‘Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy’ Asks The Ultimate Question

When you make your way on the road of life, the hope is that you will feel some kind of personal satisfaction along the journey. This hope is especially true after working in a career, raising a family, participating in your community and so on. Of course, living a life means that one must accept and deal with the good with the bad that comes one`s way. However, boredom, cynicism or disappointment can start creeping in at some point, causing one to question what his or her true purpose in life is.

The 8-minute short film written and directed by Montreal’s Maxime-Claude L’Ecuyer examines this crisis through a clever combination of two well-known cultural icons in Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy. In this short, a battered and tired Star Wars Stormtrooper (known as Squad Leader TD-73028) recites the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet as he slowly walks through the heat and sun in a hilly sand dune. While walking in contemplation, the Stormtrooper makes a startling discovery in the sand that ultimately helps him make his final decision regarding his career path. Check out the trailer below:

 

Short Film Fan recently reached out to Maxime to get his perspective into Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy.

Short Fim Fan:  Why did you decide to make this film?

Maxime-Claude L`Ecuyer: It all started at a party when my friend David Blouin, a cosplayer and member of the Star Wars Cosplayer group 501st Garrison Fortress Imperiale, showed me picture of his Stormtrooper suit. He made an exact replica of the Stormtrooper (a Sand Trooper) from Star Wars Episode IV- A New Hope. This is the Stormtrooper who famously said in the film, “These are not the droids you’re looking for. Move along.” David made his costume based on this particular Stormtrooper. It`s an exact replica in the smallest detail and one of the best in Canada. As soon as he showed me picture of his costume, I told myself right away that I had to do something with it and I said to him jokingly, “I’m going to make a Shakespearean short film with your costume.” Three years later, it happened! That was the starting point.

SFF: The Stormtrooper uniforms and weapons look very authentic. How did you get a hold of them?

MCL: David Blouin made the suit himself using still frames from the film. As I mentioned, David is a member of the 501st, which is an international fan-based organization dedicated to the construction and wearing of screen-accurate replicas of Imperial Stormtrooper armor and other villains from the Star Wars universe. When a member is accepted into the organization, they receive a name for their replica. The name of David’s persona is TD-73028. So, that is why I used it in the title of the short film. It is like paying homage to his suit. David used a hi-res picture of the original helmet that was sold at Christie’s so he could have all the smallest details of the helmet used in that scene. I think that is why the short film works; there is a feeling of the real thing that’s happening and the spectator connects to the character right away. Stormtroopers are seen mostly in the background in the Star Wars movies. To put him in the central role and reflect on his purpose in life – that where lays the originality of the proposal, I think.

SFF: Did you have to clear any copyright issues with the Star Wars creators before making the film?

MCL: There are a lot of Star Wars fan films out there, so it’s tolerated by Disney as along has you don’t make money out of it. There is even a fan film competition held by Disney. So, I spent more money making this self-financed short film with a generous and talented crew that followed me in this crazy adventure. My short is made for the festival circuit and it will be online at the end of the year or so.

SFF: What would you like the audience to take away from Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy?

MCL: This is not a fan film in the tradition of the genre. I consider Squad Leader TD-73028 in continuity with my previous work.

When we put these two mythical universes together (that of Star Wars and Shakespeare), it clashes. It creates sparks. Everything can happen in the mind of the spectators and that’s what interesting for me. It’s a reflexive film that offers a pause. We look at this Stormtrooper: this faceless soldier; a pawn in the service of the Rogue; the deserter who reflects on his human condition, questioning the reasons even to exist and on the meaning of his life. We try to humanize this faceless masked soldier. He is often in background in Star Wars movies and this short puts him in the center of the film.

By mixing classics and pop culture together, we can evoke the social and political aspect of today. In that way, there’s a parallel between the Death Star and potential world destruction. In the middle of all this, there is a Stormtrooper; a deserter wondering about his place and purpose in all of this. This faceless soldier; one piece of the puzzle is now reflecting on the meaning of life and so does the spectator, we hope.

