When we come up with an idea for something, two things can happen. Either we criticize, over-think and shelve the idea, or we embrace it, give it some serious thought and bring the idea to fruition. In the case of BJ Verot, director and producer at Strata Studios in Winnipeg, MB, he and Brad Crawford (who co-directed and produced the film with BJ) chose the latter path with the hilarious short film, Loss of Contact.
Loss of Contact, about a champion racewalker who drops out of a race due to an injury, was a runaway success for BJ and Brad lately. This past February, Loss of Contact earned the duo a Windy Award in the Director: Short Fiction category from the Winnipeg Film Group. Last October, the film helped BJ and Brad win a $45,000 film production prize package in front of a national audience on the CBC-TV show, Short Film Face Off.
Short Film Fan caught up with BJ Verot during his very hectic schedule and he shared some of his thoughts about the television show appearance, the idea behind Loss of Contact and his career in filmmaking.
Short Film Fan: First of all, congratulations go to you and Brad on winning last year’s CBC Short Film Face Off contest with Loss of Contact. What was it like being, competing and winning on the show?
BJ Verot: It was great to be a part of the show. We went in with tempered expectations, and were looking to meet and hang out with other filmmakers from around Canada. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking when you’re up in the hot seat open to criticism. But, it comes with the territory. Film is such a subjective thing, that we really weren’t sure if the panellists would be into our film. But, luckily, they really enjoyed it. In some ways, once we made it to the final round, the pressure was off. It was up to Canada to vote, so you really can’t worry too much about how it’s going to go. All three films in the finals were solid, so it was just going to come down to the numbers. That being said, we did receive a HUGE amount of support through our local film industry here in Manitoba (Manitoba Film & Music, Winnipeg Film Group, On Screen Manitoba, and ACTRA Manitoba).
SFF: Where or how did you come up with the idea to produce Loss of Contact?
BJV: The idea came up when I was sliding around on my friend’s hardwood floors. There was a mirror on the wall and I thought that the hypnotic gyrations of my hips reminded me of racewalkers who competed in the Olympics. I couldn’t shake the idea, and by the time I got home, I already had a rough trajectory of the story arc and some of the characters that would be involved in the film.
SFF: Why did you choose filmmaking as a career path?
BJV: I didn’t choose film – film chose me (ha-ha). When I was young, I was allowed to watch a lot of intense films such as Terminator, Jaws, Aliens, Predator, and I loved it. As a kid, I was blown away that people could make a living making these crazy stories for people to enjoy.
SFF: What specific challenges do you face as a filmmaker when producing a short film?
BJV: Oftentimes, you have to be quite ambitious on very little money. I guess for me personally, my biggest challenge is trying to make sure I can get the most value on the screen and finding fun ways to do so. When I’m talking with Brad, or Andrew (another member of the Strata team) we often ask: “What is something visually inventive we can incorporate where people might say, ‘how did they do that’?” We want to impose challenges on ourselves on set so that we can continue to grow as well. That approach feeds into the next project, and how we tackle larger, and more tricky sequences.
SFF: Do you have any new short film projects on the horizon?
BJV: I always have new short film ideas popping into my head. The key is finding the right one to put your time and energy into. I have a few key concepts in mind, and with the prize money we earned through Short Film Face Off, we’ll be able to really push the envelope in terms of what we’re able to do. Comedy and science fiction are probably the two genres I enjoy the most, so I’m pretty sure the next short we pump out will fall into that spectrum.
SFF: What other film projects do you work on besides short films?
BJV: We primarily focus on film/television. Around 2011-2013, we were heavy into documentaries. Some of our most notable works in that field are: 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience and Scheduled Violence. We’ve had a pretty strong shift into narrative projects since then, and we have a few major projects in development at the moment. I can’t quite go into detail just yet, but things are on the verge of getting pretty hectic.
SFF: What are your hopes and predictions for the short film industry in Canada?
BJV: I want the short film industry to keep expanding, with new initiatives for emerging filmmakers. It also seems that with digital distribution becoming so commonplace, it’s easier to find ways to get your project out into the world and extend its shelf life for people to enjoy.
SFF: Do you have any advice for any up-and-coming Canadian short filmmakers?
BJV: Make the film you want to make, and don’t worry too much about what people think. A lot of people get hung up on what opinion people will have of their film, and will hold off making it until all of the conditions are perfect. The fact of the matter is that the conditions will rarely (if ever) be perfect. You create your own momentum based on the projects and content you create. If you don’t take the first step, it’s increasingly more difficult to take the next one.
Focus on specific elements for a project and see if you can incorporate that into the tapestry of the film. Want to use a Steadicam? Consider a short project that might benefit from that cinematic style. Remember, anyone can try to emulate another person’s style, so focus on finding your voice as a filmmaker and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Ultimately, if you begin to find success, it’s much sweeter if you get to do it with your own style attached to the projects you get to work on. And finally, have fun! I weigh a lot of my decisions moving forward on how enjoyable my time will be while working on a project.
We can’t wait to see which new short film idea BJ and his cohorts will bring to the big and small screens next. Whatever genre it may be, we’re sure that it will have the same quality, humour and unique style as Loss of Contact. Maybe another award-winning short is forthcoming? Only time will tell.
We wish BJ all the best of luck for the future. Follow him on Twitter to see what he’s up to!