Category Archives: Indie Film

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Short Film Fan Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Ben Ratner as Ganjy Berger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Short Film Fan Commentary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Short Film Fan Review:

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

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

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

Moving Forward With Short Films: Spotlight on Lisa Anita Wegner

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Eye-Opening `Frigid` Reveals Harsh Reality Of Postpartum Depression

Perhaps one of the most joyous occasions in a couple’s life is the birth of their baby son or daughter. Whether the child is the first or the latest in a succession of children to the family, both parents are happy and proud of their newest arrival. However, the stresses of taking care of a baby can emerge in the form of postpartum depression. This type of depression occurs in mothers during and after pregnancy and can occur in fathers as well. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know whether or not one is suffering from a mental illness. Feelings that are shrugged off as ‘having a bad day’ can eventually build up into hopelessness, worthlessness and even thoughts of suicide. When a mother is suffering from postpartum depression, what can she do to manage this illness? What can both the father and the mother do to cope?

Frigid is an intense 14-minute short film on the topic of postpartum depression written by Heli Kennedy and directed by Joe Kicak. Heli also stars as the mother, Leah, while Damon Runyan stars as the father, Vincent. Leah and Vincent have a newborn son, Jacob, in their family. While both Leah and Vincent raise their baby, they soon become at odds with one another over how to take care of him. While Leah struggles with her depression, Vincent’s life is mostly “business as usual”. Over time, Leah’s increasing stress and depression leads to an intense moment that almost cost the couple the life of their son.

Recently, Heli and Joe shared their thoughts with Short Film Fan about Frigid, including the real life background of the film and why it was important to discuss the issues of mental illness in general and postpartum depression in particular.

Short Film Fan: Why did you decide to produce Frigid?

Heli Kennedy: It was a bold story we couldn’t get off our minds. It’s based on a real woman’s dangerous struggle with postpartum depression. Mental illness and motherhood isn’t often talked about yet so many women struggle with it — that’s what drew me to this project, as a writer and actor. It’s an issue that calls for a voice and intimate character study. I come from a family background riddled with mental health issues: agoraphobia, addiction, schizophrenia, depression… I think that’s another reason I was drawn to this story. Delving into this particular character was eye-opening and cathartic. While writing and performing, I tried to keep an element of raw truth in the story. The screenplay, which I had worked on for a couple months, felt very close to being camera- ready and attracted amazing creative talent. So, that also gave us a cue that we were producing the right project!

Joe Kicak: During high school, I opened up to a teacher about my mother’s life-long battle with bi-polar disorder.  She then shared her struggle with post-partum psychosis, which the film is based on. Coming from an immigrant family that didn’t believe in (let alone speak about) mental illness, I find sharing stories of people’s struggles important. That way we can get through the isolated horror, and begin the hard discussions to heal together.

SFF: Frigid was quite scary to watch from the 10-minute mark onwards. Why did you decide to make Frigid as a drama/suspense film?

HK: The idea to make it a drama/suspense came from the desire to keep the audience along for the ride with the main character. We felt that if we told the audience she was struggling with postpartum in the beginning, some may not take the journey with her to see things from her side. The mother is also unaware that she has postpartum, which was pulled from the true story on which this film is based. Her paranoia, fear and hallucinatory visions unfold to her. Suspense felt like the right fit for this — it holds back answers and danger in the plot until specific points. In our case, it’s about holding back the realization of being mentally ill from our mother character. The fear/horror shift at the end is meant to build climax to this realization. It’s horrific to realize you’ve lost a grip on what’s real.

JK: Mental illness can be terrifying for the person experiencing it and the people around them. We treated it like a suspense because there are always little clues that something is wrong. When I was young my father tried to quit drinking cold turkey. His withdrawal process made him start hallucinating.  I remember being 11 years old and he would introduce me to friends that weren’t there. At first I thought it was funny and that he was just joking around with me. However, he started arguing with these imaginary people and became aggressive; slamming doors and punching through windows.  Mental illness turns scary very quickly. It can be like dealing with a ghost in a horror film – like there’s this sudden, invisible danger you don’t know how to handle.

SFF: In the film, the mother is suffering from postpartum depression. But after watching the father’s behaviour, were you trying to get the message across that men can also suffer from this illness?

HK: Our intent wasn’t to portray “postpartum” in men, but to show the struggle both sides of a relationship experiences when it undergoes a major life change, such as having a child. The father, as vilified as he appears from his wife’s perspective, also struggles to adjust to life with a baby. He tries to maintain a relationship with his wife, not aware of the postpartum depression she’s experiencing. He’s tired, confused, angry…his life seems to be deteriorating, and he’s not equipped to deal with it. Mental illness affects everyone around it. So, in a different way, he’s also a victim of it as well.

