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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‘I Phub You’ (2017) Handles Contemporary Issue With Silent Film

Cellphones are everywhere these days. No matter where you go, you will find people preoccupied with some kind of mobile device for whatever reason. Whether on public transit or at a local café, the loud sounds of one-sided conversations or the quiet activity of texting and surfing is a commonplace activity in today’s society. When they were first brought into the market, cellphones were touted as a way to keep us all connected no matter where we were. With a push of a few buttons, we could get access to unlimited amounts of music, movies, and information. We could keep in touch with friends and family without actually being in their presence. Problems began to become apparent, however, with increased cellphone use. Road deaths caused by texting and driving, along with increasing security hacks are just a couple. Perhaps another issue that is not often discussed about is the possibility that cellphones could actually be creating more distance between people than bringing them together. Is it possible in today’s society to connect with one another without the use of a cellphone?

The short film, I Phub You (2017), sets out to see if it could happen. Running over 10 minutes, I Phub You was produced by Justin Kueber and Sam Reid, directed by Shannon Hunt, and written by Justin Kueber in Edmonton, AB. In the film, we find Kurtis (played by Andrew Joseph Pahlke) on a date with Tabatha (played by Skylar Radzion). Tabatha’s constant talking with a friend over her cellphone doesn’t impress Kurtis very much, as he longs to enjoy his date. While excusing himself to the washroom, he passes by Janet (played by Heidi Ellen) who is also unimpressed with her date’s absorption by his cellphone. While in the washroom, Kurtis falls down, hits his head on the floor and soon wakes up in the silent film world. Looking for refuge from a society saturated with cellphone technology, Kurtis becomes acquainted with Janet, who leaves her boyfriend after being ignored by his constant cellphone use. Instead of taking things as they are, Kurtis and Janet fight back. To see what happens, watch the entire film below:

Short Film Fan reached out Justin Kueber to learn more about I Phub You, including why silent films were so central to the story.

 

Short Film Fan: What does the word ‘phub’ mean in I Phub You?

Justin Kueber: A phub is simply a phone snub: to snub someone for your cellphone or electronic device. Snub + phone = phub.

SFF: What motivated or influenced you to make this film?

JK: I wanted to make a love story that was also a love story to silent cinema and have a contemporary message. I was out for a coffee with my girlfriend and I noticed a group of young people all sitting together at a table, not communicating but rather, playing on their phones. There was a piercing silence between them. Super awkward! My girlfriend thought it was hilarious and I joked to her that if she ever did that to me I would make a movie about it!

It was such a vivid image that stuck in my head well into the next day. It kind of just dawned on me: that needed to be the opening scene of a movie.

The more I thought, the more I realized you see this consumption with technology (specifically phones) pretty much everywhere. What you see in the film are the things I have witnessed first-hand in real life (yes, even the urinal scene and yes, it was equally as awkward). Inspiration came from all these observations that I wanted to address in a unique and fun way.

SFF: Why did you choose to go back to the silent film era in your story?

JK: Those young people at the table were silent; when people “phub” they are silent. I realized the film should be silent to drive home that parallel. Yes, my personal love for silent film and my burning desire to make one may have come into play just a bit, too.

Ultimately, it is a modern take on the silent film. Our setting is present day and it is addressing present day issues, just told silently.

It works because the main character, Kurtis, is trying to discover what it means to communicate in a world obsessed by technology. Literally everyone in this world communicates by phone and is so consumed by it. So in a sense, they are silent already. Kurtis can’t communicate with anyone; they won’t listen to him unless it is by cellphone. He yearns to find someone who he can go for a walk with and communicate face to face.

I really wanted Phub to hold onto those feelings of nostalgia while also being important and relevant. And, at the same time, be light-hearted and full of modern takes on fun gags that you would find in a silent film (Chaplin, Keaton, etc.)

I Phub You is about technology and the evolution of technology, so there are tons of references to silent films that helped evolve filmmaking as a medium and pushed it to where it is today, such as A Trip to the Moon, Battleship Potemkin, 2001: A Space Odyssey (Odyssey is not silent but the utmost important film about technology) And they are, of course, some of my favorites too. It’s a movie about movies.

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

JK: Initially, we thought our biggest challenge would be working with the actors on bringing out that theatrical “silent film” style acting. But, Shannon (the director) did a great job at bringing out the best performance in our actors. She is theatrically trained so it was quite a benefit to the film.

