Category Archives: Relationships

Trusted Values Connect, Contrast, Confront & Clash In ‘Static’ (2016)

Holding on or letting go. It can be a challenging decision that is usually influenced by the values we hold.  For example, if a device that you have cherished for years no longer worked properly, do you keep it and get it repaired or do you throw it away and get a new one? What about when a loved one dies? Do you live in the past or are you able to move on with your life? The decision to act one way or the other is sometimes not so easy to make, though. Memories, experiences and even our mental health can factor in heavily when making that next step.

The 2016 short film Static is a dramatic and intense look at this common life struggle, as it takes you into the eye of a family drama hurricane between an older man and his son as they clash over the fate of a broken TV set. Produced and written by Tanya Lemke and based on the short story of the same name by Robert Shearman, Static stars Eric Peterson as Ernest and Yannick Bisson as his son, Billy. Ernest is a widower living alone with an old TV set. It drips blood (in his mind) and wants it repaired. Billy, on the other hand, has different designs. He wants to replace his dad’s old TV set with a new one. With angry opposition, and with memories of his deceased wife, Ernest makes an attempt to save the one thing left in his life from its demise.

Click on CBC’s Canadian Reflections link below to watch the whole short:

http://watch.cbc.ca/canadian-reflections/season-2016/static/38e815a-00c1237ab0f

Short Film Fan spoke with Tanya to learn more about Static, including the many ways you could interpret Ernest’s behavior and mindset throughout the film:

Short Film Fan:  Why did you decide to write and produce Static?

Tanya Lemke: My first short film Happy Pills was about to be released. I was high on that experience and my newfound love of directing, and I wanted to get going on another film as soon as possible. I also make my living in production which cuts into a lot of development time. So, aside from my own writing I was looking around for something to adapt. I had the chance to meet my now good friend Robert Shearman around that time and read a bunch of his stuff, which I loved! His story ‘Static’ jumped out at me because it illustrated so clearly a theme that I’m still fascinated with: the things we don’t say and don’t say and don’t say, until the façade inevitably cracks and the corrosive truth starts to leak out. That’s powerful stuff. Fortunately Rob liked my work too, and when I asked him if I could adapt ‘Static’ I was thrilled when he said yes. The script I wrote from that story then won the Screenplay Giveaway from the last-ever CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, and we were a go.

SFF: What was it like working with Eric Peterson and Yannick Bisson, two powerhouse Canadian actors?

Yannick Bisson as ‘Billy’

TL: I’d been lucky enough to work with Yannick on Murdoch Mysteries for a while so I already knew him when I approached him with this script. But, I was still absolutely floored when he agreed to join in, especially considering his exhausting schedule on Murdoch. He’s an absolute megawatt star in every way and I’ll be forever grateful for his support. The search for our Ernest was tougher; I had never met Eric Peterson before and I admit I was a bit intimidated to send him the material. He’s a legend! But he loved the script and was so gracious and generous with his time and energy. He came to our set utterly prepared with reams of his own notes on his character and backstory despite also being in the middle of shooting a major Canadian production (Best Laid Plans for CBC). Really, working with both of these guys was the best experience I could hope for.

SFF:  We can see that Ernest strongly believes in the value of fixing and keeping things rather than throwing them out quickly. But, are we witnessing a much stronger feeling of survivor guilt or an inability to let go?

Eric Peterson as ‘Ernest’

TL:  Absolutely. All of those things and more – how they contrast and how they connect. One of the reasons I was so drawn to the story of Static’ was its layers upon layers of meaning under an almost placid façade. Ernest is old-fashioned. He subscribes to the idea that “they just don’t make things the way they used to”: electronics, wives…  There is love and grief and terrible guilt, but also denial. There’s resentment for being left behind, and resentment towards the ones who are left. There is the idea that by constantly replacing flawed things with new; we sanitize them, avoiding the messiness of death and decay. It speaks to our more and more obvious inability to deal.  Then there’s the external vs. the internal world; what’s real and what isn’t – is it grief, is it dementia, is it madness? I love the story’s contrasts; it’s a bit funny, painfully poignant and also horrifying in a way. It’s also hopeful despite being super dark. Even the title has multiple meanings:  “static” speaks to Ernest’s frozen emotional state and inability to move forward, as well as the static on the TV’s screen, which again indicates that nothing is black and white but many tones of grey (and red).

