MFA grad wins Writers’ Trust prize

Hammerin’ great poet Garth Martens picked up a first-place win

Garth Martens is now $5,000 richer, thanks to his first-place poetry win in the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. A construction worker by day, the 28-year-old Department of Writing MFA graduate was announced on April 5 as the winner out of 120 submissions for “Inheritance and Other Poems,” a selection from The Motive of Machines, his work-in-progress manuscript.

“The curtain is raised on blue-collar work,” noted the jury in its citation, describing Martens’ work as both “heroic” and “smoother than concrete.” “Here’s a poet of sweat and ambition and all the sensory detail and wild character that builds a world.”

“This is the first time I’ve won any kind of prize, although I was long-listed for the CBC Literary Awards for two of my entries in the poetry category this year,” says Martens, who serves on the editorial board of The Malahat Review and whose writing has appeared in The Fiddlehead, Grain, The Times Colonist, The Pacific Rim Review of Books, the anthology Leonard Cohen: You’re Our Man, and others. “I’m working out-of-town right now, 60 hours a week on a construction site in Kelowna. The excitement around the award is a kind of lozenge that I’m savouring while shovelling trenches or pulling nails.”

When asked about his plans for the prize money, Martens says he’ll probably buy a pair of top-quality $500 flamenco boots, custom-ordered from Spain. “I’ve wanted a pair for a while because I’ve been taking flamenco lessons for singing and dancing at the local flamenco school, Alma de España,” he explains. “I’ll also use the money hopefully to fly to Toronto for the Griffin Prize ceremony. The Irish poet Seamus Heaney will be reading and he’s simply the greatest living poet as far as I’m concerned.”

Also among the finalists for the Wallace Award was Anne-Marie Turza, another Department of Writing MFA graduate, who received $1,000. The literary prize for young unpublished writers alternates between poetry and short fiction, and is administered by the Writers’ Trust of Canada.

A Cup of Winners

Writing prof Maureen Bradley with her M Award--a fresh bag of Fernwood Coffee beans!

While a whole whack o’ Fine Arts faculty were among the long list of nominees in Monday Magazine‘s ninth annual M Awards, only three made it into the winner’s circle at the April 5 event. The Department of Writing was well represented with a pair of wins, seeing graduate advisor Maureen Bradley pick up “Favourite Filmmaker” and sessional instructor Melanie Siebert getting the nod for “Favourite Book of Poetry” for Deepwater Vee (with Monday quipping that “our little M Award does seem kind of small potatoes” compared to her position as finalist for the 2010 Governor General’s Award for Poetry). And Visual Arts sessional instructor Megan Dickie won the award for Favourite Artist, with Monday noting “While this was one of many close races this year—only nine votes separated first and second place—we’re not surprised Megan Dickie’s whimsical sculptures capture the imaginations and votes of Monday readers. Megan’s obsession with novelty was taken to new levels at Contact Games, her exhibit of serigraph prints and sculptures at Deluge this past June.”
Also among the winners were retired Writing prof Jack Hodgins for his latest novel, Master of Happy Endings (in a tie for Favourite Fiction Book with Robert J. Weirsema’s Bedtime Story) and various alumni involved with the Victoria Symphony (Favourite Professional Ensemble), Intrepid Theatre (Favourite Annual Event or Festival: Victoria Fringe Festival) and the Belfry Theatre (winners in three categories, including Favourite New Play: The Life Inside, Favourite Overall Production: Where the Blood Mixes, Favourite Musical: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee). Congratulations to all!

Screen Shorts

Maeva Gauthier’s short Arctic science documentary Before the Ice Melts picked up a pair of Sunscreen awards for editing and cinematography

A naked woman wandering through the McPherson Library, a couple’s last moments together hiding from a killer, poetic ruminations on life and nature, the woes of undergrad dating and an incredible balancing dog—those were just a handful of creative entries in the seventh annual Sunscreen Student Film Festival.

Over a hundred people gathered to see the winners at Sunscreen’s high-spirited screening night at the David Lam Auditorium on April 7, which kicked off with a tribute to and fond farewell by beloved veteran film prof Brian Hendricks, retiring after 20 years with the Department of Writing. (“12,000 students, 1,500 films lectured on, 180 courses taught . . . you start feeling like you’re living at the gift shop at the airport, where everyone’s leaving and you’re not going anywhere,” quipped Hendricks.) With almost 50 entries, this year’s jury—documentary filmmaker Peter Campbell, May Street Productions vice-president Sandy Mayzell and Times Colonist film writer Michael D. Reid—had to thin the pack to 20 finalists, of which six were selected as the ultimate winners.

