Tag Archives: Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yannick Bisson as ‘Billy’

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

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

Eric Peterson as ‘Ernest’

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

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

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

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

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

 

Short Film Fan Review:

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Desire For Connectivity

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Short Film Fan Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Closing Thoughts

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

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

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

Get Your Fix Of Canadian and World Shorts Year-Round At TIFF Short Cuts

Toronto is home to many film festivals, and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is by far the city’s best known. Film buffs from around the world descend upon TIFF each year to watch and enjoy features and shorts from Canada and around the globe. If you’re lucky, you even get a chance to see some of Hollywood’s finest actors as they make their appearance to TIFF. Over the years, TIFF has become a huge cultural event that puts the film spotlight directly on Canada.

For film fans, and for short film fans in particular, you’ll be pleased to know that you can experience TIFF outside of its annual fall programming by way of TIFF Short Cuts. Shown at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto, TIFF Short Cuts screens a variety of Canadian and world-wide short films. If you’re unable to visit Toronto for any reason and would like to experience TIFF Short Cuts, have no fear. TIFF’s outreach program, TIFF Film Circuit, makes its appearance in many Canadian communities each year.

Short Film Fan reached out to Laura Good, programmer of TIFF Short Cuts and TIFF Film Circuit, to get a better understanding of what Short Cuts is all about and what is planned for Short Cuts programming this year.

A scene from Robin Joseph's 'Fox and the Whale' to be screened at TIFF Short Cuts
A scene from Robin Joseph’s ‘Fox and the Whale’ to be screened at TIFF Short Cuts

 

Short Film Fan: What is TIFF Short Cuts?

Laura Good: TIFF Short Cuts is a programming stream dedicated to showcasing short film. The year round Short Cuts series is named as an extension of the Short Cuts section at the Toronto International Film Festival. We host monthly screenings that feature the best of international short film, spanning all genres, sensibilities and styles with a focus on innovation, originality, representation and impact.

Short Cuts allows audiences to sample cinema from all over the globe, in one sitting, and in my opinion, it is some of the most important filmmaking in the world. Short film is a birthplace of innovation and is often the first place we see global trends emerge in terms of both content and form. Since the format is able to be nimble and reactive, it is often the most accurate reflection of our current zeitgeist, as well.

SFF: What is your role with Short Cuts?

LG: I program and host the series, so I get to assemble programs of some of the most incredible short filmmaking in the world and present them to Toronto audiences. There are, generally speaking, far less constraints on short filmmakers than on feature filmmakers, so they have more flexibility and creative freedom. I would argue that the same freedom is inherent to short film programming.

Our recent Misfits program celebrated stories about characters who live beyond the artistic, cultural and existential status quo. It’s a beautiful thing be able to explore something like nonconformity through a diverse pack of female skateboarders who resist the patriarchy (Jennifer Reeder’s Crystal Lake), a contemporary ghost story (Connor Jessup’s Boy), and a woman who transforms into a cloud as a defense mechanism (Mark Katz’ aptly named, People Are Becoming Clouds), all in one screening slot. I feel very lucky to get to showcase such boundary-pushing work from the filmmakers who will determine the future of cinema.

I also bring in short film packages of short format work from fellow festivals and organisations. Past collaborations have included the Sundance Shorts Tour, featuring award winners from their festival, curated by Sundance’s own Mike Plante, and The Prism Prize Top Ten, featuring nominees for the prestigious award, which recognizes excellence in Canadian music videos.

SFF: How long has TIFF Short Cuts been going on for?

LG: The year round Short Cuts series has only been taking place since the opening of TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2010, but it has an old soul. TIFF programmer Magali Simard programmed the series for many years and passed the baton on to me last year.

SFF: Where in Toronto can short film fans check out Short Cuts?

LG: You can check out the Short Cuts series at the aforementioned TIFF Bell Lightbox, year-round home of the Toronto International Film Festival and hub for film lovers from Toronto and around the world. Keep an eye on the schedule here: http://www.tiff.net/#short-cuts

SFF: What kind of short films do you typically screen at Short Cuts?

