Tag Archives: Short Film

Toronto Shorts International Film Festival Back For 5th Year

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Editorial: Short Film Fan Surpasses Total 2016 Views And Visits

Hey, short film fans!

Did you hear the news?

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

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

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

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

Thanks again! 🙂

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Short Film Fan Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Short Film Fan Commentary:

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

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

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

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!

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BR: Don’t dig up corpses, kids!

 

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

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

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.

Opinion: Screening Shorts Along With Full-Length Features

Some good news about a Canadian short screening in the U.S.

It was reported a few days ago that Peter Huang’s five-minute short 5 Films About Technology (2016) was set to premiere before the U.S. screening of the feature-length film Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. This initiative has been made possible by the newly-launched distribution company, Neon.

This could bode well for other Canadian short films.

Although screening a short film or two before the main picture is not a new idea, the time has definitely come for this practice to be revived and implemented in Canadian movie theatres today.

Short film fans will know how challenging it can be to find Canadian shorts to watch in the first place. They take great, proactive lengths to look for them, whether searching online or recording late-night programs like CBC’s Canadian Reflections or waiting for an annual film festival to run in our communities. Screening Canadian shorts right before a major Hollywood movie would make things a little bit easier for the fan.

It also has the potential to give a big boost to the careers of the Canadian filmmakers who work so hard to produce these shorts. They would be able to get their names and films in front of large numbers of Canadian audiences that probably have never seen a Canadian short film before. In turn, Canadian movie goers would get an excellent opportunity to learn about the filmmakers and the short film format. As a result, new Canadian short film fans could be born.

If, one day, Canadian shorts do get screened before a major motion picture, which Canadian filmmaker’s short films do you hope to see? How many short films would you like to watch? Is this practice already taking place in your local movie theatre? Leave a comment or question below.

 

 

 

‘I Phub You’ (2017) Handles Contemporary Issue With Silent Film

Cellphones are everywhere these days. No matter where you go, you will find people preoccupied with some kind of mobile device for whatever reason. Whether on public transit or at a local café, the loud sounds of one-sided conversations or the quiet activity of texting and surfing is a commonplace activity in today’s society. When they were first brought into the market, cellphones were touted as a way to keep us all connected no matter where we were. With a push of a few buttons, we could get access to unlimited amounts of music, movies, and information. We could keep in touch with friends and family without actually being in their presence. Problems began to become apparent, however, with increased cellphone use. Road deaths caused by texting and driving, along with increasing security hacks are just a couple. Perhaps another issue that is not often discussed about is the possibility that cellphones could actually be creating more distance between people than bringing them together. Is it possible in today’s society to connect with one another without the use of a cellphone?

The short film, I Phub You (2017), sets out to see if it could happen. Running over 10 minutes, I Phub You was produced by Justin Kueber and Sam Reid, directed by Shannon Hunt, and written by Justin Kueber in Edmonton, AB. In the film, we find Kurtis (played by Andrew Joseph Pahlke) on a date with Tabatha (played by Skylar Radzion). Tabatha’s constant talking with a friend over her cellphone doesn’t impress Kurtis very much, as he longs to enjoy his date. While excusing himself to the washroom, he passes by Janet (played by Heidi Ellen) who is also unimpressed with her date’s absorption by his cellphone. While in the washroom, Kurtis falls down, hits his head on the floor and soon wakes up in the silent film world. Looking for refuge from a society saturated with cellphone technology, Kurtis becomes acquainted with Janet, who leaves her boyfriend after being ignored by his constant cellphone use. Instead of taking things as they are, Kurtis and Janet fight back. To see what happens, watch the entire film below:

Short Film Fan reached out Justin Kueber to learn more about I Phub You, including why silent films were so central to the story.

 

Short Film Fan: What does the word ‘phub’ mean in I Phub You?

Justin Kueber: A phub is simply a phone snub: to snub someone for your cellphone or electronic device. Snub + phone = phub.

SFF: What motivated or influenced you to make this film?