This is all the genius and richness of Shakespeare’s text presented as the inner voice of a Stormtrooper. It demonstrates that Shakespeare’s language still echoes down to us through the centuries and remains as relevant today as ever-not to mention as well in a galaxy far, far away…

It’s a very slow and meditative short film. It’s not narrative in a sense that it’s a moment in the life of this Stormtrooper. But, we kind of want it to be very open in this way. A hypnotic feel and slow pace was needed to absorb the famous Shakespeare soliloquy in order to get a sense of the power of the text. Everybody knows the first line, “To be or not to be.” But, few people know the rest. If we can give access or illuminate a new generation to Shakespeare’s writing, our job is done through this film.

 

Short Film Fan Review:

This was an incredible melding of classic and pop cultures. The soliloquy was haunting and spoken at a perfect pace. The replication of the Stormtrooper`s uniform and weapon was spot on. The ominous background music and the heavy breathing added to the severity of the situation. In effect, Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy humanizes a character that is normally portrayed in Star Wars films as a ruthless soldier. For young Star Wars fans that have not had much English literature education, Squad Leader TD-73028 would be a good introduction to one of Shakespeare’s famous plays.

Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy has been screened in numerous film festivals, including Regard International Short Film Fest (Canada) and Busan International Short Film Fest (South Korea). It will be playing at PÖFF SHORTS in Tallinn, Estonia at the end of November and will also screen at Shorts That Are Not Pants in Toronto, also at the end of November. There is no end in sight to its screenings around the world! Congratulations to Maxime, actor David Blouin, and voice-over Anton Golikov for creating and executing this soon-to-be classic short film.

Keep up with Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy on Facebook  and Twitter.

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From ‘Good-Bye’ To ‘Good To See You’?

Hi, short film fans. Hope you’re enjoying your summer (if you are reading this in the Northern Hemisphere).

It’s been a long while since I wrote and posted my last article on the site. Of course, the article was a ‘good-bye’ post where I stated that it wasn’t going to be possible for me to continue with the site. I never revealed why I had to stop.

But, here’s one reason: I was getting sick.

My desire to share all these fantastic news stories about Canadian short films was causing me some physical illnesses. The stress of balancing a day job, a home and the blog site was getting too much. Plus, I was becoming more involved with my ethnic community by helping out various organizations with their communications needs. There just wasn’t enough time to get everything done. My energy was depeleting.

These situations that I have listed above haven’t changed (except for the illness part – I’m doing very well!). But, my mind is changing about withdrawing from Short Film Fan. Despite my ‘good-bye’ post, I still receive requests from Canadian and non-Canadian filmmakers to feature something about their short films. That speaks volumes to me; it shows that you’ve liked my site and have come to rely on it as a reliable source to spread the word about short films.

I’m also still getting new social media followers, particularly on Twitter. I’m still active there and I’m happy to see that my past followers have hung on and have continued to engage with me.

This past spring, I renewed my site with WordPress for another year. That gives me about 12 months to keep all my articles up for further reading by the public. But, it’s also giving me some motivation to write more posts. The frequency of writing would be a lot less – maybe once every three to four months. That means I would have to be very picky when it comes to reviewing a short film (which is something I would hate to do as I want to review them all!). Maybe I have to write on my own time at my own pace.

In time, though I hope we can switch from ‘good-bye’ to ‘good to see you’.

That’s A Wrap

Hey, fans.

Just wanted to let you all know that this will be Short Film Fan’s last post. After taking some time to assess things, it won’t be possible for me to continue with posting news and info about Canadian short films. However, there is now a wealth of information on this website for you or anyone else to access and read in the future.

I’d like to thank everyone for supporting me and this project for these past three years. A big thank you goes to Katy Swailes, who was perhaps one of the first people out there to see the value in what I was doing here. I thank her for encouraging me to write about CBC’s Short Film Face Off program. The relationship with Face Off continued with Stewart Young which was a pleasure for me to be a part of. I also would like to thank Katja De Bock and Jennifer Mair at the National Film Board for their support and encouragement. Thanks also to all the Canadian filmmakers who participated in my interviews and gave me the opportunity to talk about their short films on the site. Of course, all the encouragement from friends and family over this past while has been a big boost, too. Last but not least, thank you to all my subscribers who were so kind to want to have a copy of my posts sent to their email inboxes.

