Category Archives: Women Filmmakers

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 

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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/

TIFF Announces 29 Canadian Short Films For September Lineup

Next month, the 42nd annual Toronto International Film Fest (TIFF) will be taking place September 7th to 17th and it promises to satisfy the palates of all sorts of film buffs. From world cinema to documentaries to experimental film, TIFF 2017 is Canada’s, if not the continent’s, largest on-going film festival that features new and seasoned film talent from Canada and around the world.

Of course, no film festival would be complete without short films and TIFF recently announced this year’s shorts line up for its September screening. There will be 29 Canadian shorts at this year’s festival, including 11 directed by women and three by Indigenous filmmakers. 24 shorts are part of the Short Cuts programme and 5 shorts will be shown under the festival’s Wavelength banner.

The complete list is as follows:

SHORT CUTS PROGRAMME

The Argument (with annotations) Daniel Cockburn, Canada/UK

Bickford Park Linsey Stewart, Dane Clark, Canada

Bird Molly Parker, Canada

Charles Dominic Etienne Simard, Canada/France

Creatura Dada Caroline Monnet, Canada

Crème de menthe Philippe David Gagné, Jean-Marc E. Roy, Canada

The Crying Conch (Le cri du lambi) Vincent Toi, Canada

The Drop In Naledi Jackson, Canada

For Nonna Anna Luis De Filippis, Canada

Grandmother (ʔEtsu) Trevor Mack, Canada

homer_b Milos Mitrovic, Conor Sweeney, Canada

An Imagined Conversation: Kanye West & Stephen Hawking Sol Friedman, Canada

Latched Justin Harding, Rob Brunner, Canada

Lira’s Forest Connor Jessup, Canada

Midnight Confession Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Canada/USA

Milk Heather Young, Canada

Nuuca Michelle Latimer, Canada

Pre-Drink Marc-Antoine Lemire, Canada

Rupture Yassmina Karajah, Jordan/Canada

Shadow Nettes Phillip Barker, Canada

Stay, I Don’t Want to Be Alone (Reste, je ne veux pas être toute seule) Gabriel Savignac, Canada

The Tesla World Light (Tesla : Lumière Mondiale) Matthew Rankin, Canada

Threads Torill Kove, Canada/Norway

We Forgot to Break Up Chandler Levack, Canada

 

WAVELENGTHS PROGRAMME

Heart of a Mountain Parastoo Anoushahpour, Ryan Ferko, Faraz Anoushahpour, Taiwan/Canada

Palmerston Blvd. Dan Browne, Canada

Scaffold Kazik Radwanski, Canada

some cities Francesco Gagliardi, Canada

Turtles Are Always Home (Sokun Al Sulhufat) Rawane Nassif, Canada/Lebanon/Qatar

 

All 24 Canadian Short Cuts films are eligible for the IWC Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film. All films in the Short Cuts programme are eligible for the IWC Short Cuts Award for Best Film. For synopses of all shorts, go to tiff.net/sc and tiff.net/wavelengths. For tickets, click tiff.net/tickets or call 416-599-TIFF (toll-free: 1-888-599-8433).

If you will be attending TIFF this year, why not show your support for homegrown short film talent and see this year’s slate of Canadian shorts (many of which are world premieres). If you do happen to see any of them, share your thoughts about what you saw by leaving a message in the comments box below!

 

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!

 

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.

Riding The Rails Of Positive Change With ‘Tshiuetin’ (2016)

Turn on the news in Canada, and you will see many negative stories surrounding the country’s First Nations population. From missing and murdered women to residential schools to extreme poverty on reservation lands, it gives a person the impression that things look bleak for this population. Fortunately, there are many positive stories about Canada’s Indigenous people that, unfortunately, Canadians don’t get to see or hear enough of.  Stories of hope, economic well-being and change for the better do exist. One of these stories is best told in the 10:57 short documentary film Tshiuetin (2016) directed by First Nations filmmaker Caroline MonnetTshiuetin is the second short film that Caroline made under the label DESC Images; a company founded in 2014 by Caroline, along with Daniel Watchorn, Eric Cinq-Mars and Sébastien Aubin.

Tshiuetin (pronounced T- shee –way- tin and translates to ‘North Wind’ in the Innu language) explores the operations of Canada’s first First Nations-owned railway line. Established in 2005, Tshiuetin Railway Inc. runs between Sept-Iles and Schefferville and serves a number of communities along the way.  As the train winds its way through lighted tunnels and snowy mountainsides, the conductor of the train explains how the ways in which the railway has been a benefit to him and to the community at large. Watch the entire film below:

Short Film Fan reached out to Caroline to learn more about Tshiuetin, including why the film was shot in black & white and what the audience reception has been like since its release.