JK: I wanted to make a love story that was also a love story to silent cinema and have a contemporary message. I was out for a coffee with my girlfriend and I noticed a group of young people all sitting together at a table, not communicating but rather, playing on their phones. There was a piercing silence between them. Super awkward! My girlfriend thought it was hilarious and I joked to her that if she ever did that to me I would make a movie about it!

It was such a vivid image that stuck in my head well into the next day. It kind of just dawned on me: that needed to be the opening scene of a movie.

The more I thought, the more I realized you see this consumption with technology (specifically phones) pretty much everywhere. What you see in the film are the things I have witnessed first-hand in real life (yes, even the urinal scene and yes, it was equally as awkward). Inspiration came from all these observations that I wanted to address in a unique and fun way.

SFF: Why did you choose to go back to the silent film era in your story?

JK: Those young people at the table were silent; when people “phub” they are silent. I realized the film should be silent to drive home that parallel. Yes, my personal love for silent film and my burning desire to make one may have come into play just a bit, too.

Ultimately, it is a modern take on the silent film. Our setting is present day and it is addressing present day issues, just told silently.

It works because the main character, Kurtis, is trying to discover what it means to communicate in a world obsessed by technology. Literally everyone in this world communicates by phone and is so consumed by it. So in a sense, they are silent already. Kurtis can’t communicate with anyone; they won’t listen to him unless it is by cellphone. He yearns to find someone who he can go for a walk with and communicate face to face.

I really wanted Phub to hold onto those feelings of nostalgia while also being important and relevant. And, at the same time, be light-hearted and full of modern takes on fun gags that you would find in a silent film (Chaplin, Keaton, etc.)

I Phub You is about technology and the evolution of technology, so there are tons of references to silent films that helped evolve filmmaking as a medium and pushed it to where it is today, such as A Trip to the Moon, Battleship Potemkin, 2001: A Space Odyssey (Odyssey is not silent but the utmost important film about technology) And they are, of course, some of my favorites too. It’s a movie about movies.

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

JK: Initially, we thought our biggest challenge would be working with the actors on bringing out that theatrical “silent film” style acting. But, Shannon (the director) did a great job at bringing out the best performance in our actors. She is theatrically trained so it was quite a benefit to the film.

Our biggest challenge ended up being the final day of shooting because it started to snow and it was extremely cold. The first two days were also exteriors, but it was sunny and warm so it was quite the polar opposite when we shot on that final day. I felt really bad for our actors because their wardrobe was meant for the warm days. But, they were troopers; didn’t complain just did what they had to do and then ran to the nearest warm vehicle when the scene was done. Everyone was so positive and incredibly fun to be around. It was really a dream cast and crew.

SFF: Was there a particular message or call to action that you hope to pass on to the audience through I Phub You?

JK: When I wrote it, I wanted to call attention to the overuse of technology. There’s a time and place (for technology) and I understand that’s the way the world is heading. I mean me, for instance, I’m on my phone constantly for work and social media promotion. But, when I am face to face with someone I want to have that human interaction. Too many times you’re out for dinner at restaurants and people have their phones out at the table. I guess I’m a bit like Kurtis in that sense – I long for human interaction and taking time to enjoy the world around me and all the beauty it has to offer.

 

Short Film Fan Review: I Phub You was definitely a hilarious and chilling social commentary on today’s over consumption of communication technology. The slavish and hypnotic behaviour by the background characters to their cellphones was practically realistic. The scene with the unused playground equipment was perhaps a warning to what could possibly happen if kids and their parents are too caught up with cellphones. The references to films like A Trip to the Moon and 2001: A Space Odyssey were clever and will easily put a smile on any movie buff’s face. In a way, there is another movie reference: Kurtis and Janet almost parallel the characters Winston and Julia in 1984. The salute to the silent film era was very enjoyable and certainly underlined the eerie silence that is starting to permeate our daily lives, in part, from society’s love of the cellphone. This Valentine’s Day, though, don’t ‘phub’ your partner at dinner; show your love instead!

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