LG: We show the best of world cinema including favourites from the Toronto International Film Festival, such as the hypnotizing documentary montage on the resilience of indigenous peoples across time and space – Mobilize (dir. Caroline Monnet), and the recipient of the Best Short Film award at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, depicting a Senegalese family living in Paris, who find themselves at a crossroads – Maman(s) (dir. Maïmouna Doucouré). We also feature award winners from around the world, such as the Winner of the Horizons Award at the 2015 Venice Film Festival – Belladona (dir. Dubravka Turic), a remarkable Croatian film about perception and female to female empathy, and hidden gems such as the incredibly timely and impeccably cast look at the African American experience After The Storm (dir. Jessica Oyelowo).

SFF: Do you screen only Canadian shorts at Short Cuts, or do you also feature shorts from other countries?

LG: We screen short films from around the globe. Countries represented in the past year include: Iraq, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Croatia, France, The United Kingdom, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, U.S.A., Israel and Jordan, to name a few.

It is also a priority to support the incredible filmmaking happening here at home. Every program has Canadian representation. A few Canadian films that we have recently featured include: The Grandfather Drum (dir. Michelle Derosier), Mobilize (dir. Caroline Monnet), Bacon and God’s Wrath (dir. Sol Friedman), Boy (dir. Connor Jessup), Dredger (dir. Phillip Barker), Her Friend Adam (dir. Ben Petrie), Benjamin (dir. Sherren Lee), and World Famous Gopher Hole Museum (dir. by Chelsea Mcmullan and Douglas Nayler).

SFF: Have any filmmakers come to any of your Short Cuts screenings as guest speakers?

LG: Yes! We aim to have a filmmaker or special guest in attendance at each screening.

Director Phillip Barker and lead actress Alex Paxton-Beasley (known for Dirty Singles and TV’s Murdoch Mysteries) attended the screening of his visually arresting, fourth wall breaking short, Dredger, which was a part of our Summer Fever program, to talk about experimental filmmaking, sexuality and character.  They also spoke about their last collaboration, Malody, and hinted at another to come.

Ben Petrie, who directed the glorious and unforgettable meltdown that is Sundance Award winner and Canada’s Top Ten selection, Her Friend Adam, also joined us to talk about his process and working with TIFF Rising Star Grace Glowicki, for our screening of the Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour.  

Connor Jessup, director of the Ozu-inspired and poetically supernatural Boy attended the Misfits program. You may know him as an alumnus of the TIFF Rising Stars program which recognizes talent in front of the camera, such as his performances in Closet Monster and TV’s American Crime. The producer of Boy Ashley Shields-Muir (who also collaborated with Jessup on Little Coffins) joined us as well. They told us all about their influence and gave us a sneak peek into their next short, Lira’s Forest, which they described as having the sensibility of a live action studio Ghibli film!

Sherren Lee, director of Benjamin (a film that tackles LGBTQ adoption and surrogacy), was in attendance for an Intro and Q&A following the screening along with her lead actor Jean-Michel Le Gal to talk about feminism in film and representation in all its forms.

SFF: Many short film fans don’t live in Toronto, and therefore aren’t able to attend Short Cuts easily. Are there ways that they can experience a Short Cuts screening in their own hometown?

LG: TIFF’s national film outreach program, TIFF Film Circuit, brings the best of both short and long format filmmaking to film series’ and film festivals across Canada. Film Circuit works with 170 locations in over 150 communities spanning from Prince Rupert, B.C. to Charlottetown, P.E.I.

I program many of the Canadian shorts that we play at the Short Cuts series at TIFF Film Circuit locations across the country. Some locations show short film packages and others pair short films with features. TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten program travels to many of our locations and the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film Blind Vaysha (which was also an official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival and Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival), is currently prefacing many feature film screenings.  Find out if there is a Film Circuit location near you, here: www.tiff.net/filmcircuit/locations

SFF: How has the audience reception been to Short Cuts?