It’s been a slice, folks. Thank you one more time. I hope that you will still go out there and keep supporting Canadian short films.

That’s a wrap.

Best,

Mike

Behind The Scenes: On The Set Of ‘Patterns’

Have you ever watched a short film and wondered, “How did they do that?” There is no doubt that producing a film of any kind takes a lot of skill, practice, patience and time. A scene that comes on for one minute may have taken one day to get it right. Dedicated crews put in a lot of hard work in order to make a short film that is finally viewed by the audience. Keeping it all together are the visionary directors and producers who are working just as hard to bring shorts fans another quality film to watch.

This past summer, Short Film Fan visited the set of the latest short film produced and directed by BJ Verot called ‘Patterns’. During this particular visit, he and his crew were busy filming a motorcycle scene on an indoor set located in the northwest area of Winnipeg, MB. For some insight into the film and to learn about the techniques he and his crew were using that day, listen to the audio interview below:

Upon entering the stage set, there were multiple activities going on at the same time. Crew members were busy positioning the motorcycle and attaching green material to it before the scene could be filmed. At the same time, Steven was having make-up applied to his head by the make-up artist while waiting in the wings for his cue to come on to the set. Other crew members were making sure that the all lighting was properly adjusted and that all the cameras that were being used were angled and ready to roll. Of course, BJ was there providing instructions and coaching everyone on what needed to be done for the filming of that particular motorcycle scene.

It was a noisy and busy atmosphere that many short film fans don’t have the opportunity to see every day. Many thanks go to BJ, Brad Crawford and the rest of the crew for allowing Short Film Fan onto the set for the chance to learn some basic filmmaking techniques and for this sneak-peak into ‘Patterns’.

As of writing, ‘Patterns’ will be set for its finished post-production in the middle of January 2018.

Please Participate In The 2017 Short Film Fan Readership Survey

Hey, Short Film Fans!

We’re almost at the end of 2017 and it’s been a very good year for Short Film Fan. The number of visitors and views has increased over last year, while new subscribers have signed-up. Also, more filmmakers (from Canada as well as beyond) have reached out to submit their short films to be reviewed. More film festivals were connecting with the site, as well; in one case this fall, Short Film Fan was an official media partner of the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival. This is all so incredibly encouraging and motivating. It’s an indication that Short Film Fan’s delivery of news, reviews and information about Canadian short films is hitting a positive chord with you in one way or another.

As the creator and publisher of Short Film Fan, it’s my duty to take a look at where the site is now and where I’d like it to be in the future. As you may know, time spent on each Short Film Fan post is done outside of my regular daytime activities. This fact makes it sometimes difficult to keep up with the increasing volume of article ideas and submissions. Tied in to the time spent on working on posts is the monetary cost of maintaining this site. How to find more hours to work on more posts in the most cost-effective way is one priority for me.

Also under review is the structure or format of each post. Currently, all of the articles on Short Film Fan are written either by myself or a dedicated volunteer. While some blog sites tend to lean heavily towards text, others have incorporated more audio and/or video in their articles. How to improve the readability of future articles is also an important priority.

In the end, this is Short Film Fan’s chance to look towards the future and to take the next step in becoming something bigger and better. So, with that in mind, I urge you to participate in the first-ever Short Film Fan Readership Survey. The survey consists of only 10 questions and won’t take long to complete. It’s anonymous and no personal information will be collected. The link to the survey is below:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/F98G6J3

Please fill out this survey no later than December 15th, 2017, 11:59 p.m. Central Time.

After this date, all data will be reviewed and analyzed to get a clearer picture as to how the site should progress.

I look forward to reading your thoughts and opinions about Short Film Fan. Thank you for your participation and continued support.

Regards,

Mike Kulasza

‘Ganjy’ Star Ben Ratner Nominated Best Actor At 2017 UBCP/ACTRA Awards Gala

The 6th annual UBCP/ACTRA Awards Gala will be taking place in Vancouver, BC  on November 18th at the Vancouver Playhouse. This peer-adjudicated red carpet gala recognizes the best talent in film and TV talent from British Columbia. A total of 27 performers have been nominated for categories in Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Emerging Performer, Best Voice and Best Stunt.

