Ducking beneath the rush of an incoming aircraft, standing atop a lighthouse during a hazardous storm, and running from wild dogs on an early foggy morning may sound like the job of an action movie stuntman, but it’s actually the life of Rob Apse ’09.
Apse, who graduated with a degree in cinema and photography, experienced these misadventures while creating a website featuring the untold stories and voices of New England. Wandergroove was launched in August of 2016, and is home to Apse’s mini-documentaries revolving around the people and places that define the region. With five short documentaries, a mini-series and more films to come, Wandergroove showcases Apse’s clear passion for videography while giving a voice to the working-class hero.
“Everyone has a story to tell,” Apse said. “I try and dig that story out of them and tell it in a creative way that other people will enjoy and connect with.”
Wandergroove features profiles on individuals such as a boxer, or a crafter of bamboo fishing rods, while his mini-series “The Last Lightkeepers” explores issues surrounding New England’s iconic lighthouses. One of Apse’s films focuses on a self-taught pilot, Dan Marcotte, who learned to build and fly his own plane because he originally could not afford to pay for flying lessons. Marcotte is now an airshow performer who circles and flips his aircraft as it whizzes through the air. At times, he buzzed a mere five feet above Apse’s head while the filmmaker captured footage from the ground. Throughout his work, Apse’s shots are artistic and his films visually aesthetic and creative, while keeping each documentary short.
“With social media the world has an attention span of two minutes, and that’s why my films are only about that long,” Apse said. “I thought to myself ‘How can I create a magazine without it being a magazine?’ That’s why I created Wandergroove.”
Apse typically shoots on weekends after working a 40- to 80-hour work week at his advertising job. He often sets out at 4 a.m. to drive to the subject of each story he captures. He prefers the light of early mornings and late afternoons to film, if the majority of his shots are to be taken outdoors, and does so with little to no prior planning. Rather than interviewing the person or gathering information about their passion beforehand, Apse does minimal research and lets the story develop for him as it does on camera. Filming this way can be challenging, but hearing about people’s passions and catching the beauty of the natural world on camera makes the process worthwhile, he said.
“The stories really unfold on themselves. New England has a beautiful landscape and the canvas just kind of paints itself for you,” Apse said. “It’s really about being there, exploring it and finding it.”
As an IC student, Apse was more interested in fiction film and comedy. He then worked in editing for NBC in Boston before finding his current job in advertising. He rediscovered his love for film a few years ago and has been shooting ever since.
“When I graduated I got stuck into just finding a job,” Apse said. “I used to love to write and film and I think I fell off that for a couple of years, but this is what I’m meant to do.”
Looking forward, Apse hopes to go beyond New England, to tell the stories of people and places across the United States. He expects to collaborate with various brands and companies in the future who can sponsor his films, as he currently funds his documentaries out-of-pocket. His next goal is to campaign on a crowd-funding site in the hopes of converting an old VW bus into a camper and editing suite to allow him to travel more frequently and create his films on the road. In capturing the unheard voices of New England, Apse strives to continue to follow his passions in film and photography through Wandergroove.
“What I’ve found with all of these people is that they weren’t afraid to take a leap and pursue what they want to pursue,” Apse said. “If you want to pursue your passion, you can make it work. It just takes a lot of hustle.”