Trusted Values Connect, Contrast, Confront & Clash In ‘Static’ (2016)

Holding on or letting go. It can be a challenging decision that is usually influenced by the values we hold.  For example, if a device that you have cherished for years no longer worked properly, do you keep it and get it repaired or do you throw it away and get a new one? What about when a loved one dies? Do you live in the past or are you able to move on with your life? The decision to act one way or the other is sometimes not so easy to make, though. Memories, experiences and even our mental health can factor in heavily when making that next step.

The 2016 short film Static is a dramatic and intense look at this common life struggle, as it takes you into the eye of a family drama hurricane between an older man and his son as they clash over the fate of a broken TV set. Produced and written by Tanya Lemke and based on the short story of the same name by Robert Shearman, Static stars Eric Peterson as Ernest and Yannick Bisson as his son, Billy. Ernest is a widower living alone with an old TV set. It drips blood (in his mind) and wants it repaired. Billy, on the other hand, has different designs. He wants to replace his dad’s old TV set with a new one. With angry opposition, and with memories of his deceased wife, Ernest makes an attempt to save the one thing left in his life from its demise.

Click on CBC’s Canadian Reflections link below to watch the whole short:

http://watch.cbc.ca/canadian-reflections/season-2016/static/38e815a-00c1237ab0f

Short Film Fan spoke with Tanya to learn more about Static, including the many ways you could interpret Ernest’s behavior and mindset throughout the film:

Short Film Fan:  Why did you decide to write and produce Static?

Tanya Lemke: My first short film Happy Pills was about to be released. I was high on that experience and my newfound love of directing, and I wanted to get going on another film as soon as possible. I also make my living in production which cuts into a lot of development time. So, aside from my own writing I was looking around for something to adapt. I had the chance to meet my now good friend Robert Shearman around that time and read a bunch of his stuff, which I loved! His story ‘Static’ jumped out at me because it illustrated so clearly a theme that I’m still fascinated with: the things we don’t say and don’t say and don’t say, until the façade inevitably cracks and the corrosive truth starts to leak out. That’s powerful stuff. Fortunately Rob liked my work too, and when I asked him if I could adapt ‘Static’ I was thrilled when he said yes. The script I wrote from that story then won the Screenplay Giveaway from the last-ever CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, and we were a go.

SFF: What was it like working with Eric Peterson and Yannick Bisson, two powerhouse Canadian actors?

Yannick Bisson as ‘Billy’

TL: I’d been lucky enough to work with Yannick on Murdoch Mysteries for a while so I already knew him when I approached him with this script. But, I was still absolutely floored when he agreed to join in, especially considering his exhausting schedule on Murdoch. He’s an absolute megawatt star in every way and I’ll be forever grateful for his support. The search for our Ernest was tougher; I had never met Eric Peterson before and I admit I was a bit intimidated to send him the material. He’s a legend! But he loved the script and was so gracious and generous with his time and energy. He came to our set utterly prepared with reams of his own notes on his character and backstory despite also being in the middle of shooting a major Canadian production (Best Laid Plans for CBC). Really, working with both of these guys was the best experience I could hope for.

SFF:  We can see that Ernest strongly believes in the value of fixing and keeping things rather than throwing them out quickly. But, are we witnessing a much stronger feeling of survivor guilt or an inability to let go?

Eric Peterson as ‘Ernest’

TL:  Absolutely. All of those things and more – how they contrast and how they connect. One of the reasons I was so drawn to the story of Static’ was its layers upon layers of meaning under an almost placid façade. Ernest is old-fashioned. He subscribes to the idea that “they just don’t make things the way they used to”: electronics, wives…  There is love and grief and terrible guilt, but also denial. There’s resentment for being left behind, and resentment towards the ones who are left. There is the idea that by constantly replacing flawed things with new; we sanitize them, avoiding the messiness of death and decay. It speaks to our more and more obvious inability to deal.  Then there’s the external vs. the internal world; what’s real and what isn’t – is it grief, is it dementia, is it madness? I love the story’s contrasts; it’s a bit funny, painfully poignant and also horrifying in a way. It’s also hopeful despite being super dark. Even the title has multiple meanings:  “static” speaks to Ernest’s frozen emotional state and inability to move forward, as well as the static on the TV’s screen, which again indicates that nothing is black and white but many tones of grey (and red).

SFF:  What has the audience reaction been like to the film?

TLStatic has been so well received at all the festivals it’s played at so far, as well as its Canadian broadcast on CBC, and I can’t wait to bring it to more audiences worldwide. I was actually a bit surprised by how warmly the horror/genre community in particular embraced it. I guess it was because of all the blood (but what mainstream love story wouldn’t benefit from a little blood spurt, I ask you?). It’s wonderful to hear all of the feedback and support from fellow filmmakers as well as fans. I particularly love to hear from these hardcore horror fans: things like “moving”, “tear-jerking”, “heart-wrenching”. There’s a bit of a cool contrast going on there too and it’s awesome.

SFF: What message would you like the audience to take away from Static?

TL: Making Static ended up being cathartic for me on a whole bunch of levels. I think one of its messages is that everything and everyone is complex and that’s as it should be. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Accept everything, even (especially) the darkness. Feel what you need to feel.