SFF:  What has the audience reaction been like to the film?

TLStatic has been so well received at all the festivals it’s played at so far, as well as its Canadian broadcast on CBC, and I can’t wait to bring it to more audiences worldwide. I was actually a bit surprised by how warmly the horror/genre community in particular embraced it. I guess it was because of all the blood (but what mainstream love story wouldn’t benefit from a little blood spurt, I ask you?). It’s wonderful to hear all of the feedback and support from fellow filmmakers as well as fans. I particularly love to hear from these hardcore horror fans: things like “moving”, “tear-jerking”, “heart-wrenching”. There’s a bit of a cool contrast going on there too and it’s awesome.

SFF: What message would you like the audience to take away from Static?

TL: Making Static ended up being cathartic for me on a whole bunch of levels. I think one of its messages is that everything and everyone is complex and that’s as it should be. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Accept everything, even (especially) the darkness. Feel what you need to feel.

 

Short Film Fan Review:

Static was a moving tale of generational divides and value clashes. Ernest’s remark of “Stop tossing things out when they get broken and try to fix them for a change.” sounded like a stinging warning against and rebuke of the throw-away society that we currently live in. For fans of Canadian television programs, casting Eric Peterson and Yannick Bisson was a treat. They played their characters quite well and looked like a real-life father and son duo. You could even hear a bit of Oscar from the hit TV show’s Corner Gas coming from Eric in some of the scenes, especially during the answering machine argument. The dripping blood gave Static that horror short film feel and it added to the film’s tense drama. It was hard to watch Ernest go through the pain of reliving his dog’s and wife’s death. But, of course, it was important to include those scenes as it gave important context to his obsession to “stop tossing things out”. In the last scene, it would have been a fitting twist to see the image of his wife’s face in the TV set as Ernest was driving madly away in the car, rather than the trees. Finally, Static was well-acted, well-written and reminds us that it can be hard to let go as well as to hold on; sometimes the situation we are in does not make the decision-making process any easier.

Give Static a follow on Twitter @StaticTheMovie to see if it is playing at a film festival near you. All the best to Tanya in her future short film endeavors!

 

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Guest Post: Seek Out Healthy Human Connections With ‘The Girl Next Door’ (2015)

It is always a pleasure to receive guest articles from Short Film Fan readers. This week’s article was submitted by Wayne Rowley from Winnipeg, MB. Wayne is an avid musician and a devoted dad who loves short films. Wayne’s article is a review of a short film that examines the importance of making healthy human connections.

 

The Desire For Connectivity

This world we live in is moving at such a fast pace that it is getting more challenging every day to keep up. We are so inundated with smartphones, internet, news, social media, apps, and gadgets.  Yet with all this “connectivity”, there are an alarming number of people who are feeling more separated and alone than ever before.  We are staring into the eyes of our iPhone.  We are spending a quiet night/weekend/series with Netflix and Facebook.

The Girl Next Door is an eerie and dark examination of one woman’s desire for connection while living under a cloud of separation and isolation. Starring Lara Jean Chorostecki and produced by Lauren MacKinlay, Peter Mabrucco and Farah Merani, the film begins when Evette (Chorostecki) finds herself alone in an apartment after being released from some from type of hospital (possibly due to an addiction, mental illness or some other issue). Her only contact is from Joy (a therapist or probation officer) via her phone. She has no other human contact and is in virtual isolation until she hears a couple next door. Through the walls she becomes obsessed with their lives due to her need for contact and sheer loneliness. Watch the film below:

Short Film Fan recently reached out to Lauren and Peter to learn more about why they produced The Girl Next Door, including what lessons could be learned from the film.

 

Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to produce The Girl Next Door?

