Fine Arts a big part of Victoria Film Festival

If it’s February, it must be time for the Victoria Film Festival! This year, in addition to the usual lineup of great feature and short films running February 5-14—including a number by Fine Arts faculty and alumni—the VFF is offering special free attendance for Fine Arts students to their annual Springboad film industry event, running Feb 5-7 at the Vic Theatre (details below). This is especially of note for anyone interested in film studies, film production, acting, producing, screenwriting or media studies in general. Students simply have to RSVP by Monday, February 1, to director@victoriafilmfestival.com.

VFF The DevoutOne highlight of the nearly 70 feature films screening this year is The Devout, the feature film debut by Department of Writing MFA alumnus Connor Gaston, produced by fellow Fine Arts alumni  Amanda Verhagen (Theatre) and Daniel Hogg (Writing), with costume design by Kendra Terpenning (Theatre). Gaston attracted a good deal of attention at past film festivals near and far with his award-winning short film ’Til Death, the latest short to emerge from Writing professor Maureen Bradley‘s Writing 420 film production class. The Devout screens 7:15pm February 11 and 1pm February 13 at the downtown Odeon, with Gaston and cast members doing post-film Q&As at both screenings.

Other highlights with links back to Fine Arts include Reset, a short film about a female android discovering she has feelings for her owner, directed by Writing grad Jeremy Lutter (a frequent VFF face with the likes of Gord’s Brother), written by Writing grad Ryan Bright (screenwriter of ’Til Death) and produced by UVic Gustavson School of Business grad Jocelyn Russell. It shows at 8:45pm Feb 7 at The Vic Theatre as part of the “Techlandia” shorts program.

No Breath Play

No Breath Play

The short film No Breath Play is chock full of Writing alumni, being written and directed by Stacey Ashworth, starring Julia Dillon-Davis, featuring camera work by director of photography Scott Amos, produced by Kelly Conlin and executive produced by Daniel Hogg. No Breath Play takes a look at what happens when a reclusive young woman explores BDSM, only to be mistakenly left bound and alone at home. This one screens at 4pm on Feb 7 at The Vic Theatre as part of the “Risky Plays, Risky Places” shorts program.

There’s also a special CineVic retrospective happening at the festival, 6:30pm Sunday Feb 7 at the Odeon on Yates. Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the local filmmakers society, over half the 15 short films on view feature the work of Fine Arts alumni:

  • Wolfgang Ball, Marjorie Celona (BFA, Writing)
  • Godhead, Conner Gaston (BFA & MFA, Writing)
  • Bark to the Land, David Geiss (MFA, Writing)
  • Sisyphus, Maureen Bradley (Professor, Writing)
  • Grass, Scott Amos (BFA & MFA, Writing)
  • The Quandry of Señor Muchacho, Jeremy Lutter (BFA, Writing) also starring Theatre alumna Amanda Lisman
  • Woodrow Without Evelyn, Daniel Hogg (BFA, Writing)
  • Near Silence, starring Treena Stubel (BFA, Theatre)

Finally, the annual VFF SpringBoard event focuses on the business side of filmmaking, which is dynamic and ever-changing in this increasingly digital era. SpringBoard offers aspiring Canadian filmmakers the opportunity to expand their knowledge and keep up with new trends in panels and discussions hosted by established industry leaders.

What can you discover at Springboard?

What can you discover at Springboard?

Again, Fine Arts students can attend the Feb 5-7 Springboad events at the Vic Theatre for free. This is especially of note for anyone interested in film studies, film production, acting, producing, screenwriting or media studies in general. Students simply have to RSVP by Monday, February 1, to  director@victoriafilmfestival.com.

Friday, February 5:

• Media Worldview Round Up (11am-noon) – Join the VFF for the annual review of what’s new, forecasted and unpredictable. Gain insights into how the changes impact the kinds of projects you create and understand new opportunities. With Harold Gronenthal, Executive Vice- President of Programming & Operations – AMC/Sundance Channel Global at AMC Networks Inc. He has led content acquisitions for AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel and WE TV since 2004.