 

Short Film Fan Review:

Static was a moving tale of generational divides and value clashes. Ernest’s remark of “Stop tossing things out when they get broken and try to fix them for a change.” sounded like a stinging warning against and rebuke of the throw-away society that we currently live in. For fans of Canadian television programs, casting Eric Peterson and Yannick Bisson was a treat. They played their characters quite well and looked like a real-life father and son duo. You could even hear a bit of Oscar from the hit TV show’s Corner Gas coming from Eric in some of the scenes, especially during the answering machine argument. The dripping blood gave Static that horror short film feel and it added to the film’s tense drama. It was hard to watch Ernest go through the pain of reliving his dog’s and wife’s death. But, of course, it was important to include those scenes as it gave important context to his obsession to “stop tossing things out”. In the last scene, it would have been a fitting twist to see the image of his wife’s face in the TV set as Ernest was driving madly away in the car, rather than the trees. Finally, Static was well-acted, well-written and reminds us that it can be hard to let go as well as to hold on; sometimes the situation we are in does not make the decision-making process any easier.

Give Static a follow on Twitter @StaticTheMovie to see if it is playing at a film festival near you. All the best to Tanya in her future short film endeavors!

 

Call For Submissions: NFB’s Doc Lab Saskatchewan, Deadline 07/14/17

If you’re an up and coming filmmaker from Saskatchewan who is looking for a chance to work with industry professionals to make his or her own short documentary, the National Film Board has a new program especially for you.

The National Film Board of Canada is looking for film and digital creators across Saskatchewan with an interest in short documentary storytelling with a call for submissions for Doc Lab Saskatchewan.

Driven by the NFB’s North West Studio and a Saskatchewan production and mentorship team, Doc Lab Saskatchewan will bring three emerging creators into a professional production environment to write, shoot, and edit their short documentary ideas.

Between September 4 and November 17, 2017, each filmmaker will complete a 5–7 minute documentary, working closely with an NFB production team and local director-mentors to take ideas from treatment through production and post-production.

One winner from Saskatoon, one from Regina, and one from rural Saskatchewan will be selected following the call for proposals, which runs until Friday, July 14, 2017. The three completed films will be launched in November 2017.

Doc Lab Saskatchewan is made possible through a partnership between the NFB, Creative SaskatchewanPaved Arts in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative in Regina. The NFB producer for this project is Jon Montes, who joined the NFB’s North West Studio over a year ago.

“I’m really excited about what this means for directors across the province. Doc Lab Saskatchewan is right in line with other NFB emerging creator programs which have kickstarted the careers of a lot of great filmmakers. So I’m looking forward to reading some terrific applications and seeing them come to life,” said Montes.

While previous non-fiction film experience isn’t necessary, participants are expected to have a working knowledge of film or media-making, with a maximum of three independent projects to their credit. Doc Lab Saskatchewan also includes travel to NFB headquarters in Montreal for final post-production.

Good luck to all the applicants! Short film fans from Canada and around the world will be waiting patiently for these short documentaries to premiere in November. Maybe one of them could be reviewed right here on Short Film Fan?

Guest Post: Seek Out Healthy Human Connections With ‘The Girl Next Door’ (2015)

It is always a pleasure to receive guest articles from Short Film Fan readers. This week’s article was submitted by Wayne Rowley from Winnipeg, MB. Wayne is an avid musician and a devoted dad who loves short films. Wayne’s article is a review of a short film that examines the importance of making healthy human connections.

 

The Desire For Connectivity

This world we live in is moving at such a fast pace that it is getting more challenging every day to keep up. We are so inundated with smartphones, internet, news, social media, apps, and gadgets.  Yet with all this “connectivity”, there are an alarming number of people who are feeling more separated and alone than ever before.  We are staring into the eyes of our iPhone.  We are spending a quiet night/weekend/series with Netflix and Facebook.

The Girl Next Door is an eerie and dark examination of one woman’s desire for connection while living under a cloud of separation and isolation. Starring Lara Jean Chorostecki and produced by Lauren MacKinlay, Peter Mabrucco and Farah Merani, the film begins when Evette (Chorostecki) finds herself alone in an apartment after being released from some from type of hospital (possibly due to an addiction, mental illness or some other issue). Her only contact is from Joy (a therapist or probation officer) via her phone. She has no other human contact and is in virtual isolation until she hears a couple next door. Through the walls she becomes obsessed with their lives due to her need for contact and sheer loneliness. Watch the film below:

Short Film Fan recently reached out to Lauren and Peter to learn more about why they produced The Girl Next Door, including what lessons could be learned from the film.

 

Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to produce The Girl Next Door?

Lauren MacKinlay:  Peter and I had just finished an awesome working experience together on Vincenzo Natali’s short film for “The ABCs of Death 2” and knew we wanted to do another project together soon. Peter showed me this script that Greg Carere had so beautifully crafted and there were several elements that attracted me immediately: the “one woman show” nature of the piece (I’m a huge advocate for female-driven stories), the themes of isolation and connectivity, and the striking visuals that the content laid out.  We instantly knew this was the script to do and the only person we could see playing Evette was Lara Jean Chorostecki, and with the addition of my longtime producing partner, Farah Merani, our little team was born.

SFF: What particular challenge or challenges did you face when making this short?

Peter Mabrucco :  The biggest challenge in directing this piece was figuring how to make shooting in one room not be stale – which isn’t as scary when you have an actor like Lara Jean who has such an incredible presence. While we specifically set out to shoot a script that was contained in one location for budgetary reasons, we also knew it was going to be a challenge when we started this project – which added to the excitement! We figured if you’re not challenging yourself and aren’t in some way scared of what you’re shooting, you’re not doing it right.