Lauren MacKinlay:  Peter and I had just finished an awesome working experience together on Vincenzo Natali’s short film for “The ABCs of Death 2” and knew we wanted to do another project together soon. Peter showed me this script that Greg Carere had so beautifully crafted and there were several elements that attracted me immediately: the “one woman show” nature of the piece (I’m a huge advocate for female-driven stories), the themes of isolation and connectivity, and the striking visuals that the content laid out.  We instantly knew this was the script to do and the only person we could see playing Evette was Lara Jean Chorostecki, and with the addition of my longtime producing partner, Farah Merani, our little team was born.

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

Peter Mabrucco :  The biggest challenge in directing this piece was figuring how to make shooting in one room not be stale – which isn’t as scary when you have an actor like Lara Jean who has such an incredible presence. While we specifically set out to shoot a script that was contained in one location for budgetary reasons, we also knew it was going to be a challenge when we started this project – which added to the excitement! We figured if you’re not challenging yourself and aren’t in some way scared of what you’re shooting, you’re not doing it right.

SFF: Why was it significant for Evette to cut pictures out from magazines and tape them on her wall?

LM & PM: For Evette, social interaction is a challenge. As Evette listens in on the lives of Beth and James, cutting up and placing pictures on the wall is a way to help her visualize the life they lead. As she fills in the calendar of their lives on the wall, she may place images representing the various aspects: a map showing locations of where they go, images of buildings they frequent, or activities they enjoy, as a way to fill in the gaps.  It’s a way for her to connect with them, to create a relationship, all the while staying safely within the confines of her home; a visual manifestation of her simultaneous longing for and fear of connection.

SFF: What has the audience reception towards the film been like since its release?

LM & PM: We have had incredible reception for the film and have been fortunate to be selected for several great film festivals. We even took home the Prodigy Auteur Prize from the Amsterdam Festival, which was a big day for Team GND! The best take-away is that everyone gets something different from it. Some people think Beth and James are real people and truly her neighbours, others think it’s all in Evette’s head. To hear the debate between the two thoughts is amazing to see/hear.

SFF: What message or messages did you want to get across to the audience with The Girl Next Door?

LM & PM: With technology in today’s world, accessibility and connection are supposed to be improved – yet the opposite seems to have happened. While it was supposed to make connection with others easier – which it has on a macro, global scale – on the micro side, the intimate connections between people have been lost in the foray. We live in a world of projected lives through the filters of social media. All Evette wants is a human connection, and she’s unsure of how to get it. The Girl Next Door can be seen as a cautionary tale of what a life will look like without being able to connect to others.

 

Short Film Fan Review

Lara Jean does a magnificent job of becoming her character and you really feel her loneliness and desire for contact. When things change and the woman next-door tells her partner that she’s moving to Paris, it is devastating for Evette. She then becomes extremely desperate and agitated when she no longer hears the couple through the walls. This eventually leads her to leave the apartment (in spite of feeling terrified) in a last-ditch effort for contact.

It is very easy to lose yourself in the film as it is very well acted, directed and edited. The subtle music and sound effects (voices in her head that gradually get louder) are very effective in adding to the emotional tension that is building in the mind of Evette.

The highlight of the film occurs when Evette is listening through headphones during a romantic dinner the couple is having and is transported into their apartment via her imagination and has a seat at their table. It was a real creative touch that allows us to peak into the window of her mind.

One interesting observation is the shirt that Evette is wearing has a picture of a motorcycle on it. This is can be seen as juxtaposition to the freedom that she doesn’t have.

As an afterthought, perhaps Evette could have looked increasingly more disheveled throughout the film in order to mirror the inner turmoil that she is experiencing.

Overall, The Girl Next Door is a very well-done film and is worth seeing several times. Congratulations to all that were involved in making this film!

 

Closing Thoughts

If you’re a keen TV viewer, you probably recognized Lara Jean from such programs as Hannibal, Designated Survivor and X-Company. We hope to see her in more short films in the future.

Lauren and Peter are very excited to announce that The Girl Next Door has been picked up by the video on-demand platform, Seed & Spark. If viewers  want to see the short in its entirety, as well as many other exquisite projects curated by a team that devotedly supports independent filmmakers, they should sign up for an account and stream it today.