In the Best Actor category, Ben Ratner was nominated for his role as Ganjy Berger in the 2016 dramatic short film, Ganjy. On the eve of this weekend’s gala, Short Film Fan reached out to Ben to learn more about Ganjy and to better understand the significance of the presence of short films in awards galas such as the UBCP/ACTRA Awards.

 

Short Film Fan: What went through your mind when you first learned of the nomination?

Ben Ratner: I deeply invested in creating and performing the character of Ganjy, and knowing that a group of my peers responded so favourably means a lot to me.  I also felt very lucky, as there are a great many strong performers submitting their work, so many factors have to align to get a nomination — a bit of luck being one of them.  And to make things even better, my wife, Jennifer Spence, has been nominated for “Best Actress” this year for her work on You Me Her.

SFF: Can you tell us briefly what your role was in Ganjy?

Ben Ratner as Ganjy Berger

BR: I play Ganjy Berger, a former professional boxer contending with dementia puglistica.  The film was informed by my years as an amateur boxer, and inspired by meeting Muhammad Ali in 2009 with Aleks Paunovic, my Ganjy co-star and co-executive producer.  Aleks was also an amateur boxer, as were our other cast members Zak Santaigo and Donny Lucas.

SFF: What does it mean to have short films such as Ganjy appear in award ceremonies such as the UBCP/ACTRA Awards?

BR: It’s great to see that a good performance can get noticed, whether it’s in a $50,000,000 feature film or a $5,000 dollar short.  No one can stop an ambitious actor from making things happen for themselves if they have a story to tell and a character to bring to life.  As the old song goes, “a lot of money can buy you a fine-looking dog, but only love will make him wag his tail.”

SFF: There doesn’t seem to be a separate category for Best Short Film in this year’s awards ceremony. How can we ensure that short films get their own category in the future?

BR: I don’t think the UBCP/ACTRA awards are planning on separate categories for different mediums — be they film, TV, web series, or shorts.  The point of this awards show is they “even the playing field” for all actors.  It’s about the performance – not the medium or budget.  And that’s a great thing!

SFF: In your opinion, how important are short films to the Canadian film industry?

BR: Shorts matter now and always will, because they are how almost all filmmakers get started, and they provide opportunities for emerging performers to play lead parts and show what they are capable of.  Because feature films cost so much more to make, the distributors need “star” actors to try to attract an audience.  Shorts aren’t as much of a financial risk, so there is far more room for decisions to be made based on creativity, instead of commerce.

 

Short Film Fan Commentary:

It is significant to see short films competing on a level playing field against feature-length films and TV programs at the gala. As Ben stated, it is not about what medium was used or how much money was spent; it is truly about the best performance an actor or actress can give. Canadian short films are very well-known and respected for their quality; be it acting, script or production. So, perhaps they really do not need their own category in awards ceremony galas. They already have, and will continue to have, the strength and ability to hold their own against other mediums.

Congratulations goes to Ben on his nomination as Best Actor. Best of luck to him and all the other nominees in tomorrow night’s UBCP/ACTRA Awards Gala.

Relive Canada’s Famous Battle With Rare, Colourized Footage When You ‘Return To Vimy’

This Remembrance Day in Canada marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. In the early morning hours of April 9, 1917, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps combined with the British XVII Corps to fight against three divisions of the German Sixth Army. The ensuing battle allowed the Allies to secure tactical ground for its eventual defeat of Germany in the Great War. The win at Vimy resulted in heavy losses for Canada: 3,598 soldiers were killed among 10,602 casualties.

Up to this point, many generations of Canadians have seen the images of the First and Second World Wars through black and white photographs and film. A recently-released short film, through a partnership between the Vimy Foundation and the National Film Board, attempts to reconnect Canadians both young and old to the Vimy Ridge Battle story in a unique and colourful way.