LG: The audiences have been really engaged. One of our highest attended recent screenings was the Emerging Female Voices Spotlight – a collection of short films from some of the world’s most promising emerging female filmmakers. We used the screening as an opportunity to vocalize our commitment to gender parity and intersectional feminism. The gender gap grows dramatically in the space that typically exists between short and feature filmmaking so it’s a vital place to have that conversation. We also used the program as an entry point to a much larger conversation about inclusion, representation and empathic intelligence, and the Toronto short film community rallied!

SFF: Can we get a sneak peek into what you have planned for Short Cuts in 2017?

LG: Absolutely! Our next program – Canada, Animated – focuses on home-grown talent. It takes place on Sunday, March 5th at 1pm and explores what makes the Canadian viewpoint so unique through the work of some of our most exciting new animators. It will include Alisi Telengut’s Nutag – Homeland, a poignant, hand-painted ode to the pain of the displaced Kalmyk people of the Soviet Union, following WWII. Also feature filmmaker Robin Joseph’s Fox and the Whale, an atmospheric tale of curiosity about a fox who is drawn to the sea. Joseph will be in attendance to introduce the film and will be present for a Q&A with the audience, following the program. Take a look at the full program details for Canada, Animated here: http://www.tiff.net/events/canadian-animation

Also upcoming is Spotlight: Clermont Ferrand, a selection of recent favourites from the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival curated by Laurent Guerrier, screening Thursday, April 6th at 9pm. Highlights include  Shio Chen Quesck’s Guang, an affecting Malaysian film about a young man who struggles with social interaction but finds comfort in a secret passion and Emma de Swaef and Marc Roels’ fabric based stop motion animation Oh Willy, an absurdist Nordic film about a nudist in mourning, who ventures into the woods to find solace. Take a look at the full program details for Spotlight: Clermont Ferrand here: http://www.tiff.net/events/spotlight-clermont-ferrand

Stay tuned for more programs, to be announced on a seasonal basis, throughout 2017!

 

Sounds like it’s going to be an excellent year of shorts programming this year at Short Cuts. A big ‘thanks’ goes to Laura and everyone at TIFF for making Canadian shorts accessible via Short Cuts, Film Circuit and TIFF itself. If you happen to catch any of the Canadian shorts at these screenings, be sure to let them know via Twitter @TIFFShortCuts @FilmCircuitTIFF and @TIFF_Net. Don’t forget to include Short Film Fan @shortfilmfan or leave a comment below. Follow TIFF on Facebook, too: https://www.facebook.com/TIFF

Happy watching!

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

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

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

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

Air Canada enRoute Film Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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Canadian & Worldwide Shorts Waiting For You At Toronto International Short Film Festival

As a short film fan, have you ever attended a film festival and wondered if there was one out there specifically dedicated to short films? Given the uniqueness and, of course, the length of shorts, could an actual festival geared completely to short films be made into a reality? Can such a film festival even be found in Canada?

Short film fans can wonder no more, as they will be especially pleased to know that they can have all of their short film desires satisfied at the Toronto International Short Film Festival (TISFF). TISFF is back for its fourth year of showcasing some of the most outstanding shorts and their filmmakers from Canada and around the world. This year’s TISFF is taking place from November 9th to 11th at Carlton Cinema.

Short Film Fan reached out to Francesca Fromang, Director of Operations at TISFF, to learn more about the festival, including why it was established, its Canadian content, and where short film fans can catch these films.

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Short Film Fan: Whose idea was it to launch the Toronto International Short Film Festival (TISFF) and why was it started?