SFF: Why was it significant for Evette to cut pictures out from magazines and tape them on her wall?

LM & PM: For Evette, social interaction is a challenge. As Evette listens in on the lives of Beth and James, cutting up and placing pictures on the wall is a way to help her visualize the life they lead. As she fills in the calendar of their lives on the wall, she may place images representing the various aspects: a map showing locations of where they go, images of buildings they frequent, or activities they enjoy, as a way to fill in the gaps.  It’s a way for her to connect with them, to create a relationship, all the while staying safely within the confines of her home; a visual manifestation of her simultaneous longing for and fear of connection.

SFF: What has the audience reception towards the film been like since its release?

LM & PM: We have had incredible reception for the film and have been fortunate to be selected for several great film festivals. We even took home the Prodigy Auteur Prize from the Amsterdam Festival, which was a big day for Team GND! The best take-away is that everyone gets something different from it. Some people think Beth and James are real people and truly her neighbours, others think it’s all in Evette’s head. To hear the debate between the two thoughts is amazing to see/hear.

SFF: What message or messages did you want to get across to the audience with The Girl Next Door?

LM & PM: With technology in today’s world, accessibility and connection are supposed to be improved – yet the opposite seems to have happened. While it was supposed to make connection with others easier – which it has on a macro, global scale – on the micro side, the intimate connections between people have been lost in the foray. We live in a world of projected lives through the filters of social media. All Evette wants is a human connection, and she’s unsure of how to get it. The Girl Next Door can be seen as a cautionary tale of what a life will look like without being able to connect to others.

 

Short Film Fan Review

Lara Jean does a magnificent job of becoming her character and you really feel her loneliness and desire for contact. When things change and the woman next-door tells her partner that she’s moving to Paris, it is devastating for Evette. She then becomes extremely desperate and agitated when she no longer hears the couple through the walls. This eventually leads her to leave the apartment (in spite of feeling terrified) in a last-ditch effort for contact.

It is very easy to lose yourself in the film as it is very well acted, directed and edited. The subtle music and sound effects (voices in her head that gradually get louder) are very effective in adding to the emotional tension that is building in the mind of Evette.

The highlight of the film occurs when Evette is listening through headphones during a romantic dinner the couple is having and is transported into their apartment via her imagination and has a seat at their table. It was a real creative touch that allows us to peak into the window of her mind.

One interesting observation is the shirt that Evette is wearing has a picture of a motorcycle on it. This is can be seen as juxtaposition to the freedom that she doesn’t have.

As an afterthought, perhaps Evette could have looked increasingly more disheveled throughout the film in order to mirror the inner turmoil that she is experiencing.

Overall, The Girl Next Door is a very well-done film and is worth seeing several times. Congratulations to all that were involved in making this film!

 

Closing Thoughts

If you’re a keen TV viewer, you probably recognized Lara Jean from such programs as Hannibal, Designated Survivor and X-Company. We hope to see her in more short films in the future.

Lauren and Peter are very excited to announce that The Girl Next Door has been picked up by the video on-demand platform, Seed & Spark. If viewers  want to see the short in its entirety, as well as many other exquisite projects curated by a team that devotedly supports independent filmmakers, they should sign up for an account and stream it today.

The ability to connect with others is very important for one’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The Girl Next Door is certainly a chilling reminder of the consequences that can befall someone when he or she fails to connect properly with other human beings. Thanks to Lauren and Peter for reaching out to Short Film Fan with The Girl Next Door and good luck with your future short film projects. Give them a follow on Twitter @GNDfilm to see what they are up to next!

Happy 3rd Anniversary, Short Film Fan!

Happy 3rd Anniversary, Short Film Fan!

Since its launch in May 2014, Short Film Fan has been proud of its role as a site dedicated solely to Canadian short films. It has not only become a place for film buffs to come and learn about the latest in Canadian shorts, but it has also become a resource for filmmakers. Since last year, there definitely has been an increase in the number of Canadian film producers approaching Short Film Fan with requests to have their films reviewed on the site. Hopefully, this will continue for the remainder of this year and into next year. New subscribers have been signing-up and new followers on social media have emerged. This is a positive sign that Short Film Fan is resonating with the public.

This anniversary is dedicated to everyone who has supported Short Film Fan over the past three years: subscribers, friends, family, colleagues and followers. Your interest in and support of Short Film Fan means a lot and really helps to keep the site going. This 3rd anniversary is especially dedicated to all the Canadian filmmakers who have had their films featured on the site and who graciously took the time out of their busy schedules to answer interview questions. Your participation in and support of Short Film Fan has made it what it is today.

And what anniversary would be complete without quick anniversary video greeting?

Thanks again, everyone! Happy Anniversary!

Finding Love Among The Dead: “I’m In Love With A Dead Girl” (2016)

Spring is back in Canada. Every spring is an opportunity for new life and renewal, as well as to dust off what remains of the past winter. While some may toil in their yards trying to get it ready for planting flowers and gardening, others turn to romance and looking for that one true love. But where does a person find someone to date and possibly connect with? A speed dating session? Maybe through websites or smartphone apps? If all else fails, would you go so far as to dig up someone’s grave?