 

Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to make Tshiuetin?

Caroline MonnetTshiuetin is an inspiring story of triumph and determination for Aboriginal communities. For the first time in Canadian history, a railroad is owned by a group of First Nations. It is important for DESC to create stories that celebrate the resilience of indigenous people. We speak about success stories in a way that is very removed from what is portrayed in the media.

SFF: What particular challenge did you face when making this documentary?

CM: The best thing was travelling up north with a small team and meeting wonderful people along the way. We were truly part of this journey with a bunch of Innu families. And even though we were two Indigenous persons on the crew, we don’t speak the Innu language and we were like foreigners on the train. The Tshiuetin Rail Transportation staff was very helpful and giving. The film could not have developed the way it did without their kindness and support. Another challenging part was shooting outside the train in minus 40-degree weather.

SFF: Why did you decide to film Tshiuetin in black & white, rather than colour?

CM:  The documentary is shot in black and white, using 16mm film. This speaks to the history of building the railways, but is also appropriate in capturing the beauty of the people that live along the Tshiuetin Railway. The 16mm film allows for an elegant cinematic and experimental feel to the documentary, staying away from conventional talking heads and video aesthetics. With using black and white film, it brings back the tradition of documentary filmmaking in Canada, inspiring myself from films like Pour la suite du Monde or La bête Lumineuse from Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault.

SFF: What was it like to have Tshiuetin nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Short Documentary this year?

CM: It’s a wonderful experience and recognition to be nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. There were a lot of great films nominated this year and it’s an honour to be nominated amongst them. We don’t make the films to win, but it’s always nice to be included at such prestigious awards.

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

CM: We’ve got really good responses since the film had its world premiere at TIFF this past September. It went on to play many festivals including Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, ImagineNATIVE, Uppsala, Tampere and Busan. Because the film was produced by CBC Docs, it rapidly became available online which allowed us to reach broader audiences. We reached over 60 000 people like that.  The film is like a road movie and I think many people haven’t travelled that far North in Québec so it is quite exciting to see the film.

SFF: What message or messages did you want to get across to the audience with Tshiuetin?

CM: It’s imperative to showcase positive stories about Indigenous achievements. At this point in Canadian history, media coverage often tends to focus on the darker issues. We need to hear about both sides because our national understanding of Indigenous culture is warped by a bombardment of pessimism. Tshiuetin is about positive change.

 

Short Film Fan Review: Tshiuetin was definitely an incredible story of economic power and community strength for a First Nations community. Owning and operating a short line railway takes lots of work and dedication which is very evident among the employees in the film. The black & white images throughout the film were stunning; it really is a reminder of the older documentaries that were filmed in the 1950s and 1960s. Watching the trees go by so quickly makes you feel like you were right there with the other passengers on that ride. This is certainly a good news story that more Canadians should watch.

DESC’s goal is to continue to push boundaries and expand creatively working with film, sound composing and graphic design. We hope to see more short films from Caroline and DESC Images in the near future!

‘This River’ (2016) Examines One Local Organization’s Drive For Answers And Change

In a few weeks, 2016 will come to a close. Soon, we will all have the opportunity to look back and assess the kind of year that 2016 was. For some, it was a year of joy and happiness. For others, 2016 was a year marked by sorrow and suffering. It was also a year that perhaps marked a turning point for Canada’s Indigenous people. Through media reports in 2016, Canadians learned more about the harsh and distressing reality that faces Canada’s Indigenous community as they grapple with the issue of their missing and murdered women.  We learned that this problem has been plaguing the Indigenous community for decades and that an inquiry into the matter was long overdue. In August, the federal government finally announced the establishment of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls with five commissioners leading the inquiry. While this commission painstakingly looks for answers to this disturbing problem, one organization in Winnipeg, MB has taken upon itself to find some of their own answers.