The ability to connect with others is very important for one’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The Girl Next Door is certainly a chilling reminder of the consequences that can befall someone when he or she fails to connect properly with other human beings. Thanks to Lauren and Peter for reaching out to Short Film Fan with The Girl Next Door and good luck with your future short film projects. Give them a follow on Twitter @GNDfilm to see what they are up to next!

Finding Love Among The Dead: “I’m In Love With A Dead Girl” (2016)

Spring is back in Canada. Every spring is an opportunity for new life and renewal, as well as to dust off what remains of the past winter. While some may toil in their yards trying to get it ready for planting flowers and gardening, others turn to romance and looking for that one true love. But where does a person find someone to date and possibly connect with? A speed dating session? Maybe through websites or smartphone apps? If all else fails, would you go so far as to dig up someone’s grave?

In the 12-minute short film I’m In Love With A Dead Girl written and directed by Brandon Rhiness, we meet Spencer Milton (played by Tom Antoni). In Spencer’s mind, life is good. He has his hobbies and his friends. But, as one of his friends points out, he is encouraged to seek out a girlfriend. After a few dates with different women, he reads an article on the Internet about Lucy Raven (Afton Rentz) who was killed in a hit-and-run. Upon reflection, he decides to dig Lucy out of her grave and give her a chance. As a result, Spencer faces a few awkward moments and a moment of reckoning. Watch the full short below:

 

Short Film Fan spoke with Brandon to learn more about why he made I’m In Love With A Dead Girl, as well as to get a deeper understanding of the film’s meaning.

Short Film Fan: Why did you decide to produce I’m In Love With A Dead Girl?

Brandon Rhiness: I had just come off shooting the first two episodes of the web series Mental Case that I write and direct. Those were my first “real” filmmaking projects (I don’t include the really bad short films I made in college. Lol!).  Those episodes were extremely low budget. Series co-creator Afton Rentz and I paid for everything out of pocket.

But now that I had a bit of experience behind me, I knew I could do better. The idea for Dead Girl came to me one day and I wrote the script over a couple days. At a Mental Case meeting with Afton, I pitched the idea to her because I wanted her to play the dead girl. She liked it and came on board.

This time, I wanted a bigger budget, so we raised money through Indiegogo. I promoted the hell out of the project, got on TV and in the newspapers and we raised enough money to shoot the film!

SFF: Would you classify your short as a romantic comedy, a horror film or something completely different?

BR: I’ve always had difficulty with that question. It’s hard when submitting it to festivals because I never know what category to submit it under. I’d say it’s a horror/paranormal thriller/comedy. It’s all of those, but at the same time none of those. Lol!

People laugh when they see the film, but it also got accepted into a horror festival. So, I guess the film is whatever you want it to be.

SFF: What was your biggest challenge that you faced when you were making this film?

BR: The biggest challenge was coming up with the money. When you ask people to give you money to make a film, they want to know their money is in good hands and the film will get made. I didn’t have much of a track record since the Mental Case episodes hadn’t even been released publicly at this point. But I did have a few years of writing and publishing comic books under my belt, so I think that demonstrated that I could get a project done.

When it came time for the actual shoot itself, everything went very smoothly. We have a great crew.

SFF: The ending feels like it is open to interpretation by the audience. What explanation from the viewers has made the most sense to you?

BR: Yeah, I’ve heard different interpretations of it, and I don’t want to say anybody is right or wrong. The way I see it, in Spencer’s mind, he was in love and doing a beautiful thing. But in reality, he was taking advantage of Lucy because she was dead and wasn’t a willing participant. So when she comes back at the end…she intends to punish him for his crime.

But by all means, if anybody has a different view, I’d love to hear it!

SFF: What message did you want to get across to the audience with I’m In Love With A Dead Girl?

BR: Don’t dig up corpses, kids!