In the 12-minute short film I’m In Love With A Dead Girl written and directed by Brandon Rhiness, we meet Spencer Milton (played by Tom Antoni). In Spencer’s mind, life is good. He has his hobbies and his friends. But, as one of his friends points out, he is encouraged to seek out a girlfriend. After a few dates with different women, he reads an article on the Internet about Lucy Raven (Afton Rentz) who was killed in a hit-and-run. Upon reflection, he decides to dig Lucy out of her grave and give her a chance. As a result, Spencer faces a few awkward moments and a moment of reckoning. Watch the full short below:

 

Short Film Fan spoke with Brandon to learn more about why he made I’m In Love With A Dead Girl, as well as to get a deeper understanding of the film’s meaning.

Short Film Fan: Why did you decide to produce I’m In Love With A Dead Girl?

Brandon Rhiness: I had just come off shooting the first two episodes of the web series Mental Case that I write and direct. Those were my first “real” filmmaking projects (I don’t include the really bad short films I made in college. Lol!).  Those episodes were extremely low budget. Series co-creator Afton Rentz and I paid for everything out of pocket.

But now that I had a bit of experience behind me, I knew I could do better. The idea for Dead Girl came to me one day and I wrote the script over a couple days. At a Mental Case meeting with Afton, I pitched the idea to her because I wanted her to play the dead girl. She liked it and came on board.

This time, I wanted a bigger budget, so we raised money through Indiegogo. I promoted the hell out of the project, got on TV and in the newspapers and we raised enough money to shoot the film!

SFF: Would you classify your short as a romantic comedy, a horror film or something completely different?

BR: I’ve always had difficulty with that question. It’s hard when submitting it to festivals because I never know what category to submit it under. I’d say it’s a horror/paranormal thriller/comedy. It’s all of those, but at the same time none of those. Lol!

People laugh when they see the film, but it also got accepted into a horror festival. So, I guess the film is whatever you want it to be.

SFF: What was your biggest challenge that you faced when you were making this film?

BR: The biggest challenge was coming up with the money. When you ask people to give you money to make a film, they want to know their money is in good hands and the film will get made. I didn’t have much of a track record since the Mental Case episodes hadn’t even been released publicly at this point. But I did have a few years of writing and publishing comic books under my belt, so I think that demonstrated that I could get a project done.

When it came time for the actual shoot itself, everything went very smoothly. We have a great crew.

SFF: The ending feels like it is open to interpretation by the audience. What explanation from the viewers has made the most sense to you?

BR: Yeah, I’ve heard different interpretations of it, and I don’t want to say anybody is right or wrong. The way I see it, in Spencer’s mind, he was in love and doing a beautiful thing. But in reality, he was taking advantage of Lucy because she was dead and wasn’t a willing participant. So when she comes back at the end…she intends to punish him for his crime.

But by all means, if anybody has a different view, I’d love to hear it!

SFF: What message did you want to get across to the audience with I’m In Love With A Dead Girl?

BR: Don’t dig up corpses, kids!

 

Short Film Fan Review: I’m In Love With A Dead Girl is a dark romantic comedy that is very much open to interpretation. For example, one could interpret that Spencer was trying too hard to have a relationship with someone who was not interested, thus the relationship was a ‘dead issue’. Also, Spencer and Lucy as a couple could also be viewed as an example of one of those relationships keeps going when it really should not. Finally, Spencer could be seen as living in the past and trying to relive a dead relationship. It is a bit challenging to find them at first, but these and many other interpretations can be found in this short. So, it will be necessary for the viewer to watch the film a few times in order to make his or her own interpretations.

As an extra note, it was impressive to learn that this short was put together with funding via Indiegogo. Many independent films are beginning to turn to sites like Indiegogo to help them with their production fundraising needs. Fundraising is a tough activity, but can be rewarding in the end when the fundraising goal is met.  So, if you a happen to hear about a Canadian short film conducting a crowdfunding campaign, consider contributing a few dollars to it. Your generosity could ensure that independent projects such as I’m In Love With A Dead Girl have a chance to thrive.

Trailblazing ‘Mabel’ (2016) Breaks Barriers For Women And Seniors

There once was a time in Canada when you could work at one or maybe two jobs until retirement, collect your pension and enjoy the golden years of your life. There was also a time when very few women worked outside of the home. If they did, it was most likely part-time work where the income was supplementary to her husband’s income. Today, Canadians can expect to work well beyond the traditional retirement age. Also, Canadian women have entered and succeed in all kinds of professions. They have even launched their own successful careers while juggling family responsibilities at the same time. Mabel Robinson, the energetic 90-year old star of Teresa MacInnes’ 20-minute short film Mabel (2016), is one of those pioneering Canadian women who did just that.

Using a mix of animated photos, archived footage and in-salon interviews, Mabel documents the life of Mabel Robinson as Hubbards, Nova Scotia’s first female entrepreneur and her 70-year career. Knowing at a young age that the wanted to be a hairdresser, she was determined to make it happen and made the sacrifices to do so. By attending hairdressing school in Boston, Mabel laid the foundations of her lifelong career. Moving back to Hubbards, not only did she get to pursue her dream career, she established her own hairstyling shop and raised a family while doing so. Despite her aging and the death of her husband, Mabel shows no signs of calling it quits. Watch the entire film below:

 

Teresa shared some of her thoughts and experiences surrounding the film, and revealed some interesting details about Mabel Robinson that didn’t make it into the documentary:

Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to make Mabel?

Teresa MacInnes: I have always been attracted to the wisdom and charm of older people. I had a close relationship with my grandparents growing up and three of them lived out their final years in our family home. So, when I met the iconic beautician, Mabel Robinson, I immediately saw the potential for an engaging documentary about her and the elderly clients she continues to serve. Like my grandmother, Mabel made me laugh and inspired a deeper perspective on work, life and beauty. She also reminded me of the importance of having older women in my life and on the screen.