In the 19-minute short NFB documentary, This River (2016), we are introduced to the volunteer-run group ‘Drag the Red’; its purpose is to search the Red River for traces of missing Indigenous women and men. Written and directed by Katherena Vermette and Erika MacPherson, we follow two volunteers of ‘Drag the Red’ during one of their searches of the river. We listen as one of the volunteers, Kyle Kematch, explains his own personal reason why he takes part in these searches. Katherena narrates during parts of the film, but also reveals a personal tragedy of her own. Watch the full documentary below:

This River is an impactful and moving short documentary. Through the revelations made by Kyle and Katherena, the audience got a deeper understanding of this problem that has overwhelmed Canada’s Indigenous community. It must have been very difficult for Kyle and Katherena to share such recollections on film. But, by doing so, it showed their courage and strength. You can also hear from both of them a mixture of determination and hope. The scenes at river level were stunning, yet haunting.  This River teaches us that the need and drive for change is out there and that ‘Drag the Red’ is a perfect example of this. This River is a must-see film and is available at the NFB website for downloading.

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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

 

Keeping The New Artistic Pace Going: Spotlight On Katie Boland

Have you noticed how some people branch out into a variety of paths during their career? You might be working with someone right now who not only is committed to his or her day job, but who is also working on one or two side projects that complement their career path. There might be a sales representative in your office who also teaches a marketing course at night, for example. Being multi-faceted in one’s career requires hard work, time and perseverance. But, it also can add a certain depth and breadth to one’s career that can be personally satisfying and rewarding.

If you are thinking about widening your career path and are looking to draw some inspiration from someone in Canada’s film and television industry, look no further than Canadian actress, producer and writer Katie Boland. This young, dynamic and multi-talented actress from Toronto, ON, has an impressive and lengthy resume and has no plans to stop anytime soon. From short films and feature lengths, to web series and book publishing, Katie is highly passionate about and dedicated to her work.img_0526

When she’s not acting or writing, Katie runs the production company, Straight Shooters, with her mom and award-winning director, Gail Harvey. Before her father retired, Kevin Boland was a well-known journalist and a best-selling author. Katie’s career isn’t only limited to family influences, however; she also enjoys working with her friends and strangers alike in the industry.

Short Film Fan recently reached out to Katie during her very busy schedule to learn more about herself, her career and her insights into shorts films in Canada.

 

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

Katie Boland: I knew I wanted to be an actress when I was three years old. My mother was a stills photographer at that time, and is now a very successful director. So, I think growing up being surrounded by the film industry must have had an impact. But, I would say my defining characteristic as a person is that I am obsessively curious. Even as a small I child all I wanted to do was ask other people questions.  So, I think, being an actress was always about trying to find answers to all the questions I had about people. It still is. I wanted to be an actress because I wanted to get to live as other people, to understand other people, to be able to ask and answer every question I had.

 

SFF:   What was the experience like when you trained as an actress?

KB: I didn’t really train as an actress. I have worked since I was about eight without any real break, so I didn’t train which sometimes I regret and other times I don’t. I learned on the job and have worked very closely with some amazing directors. Honestly, huge life experiences have been my greatest teachers. You go through a break up, you’re a better actress. You lose your grandfather, you’re a better actress. You go to therapy and deal with some of your b******t, you’re a better actress. You start writing; at first you write about yourself and then you get the confidence to write about some other people, you’re a better actress. The way I look at acting is that my experiences are my source material. Classes scare me. Maybe it’s part of my asking questions or that I’m rebellious, but I get freaked out by anyone who wants to be a ‘guru’. Anyone who covets that kind of power probably shouldn’t have it. I know some wonderful teachers; people who really help very impressionable and vulnerable young actors. But, I’ve also seen teachers destroy people. I have always taken what works for me and left the rest. I let life inform most of my work.

 

img_0527SFF:  Not only do you have multiple film and television credits, you’ve also written and produced the highly-praised web series Long Story, Short, published a book of short stories called Eat Your Heart Out and you were recently appointed by federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly to review Canada’s current cultural policies with a panel of other Canadian cultural experts. Where do you find the time and energy to work on all these projects?

KB: Truthfully, I’m tired but taking a day off freaks me out. Being this busy, things slip. I’m forgetful. My social life suffers, but my hope is that my life is only going to get fuller. I feel I don’t have a choice but to keep going at the pace I am. I think this is the new artistic model. I really admire James Franco because he’s not putting himself in a box. He’s doing it all. He directs, acts in everything from Oscar movies and soap operas, produces, writes fiction and has a dope Instagram. What I also really love about him is that he doesn’t seem to be super concerned with reception. I’m often of the mind that what other people think of your work isn’t really your business. To answer your question, I find the time to do a lot of things because all I do is work. I don’t really have the energy, but I push through anyway because I really love trying to do it all.

 

SFF:  You’ve been involved in a long and impressive list of short and feature-length films. How does acting in a short film compare with acting in a feature?