 

Short Film Fan Review: I’m In Love With A Dead Girl is a dark romantic comedy that is very much open to interpretation. For example, one could interpret that Spencer was trying too hard to have a relationship with someone who was not interested, thus the relationship was a ‘dead issue’. Also, Spencer and Lucy as a couple could also be viewed as an example of one of those relationships keeps going when it really should not. Finally, Spencer could be seen as living in the past and trying to relive a dead relationship. It is a bit challenging to find them at first, but these and many other interpretations can be found in this short. So, it will be necessary for the viewer to watch the film a few times in order to make his or her own interpretations.

As an extra note, it was impressive to learn that this short was put together with funding via Indiegogo. Many independent films are beginning to turn to sites like Indiegogo to help them with their production fundraising needs. Fundraising is a tough activity, but can be rewarding in the end when the fundraising goal is met.  So, if you a happen to hear about a Canadian short film conducting a crowdfunding campaign, consider contributing a few dollars to it. Your generosity could ensure that independent projects such as I’m In Love With A Dead Girl have a chance to thrive.

‘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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You Will Get Through It No Matter What In ‘Given Your History’ (2014)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month in Canada. From coast to coast, Canadians will be encouraged to do all they can to help find a cure that will eliminate this life-threatening illness. From screenings to financial donations to adopting healthy lifestyles, everyone in the country has a chance to do their bit to fight against breast cancer.

Although the chances of beating breast cancer have been improving over the years, far too many women have succumbed to it. Often their death was untimely, leaving behind their children, spouses, and even their parents to live without them. Losing a family member at any time can be hard. For young children or young adults, it can be devastating as relationships can suffer and personal struggles can be overwhelming.

Molly McGlynn’s 15-minute short film, Given Your History (2014), is a profound and emotional portrayal of two sisters’ lives after their mother dies of breast cancer. In the beginning, we meet sisters Alanna (Katie Boland) and Colleen (Rachel Wilson), as they wait for their mother, Bridget (Valerie Buhagiar), to finish her rowing session with her Dragonboat team. When Colleen visits Alanna after their mother dies, internal and external conflicts soon emerge between them. For a sneak peek into the film, watch the trailer below:

 

Short Film Fan caught up with Molly and she shared some of her thoughts about the film:

Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to make Given Your History?

Molly McGlynn: I  lost my mom to breast cancer almost ten years ago when I was 21, which is around the age Alanna’s character is supposed to be. Also, I am one of five girls and I wanted to make something that takes a glimpse into grief after the dust has settled a bit and how the loss of parent can affect sibling dynamics. It’s not autobiographical, but comes from a deeply personal place.

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

MM: Emotionally, I had to distance myself from my own narrative for the sake of the film. It was empowering and cathartic to direct a film based on such a difficult period in my life! Logistically, the dragon boats scenes were a little bit of a nail biter. I was insistent on using the Dragon’s Abreast team that you see in the film, which happens to be the team my mother was on. We shot in October and the very last weekend the boats could be out in the water was our shoot days. So, basically, if the weather did not cooperate, I’d lose the boat scenes which were so integral to the story. But, by good luck it was a chilly day and the sun was shining. We got what we needed.

SFF:  Given Your History was a deeply moving and emotional film. What has the audience reception towards the film been like since its release?

MM: Really good! A lot of people can relate to this narrative. I don’t want to label it a “cancer” film, but that is a central part of the story. Everyone has been lost or grieving something at some point, so I think people can see a little bit of themselves in it.

SFF:  What message did you want to get across to the audience with this film?

MM: I’m hesitant to want to push a “message” out with my work; more just show a truthful, honest story that may make the audience look at themselves or their life in a new way. If I had to name it, I guess it would be to say that ‘we’re all gonna be okay, no matter what you have to go through’.

 

Short Film Fan Review: Given Your History is definitely a stirring short. It is an educational film in that it shows how one can still find peace despite living through the sorrow that breast cancer can bring. The Dragonboat scenes also taught us that no one is alone when fighting a disease such as cancer. The film also underscores the fact that life must go on and that it does go on. Both Katie Boland and Rachel Wilson played very convincing roles as sisters, with the most realistic and intense moment taking place when Colleen is trying to calm down a very distraught Alanna in her bedroom. Given Your History is a must-see film for anyone struggling to deal with a loved one’s health battles or coping with the loss of a loved one.