When I brought the idea to Annette Clarke at the NFB Atlantic Studio, she was also charmed by Mabel and felt it was an important story to tell – a story that highlighted not only women in their golden years, but also people living in rural Nova Scotia. Annette’s support and encouragement gave me the time to shape the story and to create the film.

SFF: What challenge or challenges did you face when you were making this film?

TM: I have been making feature length and television documentaries for 30 years, so I think the biggest challenge was keeping the film under 30 minutes. Mabel is an amazing woman and the story I tell is only one aspect of who she is. She is an accomplished knitter who sells her gorgeous hats, mittens and sweaters at the farmer’s market. She plays poker and bingo. She is a dedicated volunteer and has a rich circle of friends. But, doing a short portrait was the plan from the beginning and I am glad I took that challenge on. I love the short format and hope to do more in the future.

SFF: Do you have a memorable moment that occurred when you were producing Mabel?

TM: The entire experience was memorable and spending time with Mabel and her clients was exactly what I needed in my life at that time. I was grieving my father’s death and was feeling a bit weary from years of making some pretty intense films. Mabel gave me another perspective and I now look at my work and my life in a very different way. I will always be thankful to her for that.

SFF: What has the audience reception towards the film been like since its release?

TM: When Mabel premiered at the Atlantic Film Festival, CBC News did a story about the film and it went viral; generating millions of views and hundreds of heartfelt comments. Because of this, the demand to see Mabel was immediate. As a result, the NFB decided to release it online via the NFB.ca site and YouTube. The ability to send a link and have it so accessible has been great, but it also means I haven’t had the pleasure of watching it with an audience as much as I would have liked. But, I am happy it is out there for the world to see and the NFB has done a great job of promoting it online.

SFF: What message or messages did you want to get across to the audience with Mabel?

TM: For me, Mabel is a trailblazer; a woman who not only broke barriers when she was young, but is also breaking barriers as a senior. Rooted in community, she is a celebration of doing what you love, of the importance of friendships and of staying active as you age.

 

Short Film Fan Review: This was a gem of a short documentary. It was heartwarming to see and experience the life of an extraordinary woman that came from a quiet place such as Hubbards, NS. Her focus and determination to get that career going as a young woman should be an inspiration to other young women and men. Conversely, those who are already lucky to be working in a career that they enjoy would want to think twice before considering retirement – why stop doing something you like to do just because you reach a certain age? The use of animated photos gave the documentary a certain charm that brought her past to life. Mabel is a short film that all can enjoy and it is certainly destined to become one of the National Film Board’s classic documentaries.

Opinion: Screening Shorts Along With Full-Length Features

Some good news about a Canadian short screening in the U.S.

It was reported a few days ago that Peter Huang’s five-minute short 5 Films About Technology (2016) was set to premiere before the U.S. screening of the feature-length film Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. This initiative has been made possible by the newly-launched distribution company, Neon.

This could bode well for other Canadian short films.

Although screening a short film or two before the main picture is not a new idea, the time has definitely come for this practice to be revived and implemented in Canadian movie theatres today.

Short film fans will know how challenging it can be to find Canadian shorts to watch in the first place. They take great, proactive lengths to look for them, whether searching online or recording late-night programs like CBC’s Canadian Reflections or waiting for an annual film festival to run in our communities. Screening Canadian shorts right before a major Hollywood movie would make things a little bit easier for the fan.

It also has the potential to give a big boost to the careers of the Canadian filmmakers who work so hard to produce these shorts. They would be able to get their names and films in front of large numbers of Canadian audiences that probably have never seen a Canadian short film before. In turn, Canadian movie goers would get an excellent opportunity to learn about the filmmakers and the short film format. As a result, new Canadian short film fans could be born.

If, one day, Canadian shorts do get screened before a major motion picture, which Canadian filmmaker’s short films do you hope to see? How many short films would you like to watch? Is this practice already taking place in your local movie theatre? Leave a comment or question below.

 

 

 

Riding The Rails Of Positive Change With ‘Tshiuetin’ (2016)

Turn on the news in Canada, and you will see many negative stories surrounding the country’s First Nations population. From missing and murdered women to residential schools to extreme poverty on reservation lands, it gives a person the impression that things look bleak for this population. Fortunately, there are many positive stories about Canada’s Indigenous people that, unfortunately, Canadians don’t get to see or hear enough of.  Stories of hope, economic well-being and change for the better do exist. One of these stories is best told in the 10:57 short documentary film Tshiuetin (2016) directed by First Nations filmmaker Caroline MonnetTshiuetin is the second short film that Caroline made under the label DESC Images; a company founded in 2014 by Caroline, along with Daniel Watchorn, Eric Cinq-Mars and Sébastien Aubin.

Tshiuetin (pronounced T- shee –way- tin and translates to ‘North Wind’ in the Innu language) explores the operations of Canada’s first First Nations-owned railway line. Established in 2005, Tshiuetin Railway Inc. runs between Sept-Iles and Schefferville and serves a number of communities along the way.  As the train winds its way through lighted tunnels and snowy mountainsides, the conductor of the train explains how the ways in which the railway has been a benefit to him and to the community at large. Watch the entire film below:

Short Film Fan reached out to Caroline to learn more about Tshiuetin, including why the film was shot in black & white and what the audience reception has been like since its release.

 

Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to make Tshiuetin?

