Tag Archives: Short Film

‘Ganjy’ Star Ben Ratner Nominated Best Actor At 2017 UBCP/ACTRA Awards Gala

The 6th annual UBCP/ACTRA Awards Gala will be taking place in Vancouver, BC  on November 18th at the Vancouver Playhouse. This peer-adjudicated red carpet gala recognizes the best talent in film and TV talent from British Columbia. A total of 27 performers have been nominated for categories in Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Emerging Performer, Best Voice and Best Stunt.

In the Best Actor category, Ben Ratner was nominated for his role as Ganjy Berger in the 2016 dramatic short film, Ganjy. On the eve of this weekend’s gala, Short Film Fan reached out to Ben to learn more about Ganjy and to better understand the significance of the presence of short films in awards galas such as the UBCP/ACTRA Awards.

 

Short Film Fan: What went through your mind when you first learned of the nomination?

Ben Ratner: I deeply invested in creating and performing the character of Ganjy, and knowing that a group of my peers responded so favourably means a lot to me.  I also felt very lucky, as there are a great many strong performers submitting their work, so many factors have to align to get a nomination — a bit of luck being one of them.  And to make things even better, my wife, Jennifer Spence, has been nominated for “Best Actress” this year for her work on You Me Her.

SFF: Can you tell us briefly what your role was in Ganjy?

Ben Ratner as Ganjy Berger

BR: I play Ganjy Berger, a former professional boxer contending with dementia puglistica.  The film was informed by my years as an amateur boxer, and inspired by meeting Muhammad Ali in 2009 with Aleks Paunovic, my Ganjy co-star and co-executive producer.  Aleks was also an amateur boxer, as were our other cast members Zak Santaigo and Donny Lucas.

SFF: What does it mean to have short films such as Ganjy appear in award ceremonies such as the UBCP/ACTRA Awards?

BR: It’s great to see that a good performance can get noticed, whether it’s in a $50,000,000 feature film or a $5,000 dollar short.  No one can stop an ambitious actor from making things happen for themselves if they have a story to tell and a character to bring to life.  As the old song goes, “a lot of money can buy you a fine-looking dog, but only love will make him wag his tail.”

SFF: There doesn’t seem to be a separate category for Best Short Film in this year’s awards ceremony. How can we ensure that short films get their own category in the future?

BR: I don’t think the UBCP/ACTRA awards are planning on separate categories for different mediums — be they film, TV, web series, or shorts.  The point of this awards show is they “even the playing field” for all actors.  It’s about the performance – not the medium or budget.  And that’s a great thing!

SFF: In your opinion, how important are short films to the Canadian film industry?

BR: Shorts matter now and always will, because they are how almost all filmmakers get started, and they provide opportunities for emerging performers to play lead parts and show what they are capable of.  Because feature films cost so much more to make, the distributors need “star” actors to try to attract an audience.  Shorts aren’t as much of a financial risk, so there is far more room for decisions to be made based on creativity, instead of commerce.

 

Short Film Fan Commentary:

It is significant to see short films competing on a level playing field against feature-length films and TV programs at the gala. As Ben stated, it is not about what medium was used or how much money was spent; it is truly about the best performance an actor or actress can give. Canadian short films are very well-known and respected for their quality; be it acting, script or production. So, perhaps they really do not need their own category in awards ceremony galas. They already have, and will continue to have, the strength and ability to hold their own against other mediums.

Congratulations goes to Ben on his nomination as Best Actor. Best of luck to him and all the other nominees in tomorrow night’s UBCP/ACTRA Awards Gala.

Advertisements

Relive Canada’s Famous Battle With Rare, Colourized Footage When You ‘Return To Vimy’

This Remembrance Day in Canada marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. In the early morning hours of April 9, 1917, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps combined with the British XVII Corps to fight against three divisions of the German Sixth Army. The ensuing battle allowed the Allies to secure tactical ground for its eventual defeat of Germany in the Great War. The win at Vimy resulted in heavy losses for Canada: 3,598 soldiers were killed among 10,602 casualties.

Up to this point, many generations of Canadians have seen the images of the First and Second World Wars through black and white photographs and film. A recently-released short film, through a partnership between the Vimy Foundation and the National Film Board, attempts to reconnect Canadians both young and old to the Vimy Ridge Battle story in a unique and colourful way.