We wish all the best to Molly and hope to see more short films from her in the future.256px-16mm_filmhjul

 

What Are They Up To Now: Alan Powell Explores The Power of Denial in ‘As One’ (2016)

Keeping in step with the promise of trying new things on Short Film Fan, ‘What Are They Up To Now’ is the latest feature that will show up here from time to time. The goal is to touch base with those who have been previously interviewed on SFF and to explore what has been going on in their careers since their last appearance on the site. In this first edition of ‘What Are They Up To Now’, Short Film Fan reconnected with Canadian filmmaker Alan Powell, now a resident of London, UK, to talk about his latest short, As One.

 

Many people are often oblivious to the fact that they live in a state of denial. Living in denial can occur, for example, when a person ignores the pain and suffering that he or she experienced sometime in the past and pretends that everything is alright with their present lives. Or, someone may be in denial if he or she chooses to ignore his or her current needs and learns to live without them instead. For a while, the denial works and the person lives life somewhat happily. But, at some point, something will happen or someone will say something that breaks down the person’s denial barrier and those blocked inner feelings are released quickly and powerfully.

Alan Powell’s 11-minute short As One (2016) looks at this delicate topic through a woman’s struggle with her current relationship situation. Twice-divorced Maggie (Janie Dee) is on her way to a wedding in a classic London black cab along with her daughter Abi (Jeany Spark) and two other passengers: Douglas (Neil Morrissey) and Danny (Edward MacLiam). By the time the party reaches their destination, Maggie’s life, in a sense, has been deconstructed and she’s left to pick up the painful pieces and carry on. Watch the trailer:

In last year’s interview on Short Film Fan, Alan was in the middle of working on As One. Now complete, the film will have its North American premiere at the 35th Vancouver International Film Festival this month, as well as its European premiere this coming November at the 31st Festival Européen du Film Court de Brest in France . Short Film Fan followed up with Alan to get some input from him on why he made As One and how living in London influences his filmmaking:

 

Short Film Fan:  What motivated you to make this short?

Alan Powell: It started with the expression ‘never underestimate the power of denial’. I first heard it in the film American Beauty. I thought it was a fascinating line and it stayed with me. What can the power of denial actually do? It can create a life full of lies and delusions to protect oneself from the fact that they’re unhappy or living in deep-seated pain and unwilling to face the truth. This resonated with me. I know people who live their lives or have lived their lives never wanting to peak outside the bubble they created for themselves. I wanted to explore the journey of a woman who knows the truth that exists outside that bubble yet denies its presence in her life. What does that look like? How would she deal with it? As One is really a character study of the dynamics denial creates in relationships.

SFF:  You mentioned previously that As One was a short that you originally had set in Toronto, ON. Besides the change in location, in what ways did producing As One in London, UK, affect the film’s original concept and final result?as-one-poster

AP: Setting it in a Black Cab in London enhanced the concept. It’s a tight space and visually compliments the film’s theme. In Canada, there’s no way I could have had the same dynamic in a cab. The historic Black Cabs are designed to sit two passengers across from another two. So the four passengers are facing each other which was ideal blocking for As One. In terms of London as a location, maybe it’s just me but shooting here is far more pleasing visually to the eye because of the history that’s here. The textures, the tone it sets, all of it looks great on film.  Then, there are the actors. Again, maybe it’s just me, but the accents, the authenticity they bring to their work; it all feels very sophisticated for this Canadian boy :). Canada equally has these elements, too, but you really can’t compare the two countries. What also helps is having a cinematographer that knows how to capture beautiful images. Oliver Ford has shot two films for me so far. He won an award for the last one (Phone Box). He’s a true artist and he makes me look great!

SFF: How does making a short in London compare to making a short in Toronto, in general?