Caroline MonnetTshiuetin is an inspiring story of triumph and determination for Aboriginal communities. For the first time in Canadian history, a railroad is owned by a group of First Nations. It is important for DESC to create stories that celebrate the resilience of indigenous people. We speak about success stories in a way that is very removed from what is portrayed in the media.

SFF: What particular challenge did you face when making this documentary?

CM: The best thing was travelling up north with a small team and meeting wonderful people along the way. We were truly part of this journey with a bunch of Innu families. And even though we were two Indigenous persons on the crew, we don’t speak the Innu language and we were like foreigners on the train. The Tshiuetin Rail Transportation staff was very helpful and giving. The film could not have developed the way it did without their kindness and support. Another challenging part was shooting outside the train in minus 40-degree weather.

SFF: Why did you decide to film Tshiuetin in black & white, rather than colour?

CM:  The documentary is shot in black and white, using 16mm film. This speaks to the history of building the railways, but is also appropriate in capturing the beauty of the people that live along the Tshiuetin Railway. The 16mm film allows for an elegant cinematic and experimental feel to the documentary, staying away from conventional talking heads and video aesthetics. With using black and white film, it brings back the tradition of documentary filmmaking in Canada, inspiring myself from films like Pour la suite du Monde or La bête Lumineuse from Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault.

SFF: What was it like to have Tshiuetin nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Short Documentary this year?

CM: It’s a wonderful experience and recognition to be nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. There were a lot of great films nominated this year and it’s an honour to be nominated amongst them. We don’t make the films to win, but it’s always nice to be included at such prestigious awards.

SFF: What has the audience reception towards the film been like since its release?

CM: We’ve got really good responses since the film had its world premiere at TIFF this past September. It went on to play many festivals including Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, ImagineNATIVE, Uppsala, Tampere and Busan. Because the film was produced by CBC Docs, it rapidly became available online which allowed us to reach broader audiences. We reached over 60 000 people like that.  The film is like a road movie and I think many people haven’t travelled that far North in Québec so it is quite exciting to see the film.

SFF: What message or messages did you want to get across to the audience with Tshiuetin?

CM: It’s imperative to showcase positive stories about Indigenous achievements. At this point in Canadian history, media coverage often tends to focus on the darker issues. We need to hear about both sides because our national understanding of Indigenous culture is warped by a bombardment of pessimism. Tshiuetin is about positive change.

 

Short Film Fan Review: Tshiuetin was definitely an incredible story of economic power and community strength for a First Nations community. Owning and operating a short line railway takes lots of work and dedication which is very evident among the employees in the film. The black & white images throughout the film were stunning; it really is a reminder of the older documentaries that were filmed in the 1950s and 1960s. Watching the trees go by so quickly makes you feel like you were right there with the other passengers on that ride. This is certainly a good news story that more Canadians should watch.

DESC’s goal is to continue to push boundaries and expand creatively working with film, sound composing and graphic design. We hope to see more short films from Caroline and DESC Images in the near future!

Get Your Fix Of Canadian and World Shorts Year-Round At TIFF Short Cuts

Toronto is home to many film festivals, and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is by far the city’s best known. Film buffs from around the world descend upon TIFF each year to watch and enjoy features and shorts from Canada and around the globe. If you’re lucky, you even get a chance to see some of Hollywood’s finest actors as they make their appearance to TIFF. Over the years, TIFF has become a huge cultural event that puts the film spotlight directly on Canada.

For film fans, and for short film fans in particular, you’ll be pleased to know that you can experience TIFF outside of its annual fall programming by way of TIFF Short Cuts. Shown at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto, TIFF Short Cuts screens a variety of Canadian and world-wide short films. If you’re unable to visit Toronto for any reason and would like to experience TIFF Short Cuts, have no fear. TIFF’s outreach program, TIFF Film Circuit, makes its appearance in many Canadian communities each year.

Short Film Fan reached out to Laura Good, programmer of TIFF Short Cuts and TIFF Film Circuit, to get a better understanding of what Short Cuts is all about and what is planned for Short Cuts programming this year.

A scene from Robin Joseph's 'Fox and the Whale' to be screened at TIFF Short Cuts
A scene from Robin Joseph’s ‘Fox and the Whale’ to be screened at TIFF Short Cuts

 

Short Film Fan: What is TIFF Short Cuts?

Laura Good: TIFF Short Cuts is a programming stream dedicated to showcasing short film. The year round Short Cuts series is named as an extension of the Short Cuts section at the Toronto International Film Festival. We host monthly screenings that feature the best of international short film, spanning all genres, sensibilities and styles with a focus on innovation, originality, representation and impact.

Short Cuts allows audiences to sample cinema from all over the globe, in one sitting, and in my opinion, it is some of the most important filmmaking in the world. Short film is a birthplace of innovation and is often the first place we see global trends emerge in terms of both content and form. Since the format is able to be nimble and reactive, it is often the most accurate reflection of our current zeitgeist, as well.

SFF: What is your role with Short Cuts?

LG: I program and host the series, so I get to assemble programs of some of the most incredible short filmmaking in the world and present them to Toronto audiences. There are, generally speaking, far less constraints on short filmmakers than on feature filmmakers, so they have more flexibility and creative freedom. I would argue that the same freedom is inherent to short film programming.