KB: In my mind, it’s the exact same. You’re just trying to be whatever person you’re playing, and you’re trying to serve the story as best you can. That’s how I look at it anyway, there’s no real difference.

 

SFF:  In the short film The Date by Mazi Khalighi, you starred as ‘Steph’ opposite Noah Reid, who played ‘Mike’. This film was definitely different, as all the acting took place in one spot: at a restaurant table. What was it like working on this unique film project?

KB: It was definitely very unique! Noah Reid is one of my favourite people and Mazi is a really good friend. So, we had a lot of fun. But we also improv-ed most of it and shot it in basically two set ups in one day. So, in a lot of ways, it felt like a play. We did really long takes.

 

SFF: In another short film, Given Your History by Molly McGlynn, you played ‘Alanna’, whose mother had passed away from breast cancer. There was a moment in the film that Alanna thought that she also may have breast cancer. How did you prepare for this challenging and moving role?

KB: Molly McGlynn is one of my best friends and she lost her mother to breast cancer. She wrote this short based on her experience, so to play a version of her was an incredible honour but also something I took really seriously. I love Molly so much and I know what a wonderful woman her mother was, so I really wanted to do it justice. It wasn’t hard to access the tragedy of the story. I didn’t find it challenging to be Alanna. Molly is such a good writer; all the tragedy and complicated feelings were on the page. Also, I’ve said this before in interviews I think, but right as we were shooting that short I was in a fevered grief state over a break up, so to finding that kind of sadness in myself wasn’t particularly difficult.

 

SFFimg_0530:  Besides acting in short films, you’ve also produced a number of them. What challenges have you faced as a producer of short films?

KB: I love producing short films! Last year I produced Boxing which premiered at TIFF, was a Sundance Short Film Select and was directed by two of my closest friends who I also have a film collective with: Aidan Shipley and Grayson Moore. I was in a feature they directed that we wrapped a few months ago called Cardinal. I also produced Lucy in Her Eyes; my best friend Megan Park’s directorial debut that is premiering at the Austin Film Festival in October! When producing Boxing, I worked alongside Mackenzie Donaldson who is a powerhouse producer and I learned a ton from her. The challenges are trying to pull everything together with a limited budget. But getting to watch my best friend’s work, to be involved on the ground level of that kind of talent; it’s so exciting. I’m so lucky.

 

SFF:  What is your most memorable moment working on a short film, either as an actress or a producer?

KB: Hm, this is a good one. We did a really long one take shot in Boxing that is a fight scene at the end of the movie. I think watching Aidan and Grayson’s joy when we finally got the take, watching the super talented cinematographer, Guy Godfree, pull it off; that was really exciting. Also, the scene where I’m lying in bed in Given Your History, next to Rachel Wilson who plays my sister – that was memorable. I was crying really hard about a lot of things and it felt cathartic. Just being lying down next to another human in that moment felt healing and devastating. It was weird but it was cool.

 

SFF:  In your opinion, what draws people to watch Canadian short films?

KB: I think short films are how our great film makers get started. How it usually works in Canada is you get funding a short film, like through bravoFact. Then, you get to go to Telefilm and try to make a feature. So, I think by watching Canadian short films, you’re discovering new voices. I also think it’s the art form that is, to be crude, the least f****d with. You aren’t dealing with a million notes from a million different people. You’re allowed to stay true to whatever vision you have as a filmmaker or a writer. That’s honestly very rare. So, I think people are drawn to the authenticity.

 

SFF:  Do you think short film viewership in Canada will grow in the future?

KB: I hope so. Sometimes I wonder what purpose short films really serve because no one is making money from them. But, I hope we continue to make them. I hope we keep funding bravoFact. bravoFact mandates that they give 50% of their money to female filmmakers. Maybe soon, Telefilm will follow suit. The truth is, we can take more risks on short films. Film and television are often risk-averse by design, so we need short films. It’s the least diluted art form we have. In Canada, in the arts, we need to take more risks.

 

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

KB: I have three films coming out this year: Cardinal, (directed by my best friends Aidan and Grayson), Love of my Life, a British-Canadian co-pro and Joseph and Mary, a biblical period piece. I also have television shows in development that I’ve created and am writing, so I hope one of them goes. It’s a long process. Megan Park and I just wrapped new web series called We’re Adults Now that we’re shooting in New York City! We co-wrote, co-created, co-directed and co-starred in We’re Adults Now and I am truly excited about it. I also wrote a short film called Lolz-Ita that I got bravoFact funding for and we shoot in December. Last year, I produced a documentary that was directed by my mother, Gail Harvey, on Rickie Lee Jones, called The Other Side of Desire that is now available on iTunes and Amazon. My mom and I are also shooting a movie this winter based on a Linwood Barclay novel called Never Saw it Coming.

