
Walton said he first heard of Shtuka’s disappearance through family members who had been involved in initial searches. He also helped organize a fundraiser in May. It was at that event that he met Ryan’s parents, who left an impresson on him.
“Who they were personally, how they came across and how they were handling everything, that really gripped me and also my other friends,” Walton said.
Walton, Featherstone and McVicars have a variety of experience in video production and wanted to find a way to use their abilities to aid the search when Walton received an email notification about Storyhive’s latest application intake.
“We talked about it and were like, yeah, this is something that I think would be of value to the community and it’s a really deep story to tell,” Walton said.
After getting approval from the family, they sent in an application in July.
The plan for the documentary is to interview Ryan’s parents Heather and Scott Shtuka, Kamloops Search and Rescue team leader Allan Mole and Ryan’s friend James Maxwell.
Other interviews are expected to be conducted with those who knew Ryan as well.
The documentary will focus on the community search effort that rallied around the family, Ryan himself as a young man venturing out from home for the first time and make an effort to gather new information that may move the investigation forward.
“It’s pretty mysterious how the snow’s melted now and they still can’t find him,” Walton said.
Receiving the Storyhive grant would cover the majority of the cost to produce the film, but if the application isn’t successful, Walton said there are other grants the filmmakers can pursue.
If successful, the documentary will be available to be viewed by anyone who uses Telus as a cable provider.
Ryan arrived in Sun Peaks on Dec. 1 to spend the season snowboarding before returning this spring to his job as an apprentice construction working for his dad.
According to Heather Shtuka, Ryan was leaving a party with a couple of his roommates to walk the short distance to his home when he disappeared.
“They walked out the door with another friend to walk home and thought Ryan was right behind them,” Heather Shtuka told KTW, adding the friends thought perhaps he had stopped to tie his shoes.
She said by the time they turned around and noticed Ryan wasn’t behind them, they assumed he was lagging behind or decided to stay at the party.
When they woke up in the morning and learned Ryan still wasn’t home, they figured he was out snowboarding — something Ryan liked to do before work.
He did not show up at work that day and KSAR was called in for the initial two-day search.
In the application’s synopsis, the filmmakers said “it seems more and more likely that someone knows more than they are telling.”
RCMP Cpl. Jodi Shelkie has told KTW police have no evidence to suggest Shtuka met with foul play when he went missing.