Francesca Fromang: Our incredible festival founder, Robert Arentz, is the founder and creator of the Toronto Shorts Fest. It was created to provide a showcase for the best short-form cinema and its creators in the world. He felt that short form cinema and its creators should have their own premier film festival in Toronto, deserving similar recognition given to the feature film and its creators. The heart of the festival will be our quality and scope of extraordinary film programming. Toronto Shorts Fest is where films from a wide spectrum intersect. Animations, documentaries, comedies, narrative, genre, and graduation short films come from some of the finest film schools.

SFF: How many Canadian shorts will be screened at this year’s fest?

FF: Out of the 67 films being screened, 36 are Canadian.

SFF: What parts of Canada do most of your short films come from?

FF: This year’s program consists of films from 11 different countries. The majority of Canadian films will be coming from right here in Toronto, though we are also featuring films from Vancouver, Calgary, Hamilton, Montreal, and Newfoundland.

torontologoSFF: Are the featured filmmakers more seasoned or up-and-coming, or a mix of both?

FF: This year, we have the perfect blend of both. Our goal is to screen films that display excellence, both technically and creatively. We have some incredible films made by students from schools such as Humber, York University, Sheridan and University of Toronto.  However, we also have a plethora of seasoned artists who choose to premiere their films here as well. This year we are screening a documentary made by the Disney Animation Team (Disney Cartoon Camera), films produced by huge production companies such as The Mill and Indie passion projects produced by Denzell Washington. We have films starring Jennifer Hudson, (Shame) John Malkovich (Hell), Lindsay Lohan (Till Human Voices Wake) and Enrico Colantoni (Recital). And we have everything in between!

SFF: Will any of the Canadian filmmakers be available to answer questions at any Q & A sessions?

FF: Yes! After each program screens, we will have the filmmakers from that specific program conduct a Q&A session.  In addition to our Q&As, we will also have an industry session panel each day. It will be a chance to hear some of the industry’s most experienced professionals focusing on topics such as “creating branded content without selling your soul” and “meeting the film festivals” which is a panel of some of the most well-known festival programmers around the country discussing what makes them pick a film.

SFF: Can you briefly highlight some of the Canadian shorts that will be featured this year?

FF: We’re pretty excited about all our films! Some that stand out off the top of my head are:

  • Luvvie directed, written and starring Annie Briggs, which will screen during Program 3 on November 9th at 9:55 p.m.
  • The Head Vanishes (an animated film brought to us by the Canadian Film Centre) which premieres in Program 7 on November 11th at 5:30 p.m.
  • Prison Fight, directed by Robert Pilichowski screening during Program 5 on November 10th at 7:45 p.m.
  • Shame starring Tyrese Gibson and Jennifer Hudson, directed by Paul Hunter in Program 1 on November 9th at 5:00 p.m.

SFF: Where is Toronto International Short Film Festival taking place and how can short film toronto-graphic-0001fans buy their tickets?

FF: TISFF will be taking place at the lovely Carlton Cinema in downtown Toronto this year. All film programs and Industry sessions are $14, and an all-access pass for the entire fest is on sale now for $40!

 

For fans of short film, this is definitely an event you don’t want to miss. For more on this year’s lineup, check out the schedule on their website. For those not familiar with Toronto, Carlton Cinemas is located on 20 Carlton Street, east of Younge Street. If you are taking the subway, the closest stop to the cinema is College Station.

If you happen to really like one of the Canadian shorts at the festival, and want to share a review or comment with the rest of us, drop Short Film Fan a line on Twitter or email.

Good luck to Francesca, Robert and all the crew at Toronto International Short Film Festival for a successful event! Follow the festival on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

Happy watching, everyone!