Tania Koenig-Gauchier

Tania Koenig-Gauchier

• Getting Your Start (12:15-1:45pm) – A panel of commissioning editors will provide tips on what a career looks like for an emerging filmmaker. Topics will include commissioning priorities, preferences on approach and pitch, and what to expect working in the field. Panelists include TV producer Tania Koenig-Gauchier, who has almost 20 years experience in broadcasting and independent production working as a producer for CTV, APTN and CBC, and has a background in business, marketing and promotions for television; Tara Ellis, CBC’s Executive Director of Scripted Content, including comedy and drama, kids programming and digital originals; and Robin Neinstein, Production Executive, Original Drama Content for Shaw Media, who oversees the development and production of various scripted series and co-productions for Shaw channels including Global, History and Showcase.

Mary Galloway

Mary Galloway

• The Winning Pitch: Mary Galloway (2:30-3pm) – Mary Galloway won the BravoFact! $35,000 pitch competition in 2015 to create her short film Ariel Unravelling, and now returns to discuss making her film and working with BravoFact! Mary Galloway is a young First Nations actor, producer and writer. She has dedicated her career to telling stories with dynamic female leads, as well as being an advocate for equality for Aboriginal (and non-Aboriginal) woman. She prides herself on being a positive role model for today’s youth. She has lead three feature films, can be seen on TV shows such as The CW’s Supernatural and is in pre-production for many of her own passion projects.

• Pitch Tips (3:30-4:30pm) – This session reveals the nuts and bolts of how and what to say when pitching your project. Pat Ferns is President of Ferns Productions Inc., specializing in blue-chip documentary-drama mini-series, working with his son Andrew, President of Ferns Entertainment Inc. whose principal focus is drama. Major series Pat and Andrew have produced together include the award-winning Captain Cook: Obsession and Discovery and Darwin’s Brave New World, both Australia-Canada co-productions.

Saturday, February 6

Semi Chellas (G. Pimentel, photo)

Semi Chellas (G. Pimentel, photo)

• In Conversation with Semi Chellas (noon-1:30pm) – Semi Chellas discusses writing for film and television. Chellas was Co-Executive Producer and writer for Mad Men, running the room for the final two seasons. She was nominated for six Emmys and shared the WGA award with Matthew Weiner for co-writing the episode “The Other Woman”. Chellas has written for indie features, kids movies, television movies and directed several award-winning short films. Chellas is currently working as an Executive Producer of Steve McQueen’s HBO miniseries Codes of Conduct.

Sunday, February 7

Larry Weinstein

Larry Weinstein

• In Conversation with Larry Weinstein (noon-1:30pm) – Welcome to the inventive world of Larry Weinstein, a wonderfully unique documentary filmmaker whose films have captured the lives of great composers, the former Ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor, and the mystery of Hana’s Suitcase.  Weinstein is going to look at the anatomy of making a documentary from inception to completion while expanding on his thoughts by screening raw and completed footage of his latest project, Devil’s Horn. He’ll be in conversation with CTV AM’s film critic, Richard Crouse.

Victoria Film Fest features Fine Arts filmmakers

Like spring rains and sleepy groundhogs, the Victoria Film Festival is back and is once again featuring a number of contrbutions from the Faculty of Fine Arts. As well as representation on the VFF jury by current Writing MFA playwriting candidate Leah Callen and recent MFA filmmaker Connor Gaston, a number of faculty and alumni filmmakers are well represened in this year’s fest, running Feb 6-15 at various venues around the city.

Who is Theatre's Leslie Bland with Alex Trebec?

Who is Theatre’s Leslie Bland with Alex Trebec?

Up first is the feature documentary Gone South: How Canada Invented Hollywood, co-directed by Department of Theatre alumnus and instructor Leslie D. Bland. Created with bestselling local humourist Ian Ferguson (author of How To Be A Canadian), Gone South seeks to expose the dirtiest secret in all of Hollywood—who is secretly Canadian?

A hilarious history of Canada’s contributions to Hollywood from the early 20th century onwards, Gone South documents the role Canadians played in founding Tinsel Town, and the roles Canadians continue to play to this day. From Alex Trebek and Monty Hall to Neve Campbell, Howie Mandel, Tommy Chong and Alan Thicke, Gone South features funny and frank interviews with some of the most famous actors, directors, musicians and producers who share this secret heritage. No surprise, Canadians are everywhere in Los Angeles . . . you just have to know where to look.