 

img_0528SFF:  Do you have any advice for any up-and-coming actors and actresses in Canada?

KB: Yes! If there’s anything else that will make you happy, do that. But if there’s not – congratulations you’re in for a wild ride! Try and make things with your friends. You can do it. I did. If it’s bad, who cares, just get better. Your only job is to try to be as good as you can possibly be. Focus on that; don’t focus on being famous. Try and be good; that will lead you to the right crowds and the right mentors. That’s the right energy to be in. Other actors and creative people are your best friends and greatest allies. My best friends are other actresses. We are each other’s greatest support. You need to understand that there is room for everyone and that people rise up together. Dream big, and as Drake says, get the jokers out of your deck. Lots of people are going to tell you why you can’t do it. The only reason I’ve had any success at all is because I’ve persevered. Try and recognize that no matter where you are, there are challenges. They just shift and take different shapes. It’s always going to be difficult, so try to enjoy where you are right now. Also, good luck!

 

Katie’s enterprising and enduring nature is very inspiring. As she previously mentioned, being involved in multiple projects can makes one’s life too busy, but it is becoming the new norm in acting. The same can be said about other professional careers, as well. Having many projects on the go is also perhaps the best way to make sure one does not get bored or complacent in their career and life path.

We’re looking forward to seeing more of Katie’s work on screen and in print. There has been much written previously about Katie being the next rising star nationally and internationally. With her drive, talents and successes, Katie Boland will definitely become a household name much sooner than anyone could anticipate.

 

P.S. Readers: Next month, SFF will review Molly McGlynn’s Given Your History which starred Katie Boland and Rachel Wilson. Stay tuned!

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‘The Frozen Goose’ (2016) Explores War’s Effect On Rural Canadian Family

Turn to any news source these days, whether it is an app on your smartphone, your television or radio, or even a printed newspaper, grim stories of world war and conflict emanate from them all. Unfortunately, war and conflict are still a part of our daily lives, despite any past efforts or platitudes made to stop them. For example, World War I was touted to be the ‘war to end all wars’ when it occurred between 1914 and 1918. But, as history shows, World War II followed from 1939 until 1945 with countless other conflicts taking place since then.

It is no secret that wars take their toll on people’s lives. Soldiers in the field as well as relatives back home suffer the consequences of the brutalities of war. For soldiers returning home from a conflict, the pain and suffering does not end. In fact, their struggles continue as they try to reintegrate back into regular society. Margaret Lindsay Holton’s short film The Frozen Goose takes a look at one particular family’s attempt at dealing with post-war trauma.

In this 25-minute short, Tom (John Fort) returns to Canada after serving at Vimy Ridge with his friend (David C. MacLean). After his friend dies in battle, Tom promises to take care of his friend’s wife, Helen (Leslie Grey), and his two children, Bella and Charlie (Hannah Ralph and Cameron Brindle). While Tom tries to find his place within the family and in life, Bella and Charlie take matters into their own hands.

The Frozen Goose will be making its Canadian premiere at the Art Gallery of Burlington at 3 p.m. on September 11th. But before this first public screening, Short Film Fan reached out to Lindsay for some of her thoughts about the short, including the challenges experienced while making it and what she hopes the audience will take away from it.

 

Short Film Fan:  What motivated you to make The Frozen Goose?

Margaret Lindsay Holton: I had been shooting short (under 15 minute) documentaries of interesting characters and locations for the past 5 years for local news outlets, and decided I wanted to step up my game and attempt a ‘scripted’ work. To that end, and as I am self-taught, I wanted to be sure I had a ‘good story’ out-of-the-gate.TFG mlh POSTER

My short story, ‘The Frozen Goose’, was first printed as the last story in a well-received WWI anthology in 2014 called ‘ENGRAVED: Canadian Short Stories of World War One’, published by Seraphim Books. This is a very good place to be – the ‘last story’ in any collection is proof positive that it is a ‘good story’; otherwise the editor wouldn’t have placed it there.

On the strength of that, I then scripted The Frozen Goose. After several readers had read the story, and some small adjustments, it was ‘locked’ as a screenplay in August of 2015.  I knew I was ready.