AP: Same challenges. The only difference I can see is that you have access to name talent here. I think it’s pretty cool that Sir Ian McKellen lives down the road from us. We saw him at our local supermarket last Christmas. When I was living in Wapping, Rod Stewart lived nearby too. So, this is a pretty cool place. Some of Hollywood’s biggest names still live in London and some will consider doing short films if the script is strong enough. That’s why Neil Morrissey came on-board. He shot to fame in the 90’s with his role of Tony in the sitcom ‘Men Behaving Badly’. He’s been busy ever since. He’s still considered royalty here, so it was an honour to have him join the cast.

SFF: Are you satisfied with leaving As One as a short, or would you consider turning it into a feature?

AP: You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve developed the script for the feature film. It recaps the short in the first 5 minutes and then carries on from there with the same tone and pace. Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to putting it on the screen next.

 

Short Film Fan Review: The cab ride was definitely the perfect place to expose and ultimately defeat Maggie’s denial of her deep unhappiness. At first, we see a cheerful Maggie; feeling alive from the energy that London offers. However, as the conversations between the four passengers continue during the cab ride, Maggie’s protective barriers slowly start crumbling away. Could this same turn of events have happened during or after the wedding? The film made a very good point with the fact that in denying ourselves, we deny others in the process; creating isolation and further denial. Seeing the Black Cab travel through a busy London evening was a treat and the view of Big Ben at the beginning of the film was stunning. As One was a perfect mix of drama and comedy that is worth watching more than once.

As One screens in Canada at Vancouver Film Festival on October  7th and 9th. Get your tickets soon and don’t miss this opportunity to see Alan Powell’s latest short! If you happen to catch As One at VIFF, Tweet your thoughts about the film to him directly @alan_powell.

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‘Never Happened’ Spends The Night Advancing To The Final Round On ‘Short Film Face Off’

Summer is typically the time of year when we can slow down a little and relax outside, whether at the cottage or at the beach. Summer is also an opportunity to watch new blockbuster movie releases from Hollywood or to catch up on old favourites via downloads or rentals through cable TV.  If you are looking for the latest in Canadian short films, however, look no further than CBC-TV’s Short Film Face Off. Now in its ninth year, Short Film Face Off comes to you for four weekends in a row with nine filmmakers hoping to win one fantastic filmmaking prize.

The sought-after prize is a $45,000 film production package with $30,000 coming from Telefilm Canada and an additional $15,000 contributed by William F. White International Inc. The prize will be awarded at the end of this season’s fourth and final episode.

Face Off went through some changes since it last aired in the fall of 2015. Firstly, the show’s broadcast dates were moved to the summer months of June and July. Secondly, William F. White became the newest contributor to the prize awarded to the show’s winner. And, thirdly, filmmaker Nadia Litz made her debut as one of the show’s panelists.

This newest and ninth season of Face Off took place on June 18th. Steve Patterson resumed his role as host of the program. Joining Nadia Litz on the panel of judges were veteran Face Off panelists Mohit Rajhans and Eli Glasner.

SFFO 16 - Ep 1Tonight’s contestants were Jennifer Walden (Painted Girl), Mark Slutsky (Never Happened) and Ross Moore (The Woman in White). Painted Girl looked at the transformation of a young woman by the arrival of her grandfather’s painting kit in the mail; two business colleagues attempt to wipe away the memory of their affair in Never Happened; a young girl and an older man talk about their sibling rivalries in The Woman in White.

Painted Girl picked up 11.5 votes, while both Never Happened and The Woman in White earned 13.0 votes. After a tie-breaker huddle by the panel, Never Happened won and became the first short film of the season to advance to the final round.

These three shorts were a powerful way to start the ninth season of Face Off. It was very encouraging to see the woman determined to keep going with her painting despite the abuse she suffered in Painted Girl. With her strong memories of her grandfather and a growing talent in painting, it came as no surprise that she connected with the subjects that she painted. In Never Happened, you can definitely feel the anticipation and attraction between the two colleagues. Using their phones to delete the affair from their memories was a clever commentary on how technology has become pervasive in our personal lives. The Woman in White showed us how deeply sibling relationships impact our lives in some way. However, it also reminded us to remember the good times we had with our siblings when an unexpected turn happens to that relationship.