JK: I think that men can definitely suffer from mental illness when a major life change occurs, like having a baby. Vincent was dealing with his own emotions as a new father, inadvertently trying to hold on to the last bastions of his bachelor life, which added to Leah’s paranoia.

SFF: Frigid premiered at the Calgary Film Festival this year. What was the audience’s reaction to the film?

HK: Great! It really felt like the audience was lured into the story via initial suspense, and slowly realized the serious issue our protagonist faced. The programmer, Brennan Tilley, also told me that he has an infant at home and this film really shook him. If people relate, that’s an amazing reaction!

JK: I love sitting in the back of the theatre for my films because I can observe peoples reactions to specific moments and see what worked and what didn’t. I was happily surprised that there was some laughter in the beginning with the characters’ struggling relationship. It felt great to me because it signals a connection from the audience to the story, which only makes the journey more powerful.  During the climax you can hear gasps and see some hands shoot up to mouths, but at this particular screening two women literally wrapped their scarves around their eyes because they just couldn’t handle it.

SFF: What would you say is the main take-away from Frigid?

HK: I hope the main takeaway is awareness of postpartum depression and compassionate conversations about mental illness (and motherhood). I think one of the goals of film and art is to connect with people and foster understanding.

JK: For me, the film is about starting the discussion. As a child that grew up around mental illness that was never discussed, it’s about showing that many families struggle with issues and asking for help shouldn’t be embarrassing.

 

Short Film Fan Review: Frigid is an eye-opening and shocking short that will keep you on edge for the duration of the film. Both Heli and Damon did an excellent job in portraying their respective characters. One can feel the intensity between them as husband and wife, father and mother. One will also feel sympathy for Leah and Vincent, as they do their best to navigate through an extremely frustrating and confusing moment in their lives. For those who do not understand or know about postpartum depression, Frigid will definitely clarify how serious this mental illness can be. Perhaps the film could have ended with Vincent or Leah making a call to their family doctor or to the Canadian Mental Health Association to get more help. That may have given the audience a bit of relief after the roller-coaster ending scene. Otherwise, Frigid is a must-see film for any new parents or parents-to-be so that they can become prepared to deal with postpartum depression.

For more information about postpartum depression, go to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s website at https://cmha.ca/documents/postpartum-depression/

Guest Post: Three Websites To Watch Canadian Short Films

This week’s installment is a guest post written by Sara Bulloch. Sara is a Creative Communications student at Red River College in Winnipeg. If you are a busy student like Sara, you want to be able to access your favourite Canadian short films quickly and easily, whether you are on a break from class or on your way to or from school.  But, which short film websites should you bookmark on your device for that easy access? Sara explores three of them below.

 

3 Websites To Watch Canadian Short Films

Hello, Short Film Fan readers! My name is Sara Bulloch and I run a blog called PegFilm, which is all about film in Winnipeg. Although, lately I’ve been busy working on my first short film (maybe more on that soon). Anyway, I thought I would share 3 websites where I watch Canadian short films that are all FREE and awesome. I’ve also highlighted one short film from each that I’ve recently liked, so check them out!

 

Short of the Week – “Best Canadian Short Films” 

So many quality short films in one place! The Canadian section is great. I also like that the website staff write about each film (below the video) and not just a blurb, but a description that really digs into what makes each film shine.

My Pick: 5 Films About Technology by Peter Huang

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2017/04/12/5-films-technology/

Starts slow, but by the last of the five I was actually laughing out loud. Everyone is sure to relate to one of these scenarios. I like how it played around with the aspect ratio. Even with the listicle-like title it uses the medium to mimic the message.

 

NSI Online Short Film Festival 

It’s not really a festival because it’s constantly online, but who’s complaining! It’s purely Canadian and new films are added fairly frequently year-round. There’s good variety from documentary to experimental and even a few music videos. It’s also nice that you can sort it by genre.

My Pick: Her Friend Adam by Ben Petrie

www.nsi-canada.ca/2017/07/her-friend-adam/

This film takes a situation that could have been straightforward – a boyfriend sneaking a jealous peek at his girlfriends phone – and allows it to be wonderfully messy so it feels real. I think the acting in this short is superb. The lead actors are real-life partners. It all takes place in one location at one time and it makes the most of it. Just look at those paintings!

 

TIFF x Instagram Shorts Festival

I love it when these short gems start popping up on my Instagram feed! This year, 8 of the 25 films were Canadian. It’s amazing to see what filmmakers can do with 60 seconds or less. I find watching them to be an inspiration boost, and a reminder that even micro-shorts can be impactful.

My Pick: Tinder Fail by Justine Nelson

www.instagram.com/p/BXrLmcihdkt/

It amazes me how dating apps have changed how relationships come together. Since the viewer of this film will likely be lazily scrolling through Instagram, this film brings a strange moment of self-awareness. It’s also just an amusing concept.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment with recommendations as you explore the websites.