Our biggest challenge ended up being the final day of shooting because it started to snow and it was extremely cold. The first two days were also exteriors, but it was sunny and warm so it was quite the polar opposite when we shot on that final day. I felt really bad for our actors because their wardrobe was meant for the warm days. But, they were troopers; didn’t complain just did what they had to do and then ran to the nearest warm vehicle when the scene was done. Everyone was so positive and incredibly fun to be around. It was really a dream cast and crew.

SFF: Was there a particular message or call to action that you hope to pass on to the audience through I Phub You?

JK: When I wrote it, I wanted to call attention to the overuse of technology. There’s a time and place (for technology) and I understand that’s the way the world is heading. I mean me, for instance, I’m on my phone constantly for work and social media promotion. But, when I am face to face with someone I want to have that human interaction. Too many times you’re out for dinner at restaurants and people have their phones out at the table. I guess I’m a bit like Kurtis in that sense – I long for human interaction and taking time to enjoy the world around me and all the beauty it has to offer.

 

Short Film Fan Review: I Phub You was definitely a hilarious and chilling social commentary on today’s over consumption of communication technology. The slavish and hypnotic behaviour by the background characters to their cellphones was practically realistic. The scene with the unused playground equipment was perhaps a warning to what could possibly happen if kids and their parents are too caught up with cellphones. The references to films like A Trip to the Moon and 2001: A Space Odyssey were clever and will easily put a smile on any movie buff’s face. In a way, there is another movie reference: Kurtis and Janet almost parallel the characters Winston and Julia in 1984. The salute to the silent film era was very enjoyable and certainly underlined the eerie silence that is starting to permeate our daily lives, in part, from society’s love of the cellphone. This Valentine’s Day, though, don’t ‘phub’ your partner at dinner; show your love instead!

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A Sense Of Community Awaits You At Vancouver Short Film Festival

The weekend is almost here, and what better way to enjoy it than to attend a local film festival and get caught up on the latest in Canadian and international short films. If you happen to be in Vancouver for the weekend, and are fan of British Columbia-made short films, you are in for a treat.

The Vancouver Short Film Festival (VSFF) will be taking place January 27th and 28th at Vancity Theatre with 28 shorts to be screened altogether. The festival dates back to 2005, when it was known as the Vancouver Student Film Festival. In 2009, the name was changed to Vancouver Short Film Festival as professional filmmakers began to be featured alongside their student counterparts.0184_vsff-2017_vsff_slide_r01c

Short Film Fan caught up with Vancouver Short Film Festival Co-Director Kristyn Stilling to learn more about the festival, including why the festival was started and what the audience can expect to experience by attending.

 

Short Film Fan: Why was the Vancouver Short Film Festival launched in the first place?

Kristyn Stilling: The Vancouver Short Film Festival (VSFF) was started to celebrate the vibrant community of short film, video, and animation artists on the Canadian West Coast. We hope to build ties between emerging and established professionals, and provide an arena where all short filmmakers, including students, can screen their films in public and support their fellow colleagues. Our ultimate goal is to connect short filmmakers to a broader audience in order to grow the local film industry.

SFF:  Do the shorts originate from Vancouver only, or do they also come from other parts of British Columbia?

KS: To be eligible for the festival, the films must have a BC Resident Cast or Crew on their project. VSFF celebrates all the filmmaking crafts, as well as filmmakers from other countries who are currently living in Vancouver.

SFF:  Are the shorts a mix of professional and student-made films?

KS: They are! This year we have 8 student films.

SFF:  Will there be an opportunity for the audience to meet any of the filmmakers?

KS: After each screening there will be a Q&A with the filmmakers in attendance. There are also networking opportunities at our Opening Reception, Closing Gala, and in between the screenings. VSFF is a community that brings filmmakers and film lovers together.

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

KS: A sense of community. VSFF prides itself on supporting and celebrating the best our province has to offer and we are incredibly thankful to our audience and sponsors for coming back year after year to support local BC filmmaking and storytelling.

 

We wish everyone at Vancouver Short Film Festival all the best for a successful and fun festival. To get your tickets or to find out what films are playing and when, please visit their website at: http://www.vsff.com/vsff-2017-program. Follow them on Twitter and like their Facebook page to get the latest in news and information coming from the festival.