A well-deserved ‘congratulations’ goes to Jennifer, Mark and Ross. Good luck to Mark in his quest for the $45,000 production award. Visit the CBC Player to watch the entire episode again or each film separately.

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Spend Quality Time With The Kids While Watching ‘Five Dollars’ (2013)

Right around Easter time, school-aged kids get a break from the classroom routine with a week off from their studies. For some families, it’s an opportunity to get away from it all and take a small vacation either at home or somewhere far away. For those lucky parents who can take the time off from work, it can also mean a temporary reprieve from needing a babysitter to care for their young children. Babysitting can not only cost in terms of money, but can also cost in terms of less time spent with one’s kids.

The 6-minute Canadian short Five Dollars is a powerful look at how babysitting can affect a relationship between a small boy and his mother. Written by Chris Cromie and directed by Reza Dahya, Five Dollars stars Lyric Justice as Anthony and Tika Simone as his mother. Anthony’s mother needs a babysitter to take care of him while she is at work. Anthony has fun at the babysitter’s, but happily looks forward to her return at the end of the day.

Typical of little kids, Anthony asks his mother questions around the topic of money. He asks her how much money she makes at work, which makes her uncomfortable at first. But, she eventually reveals to Anthony her wage of $20 per hour. Later, Anthony asks her for $5 which she originally refused (thinking that he wants to buy another video game). She later changes her mind and gives him the $5 as she tucks him in bed at night.

Anthony then shows his mother his stash of money hidden in a teddy bear. Concerned, she asks him why he had almost $20 saved. Anthony happily replies that he was saving the $20 so that she could leave her work one hour early and that they could spend time together.

Check out the film here:  

Five Dollars is a film that really hits home and that most, if not all, people can identify with. What kid wouldn’t want to be with his or her mom or dad at such a young age? What parent wouldn’t want to have the chance to spend more time with their young kids instead of leaving them with a caregiver? Both actors’ portrayals of mother and son in the film were extremely realistic and moving. The part where Anthony browsed through the toy flyer was a clever distraction, as it made it seem like he really was saving his money for a game. His true intention for the money was a delightful and unexpected twist.

Babysitting is a fact of life and a necessary option for many working parents. It has its obvious benefits; parents get inexpensive childcare and the babysitter learns valuable life skills. But, it still doesn’t replace the time and effort needed to build that special bond between child and parent.

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Make ‘The Date’ (2014) Your Restaurant Menu Pick On Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming. On February 14th, the malls will be packed full of men and women buying gifts for their significant others. Dinner reservations will be made, cinema line-ups will be a little longer than normal and romance will fill the air. For singles, the day might consist of sad recalls of past relationships, questions surrounding unrequited love and increased visits to dating websites. It’s definitely a day where each of us can take a step back and examine how relationships can impact our lives for better or for worse.

Numerous films over the decades have dealt with love, romance and relationships from all sorts of angles and plots resulting in predictable endings. However, the Canadian short The Date is not your typical dating and relationship film. Written and produced by Mazi Khalighi, and starring Katie Boland and Noah Reid, The Date is a unique look at the beginning, middle and ending of a relationship between two people.

The Date takes place in only one location: a hamburger restaurant. The film begins when Steph (Boland) and Mike (Reid) meet up with each other at the restaurant sometime after their relationship ended.  Afterwards, we watch as Steph and Mike start, sustain and end their relationship at the same table in the same restaurant. Just like many real-life relationships, everything is positive and shows potential at the beginning. After a few years, the relationship plateaus and becomes routine. In the end, as problems and hard feelings have surfaced, Steph and Mike split up and go their separate ways.

Watch the film here:

 

In terms of a dating and relationship film, The Date was brilliantly presented and is perhaps one of the best Canadian short films made in a long time that deals with this topic. It was different and refreshing to experience the story only from the perspective from the restaurant conversations.  Boland and Reid did a great job in executing their roles. The emotions and body language looked and felt extremely real; it was as if we were sitting in the restaurant right beside the couple.

So, whether you’re with your sweetie or doing some online dating on Valentine’s Day, pull out a chair at your favourite burger joint, sit down, take out your laptop or tablet and check out The Date.

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