Tag Archives: Independent Film

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

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

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

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

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

 

Short Film Fan Review:

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

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

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

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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 

Guest Post: Three Websites To Watch Canadian Short Films

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

 

3 Websites To Watch Canadian Short Films

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

 

Short of the Week – “Best Canadian Short Films” 

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

My Pick: 5 Films About Technology by Peter Huang

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

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

 

NSI Online Short Film Festival 

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

My Pick: Her Friend Adam by Ben Petrie

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

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

 

TIFF x Instagram Shorts Festival

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

My Pick: Tinder Fail by Justine Nelson

www.instagram.com/p/BXrLmcihdkt/

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

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

 

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

Emotional, Heartfelt ‘Alison’ Looks At Rough Side Of Relationships

At some point when a couple has been dating for a certain amount of time, both partners must decide whether or not to take things to the next level and enter into a committed relationship. Taking that next step gives both partners a sense of excitement and happiness, as they look forward to their life journey together. As the relationship continues, however, life is not always fun and games as each partner eventually reveals the not-so-good side of his or her personality. As a result, bad habits that were once accepted in the beginning become annoying and difficult behaviours that were at first shrugged-off become a worry. After building a life together, is it worth ending a long-term relationship when bad behaviours get to the point of serious intolerability?

The 13-minute dramatic short film Alison (2016) sets out to answer that question as it looks at one couple’s troubling and emotional evening. Written and produced by Jessica Rose and directed by David Lester, Alison stars Jessica Rose as Alison and Kristopher Turner (Saving Hope, This Life) as Jay. Alison and Jay are heading home from an evening out. With Alison under the influence, Jay does his utmost best to get her inside the house and put her to bed. Things don’t go so smoothly for Jay, as Alison’s behaviour becomes hard to manage. Through it all, Jay keeps his cool until he reaches a breaking point. For more on Alison and Jay’s eventful night together, watch the film below:

 Warning: mature content – viewer discretion is advised.

 

Short Film Fan recently got in touch with Jessica to learn more about Alison, including the difficulties faced by the crew in filming the street scene and whether or not the short was a commentary about addiction and mental health issues faced by couples in long-term relationships.

Short Film Fan: Who or what influenced you to make Alison?

Jessica Rose: David Lester (the director) and I have been together for eleven years, so long term relationships are something I think we understand very well. The film shows a kind of intimacy specific to long term relationships that we hadn’t seen portrayed on screen before in a way that felt authentic to us. When you live with someone you get to see all sides of them that the general public isn’t privy to: all the wonderful cute lovely things you fell in love with and, inevitably, all the baggage that reveals itself when you really trust each other or start to test each other. Sometimes it’s working at it and getting through the hard stuff that makes your love even deeper, but it can be hard to see that when you’re in the thick of it. Also, speaking to the character of Alison specifically, I was going through a challenging time personally and I was probably channeling some of those feelings when creating her.

SFF: What challenges did you face when it was time to film the tinkle scene in the street?

JR: Time! We shot the whole film in one day, and the pee scene was the last thing on the schedule. It was nearly 2 a.m. and getting very cold, all of us had worked hard all day and were exhausted, and we needed to wrap.  We used a “pee rig”, so there were definitely some technical adjustments we had to make to figure it out. David operated the rig, which was big syringe attached to a tube sewn into the pants, and on the first take he put too much pressure into the pump and it came out like a waterfall.  It took some practice to get it to look natural. Luckily it was the middle of the night so there weren’t too many people walking by ready to call the cops.

SFF: Was it a mental health or addiction issue that was behind Alison’s dysfunctional behaviour?

JR: We actually don’t want to say too much about what we intended because it’s been fascinating to learn how people interpret it and project their own relationship experiences onto the film. That being said, I didn’t intend it to be an addiction issue when I initially wrote it. I actually think Alison is a pretty normal girl, and that the situation reflected in the film is more common between young couples than people tend to admit. Relationships have the potential to be very beautiful things, but they do challenge us and teach us a great deal about ourselves. The process can be deeply rewarding, but it’s not necessarily smooth sailing.

SFF: Some people would say that what we witnessed in Jay was relationship co-dependency. Is the film an attempt to bring the issue of codependency out into the open for public discussion?

JR: I wouldn’t say it was a deliberate attempt because I didn’t have that kind of agenda when writing it, but it’s absolutely a conversation in the film and something I think about in my own life. Having been in a relationship for eleven years, David and I really grew up together in our twenties, and when you’re with someone for an extended period of time, unconsciously your needs start to bleed together and you end up making compromises or demands on each other that you don’t even realize you’re making. Developing true independence and self-sufficiency within the relationship was something we had to work extremely hard on. That being said, I wrote the ending the way it is because I really want to make the audience question whether Alison behaves this way all the time or if this is a more isolated event. In healthy relationships, even if both people work hard to be emotionally responsible for themselves, inevitably there are times where you take turns caring for one another. I like that Alison shows up for Jay the next day, and we finally get to see this other side to her that he really loves.

SFF: Alison was named a Vimeo Staff Pick awhile back. What was it like for you and your team when you got the news?

JR: So exciting! Putting it online was a lot of hard work, but seeing it take off and find an audience was the most gratifying, rewarding thing. I was really happy about the traction it was getting online even before we had the Vimeo news — we were amazed at how many people started to share it over social media. It’s vulnerable to put such a personal story on the Internet and it’s really difficult to give a film life online. We had no idea what the response would be, so ultimately the whole experience ended up being so moving to us. I was home alone in my pajamas when I got the Staff Pick e-mail and kind of just burst into tears (in a good way). David was working, so I called him with the news and we both kind of freaked out.

SFF: What lesson or lessons would you like the audience to take away from Alison?