Written and produced by Denis McCready, Return to Vimy (2017) is a 9-minute short in which a young Canadian woman visits the Vimy Ridge Memorial in order to find make a charcoal imprint of her great-grandfather’s name. She brings with her to the monument her grandfather’s notebook of diary writings and sketches. The sketches come to life and, with never seen before NFB film archive colorized for the first time, the woman’s grandfather begins to paint a more personal and detailed picture of life in the trenches during the days leading up to the infamous battle. Watch the entire film below:

“Many Canadians today see the First World War through a series of faded black-and-white photos and grainy video footage, disconnected from their modern reality,” said Jeremy Diamond, Executive Director of the Vimy Foundation. “Colourizing these events brings a new focus to our understanding and appreciation of Canada’s giant event during the First World War.

Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson also said, “Return to Vimy combines innovative storytelling and advancements in digital colourization to breathe new life into archival materials and bring this pivotal moment in Canadian history back to life for audiences of all ages. As Canada’s public producer, we’ve been telling our country’s stories and sharing our history since 1939; during times of peace as well as on the frontlines when Canada has been in combat.”

 

Short Film Fan Review

The spoken word of the diary entries presents the Battle of Vimy Ridge in a more personal and intimate light. The colourization of the old film footage was particularly well done and it adds a new dimension and life to these images of long ago. In fact, the quality of the colour and the restored film makes it look like as if the battle took place in more modern times. The decision to colourize has the potential to cause a certain “cool factor” among those who may consider old black and white imagery as too old fashioned or dull. Altogether, Return to Vimy could very well be instrumental in reigniting an interest among today’s generation of Canadians to learn more about this important part of Canadian history.

Take the time to watch Return to Vimy on this Remembrance Day and let’s pay tribute to those who gave their lives so that we could live our lives in freedom and in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Romantic Obsessions Result In Tragedy In ‘The One I Adore’ (2017)

When a relationship ends, both ex-partners have two choices. Either they pick up and move on or they remain stuck and refuse to move on. Even though both partners feel the hurt and pain of a terminated relationship, it is no secret that the one partner who was served notice will feel the pain much more. Shock, anger and grief are a few of the emotions that he or she will experience in the days and weeks after a break-up. Some ex-partners will eventually learn to accept the situation and look forward to the future. Others, however, can’t or won’t accept the situation and will even go so far as to demand the other partner come back to the relationship. Begging and pleading through phone calls and emails could eventually lead into physically stalking the ex-partner at homes, workplaces and public gathering places.

The 8-minute short The One I Adore is a frightening look at how far one woman will go to confront an old love and to settle a score. Written and directed by Jason Seelmann, The One I Adore stars Joceyln Anna Lernout as the Ex-Lover, Nicole Henderson as the Beautiful Woman  and Matteo de Cola as the Handsome Man. The Ex-Lover drives through the night into a part of town where she finds the Beautiful Woman and Handsome Man making their way to a restaurant.  Hiding in the shadows, the Ex looks on as the couple enjoy their dinner date together. As the date continues, the Ex continues to hide unnoticed by the couple and recalls happier times with her former partner in her mind. The couple leave the restaurant and make their way to the Beautiful Woman’s apartment. Not too far behind, the Ex arrives at the apartment and finds the couple in an intimate moment. After a moment of grief and anger, the Ex knew what she had to do next. Get a glimpse of The One I Adore in the trailer below:

Here is what Jason had to say to Short Film Fan about The One I Adore:

“Like many acclaimed artists whose works have long inspired me (such as Martin Scorsese, Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez), I am fascinated by twisting psychological journeys; dark stories about people responding to disappointments, rejection or trauma. I believe we are all capable of antisocial behaviour if pushed hard enough. Heartbreak is heartbreak. Obsession and violence is equally tragic in any relationship. We are all human beings who attempt love and falter. Are we not all capable of violence, even murder, if pushed to the breaking point?” he said.

 

Short Film Fan Review:

Generally, The One I Adore had a real spooky overtone caused by the musical score and the lack of dialogue. There was an interesting scene where both women toss their hair back with their hand almost simultaneously. That moment almost made it look as if there was some kind of final lingering connection between them. The characters seemed to lack a certain amount of emotion towards the end, however. The Ex did not look angry or upset enough before the murder, while the Beautiful Woman and the Handsome Man did not look fearful or terrified enough before their anticipated demise. A fight or struggle scene, which was not a part this film, would have added a bit more horror or intensity to the story. In the end, The One I Adore was a well-paced short film that does a great job at reminding us that romantic obsessions do have the potential to end violently and tragically.