Our recent Misfits program celebrated stories about characters who live beyond the artistic, cultural and existential status quo. It’s a beautiful thing be able to explore something like nonconformity through a diverse pack of female skateboarders who resist the patriarchy (Jennifer Reeder’s Crystal Lake), a contemporary ghost story (Connor Jessup’s Boy), and a woman who transforms into a cloud as a defense mechanism (Mark Katz’ aptly named, People Are Becoming Clouds), all in one screening slot. I feel very lucky to get to showcase such boundary-pushing work from the filmmakers who will determine the future of cinema.

I also bring in short film packages of short format work from fellow festivals and organisations. Past collaborations have included the Sundance Shorts Tour, featuring award winners from their festival, curated by Sundance’s own Mike Plante, and The Prism Prize Top Ten, featuring nominees for the prestigious award, which recognizes excellence in Canadian music videos.

SFF: How long has TIFF Short Cuts been going on for?

LG: The year round Short Cuts series has only been taking place since the opening of TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2010, but it has an old soul. TIFF programmer Magali Simard programmed the series for many years and passed the baton on to me last year.

SFF: Where in Toronto can short film fans check out Short Cuts?

LG: You can check out the Short Cuts series at the aforementioned TIFF Bell Lightbox, year-round home of the Toronto International Film Festival and hub for film lovers from Toronto and around the world. Keep an eye on the schedule here: http://www.tiff.net/#short-cuts

SFF: What kind of short films do you typically screen at Short Cuts?

LG: We show the best of world cinema including favourites from the Toronto International Film Festival, such as the hypnotizing documentary montage on the resilience of indigenous peoples across time and space – Mobilize (dir. Caroline Monnet), and the recipient of the Best Short Film award at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, depicting a Senegalese family living in Paris, who find themselves at a crossroads – Maman(s) (dir. Maïmouna Doucouré). We also feature award winners from around the world, such as the Winner of the Horizons Award at the 2015 Venice Film Festival – Belladona (dir. Dubravka Turic), a remarkable Croatian film about perception and female to female empathy, and hidden gems such as the incredibly timely and impeccably cast look at the African American experience After The Storm (dir. Jessica Oyelowo).

SFF: Do you screen only Canadian shorts at Short Cuts, or do you also feature shorts from other countries?

LG: We screen short films from around the globe. Countries represented in the past year include: Iraq, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Croatia, France, The United Kingdom, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, U.S.A., Israel and Jordan, to name a few.

It is also a priority to support the incredible filmmaking happening here at home. Every program has Canadian representation. A few Canadian films that we have recently featured include: The Grandfather Drum (dir. Michelle Derosier), Mobilize (dir. Caroline Monnet), Bacon and God’s Wrath (dir. Sol Friedman), Boy (dir. Connor Jessup), Dredger (dir. Phillip Barker), Her Friend Adam (dir. Ben Petrie), Benjamin (dir. Sherren Lee), and World Famous Gopher Hole Museum (dir. by Chelsea Mcmullan and Douglas Nayler).

SFF: Have any filmmakers come to any of your Short Cuts screenings as guest speakers?

LG: Yes! We aim to have a filmmaker or special guest in attendance at each screening.

Director Phillip Barker and lead actress Alex Paxton-Beasley (known for Dirty Singles and TV’s Murdoch Mysteries) attended the screening of his visually arresting, fourth wall breaking short, Dredger, which was a part of our Summer Fever program, to talk about experimental filmmaking, sexuality and character.  They also spoke about their last collaboration, Malody, and hinted at another to come.

Ben Petrie, who directed the glorious and unforgettable meltdown that is Sundance Award winner and Canada’s Top Ten selection, Her Friend Adam, also joined us to talk about his process and working with TIFF Rising Star Grace Glowicki, for our screening of the Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour.  

Connor Jessup, director of the Ozu-inspired and poetically supernatural Boy attended the Misfits program. You may know him as an alumnus of the TIFF Rising Stars program which recognizes talent in front of the camera, such as his performances in Closet Monster and TV’s American Crime. The producer of Boy Ashley Shields-Muir (who also collaborated with Jessup on Little Coffins) joined us as well. They told us all about their influence and gave us a sneak peek into their next short, Lira’s Forest, which they described as having the sensibility of a live action studio Ghibli film!

Sherren Lee, director of Benjamin (a film that tackles LGBTQ adoption and surrogacy), was in attendance for an Intro and Q&A following the screening along with her lead actor Jean-Michel Le Gal to talk about feminism in film and representation in all its forms.

SFF: Many short film fans don’t live in Toronto, and therefore aren’t able to attend Short Cuts easily. Are there ways that they can experience a Short Cuts screening in their own hometown?

LG: TIFF’s national film outreach program, TIFF Film Circuit, brings the best of both short and long format filmmaking to film series’ and film festivals across Canada. Film Circuit works with 170 locations in over 150 communities spanning from Prince Rupert, B.C. to Charlottetown, P.E.I.

I program many of the Canadian shorts that we play at the Short Cuts series at TIFF Film Circuit locations across the country. Some locations show short film packages and others pair short films with features. TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten program travels to many of our locations and the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film Blind Vaysha (which was also an official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival and Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival), is currently prefacing many feature film screenings.  Find out if there is a Film Circuit location near you, here: www.tiff.net/filmcircuit/locations

SFF: How has the audience reception been to Short Cuts?

LG: The audiences have been really engaged. One of our highest attended recent screenings was the Emerging Female Voices Spotlight – a collection of short films from some of the world’s most promising emerging female filmmakers. We used the screening as an opportunity to vocalize our commitment to gender parity and intersectional feminism. The gender gap grows dramatically in the space that typically exists between short and feature filmmaking so it’s a vital place to have that conversation. We also used the program as an entry point to a much larger conversation about inclusion, representation and empathic intelligence, and the Toronto short film community rallied!