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Keeping The New Artistic Pace Going: Spotlight On Katie Boland

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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Guest Post: Toronto Youth Shorts Invests In Next Generation Film Talent

Getting a career off the ground can be daunting for some, especially if you are young and new to your chosen path. For young up-and-coming filmmakers, getting noticed by the public and the filmmaking community can seem especially challenging. But there is one film festival in Toronto that hopes to remedy that. On the eve of the 2016 edition of the Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival, Paul Krumholz, one of the festival’s programmers, shared in this guest post some of this thoughts about the purpose of the festival, as well as some detail as to where they source the young filmmakers that they feature:

 

What were your favourite filmmakers doing before they became famous? If they’re anything like the ones whose work we feature in Toronto Youth Shorts, they were hustling – to squeeze writing sessions in between classes and day jobs, to hunt for funding sources, and to convince friends to donate their time and labour. Even once a film is finished, getting it in front of eyeballs can be a whole new challenge.

Since 2009, the Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival has tried to help with that last part, providing a forum for the best up-and-coming, under-30 filmmakers in the GTA to share their work. While there’s no road map for young filmmakers trying to develop their careers, we hope that our festival can be one of the stops along the way, where good work can reach a wider audience of colleagues, industry professionals, and cinema fans.Toronto Youth Shorts logo

As a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organization, our staff puts this festival together every year because we believe in the importance of investing in the next generation of Canadian film talent. And as someone who grew up outside Canada, I’m especially proud to live in a place that supports its artists as much as Torontonians do, which is why I’ve contributed to the festival as a programmer over the last two years.

The process by which we put together our lineup is more active than most festivals. In addition to soliciting films through the normal avenues, we take advantage of the fact that Toronto is home to some of the best film schools in North America. Each spring, our programmers trek around the GTA to attend screenings at high schools, colleges and universities, in search of work we think deserves a bigger audience. This year’s lineup features 44 films, chosen from over 200 submissions (and the hundreds more our programmers watched in the community). One of the upsides of this method is that it gives us a sense of what themes and issues are important to young Torontonians in a given year. In addition to the aesthetic criteria by which we evaluate our submissions, we value cultural relevance in the work we choose to program.

We also hope that our lineup represents the diversity of the cinematic work produced by young people in our city. Of the 44 films in this year’s lineup, more than half are directed by women, and a quarter feature non-white actors or subjects in the lead role. In particular, I’m excited to share some of this year’s documentaries and animated films, which I think break new ground for the quality of work we’ve shown.

We invite you to join us in celebrating the next generation of Toronto filmmakers this Saturday, August 6 at Innis College at University of Toronto. For more information and to order tickets, visit torontoyouthshorts.ca

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Female Eye Film Festival Shines A Light On Female Filmmakers

Short film fans can agree that the medium of short film gives the filmmaker the opportunity to bring important social and cultural issues to light. These films have the power to deliver a wealth of information and insight to a viewing public that can rival the reporting made by traditional media. In Canada, social issues concerning women or the plight of Aboriginal and Indigenous people have been featured in news reports numerous times in the past. But filmmakers, in particular female filmmakers, have an opportunity to examine and present these topics by using their own voice and experiences.

One festival that you can visit right now and see some examples of shorts made by Canadian female filmmakers is the Female Eye Film Festival. Running from June 14th to June 19th, the festival is taking place at The Theatre Centre located at 1115 Queen Street West in Toronto. A majority of their short films will be screened on Saturday and Sunday of the festival run. From 12 noon until 2 pm on Saturday, you can watch shorts produced by female First Nations filmmakers during the Aboriginal & Indigenous Film Program. On Sunday, the Canadian Shorts & Documentaries program will feature shorts made by a number of Canadian female directors.

Leslie-Ann Coles, the founder and director of Female Eye Film Festival provided this comment: “The Female Eye makes a strong commitment to our National directors and we are delighted to present a series of short films directed by Canadian women directors.”

Short Film Fan wishes everyone involved in organizing and producing Female Eye all the best for a successful festival!

ATTENTION TORONTO READERS OF SHORT FILM FAN: If you are interested and able to attend the festival this weekend, Female Eye has four pairs of tickets to give away to see the shorts at the festival. Two pairs are available for the Aboriginal & Indigenous Film Program and another two for the Canadian Shorts & Documentaries program.  All you have to do is send an email to Sasha at sasha@sashastoltzpublicity.com with the name of program you would like to attend and she will make arrangements for you to pick them up.