The One I Adore makes its world premiere in Toronto at the Blood In The Snow Canadian Film Festival on November 25th at 7 p.m. at The Royal Cinema, 608 College Street. Don’t miss your chance at catching this little psychological thriller on the big screen. For tickets, go to www.universe.com/bitsff

All the best goes to Jason on his filmmaking career. Can’t wait to see what short film he and his team come up with next!

Short Film Fan Earns Top 25 Short Film Blog Award

Hey, short film fans! Are you ready for some amazing news?

Short Film Fan has just been selected as one of the top 25 short film blogs on the Web by Feedspot.com. A congratulatory email was sent to SFF by the founder of Feedspot, Anuj Agarwal. An award badge was also presented to SFF by Mr. Agarwal which you can see right here: https://shortfilmfan.com/awards/

Thank you very, very much Feedspot for awarding Short Film Fan a spot on your Top 25 Short Film Blogs category. This is an incredible honour to receive.

A big thank you also goes out to all Short Film Fan subscribers, readers, followers and supporters. Without you, this award would not have been possible.

To learn more about Feedspot and to check out the Top 25 Short Film Blogs list, go to https://blog.feedspot.com/short_film_blogs/

 

Moving Forward With Short Films: Spotlight on Lisa Anita Wegner

Watching a short film can be a temporary stress reliever. For a little while at least, the viewer can absorb him or herself into whatever short they have selected and their worldly cares quickly go away. String a few of them together and you have made a little short film festival that can help you to relax, have fun and take your mind off of things for the time being.

But, what about those who suffer stress as a disability, such as complex post-traumatic stress disorder (c-PTSD)? What if you are the filmmaker, not the viewer, who needs help with managing this disability? Where and how do you reach out for help? Toronto-based filmmaker, actress, curator and speaker Lisa Anita Wegner can shed some light on this serious matter. Lisa is the founder of Mighty Brave Productions/Haus of Dada and the co-founder of Akhilanda Collaborative. Since using filmmaking as therapy for her c-PTSD, Lisa’s film production has doubled and her career has taken her into new directions with considerable screenings of her films in Arizona.

Short Film Fan reached out to Lisa to learn more about how she has used short filmmaking to manage her c-PTSD. Below, she describes in her own words her personal journey.

 

Short Film Fan: Who or what influenced you to become filmmaker? 

Lisa Anita Wegner: I was a shy kid who lived in Toronto with my German and Austrian immigrant family. I remember not understanding English and being really nervous out in the world. I found comfort first in my dressing up and imagining myself as other characters like Wonder Woman, Laura Ingalls, Mary Poppins and Lil’ Orphan Annie. After a while, I wanted to perform these inner imaginations and started doing plays where I needed more kids and sometimes adult help. I got together a neighbourhood Mary Poppins play in kindergarten. In grade two, I asked my school principal to use part of our class time for rehearsal and arranged it so that we would perform Annie in the auditorium.

When I had a project, I was fearless. Kids who had no interest in me otherwise wanted to be in my plays. It felt like I was doing the right thing. All through school, I continued to produce plays with whatever resources I had. I also acted in school and professional plays, eventually touring nationally as an actor with English Suitcase Theatre. I really felt the most whole when I was performing. I kept acting in film and TV and literally never stopped creating my own projects.

SFF: Can you tell us a little bit about your work in the early days of your career?

LAW: Around the turn of the century, I had a revelation: the filmmaker shows the audience where to look. It’s so intimate because you have the audience’s eyes.  That blew my mind. I wasn’t a kid who grew up with a video camera, so I started looking for film directors to collaborate with when I started Mighty Brave Productions. At that time, I didn’t generate my own content; I needed the input of writers, directors, editors and cinematographers. I had final say on every aspect of a production, usually with the director. I also worked as a TV and film actress in Toronto and Montreal.  I was running a small production company known for my comedic work and I was fiercely proud, I was sure I was on the right path.