SFF: Where was The Frozen Goose filmed, mainly?

MLH: The film was shot entirely in Southern Ontario, around the Golden Horseshoe region, (comprising Hamilton, Burlington, Milton and a ‘heritage village’, Westfield, in Rockton, Ontario.)

SFF: What were some of the challenges you faced with making this film?

MLH: The most challenging was the capriciousness of the weather. Ten days before the scheduled shoot there was no snow on the ground. There was no ice on the chosen lake. I was frantically considering alternatives:  shooting on fake snow at a nearby ski resort or using large green screens or postponing the shoot altogether.

But luckily, and literally overnight with plummeting temperatures, it snowed for three days straight. It also snowed, remarkably ‘on cue’, while we were shooting our final scenes. Unfortunately, it was not quite cold enough for the lake to freeze up properly given such a short time frame. So, for safety reasons, I opted for an available shallow frozen pond for the last day. We did manage it, but just!

The second challenge was the budget. In retrospect, it was a pretty ambitious period film, done on a mini-micro budget of $11,000.  If I was to remake this work, I’d definitely start with more cash on hand. But, in some respects, I wouldn’t have known that until I tried it. Hindsight is 20/20.

SFF: The recruitment posters definitely gave the film the authentic period look. Where did you find them?

MLH: I researched online, found a number of ‘public domain’ images from the Public Archives of Canada, downloaded them, tweaked them to the right size and dpi, and then printed out 10 for the interior store set. They look ‘new’ and authentic to the period because they were, in fact, freshly printed.  Here’s an example: http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/explore/online/posters/big/big_31_war_poster.aspx

SFF: Do you feel that rescue near the end was what Tom needed to finally affirm his place in the family?

MLH: Yes. It was my intent from the onset to have him as a somewhat ambiguous character with audience unsure whether to like or loathe him. (i.e. Did Helen’s husband actually take a bullet so that he could live?) After the war, he was damaged and broken; tormented and locked in a kind of emotional exile. He was suffering a form of PTSD, or, ‘shell shock’ (as it was called back then.) He was trying to adjust, fit in and help. But, he was failing on all fronts.

His redemption comes at the very end when he steps in to save the children. We get a glimmer of the better man that he really is. It is slowly understood that Helen’s hero-husband chose him to look after the family for very good reason. There is hope for all, after all.

SFF: What messages or lessons would you like the audience to take away from The Frozen Goose?

MLH: Initially, warfare may seem ‘glorious’ and ‘heroic’; even fun for some. But, the brutal reality is this: war shatters humanity on every level.

It doesn’t matter if it is World War I, II, or III. Real war – not Hollywood make-believe war, but REAL war that intends to kill others or be killed in the killing – demands far too great a sacrifice from us all. Loved ones die and, really, for what purpose? A momentary ‘killer high’? To just ‘win’? For whose greater glory? Bragging rights? Nationalism? Ideology? A flag? A religion? Territory or resource securement?

Surely, at this point in our combined evolution, we, as one species on this planet, can and should know how to live better amongst ourselves.

War also clearly has reverberating repercussions that extend far beyond the immediacy of a ‘battle field’. In this instance, even though only one of the characters of this story was at the ‘front line’, every character has been damaged. Grief, fear, anger, uncertainty and all the torments of unsettled minds churn in the tail-winds of war.

Peace – true peace of mind and spirit – can only be achieved when the ferocious ‘wolves of war’, real and imagined, are banished forever from our hearts and our minds.

This is not a fairy tale fantasy. It is a choice we can all make about living and life.

 

Short Film Fan Review: The Frozen Goose is definitely a timely film, even though it was set after World War I. Today’s Canadian soldiers returning home from conflicts in Afghanistan face similar issues with PTSD, as recent news reports have uncovered. It is also timely in that April 2017 will mark 100 years since the Battle of Vimy Ridge took place. The Frozen Goose would be perfect to use in educating future audiences about PTSD issues as well as the Vimy Ridge conflict itself. Finally, as previously mentioned, the posters in the shop short were an excellent addition for a post-war look and feel.

If you would like to attend the premiere of The Frozen Goose, click on this link to order your tickets: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-frozen-goose-canadian-premiere-at-art-gallery-of-burlington-ontario-tickets-26037813802

For more information about film and about Lindsay, visit her website at http://mlhproductions.weebly.com/

You can also follow The Frozen Goose on Twitter and Facebook.

All the best to Lindsay and everyone else involved in The Frozen Goose for a successful premiere on September 11!

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