Happy watching, short film fans, and enjoy the festival!

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

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

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

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

Watch the film here:

 

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

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

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Guest Post: Katy Swailes Reviews Impactful Short ‘More than Two Hours’

Have you ever wondered what types of short films catch the eye of Canadian filmmakers? When they’re not busy making a short film, which ones are they watching? This week’s guest post by Katy Swailes should shed some light on these questions. Katy was recently invited to screen the short films to be shown at the Jayu Human Rights Film Festival, which runs from December 10th to the 13th in Toronto. One narrative short is screening at the festival, and Katy has kindly shared her exclusive review with Short Film Fan.

 

More than Two Hours – a short film with big impact

The short film form often lends itself to the funny, the satirical, and the downright absurd. But once in a while a narrative film comes along with a tough story to tell—and a big issue to tackle—and ventures to do it in fifteen minutes or less.

Bishtar az do saat (More than Two Hours) is one of those films. From Iranian director Ali Asgari, the Persian-language film follows a nameless young couple as they drive around Tehran at 3 a.m., looking for a hospital that will treat the young woman (Shahrzad Ghasemi). They’ve committed the crime of premarital sex—punishable in Iran by lashes, imprisonment, or worse—and the woman requires surgery to stop excessive bleeding. But without proof of marriage, no hospital will admit her; so they find themselves back in the car, desperate and alone.

Beautifully executed by Asgari, the film is a slice of Iranian life that paints a tragic picture of a complex issue. Pre-marital sex is on the rise in Iran, where more than half of the population is under the age of the 35, and young adults are increasingly choosing to delay marriage. In More than Two Hours, lead actors Ghasemi and Taha Mohammadi (who co-wrote the screenplay with Asgari) are entirely believable as the young couple caught in the tension between hardline policies, family pressure, and a new wave of youth rebellion. Strained exchanges and nuanced looks, combined with the careful subtleties of the dialogue, draw you into the characters’ shared ordeal, and offer insight into their individual conflicts.

The story moves primarily between two settings—from the quiet intimacy of the car, to the cold starkness of hospital rooms, where the woman is barred from a potentially life-saving operation because she is unwed. In one such scene, the young man argues with the hospital clerk about the woman’s lack of options, while the woman sits, slightly out of focus, silent in the background. She has lost her virginity and her parents must know, the female clerk insists, matter-of-factly. The message is clear—decisions about her body are not hers to make. She has no voice in this discussion.

Shahrzad Ghasemi and Taha Mohammadi from a scene in More than Two Hours (photo courtesy of Katy Swailes)
Shahrzad Ghasemi and Taha Mohammadi in a scene from ‘More than Two Hours’ (photo courtesy of Katy Swailes)

The tension comes to a head in the final moments of the film. Confined to the car, the couple has exhausted all options and face the reality of having to tell her parents. In an especially emotional and powerful moment, the young woman says something most young girls have uttered, at least once or twice: “My father will kill me!”

“It’s better than dying like this,” her boyfriend fires back, underlining the literalness of her comment, and the grave consequences for women when female virginity is considered a measure of worth.

The ending is all the more heartbreaking—and affecting—in its utter lack of drama. It’s a reminder that this small story about two young Iranians represents thousands more, nameless, silently slipping away into the night.

More than Two Hours premiered at Cannes in 2013 where it competed for the Palm d’Or for Best Short Film. The film has gone on to receive more than 20 awards and has played at festivals around the world. Audiences in Toronto can see it this Saturday, December 12, as part of the Jayu Human Rights Film Festival at Bloor Cinema. The festival opens Thursday on International Human Rights Day. Schedule and tickets at Jayu.ca

 

Katy Swailes is an independent filmmaker and an associate producer with CBC Radio. Follow her on Twitter @katyswailes.

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