SFF: In 2009, something happened to you that affected you and your filmmaking career. Can you describe to us what it was and what challenge or challenges it posed for you? 

LAW: In May 2008, I went to the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner with my short, The Gospel of Phi. I had known there was something wrong with me for a while, but I had put 200% effort getting ready for my first European film festival. So, I thought I was just exhausted. Once in France, I found myself completely unable to function or communicate properly. There was something very wrong.  I only left my rental accommodation to unsuccessfully get juice. I flew straight back to Toronto without getting to the festival and thought I just needed a few months rest.

When I got home, things got worse and for over a year I wasn’t able to get out of bed and was overwhelmed by the smallest task. I slept about 20 hours a day and I felt like my brain had gone offline. In 2009, I was diagnosed as having complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Later that year, I started receiving help from Women’s College Hospital and started receiving Ontario Disability Support.

SFF: Who or what encouraged you to make short films as part of your therapy?

LAW: From 2008-2011, I spent most of my time in bed with my dog and my laptop. Communicating anything was really hard, and my friends and colleagues were worried about my silence. I used images of myself shot with my webcam first of all to figure out who I was; I genuinely was not sure who I was at that point. I posted these to feel more real and reach out to my friends on social media. Communicating artistically was my go-to mode of expression and making things out of the footage was how I got through my hours awake. When I was at The Gerstein Centre and Women’s College Hospital’s SPEAK ART program, I was also encouraged to make art and videos to move forward. Artistically, it was pure communication; I was at a loss for words so film images were how I communicated with myself and my friends.  These weren’t originally made to be seen by the public.

One of my social media friends was Steve Weiss, a film programmer who screened my previous work. He invited my short film so who am I anyway to Selections 2011 at The Phoenix Art Museum.

Eva Gets a Better Job was also screened later that year at The Herberger Theatre Centre. This was the ultimate encouragement that people in the film community wanted to see this therapeutic work.

Steve then arranged a screening and a talk for me at Short Film Bar, and it was the first time I spoke publicly about how art saved my life. For the first time, I felt like an artist and not someone who couldn’t get out of bed.

Now I can’t stop making work like this. Without access to film equipment, I use my laptop or my phone. Without power, I paint, draw or collage. There is an unstoppable well of stories in me busting to get out in many formats.  Through all this creating, it’s obvious to me that at heart I’m a performer and a filmmaker.

SFF: How has producing short films helped you with c-PTSD?

LAW: My daily art practise keeps my c-PTSD symptoms at bay. Living with a stress disorder, I must arrange my studio days to be as stress free as possible. I continue the intuitive process of creating on my feet and I film it as I go. Editing is where I find the moments that interest me.  I have used a blue screen studio donated by Mary-Margaret Scrimger (from Akhilanda Collaborative) and most days, I create bite-sized photo and video content.  If there is value in a bite-sized project, I tend to take more bites.

Most of my current work comes out as performance, photo and video sketches; however, some of these turn into full-grown pieces. It’s really the creative output that is my therapy. I work largely on my own or with interns. With my imagination primed and focused, my therapeutic workflow is smooth and familiar and is now turning into a body of work. The producing and getting the work out into the world is a benefit I am now enjoying, but it’s the content creation that helps my PTSD.

SFF: Can you tell us more about your short film, The Way Back Home? 

LAW: Kirsten Leila Edwards curated a MASH UP Art Party for the Hercinia Arts Collective in the winter of 2015. I was matched up with The Aerial Mermaid Clone Army which was Ashley Hurlock and Tamara Arenovich, two aerialists who performed as mermaids.  In a few short collaborative meetings and rehearsals, we had come up with a live multimedia performance of three mermaid sisters getting lost in a storm called The Way Back Home.  We had the privilege of performing it multiple times live in Toronto. With the addition of Pink Moth (Ray Cammaert) making music and a third aerialist artist Mary-Margaret Scrimger, we formed Akhilanda Collaborative.  Mary-Margaret brought the blue screen studio into the mix and donated the space to shoot.  As the project developed, I felt it was strong enough to work as a short film. It premiered at the Mesa Art Centre season kick off in Arizona on September 8th, 2017.