Written and produced by Denis McCready, Return to Vimy (2017) is a 9-minute short in which a young Canadian woman visits the Vimy Ridge Memorial in order to find make a charcoal imprint of her great-grandfather’s name. She brings with her to the monument her grandfather’s notebook of diary writings and sketches. The sketches come to life and, with never seen before NFB film archive colorized for the first time, the woman’s grandfather begins to paint a more personal and detailed picture of life in the trenches during the days leading up to the infamous battle. Watch the entire film below:

“Many Canadians today see the First World War through a series of faded black-and-white photos and grainy video footage, disconnected from their modern reality,” said Jeremy Diamond, Executive Director of the Vimy Foundation. “Colourizing these events brings a new focus to our understanding and appreciation of Canada’s giant event during the First World War.

Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson also said, “Return to Vimy combines innovative storytelling and advancements in digital colourization to breathe new life into archival materials and bring this pivotal moment in Canadian history back to life for audiences of all ages. As Canada’s public producer, we’ve been telling our country’s stories and sharing our history since 1939; during times of peace as well as on the frontlines when Canada has been in combat.”

 

Short Film Fan Review

The spoken word of the diary entries presents the Battle of Vimy Ridge in a more personal and intimate light. The colourization of the old film footage was particularly well done and it adds a new dimension and life to these images of long ago. In fact, the quality of the colour and the restored film makes it look like as if the battle took place in more modern times. The decision to colourize has the potential to cause a certain “cool factor” among those who may consider old black and white imagery as too old fashioned or dull. Altogether, Return to Vimy could very well be instrumental in reigniting an interest among today’s generation of Canadians to learn more about this important part of Canadian history.

Take the time to watch Return to Vimy on this Remembrance Day and let’s pay tribute to those who gave their lives so that we could live our lives in freedom and in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Eye-Opening `Frigid` Reveals Harsh Reality Of Postpartum Depression

Perhaps one of the most joyous occasions in a couple’s life is the birth of their baby son or daughter. Whether the child is the first or the latest in a succession of children to the family, both parents are happy and proud of their newest arrival. However, the stresses of taking care of a baby can emerge in the form of postpartum depression. This type of depression occurs in mothers during and after pregnancy and can occur in fathers as well. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know whether or not one is suffering from a mental illness. Feelings that are shrugged off as ‘having a bad day’ can eventually build up into hopelessness, worthlessness and even thoughts of suicide. When a mother is suffering from postpartum depression, what can she do to manage this illness? What can both the father and the mother do to cope?

Frigid is an intense 14-minute short film on the topic of postpartum depression written by Heli Kennedy and directed by Joe Kicak. Heli also stars as the mother, Leah, while Damon Runyan stars as the father, Vincent. Leah and Vincent have a newborn son, Jacob, in their family. While both Leah and Vincent raise their baby, they soon become at odds with one another over how to take care of him. While Leah struggles with her depression, Vincent’s life is mostly “business as usual”. Over time, Leah’s increasing stress and depression leads to an intense moment that almost cost the couple the life of their son.

Recently, Heli and Joe shared their thoughts with Short Film Fan about Frigid, including the real life background of the film and why it was important to discuss the issues of mental illness in general and postpartum depression in particular.

Short Film Fan: Why did you decide to produce Frigid?

Heli Kennedy: It was a bold story we couldn’t get off our minds. It’s based on a real woman’s dangerous struggle with postpartum depression. Mental illness and motherhood isn’t often talked about yet so many women struggle with it — that’s what drew me to this project, as a writer and actor. It’s an issue that calls for a voice and intimate character study. I come from a family background riddled with mental health issues: agoraphobia, addiction, schizophrenia, depression… I think that’s another reason I was drawn to this story. Delving into this particular character was eye-opening and cathartic. While writing and performing, I tried to keep an element of raw truth in the story. The screenplay, which I had worked on for a couple months, felt very close to being camera- ready and attracted amazing creative talent. So, that also gave us a cue that we were producing the right project!

Joe Kicak: During high school, I opened up to a teacher about my mother’s life-long battle with bi-polar disorder.  She then shared her struggle with post-partum psychosis, which the film is based on. Coming from an immigrant family that didn’t believe in (let alone speak about) mental illness, I find sharing stories of people’s struggles important. That way we can get through the isolated horror, and begin the hard discussions to heal together.