 

About Sara: Sara is in her second and final year of studies at Red River’s Creative Communications program. She is also currently making her first short film called Second Opinions. She has edited other shorts before, but this is her first time flying solo. Besides studying Creative Communications, Sara has a background in marketing and random film classes. She loves film and shares her passion with basically anyone who will listen.

Toronto Shorts International Film Festival Back For 5th Year

The 5th annual Toronto Shorts International Film Festival is back in this September, taking place from the 21st to the 24th at the AGO Art Gallery of Ontario’s Jackman Hall. As in previous years, the festival proudly showcases some of the most unique and fascinating shorts films from Canada and the world.

Among the shorts that will be screened, 25 of them are Canadian and represent a variety of genres, including sci-fi, comedy, drama and animation.

One Canadian short that will catch your eye is FTL, which was written and directed by Adam Stern and stars Ty Olsson as Commander Kane. Kane gets an opportunity to test a new spacecraft, called ‘Lightspeed’, which was constructed to travel faster than the speed of light. While the ship successfully arrives to an orbit around Mars, its attempt to return back to Earth takes an unexpected and frightening turn for Kane, his cohorts and his family. Watch the trailer for a sneak peek at the film:

 

As a sci-fi short film, FTL is an amazing story about hope and courage when technology goes awry. The drama and suspense are powerful enough to keep the viewer on the edge of his or her seat. The special effects were incredibly detailed and enjoyable to watch. There are some interesting resemblances in FTL to some very famous sci-fi feature films. Kane’s cool attitude in the beginning is reminiscent to Han Solo from Star Wars, while his maddening trip through space will remind viewers of Dave Bowman’s descent to Jupiter in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The ending of the film happened a little too quickly; it would have been interesting to hear what Kane had to say about the whole ordeal. Overall, FTL was a well-acted and well produced short film out of British Columbia. It even has the potential to be made into a full-length feature.

For fans of short film, do not miss out on your chance to visit the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival this year. You will be able to catch more amazing short films such as FTL with a general admission of $14 or with an all-access pass of $40.  To buy tickets and for more information on this year’s lineup, including other Canadian shorts, check out their website at www.TorontoShorts.com and be sure to attend!

Want to share a review or comment on a Canadian short that you saw at the festival? Send them to Short Film Fan via Facebook, Twitter or email. Readers’ thoughts on short films are always welcome.

 

Short Film Fan Surpasses Total 2016 Views & Visits

Hey, Short Film Fans!

Did you hear the news?

Short Film Fan has officially surpassed last year’s total viewership and visitor numbers! In other words: Short Film Fan has been read and visited by more people this year than last year and we have 3.5 more months to go!

I want to thank all of you for making this milestone possible. I appreciate all the shares and likes of all the posts through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn which helped in reaching new readers. I also appreciate everyone who has attached links to the posts on their personal and professional webpages. I want to thank everyone who has mentioned Short Film Fan to your family, friends and colleagues and encouraging them to check out all the cool Canadian shorts being talked about here!

The content on Short Film Fan is definitely resonating with the readers out there. Canadian short films are probably some of the most brilliant, creative and fascinating films to watch out there, so who wouldn’t want to come back to the site to read more?

Let’s keep this momentum going for the rest of the year! Let’s get more people turned-on and tuned-in to news, reviews and information about Canadian shorts with Short Film Fan!

Thanks again! 🙂

 

See The Lighter Side of Canadian Immigration In ‘Yes I Canada’

It has been said that Canada is a nation built through immigration. For decades, people from all over the world have made Canada their country of choice to make their new permanent home. For many fleeing war or poverty, Canada gives newcomers a chance to start over and to live as peacefully and happily as much as possible. As recent news reports have shown, though, people will sometimes go to great lengths to be a part of this nation, including dangerously crossing borders via land or sea as refugees. As some also find out, immigrating to Canada is not a sure thing as successful applicants must also meet a number of requirements as set out by the federal government.

While immigration is no laughing matter, Katarzyna Kochany’s short film presents a quick and lighter side to this life-changing event. Based on a true story, Yes I Canada (2017) stars Florian François as the immigration candidate and Dan Willmott as a Canadian immigration agent. Upon entering the door of the immigration office, the candidate enthusiastically makes his case to immigrate to Canada. Not only has he brought official documents for review, the candidate has also gone so far as to bring other personal effects to make his case, including his old teeth. Before the agent has a chance to say anything, the candidate continues by making references to various aspects of Canadian culture. When the agent finally gets to speak, the candidate is in for a surprise. Find out what happens by watching the whole film below:

 

Short Film Fan spoke with Katarzyna to find out more about Yes I Canada, including the background behind the film and how Canadians, both immigrants and natural-born, have reacted to it.