Hey short film fans: if you really liked any of the shorts this weekend, why not Tweet it out to @VSFF and to @shortfilmfan, or post a comment about it below?

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Celebrate Two Anniversaries With Manitoba Shorts At Moving Images Exhibit

There are two anniversaries being celebrated at the University of Winnipeg this year, and what better way to have a party than to hold an exhibition of short films made by current and former staff and students at its own art gallery.

Moving Images is taking place at the University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03 in honour of the University’s 50th anniversary of its charter and the Gallery’s 30th anniversary of its opening. The event is on between January 12 and February 18, 2017, and includes panel discussions, a collage exhibition and short film screenings. A total of 23 shorts will be presented and are organized into five different cinematic themes:

  • To Make a Prairie (January 12 – 21)
  • The Personal is Political (January 23 – 28)
  • The Haunted Cinema (January 30 – February 4)
  • Women’s Pictures, Women’s Lives (February 6 – 11)
  • Funny Haha and Funny Peculiar (February 13 – 18)

Among the list of Manitoba filmmakers whose short films will be screened include Guy Maddin, Danishka Esterhazy, Danielle Sturk, and Mike Maryniuk. Also featured will be CBC Short Film Face Off winners from 2015, BJ Verot and Brad Crawford.

Check out the details on all of the screenings: www.uwinnipeg.ca/art-gallery/programming/2016-17/moving-images-screening-programs.html

 

Photo credit: Ernest Mayer
Photo credit: Ernest Mayer

Moving Images is co-curated by Jennifer Gibson, Gallery 1C03 director and curator, and Alison Gillmor, art historian and film critic. Short Film Fan reached out to Jennifer and Alison to learn more about the shorts being screened at this fascinating exhibition:

Short Film Fan: Why were these five particular themes chosen for Moving Images?

JG & AG: They came about rather organically; we found that particular approaches and ideas were being dealt with by multiple artists and so we found ourselves grouping those works together. That being said, there are no hard and fast rules in terms of which films are part of specific themes or programs. A number of them – Shimby Zegeye-Gebrehiwot’s yaya/ayat, to give one example – could be screened in multiple programs.

SFF: How difficult was it for you to choose the final list of shorts to be screened at the exhibit?

JG & AG: It was very challenging. Winnipeg has such a rich community of artists. There are many more fabulous works that we would have liked to include. If we had more funding, we would have been able to present even more films.

SFF: Will there be an opportunity to meet any of the featured filmmakers?

JG & AG: Yes! Guy Maddin and a number of the other artists were at the opening reception last week and Guy spoke with his colleague Evan Johnson on Thursday evening about archival influences in their on-line film project Séances.

There will be two more opportunities to hear filmmakers discuss their work. University of Winnipeg English Studies professor Andrew Burke will moderate a discussion on cinematic experimentalism with artists Mike Maryniuk, Sol Nagler and Rhayne Vermette on Monday, January 30 at 7:00 p.m. in UW’s Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall.

On Thursday, February 9 at 7:00 p.m. the University’s Chair in the History of Indigenous Arts in North America Julie Nagam will lead a discussion with artists Danishka Esterhazy, Freya Bjorg Olafson and two members of The Ephemerals collective, Jaimie Isaac and Jenny Western. That event also takes place in Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall.

SFF: Are there any plans for the Moving Images exhibition to return next year?

JG & AG: Moving Images is a special project that has been organized in honour of Gallery 1C03’s 30th anniversary and the University of Winnipeg’s 50th anniversary to celebrate the talent of the University community – all of the artists are alumni, current or former students, and current or former faculty and instructors. We did not envision it as an annual project but there are certainly plenty more fantastic works that could be screened. It’s a great idea to consider a follow-up.

SFF: What do you hope the audience will take away from this exhibition?

JG & AG: We’re hoping that people will get some sense of the depth and range of artists’ films in Manitoba, not just with established names like Guy Maddin, but also among a younger generation often working with pop culture references and experimental techniques, and often referencing urgent social and political issues. There are a lot of artists using film and video in innovative and personal ways.

 

Complementing the Moving Images event is an exhibition of Guy Maddin’s collages and the presentation of his Seances project with Evan and Galen Johnson. This work is also on view January 12 to February 18, and can be seen in the University of Winnipeg Library’s Hamilton Galleria space. A downloadable pdf publication related to Moving Images is also in the works and will be made available online toward the middle or end of February. Please check back at Gallery 1C03’s website: www.uwinnipeg.ca/art-gallery.