 

SFF: Would you recommend short filmmaking to others in your field who may be experiencing similar health issues?

LAW: The reason it worked for me is because visual storytelling is coursing through my veins. When my regular cognition wasn’t working, this form of communication kicked in. I couldn’t complete a task, shower, dress or eat much, but I could stand up from my sweaty bed, and shoot, edit and post relatively complex video pieces. I recommend any form of expression that feels natural and comes easy to the individual as therapy. Because film is so technically easy to shoot and edit now, it is a viable option for anyone.  I encourage folks not to be overly concerned with the content as then it leaves the therapeutic realm. I know that’s hard but just keep making stuff.

SFF: What new short film projects can we look forward to seeing you in next?

LAW: Last month, I completed my first film commission entitled Life on Mars with Thin(k) Blank Human with Barton Weiss Productions in Arizona. It was created for a particular Phoenix Arizona art installation that has not launched yet. There will be an artist talk in Toronto in the winter and Canadian screenings will be announced. This was the first time that my performance persona Thin(k) Blank Human was written for and directed by anyone else. The creative process started in Arizona with backgrounds created and photographed by Rick Tashi. It was scripted in Phoenix and all the performances were shot by me on the blue screen in Toronto.  A super fun creative project to have the freedom to play on Mars!

I’m also finishing a short documentary, Being Inside the Glacier II: Further Conversation, the second chapter documenting the performer experience in Anandam Dance Theatre’s performance GLACIOLOGY that was in Toronto’s Suit Blanche in 2015. And, I’m starting to edit another Akhilanda Collaborative short film about fed-up aerialist French maids. And my ongoing project The Fictitious History of the Haus of Dada has chapters added on a regular basis.

SFF: What is your most favourite film project that you ever worked on, short or feature?

LAW: If All You Have Is a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail is a triptych film made by Will Kwan for the Reel Asian Film Festival by Gendai Gallery. In 2013, Shannon Cochrane of FADO sent me the audition information about Will Kwan’s film. This was the first time since my diagnosis that I had an audition for a narrative scripted film. Working again with my union, I was cast in a meaty role with 16 pages of dialogue.  Without a rig, I’d be driving myself while doing these monologue style scenes with actor Michael Man.

I used to have a specialty of learning lines quickly. It came easy and I worked really hard at the same time.  I wasn’t sure how my c-PTSD would react to the stressful tasks of memorizing and shooting. The shoot days were scorching hot and we couldn’t have the air conditioner on because we were recording sound.  After a few shots, I realized I still had this acting skill set; I was able to drive the car as needed and deliver take after take with accurate dialogue and craft a character for film.  Once I realized this, I had the most fun with the rest of the shoot and really enjoyed acting again.

If All You Have Is a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail was commissioned for a project called Model Minority. I played a real estate agent who is that kind of privileged white lady who claims “we’re not racist [here in Canada]” while saying a slew of inappropriate things. Embodying this character was interesting, as this is a type of racism here in Canada that needs further examination.

Will’s film has been screening in galleries since opening and is currently running until end of November at the University of Toronto Art Gallery at Hart House.

SFF: Based on your experiences, do you have any advice for any short film producers in Canada?

LAW: Most filmmakers are keen to make one short film as a calling card and move on to feature films.  A body of work that represents the filmmaker is so important to have a lifelong career.  And it is the time without executives, where you have full creative control. Enjoy this! Shorts are an elegant, economical way to tell a story and see the benefit of this medium in our current impatient cultural climate. I’d say, never stop making short films.   Figure out exactly what kind of film it is you love, and then keep making it.  When a filmmaker complains about the industry, saying they have made one short film and nothing happened, I say make twenty short films over five years and I guarantee something will.

 

We thank Lisa very much for sharing her very personal and inspiring story with us. We wish her all the best in her film career. To learn more about Lisa, please visit her blog at www.lisaismightybrave.com . To view more her work, be sure to check out www.mightybraveproductions.com and www.akhilandacollaborative.com