JR: Honestly, I hope that if there are any lessons to be taken from the film that they are very unique to the person watching it. Our favourite thing about film is how it gets people talking, so what we love most is when people start to have dialogue about it after and reflect on what they’ve seen and how it connects to their own life. We’ve had people write to us and share the different ways they relate to the film or how it’s changed their perspective on their past or current relationships, and that part is really the most gratifying.

 

Short Film Fan Review:

Alison was an emotional and heartfelt story about staying dedicated to your mate. While it is easy to run from a relationship at the first sign of trouble, Alison shows us that true love for a partner includes accepting the bad with the good.  The quick scene change from “oh yeah, peanut butter” to vomiting was funny, but you still feel for Alison’s suffering; especially when she broke down in tears in the tub. Jay’s calmness when confronting and coping with Alison’s behaviour showed an amazing strength of character, while his break down reminds us all that a person’s strength can only last for so long. If the film went on for a few minutes longer, perhaps Jay could have revealed his true thoughts, feelings and concerns about Alison and how it was affecting his place in the relationship.

Overall, Alison is an extremely well-written and well-acted serious film that would resonate with couples young or old; married or still in the dating phase. Singles could also benefit from watching Alison, as it would be a great teaching tool on how to manage the relationship stresses and challenges. As Jessica mentioned, Alison has the ability to get people thinking and talking about their own relationship experiences. After watching the film above, how did it affect the way you see relationships past and present? Have you been in a similar situation like Jay was? Have you walked in Alison’s shoes at one point? Let Jessica know how Alison moved you. You can send her a comment at the bottom of the film’s website at https://www.alisonshortfilm.com/ or you can Tweet her at @thejessrose

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!

 

Award Finalists Announced For 10th Annual Air Canada enRoute Film Festival

This past July, the Air Canada enRoute Film Festival began its 10th anniversary with a free screening of 20 Canadian short films in Vancouver. This followed with screenings in other select Canadian cities, as well as on Air Canada flights around the world. These shorts also competed for a number of awards, including Best Short Film, Achievement in Direction, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Animation, and Achievement in Documentary.

Five finalists have now been selected for these awards and are as follows:

  • Clouds of Autumn– Trevor Mack and Matthew Taylor Blais, BC
  • The Constant Refugee– Derrick O’Toole, PC Barfoot and Leila Almaway, ON
  • Feathers– Hands on Deck, ON
  • French Kiss at the Sugar Shack– Emmanuelle Lacombe, QC
  • Robeth– Kevin T. Landry, QC

Air Canada enRoute Film Festival

A free public screening of these nominated short films will take place in Montreal on Monday, November 14 at the Phi Centre at 7:30 p.m. and in Toronto on Thursday, November 17 at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto at 7 p.m.

The winners will be awarded at a private ceremony, hosted by Etalk Reporter Liz Trinnear, at The Fifth Social Club on 225 Richmond Street West after the public screening in Toronto. Achievement Award winners will receive an all-inclusive trip for two to the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival in Germany, courtesy of Air Canada. The winner of Best Short Film will also receive a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of presenting sponsor, Cineplex Entertainment.

“This year marks the festival’s 10th anniversary and what makes it so exceptional is that for the first time we’ve taken the festival truly coast to coast adding more cities and helping to boost awareness of our incredibly talented emerging Canadian filmmakers,” said Andrew Shibata, Managing Director, Brand at Air Canada. “I look forward to a continued growth of the festival and discovering new ways we can help highlight Canadian content creators.”

The Air Canada enRoute Film Festival supporters include Cineplex Entertainment, TELUS Optik Local/STORYHIVE, Sterling Wines, CTV’s Etalk, Spafax, Entertainment One, VICELAND, Telefilm Canada, Directors Guild of Canada, William F. White International Inc., National Film Board of Canada and Hot Docs.

Congratulations to all the finalists. A big thank you goes to Air Canada and to all of the supporters of the film festival and of Canadian short films. Fans of Canadian shorts definitely are grateful for chance to access and watch these films, whether at a festival or in the sky. Thanks also for the continued support of Canadian filmmakers and for fostering Canadian content.

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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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Chef Reminds Us Who Is Worthy Of Respect in ‘Pour Retourner’

‘Pour Retourner’ (2014) was directed by Scooter Corkle and written by Zack Mosley. In this film, a prison chef gets a chance at a new life in society when he’s released and finds a chef’s job at a local fine restaurant. The restaurant owner used to work under the wing of the former prison inmate, and is skeptical about hiring an ex-con. But, he takes him on regardless as his new chef.  Things get heated in the kitchen when the restaurant owner becomes verbally abusive to his new employee. As a result, the ex-con chef winds up back at the prison kitchen.

http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2463093118

To me, this film had a couple of messages. The first was managing one’s frustration with authority figures. No matter how hard we work to do our best, we can never please everyone. But, it can get extremely frustrating when it is someone in authority (whether it’s a boss, client, parent, etc.) who isn’t happy with us.  The main character did an excellent job at keeping his cool – up until his breaking point.

The second message that I picked up on was respect: everyone wants to be respected. Although the main character did his best to earn respect, he didn’t receive very much of it from the abusive restaurant owner. In fact, he got more respect from the hardened inmates than a ‘civilized’ member of the general public. It’s as though his place in life really was in prison, not in free society.

This was a great short film. The tension between the ex-con and the restaurant owner was very powerful – a stark reminder that workplace conflict exists in all sorts of environments. On the flip side, you got a sense that his inmate friends were always accepting of him. It was nice to see them welcoming  our main character back so warmly upon his ‘retourner’ to prison. It’s a nice feeling of camaraderie that can make a workplace feel like a true home.

 

 (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

 (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)