If you’re in the Winnipeg area in January and February, you can catch the shorts screenings at Gallery 1C03 Monday to Friday, 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. and on Saturdays, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Admission to the shorts, panel discussions and collage exhibit is free and open to the public. Both venues are wheelchair accessible locations.

Happy anniversary, University of Winnipeg and Gallery 1C03! Thanks for making Canadian short films a part of your celebration.

Hey, short film fans: if you happen to catch a short or two that you really liked, let us know! Send a Tweet out to @1c03 and to @shortfilmfan. Or, post a comment below.

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Take Control Of Your Job Search By Watching ‘Interview’ (2016)

With a new year upon us, many people will take the time to sit down and reflect upon the past and make plans for the future. Some of us will map out a goal to lose weight or to take a course and learn something new. For others, looking for a new job and starting a new career are on top of their lists. In today’s economy, it feels like it is getting tougher for job seekers to get noticed and to find opportunities to shine in job interviews. When a person does manage to latch on to that coveted foot in the door, he or she only has a moment to make a good impression and hopefully land that new job. But what happens when that job interview that you were looking forward to earlier suddenly becomes a struggle? How do you turn an interview around that is headed in the wrong direction?

The short film Interview (2016) could offer you some answers. Directed by Ryan Kayet and produced by Dave Gibson, Interview was written by Ryan Kayet and Ashan Butt, and stars Richard Young as ‘Rik’ and Charlie Ebbs as ‘Colin’. Rik is given a chance of a lifetime when his cousin helps him secure an interview with her boss, Colin. As soon as Rik enters Colin’s office, however, things do not go as he had hoped. Colin dismisses Rik’s qualifications and attempts to educate Rik on what he looks for in an ideal candidate. The interview becomes a battle of wits between the two men, with Rik finding the strength and courage to challenge Colin, take control, and turn the meeting around in his favour. Check out the film’s trailer below:

Short Film Fan recently reached out to Ryan for some of his thoughts about Interview:

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

Ryan Kayet: My good friend, who also happens to be a talented writer, Ahsan Butt, and I had wanted to work on a project together for some time. Interview was created out of our desire to tell a story that featured strong characters in a situation where the power shifts back and forth. When creating the script for Interview, we filtered through multiple different plot lines and ideas before Ahsan came up with one that would be the story’s defining moment – Rik refusing to leave and demanding to be interviewed.  This was the point that I could see it becoming a short film and one that I wanted to make.

SFF: What particular challenges did you experience when making the film?

RK: I was really fortunate to have two great actors (Richard Young and Charlie Ebbs) playing the leads because this was a challenging, dialogue heavy script. I spent a lot of time working with the actors in rehearsal. We broke down the characters, created their back story, and searched for the subtext within the dialogue. Because of the way it was written, we really needed to have this prep work to nail the portrayal of the realistic and deep characters. So that was a challenge, but one that was very fun and rewarding! From a technical perspective, making a short film that is a continuous dialogue scene, with two actors, and in one location poses a few challenges as well. I spent a lot of time during pre-production developing the shot list to ensure that camera movements and angles would in service to the story and the characters, while also keeping the audience engaged.

SFF:  Colin had placed many obstacles in front of Rik during the interview. In your opinion, what was the biggest obstacle that Rik had to contend with?

RK: Rik had a lot to deal with, but his biggest obstacle was not even being considered before entering the room. Colin, whether it was because of his bias or simply not being interested, had no intention of taking Rik seriously; he just wanted to give some advice, toot his own horn, and dismiss Rik.  So when Rik takes a little control and demands to be interviewed, it is a big moment. It is this action that shows the strength and depth of his character. It’s a rather audacious move, and the point at which most people would certainly not dare to follow as the stakes for repercussions grows much higher. Ahsan, Dave Gibson (the producer) and I are always drawn to these moments in a story, because it reflects what we would like to do, but decide (perhaps wisely) not to.

SFF:  What lessons, if any, would you like the audience to learn from Interview?