SFF: Can we get a sneak peek into what you have planned for Short Cuts in 2017?

LG: Absolutely! Our next program – Canada, Animated – focuses on home-grown talent. It takes place on Sunday, March 5th at 1pm and explores what makes the Canadian viewpoint so unique through the work of some of our most exciting new animators. It will include Alisi Telengut’s Nutag – Homeland, a poignant, hand-painted ode to the pain of the displaced Kalmyk people of the Soviet Union, following WWII. Also feature filmmaker Robin Joseph’s Fox and the Whale, an atmospheric tale of curiosity about a fox who is drawn to the sea. Joseph will be in attendance to introduce the film and will be present for a Q&A with the audience, following the program. Take a look at the full program details for Canada, Animated here: http://www.tiff.net/events/canadian-animation

Also upcoming is Spotlight: Clermont Ferrand, a selection of recent favourites from the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival curated by Laurent Guerrier, screening Thursday, April 6th at 9pm. Highlights include  Shio Chen Quesck’s Guang, an affecting Malaysian film about a young man who struggles with social interaction but finds comfort in a secret passion and Emma de Swaef and Marc Roels’ fabric based stop motion animation Oh Willy, an absurdist Nordic film about a nudist in mourning, who ventures into the woods to find solace. Take a look at the full program details for Spotlight: Clermont Ferrand here: http://www.tiff.net/events/spotlight-clermont-ferrand

Stay tuned for more programs, to be announced on a seasonal basis, throughout 2017!

 

Sounds like it’s going to be an excellent year of shorts programming this year at Short Cuts. A big ‘thanks’ goes to Laura and everyone at TIFF for making Canadian shorts accessible via Short Cuts, Film Circuit and TIFF itself. If you happen to catch any of the Canadian shorts at these screenings, be sure to let them know via Twitter @TIFFShortCuts @FilmCircuitTIFF and @TIFF_Net. Don’t forget to include Short Film Fan @shortfilmfan or leave a comment below. Follow TIFF on Facebook, too: https://www.facebook.com/TIFF

Happy watching!

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Watch Six Films Made In Eight Days At Crazy8s

When making a short film, one must know how to handle a variety of challenges. Things like weather conditions are certainly out of a filmmaker’s control, as are unforeseen situations such as equipment breaking down. But, what about managing time? Are you struggling with completing your work on schedule? Could you make a short film in 8 days? If you are a new filmmaker and you think you may need to sharpen your time management skills, consider submitting your next short to the Crazy8s Film Festival in Vancouver, BC.

This year’s edition of Crazy8s is taking place on February 25th at 7:00 p.m. at The Centre, located on 777 Homer Street. An after party is set to follow the screening at 9:00 p.m. at Science World on 1455 Quebec Street. crazy8s-logo-final_auto-w-black-1024x576Among the hundreds of applicants that submitted their films to the organization, six teams of filmmakers were chosen to produce their shorts in 8 days. The winning films that will be screened are:

  • Ahn Hung (by director/writer Lelinh Du and writer/producer Frazer MacLean).
  • Cypher (by director/writer Lawrence Le Lam, writer/producer Nach Dudsdeemaytha and writer Jerome Yoo).
  • No Reservations (by director/writer Trevor Carroll and producer Ben Mallin).
  • The Prince (by director/writer Kyra Zagorsky and producers Janene Carlton, Robin Nielsen, Danielle Stott Roy and Patrick Sabongui).
  • The Undertaker’s Son (by director/writer/producers The Affolter Brothers).
  • Woodman (by director Mike Jackson, writer Peter New and producers Rory Tucker, Avi Glanzer and Rozlyn Young).

Short Film Fan got in touch Alicia Bernbaum, Crazy8s Associate Producer, to learn more about the festival:

Short Film Fan: What is the Crazy 8s film event?

Alicia Bernbaum: The Crazy8s film event is not your typical film contest – it’s an 8 day filmmaking event plus a gala screening and after party. We provide sponsorship opportunities, funding and acceleration tools like workshops and script editing to 6 teams after a video and in-person pitch judging session. Crazy8s has now produced and brought to life 103 short films since 1999.

SFF: What kinds of filmmakers are eligible to participate in Crazy8s?

AB: Crazy8s is open to all levels of Canadian filmmaker but prides itself on supporting the best up and coming directors and their teams. The production crew is often made up of seasoned professionals and new industry members who are collaborative and excited to work together.

SFF: What makes Crazy8s different from other film festivals in Canada?

AB: The films you see at Crazy8s are made in 8 days and then screened a week later with all of the sound, color and editing you would expect to see on professional big budget films. It’s really amazing what is accomplished. This year the gala is February 25th at The Centre and the after party is at Science World.

SFF: What can viewers expect to see at this year’s edition of Crazy8s?

AB: You can expect to see 6 films that reflect how the new generation feel about today and how they view society.

SFF: What would like the audience to take away from attending the festival?

AB: We would like the audience to be able to make their own judgments about the films, open up conversations and know that all of these projects were made possible because a community came together for a united cause – storytelling.

 

We hope everyone will have a good time at Crazy8s this year. For more information about the festival, including how to get tickets for the event, go to: http://crazy8s.film/  If you are at the festival and see a film that you like, Tweet out the title along with the handles @Crazy8sFilm and @shortfilmfan or leave a comment below.

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