Category Archives: Nova Scotia

Short Film Face Off Reaches Milestone 10th Season on CBC-TV

For Canadian short film fans, perhaps one of the most anticipated yearly television broadcasts is CBC’s Short Film Face Off. Taped in front of a live studio audience in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Short Film Face Off features nine Canadian filmmakers and their short films in which one winning filmmaker is awarded a generous filmmaking prize package. Hosted by Steve Patterson, the shorts are judged by a studio panel of three Canadian film professionals and the final winning short film is voted by the show’s viewers across Canada.

This year marks Short Film Face Off’s tenth year of showcasing these diverse and talented filmmakers’ short films to a vast Canadian television viewing audience. This is a huge milestone for the show; especially since it is unique in its format, niche in its content and is on-air for just four weeks of the year.

Short Film Fan reached out to Peter Hall, Senior Manager, Production Services at CBC Atlantic to get some insight into the history of Short Film Face Off, the reason for its longevity, and how the show has been received by the filmmakers and the viewing audience.

 

Short Film Fan: How did you come up with the idea of Short Film Face Off?

Peter Hall: At CBC Halifax, we were working closely with quite a few short film producers and directors. We supported several awards in the region to help emerging filmmakers get their films produced.  There were so many great films being made that we wanted to give them greater exposure and we knew the CBC audience would be the perfect place. We also knew this would be fresh programming because most people have few opportunities to see short films.

SFF: What were you hoping or expecting to achieve with Short Film Face Off, and were those hopes and expectations met?

PH: We have far exceeded our expectations.  Here we are ten years later and we have broadcast close to one hundred short films on television and introduced that many emerging Canadian directors to a whole new audience. Our intent was to showcase short films and provide a platform for directors to tell their stories from communities across the country. I am thrilled we are still doing that.

SFF: Short Film Face Off is now in its 10th season. How do you account for this milestone?

PH: Short Film Face Off is a very accessible program. Our host, Steve Patterson, does a great job to make filmmaking easy to understand and to appreciate for the television audience.

SFFO’s Host Steve Patterson
But really, the single most important aspect of the program is the quality of films that directors bring the program. They tell unique stories about Canadians and Canadian life and where else are you going to find that?

We also have had terrific support from Telefilm Canada over the years. This program fits perfectly into their mandate, and they have been an integral part of the show’s success.

We also have industry support from William F. White who offers an equipment rental package to our winning filmmakers.

SFF: How has the program changed since its first season, and what kinds of changes to the show do you foresee in the future?

PH: The program itself has not changed very much. Our format is pretty well the same; really the biggest change that we have seen is in the quality of films that are submitted every year. Typically there are close to two hundred films that are sent to our juries across the country and every year it seems they get better and better. Technology has certainly been part of that with the development of computer animation and effects but I think we are seeing films from some very talented filmmakers who know and love their craft.

SFF: Do you have a memorable moment from the show, either on or off camera?

PH: I always love to see the directors interact with Steve for the first time on the set. Steve can be somewhat unpredictable (in a nice way) so understandably it can be unnerving to anticipate what he may say or do. Once a director was describing in detail how, with much difficulty, they had borrowed a Volkswagen to shoot a scene. It turned out to be quite a long story and at the end Steve laughed and said, “Well that story was longer than the whole film”.

SFF: What has the feedback about the show been like from the filmmakers and viewers?

PH: For the most part, filmmakers who come to Halifax for the program love the experience. They really appreciate having their film shown to a national audience and talking about it with industry professionals. But we have noticed the friendships that are made between the filmmakers.

Filmmakers listening to panelist feedback.
When in Halifax the directors are able to meet others from across the country and there are great conversations and discussions about filmmaking. It is a singular opportunity for them to together and they do so in the studio and after hours in the pub. I think some lasting friendships have begun at Short Film Face Off.

Our best viewer feedback comes from the voting. I am always amazed to see the number of votes and the fact that they come from every province and territory.

SFF: How do you visualize Short Film Face Off’s role on CBC 10 years from now?

PH: I would like to see the program expand into a longer series.  Film is the dominant art form of our time and that is unlikely to change in the next 10 years and beyond.

SFF: Do you have any other comments or thoughts you would like to share about Short Film Face Off or Canadian short films, in general?

PH: I would like to tell film and television audiences that there are many fantastic Canadian short films being made in this country. Not only are the films wonderful to watch but the people making them are the future of filmmaking in Canada; they will be the ones to protect and celebrate the future Canadian culture.

 

Short Film Fan Commentary:

Indeed, there is an incredible wealth of short films out there made by Canadian filmmakers. These shorts are fun to watch with memorable and relatable story lines that add to an already rich Canadian film and television culture. Although they may be found on the Internet and at film festivals, Short Film Face Off is perhaps the most interesting, informative and exciting place to view Canadian shorts.

Viewers who have never seen a Canadian short film before will be impressed with the quality and variety that make their way onto Short Film Face Off each year. If you are not a Canadian short film fan now, you will be after watching the show. It will be exciting to see how this 10th season will unfold. Catch the first episode on July 8 at 7 p.m. local time.

Thank you to Short Film Face Off for connecting Canada together through short films, for bringing Canadian filmmakers into the spotlight and for making Canadian short films more accessible for everyone to enjoy and appreciate. Congratulations on your 10th season!

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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.