Short Film Fan: What was the inspiration behind Yes I Canada?

Katarzyna Kochany: The film is adapted from a stage monologue written by Florian François, a Toronto actor who hails from Paris, France.  The inspiration came from Florian’s own experiences of applying to become a permanent resident of Canada.   Every good comedy is grounded in truth.  As a director, I was immediately attracted to this project because of its truth.

SFF: It was surprising to see the candidate trying to use a boom box to play the national anthem. Why was a boom box used instead of a smartphone?

KK: The candidate is trying to do whatever he can to make himself stand out from all other applicants, hoping that when the immigration officer sees how badly he wants to stay, his efforts will be rewarded.  Alas, the boom box doesn’t quite work out the way he had hoped.

SFF: What has been the reaction been like by Canadians immigrants who have watched Yes I Canada?

KK: The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.  We’ve received comments from strangers that even though the film is obviously comedic, it is very accurate.

SFF: Have you been able to screen it to anyone who works in government, such as the immigration office?

KK: Though we haven’t had a chance to screen it specifically for Immigration Canada, the film was featured in Canadian Immigrant Magazine and several newspapers: Hamilton Spectator, The Record, and Mississauga News.

SFF: When a natural-born Canadian watches this film, are they surprised at the huge effort that this gentleman took to try to immigrate here?

KK: Immigration is such a huge part of Canadian identity that the story resonates with the general audience.  Those who can’t relate to the process of immigration can certainly relate to the challenges of dealing with any sort of bureaucracy.   Any surprise in the reactions we’ve encountered is more of the emotional kind: the comedic gags, the heart-wrenching twist at the end.

 

Short Film Fan Review:

Yes I Canada is a funny little film that is reminiscent of similar one-on-one skits from the comedy troupe, Monty Python. The candidate’s hard work at becoming a Canadian, including apologizing at the beginning and making hockey references, will easily put a smile on your face. Perhaps the agent could have tried to interrupt the candidate a few more times in the film and have those attempts be ignored by the candidate; that may have added a little more humour into the mix. The use of the French translation at the bottom was a great addition to the film; maybe Yes I Canada could be adopted by Canada’s immigration office as a fun little ‘what not to do’ film when considering immigrating to Canada.

Yes I Canada was Katarzyna‘s first time at adapting a stage piece onto film and it was an excellent effort at that. The film was also nominated for Best Comedy and Best Actor at the 300 Seconds Film Festival. We wish Katarzyna all the best in her future short and feature length film work!  To learn more about Katarzyna Kochany, check out her website at: http://katarzynakochany.com/

Short Film Fan’s NFB Pick From This Year’s TIFF

This year’s TIFF is just around the corner and a while back, Short Film Fan listed 29 Canadian short films that will be screened at this year’s festival. For fans of the NFB, three of their animated shorts are also in the mix.  This week, the good folks at the NFB provided SFF a chance to screen these shorts before the festival kicks off on September 7th. The following are the films’ teasers and synopses:

Charles, by Dominic Etienne Simard (2017)

Charles knows he’s not like other kids. Every day at school, he’s reminded that his life isn’t like that of his classmates. Every day at home, he sees that he doesn’t receive the same care as other children in his neighbourhood. To dodge the unfairness and taunts, Charles imagines a peaceful haven peopled by good-hearted little frogs.

 

The Tesla World Light, by Matthew Rankin (2017)

New York, 1905. Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla makes one last appeal to J.P. Morgan, his onetime benefactor.  The Telsa World Light is a tragic fantasy about the father of alternating current, inspired by real events such as the inventor’s run of bad luck as a businessman and his affection for a pet bird, which he loves “like a man loves a woman.” Tesla’s words to the banker form the backdrop of this moving film about the man who blended science and art in his attempts to create the utopia of unlimited energy for all.

 

Threads, by Torill Kove (2017)

In her latest animated short, Academy Award®-winning director Torill Kove explores the beauty and complexity of parental love, the bonds that we form over time, and the ways in which they stretch and shape us.

 

Short Film Fan Pick: The Tesla World Light. This was a fascinating documentary-style short about one of the world’s pioneers of electrical engineering. The story itself is enough to encourage others to want to learn more about Tesla’s career struggles and successes. The film was extremely fast-paced and contained a delightful, eye-catching and impressive mix of animation, photography and live action. Those who have seen Rankin’s previous animated short, Mynarski Death Plummet, will see many similarities in styles and pace between the two films. Without a doubt, The Tesla World Light will prove to be a hit with history buffs and lovers of avant-garde cinema alike.

For more on TIFF, go to http://www.tiff.net/ and to learn more about the NFB, click on https://www.nfb.ca/

Enjoy the shorts and TIFF! If you get a chance to see one or all of these NFB shorts, please leave a comment below. Tell us which one was your favourite and why.