RK: In setting out to create this story, I didn’t intend to give people a “take away” of any sorts. One of the most powerful things a film can do is accurately reflect an aspect of our own society in a way that is honest and promotes empathy. There was a lot of effort put in to make sure that Colin wasn’t portrayed as evil, like some villain out of an after school special. He obviously has his flaws, and some unchecked biases, but if he was overtly and unrealistically prejudicial, I don’t think this film would resonate.  At our last screening, we had numerous people talk to us about how much they could relate to Rik’s situation, and how closely it reflected their feelings. Honestly, that’s all I can ask for.

 

Short Film Fan Review: From start to finish, Interview was a riveting 19-minute short. Colin’s preoccupation with his mobile phone within the first one and a half minutes into the film was a tip that things were not going to go well between the two gentlemen. Rik’s determination and Colin’s arrogance were scripted well and complemented both of these characters. It was easy to relate to and feel for Rik’s character, as most job seekers have experienced at least one bad interview at some point in their lives. In some ways, you could see that Colin was in a bind as an employer. Since his employee Angie (who we did not see in the film) had recommended Rik, and she presumably got along with Colin, he probably felt that he had to entertain Angie’s request of meeting up with Rik in order to show that he was a good boss. The dialogue was very realistic and it felt like as if you were in that room experiencing the interview in person. Interview is highly recommended watching for interviewers and interviewees, alike. Watch out, interviewers: make sure you know how to handle yourself in an interview better than Colin did.

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Thank You To All Of You! See You In 2017!

A year-end message from Short Film Fan creator, writer and publisher Mike Kulasza:

This year, 2016, was an incredible year for Short Film Fan. It was a year of further growth and relationship-building which, hopefully, will continue on into next year.

Readership of Short Film Fan increased over last year; the number of visits this year increased by 50% over last year’s visits. New subscribers via email and WordPress have come aboard, too. This must mean that people out there are truly interested in reading and learning about Canadian short films. Thank you to all the new and current subscribers of Short Film Fan. I appreciate your support!

Short Film Fan featured an amazing mix of Canadian filmmakers this year. I appreciate all of you for allowing me to interview you, and thank you for sharing your fantastic short films for us to watch. BJ Verot, Molly McGlynn and Margaret Lindsay Holton were our newest featured filmmakers, and we also heard from our old friends, Alan Powell and Maxime-Claude L’Ecuyer. And, who could forget Short Film Fan’s feature interview with actress/producer/writer, Katie Boland?

Short Film Fan promoted a variety of excellent film festivals, too. Female Eye Film Festival, Air Canada enRoute Film Festival, National Canadian Film Day and Toronto International Short Film Festival were all featured prominently throughout the year. It is good to know that so many film festivals in Canada screen a wide variety of Canadian shorts.

I also had the pleasure in publishing guest blog posts written by Ihor Cap, Angela Perez and Paul Krumholz. Thank you for your interest in being a guest blogger and for taking the time to write and submit your articles. I encourage more of you to send in your articles to be featured on the site. A set of blogger rules was developed and written back in the late summer especially for anyone interested in making his or her mark on Short Film Fan.

Some days, it is not enough just to sit at a desk and write blog posts. It is important for me to connect with people in-person. So, I hit the road this summer and spent a week in Toronto, where I connected with Katy Swailes, Lee-Anne Bigwood and Karen Tsang of the CBC, and James McNally of Shorts That Are Not Pants. Thanks so much for an awesome time and for your input that week!  I hope to see you all again soon.

I really enjoyed featuring weekly updates of CBC Short Film Face Off this year. It was an exciting contest this year. Thank you for all the cooperation and feedback, as well as the shout-outs online! Looking forward to working with you next season.

One of my goals this year was to expand Short Film Fan’s reach into Western Canada. This happened in the summer when the National Film Board’s Katja DeBock in Vancouver reached out and connected with me. Thank you, Katja! I’m looking forward to featuring more NFB shorts in the future.

Much thanks goes out to Alina Kelly and Maria Dasilva for communications and graphic design help. I will always be indebted to you. Thanks also to Iris Yudai for some article-writing advice this fall.

To close, I can’t thank all of you enough for your interest and support of Short Film Fan. All of you are making the site what it is. Without you, there would be no Short Film Fan. Please continue to come back as readers and please think of me again when you want to submit an article, a short to review, or a festival to feature. All of your Facebook shares, Tweets and website pingbacks mean a lot to me. Your participation shows that you value Short Film Fan for its content and worldwide reach, as well as the hard work that goes into each blog post.

It was a busy and dynamic year at Short Film Fan. I would like to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and all the best in 2017!

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