SFF: Frigid was quite scary to watch from the 10-minute mark onwards. Why did you decide to make Frigid as a drama/suspense film?

HK: The idea to make it a drama/suspense came from the desire to keep the audience along for the ride with the main character. We felt that if we told the audience she was struggling with postpartum in the beginning, some may not take the journey with her to see things from her side. The mother is also unaware that she has postpartum, which was pulled from the true story on which this film is based. Her paranoia, fear and hallucinatory visions unfold to her. Suspense felt like the right fit for this — it holds back answers and danger in the plot until specific points. In our case, it’s about holding back the realization of being mentally ill from our mother character. The fear/horror shift at the end is meant to build climax to this realization. It’s horrific to realize you’ve lost a grip on what’s real.

JK: Mental illness can be terrifying for the person experiencing it and the people around them. We treated it like a suspense because there are always little clues that something is wrong. When I was young my father tried to quit drinking cold turkey. His withdrawal process made him start hallucinating.  I remember being 11 years old and he would introduce me to friends that weren’t there. At first I thought it was funny and that he was just joking around with me. However, he started arguing with these imaginary people and became aggressive; slamming doors and punching through windows.  Mental illness turns scary very quickly. It can be like dealing with a ghost in a horror film – like there’s this sudden, invisible danger you don’t know how to handle.

SFF: In the film, the mother is suffering from postpartum depression. But after watching the father’s behaviour, were you trying to get the message across that men can also suffer from this illness?

HK: Our intent wasn’t to portray “postpartum” in men, but to show the struggle both sides of a relationship experiences when it undergoes a major life change, such as having a child. The father, as vilified as he appears from his wife’s perspective, also struggles to adjust to life with a baby. He tries to maintain a relationship with his wife, not aware of the postpartum depression she’s experiencing. He’s tired, confused, angry…his life seems to be deteriorating, and he’s not equipped to deal with it. Mental illness affects everyone around it. So, in a different way, he’s also a victim of it as well.

JK: I think that men can definitely suffer from mental illness when a major life change occurs, like having a baby. Vincent was dealing with his own emotions as a new father, inadvertently trying to hold on to the last bastions of his bachelor life, which added to Leah’s paranoia.

SFF: Frigid premiered at the Calgary Film Festival this year. What was the audience’s reaction to the film?

HK: Great! It really felt like the audience was lured into the story via initial suspense, and slowly realized the serious issue our protagonist faced. The programmer, Brennan Tilley, also told me that he has an infant at home and this film really shook him. If people relate, that’s an amazing reaction!

JK: I love sitting in the back of the theatre for my films because I can observe peoples reactions to specific moments and see what worked and what didn’t. I was happily surprised that there was some laughter in the beginning with the characters’ struggling relationship. It felt great to me because it signals a connection from the audience to the story, which only makes the journey more powerful.  During the climax you can hear gasps and see some hands shoot up to mouths, but at this particular screening two women literally wrapped their scarves around their eyes because they just couldn’t handle it.

SFF: What would you say is the main take-away from Frigid?

HK: I hope the main takeaway is awareness of postpartum depression and compassionate conversations about mental illness (and motherhood). I think one of the goals of film and art is to connect with people and foster understanding.

JK: For me, the film is about starting the discussion. As a child that grew up around mental illness that was never discussed, it’s about showing that many families struggle with issues and asking for help shouldn’t be embarrassing.

 

Short Film Fan Review: Frigid is an eye-opening and shocking short that will keep you on edge for the duration of the film. Both Heli and Damon did an excellent job in portraying their respective characters. One can feel the intensity between them as husband and wife, father and mother. One will also feel sympathy for Leah and Vincent, as they do their best to navigate through an extremely frustrating and confusing moment in their lives. For those who do not understand or know about postpartum depression, Frigid will definitely clarify how serious this mental illness can be. Perhaps the film could have ended with Vincent or Leah making a call to their family doctor or to the Canadian Mental Health Association to get more help. That may have given the audience a bit of relief after the roller-coaster ending scene. Otherwise, Frigid is a must-see film for any new parents or parents-to-be so that they can become prepared to deal with postpartum depression.

For more information about postpartum depression, go to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s website at https://cmha.ca/documents/postpartum-depression/

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.

 

Short Film Fan Surpasses Total 2016 Views & 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.