With past Sunscreen champs having seen their work screened at various local and national film festivals, Sunscreen creator and Department of Writing film prof Maureen Bradley stresses the importance of having a professional jury for the process. “Grades don’t mean anything when you’re out getting a job or trying to get a grant or get attention in the media for your work, but screenings, awards—that’s the real currency,” she says. “That’s why it’s important to have a community and professional component to it. The juries and prizes are all local industry or community contacts—memberships with MediaNet and CineVic, for example—so we create a lot of strong relationships there. [Writing graduate student] Scott Amos is a good example, actually—he won Best Experimental Film his first year here, and now he’s president of the board at MediaNet.”

And while Sunscreen is helmed by the Department of Writing, Bradley is quick to point out it’s a campus-wide festival. “There’s always a fair bit of Fine Arts content, of course—mainly Writing and Visual Art students—but some of the most interesting pieces have come out of the Sciences,” she says. “And I think the new Creativity 101 class, Creative Being, will spark a lot more general content in the future. It’s so different today from when I was a student; it used to be so hard to get your hands on a film or video camera, but now it’s just ubiquitous, so it’s more about quality.”

But don’t think having a camera in your phone is all that’s needed to make a good film. “Digital technology was supposed to revolutionize filmmaking and I’m not sure it has,” muses Bradley. “Yes, it revolutionized access, and made millions and millions of hours of content available online, but how much of that is worth watching? What we’re trying to do with Sunscreen is highlight students who’ve learned two key things: how to tell a good story or promote a compelling concept, and how to match the aesthetic to the story—or vice-versa. A lot of these students have been raised on YouTube, but it’s important to show them there are other ways to do film than just defaulting to that YouTube aesthetic.”

That said, what makes for a great Sunscreen entry? “The winning films stand out because they’re usually really short and make their point quickly,” says Bradley, who has been programming short-film programs since 1992. “We get a lot of Tarrantino-esque film noir, but dramas are a hard sell, because you need good acting and it’s really hard to direct good drama, and there’s often a couple of comedies—but again, comedy is hard to do well. My philosophy is long short-film programs are painful; it’s better to have 70 minutes of really good content than 90 minutes of pretty good content.”

The Columbine-inspired The Fence won three awards

Here’s a complete list of this year’s winners:

Audience Award – Overscene at UVic (Produced by Dirk Slot and Erica Isomura)
Best Story-Driven film – The Fence (Produced by Tim Rockey and Matt Hamilton)
Best Medium-Driven Film – Early Memories (Produced by Gary Chilibeck)
Best Direction – Connor Gaston (for Shoulda Coulda)
Best Screenstory – Matt Hamilton (for The Fence)
Best Editing – Maeva Gauthier (for Before the Ice Melts)
Best Cinematography – Maeva Gauthier (for Before the Ice Melts)
Best Auditory Experience – Kyla MacKenzie (for For a moment there, I lost myself)
Best Performance – Matt Hamilton (for The Fence)

And while we can’t post this year’s winners online yet (it could disqualify them from entering other film fests), here’s some links to previous Sunscreen winners:

Bob and Lucille – By Meghan Bell (2009 winner for Best Story-Driven Film)

Sharkmarrow – Hal Walling (2008 winner for Best Drama, Best Editing, Best Director)

Birthday Surprise – Cassie Beecham (2007 winner for Best Comedy)

Memory Lapse – by Scott Amos

Understanding Venice

John Boehme

Adjunct Visual Arts faculty member John G. Boehme is heading off to the Venice Biennale 54th International Art Exhibition in June to present Memoranda of Understanding, a new body of trans-disciplinary artworks described as “a series of task-focussed actions that attend to ‘understanding’.” The Venice Biennale is the largest, oldest and most prestigious international art event in the world, and Boehme will be participating in the Infr’action Venice Performance Art event. No stranger to the international art world, over the past 15 years Boehme has participated in exhibitions and festivals across Canada, the United States, Europe, South America and China.