You’re a Canadian film maker. You want to make short films that will capture the public’s interest and help grow your career. But, you’re not sure where to turn to for the right training and guidance. Look no further than the National Screen Institute. Headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and nestled in the city’s historical Exchange District, the NSI has provided film, television and digital training to over 720 graduates for close to 30 years. Many Canadian shorts can be found on the NSI Online Short Film Festival, which runs year-round on their website.
Recently, Short Film Fan got in touch with Brendon Sawatzky, director of programming at the NSI. Brendon directs the development of all of NSI’s new programs and is accountable for the delivery of its courses. Brendon has a rich film and television producing background, with a vast array of credits to his name. He held a previous role at the NSI as a program manager before leaving to join the Winnipeg Film Group and the National Film Board later on. Now back at the NSI, and also as chair of Film Training Manitoba, Brendon explained how the NSI helps Canadian film makers develop their skills and talents to become leading-edge storytellers.
Short Film Fan: In what ways does the NSI help Canadian filmmakers and the short films that we get to watch?
Brendon Sawatzky: Our market-driven courses have led to employment and successful careers for graduates by giving them a competitive edge. According to our 2013 alumni survey, 87% of respondents are working in the film and TV industry. After nearly 30 years, and hundreds of alumni, NSI continues to develop and deliver courses to meet the industry’s needs. We produce works that appeal to Canadians and help advance careers that will grow the Canadian industry, while contributing to the regional and national economies stimulating employment for the long-term.
NSI also leads in the design and delivery of programs that provide training to Canada’s visible minority and Aboriginal screen professionals.
SFF: The NSI’s Online Short Film Festival features a lot of different shorts. How does a short filmmaker get his or her film shown there?
BS: We put out calls for short film submissions four times a year. We have a call open now, with filmmakers welcome to submit their shorts through December 11, 2015. We accept shorts made in 2010 or later by Canadian writers, directors, or producers. You can find out more about submission and eligibility requirements here.
SFF: After a short film gets the chance to be shown on the Online Short Film Festival, what happens next for the filmmaker and the film?
BS: The films in our festival are eligible for cash awards four times a year. We generally
require that short films screen on our website for a minimum of three months. After the three months, filmmakers are free to withdraw their film from our fest. They can also choose for it to stay on our site as a promotional and visibility tool. You can read more about our short film festival prizes here.
SFF: In terms of short films, how far have NSI grads gone on in their careers?
BS: NSI grads’ films have screened and won awards in festivals all over the world. Many filmmakers have gone on to participate in our upper-level NSI courses including NSI Features First, NSI Totally Television and Movie Central Script to Screen in association with NSI and make successful features and TV series.
SFF: Would the NSI consider putting on a short film festival at local theatres for the broader public sometime in the future?
BS: If the right opportunity presented itself, the NSI would consider public presentations of its alumni’s work and has done so in the past.
Short films made by NSI-trained producers have been enjoyable to watch and to comment about. Short Film Fan has proudly reviewed a number of these films such as Rhonda’s Party, Bagged and CEO in previous posts, and they can currently be found on the NSI Online Short Film Festival. The festival itself is a convenient and accessible platform to view new and previously released Canadian shorts. With a new year coming up, Canadian short film fans are looking forward to what these grads will produce and distribute next.