This is another kudo for Bland, who was recently awarded a UVic Continuing Sessional Lecturer Scholarship from the Learning and Teaching Centre. Gone South screens at 6pm Friday, Feb 6, at the Vic Theatre. Read more about it in this Globe and Mail article and in this piece from the Times Colonist.

Bradley on the set of Two 4 One  (photo: Arnold Lim)

Bradley on the set of Two 4 One (photo: Arnold Lim)

Up next is Department of Writing professor Maureen Bradley and her transgender romantic-comedy Two 4 One. Frequent readers of this blog will have followed Bradley’s debut feature film from its inception at the National Screen Institute’s Features First initiative through its filming during her study leave in early 2014 and its world premiere in Calgary and popular screenings at follow-up festivals. Just before their appearance at the VFF, Two 4 One will be the opening gala at the Available Light Film Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon—Canada’s largest Film Festival north of 60—an event at which Bradley and producer/Fine Arts staffer Daniel Hogg will be on hand.

two 4 oneA bittersweet romantic comedy, Two 4 One finds its transgender hero in an unimaginable predicament when ex-lovers Miriam and Adam have an ill-advised one night stand that sees them both end up pregnant. Featuring a standout performance from Gavin Crawford (This Hour Has 22 Minutes)—who was recently nominated for an ACTRA Award for his role in Two 4 One—Bradley feels the fact that she could write and shoot her film in Victoria is a strong indicator of the growth of the local film scene.

“There are a lot of amazing filmmakers locally now, and many are coming out of the Writing department,” she says, noting the likes of alumni Connor Gaston, Stacey Ashworth, Amanda Verhagen, Jason Bourque and Scott Amos. “It’s engaged learning at its finest; my students learn so much from being on set in my classes. Plus, they’re good writers. The department creates great poets, great fiction writers, great CNF and now we’re getting great screenwriters.”

You can hear Bradley discuss her film on CBC’s All Points West “Creative Class” column with Amanda Farrell-Low (skip ahead to 4:58), as well as in this CFAX 1070 interview with Pamela McCall (at the 48:00 mark).

Two 4 One has a Valentine’s Day screening at 6:30pm Saturday, Feb 14, at the Odeon  and noon Sunday, Feb 15, at the Vic Theatre. Bradley and Hogg will be attendance at both screenings for a post-show Q&A.

Connor Gaston's Godhead

Connor Gaston’s Godhead

Speaking of alumni filmmakers, Connor Gaston recently wrapped his own locally lensed debut feature, The Devout, and his intriguing short film Godhead will be seen at the VFF. Gaston has been making a name for himself of late thanks to the popularity of short films like the award-winning (and UVic created) ’Til Death.

Godhead will screen as part of the “Grander Schemes” short film program at 8:45pm Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Vic Theatre.

The triple-alumni creared Gord's Brother

The triple-alumni creared Gord’s Brother

The busy alumni filmmaking team of Jeremy Lutter, Ben Rollo and Daniel Hogg are back again with their latest short film, Gord’s Brother. This same team of Writing grads earned film fest kudos back in 2011 with their robot charmer Joanna Makes A Friend and will now debut Gord’s Brother—created with funding they won through Harold Greenberg Fund’s Shorts-to-Features program. Lutter directs, Rollo writes and Hogg produces what’s described as is described as a “10-minute fantasy” in which “the protagonist discovers his baby brother is a monster, forcing him to visit the City of Monsters, where lessons are learned.”

Gord’s Brother screens as part of the short film program “Tense Times” at noon Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Vic Theatre.

Congratulations to all UVic filmmakers for their continuing outstanding work!

 

Talent on screen at VFF

When the 19th annual Victoria Film Festival hits local movie screens between February 1st and 10th, Fine Arts students will once again have their work seen alongside more than 150 tantalizing Canadian and international films.

Connor Gaston's Bardo Light

Connor Gaston’s Bardo Light

Primary among them is Department of Writing graduate student Connor Gaston, who made local news late last year when his short film Bardo Light was accepted into the Toronto International Film Festival and another of his shorts, Stuck, screened at the Whistler Film Festival. (TIFF programmer Magali Simard described Bardo Light as “a modern-day chiller that merges Mary Shelley with the Tibetan Book of the Dead, [this] is a bold and unique experience.”)

Victoria audiences will now have the opportunity to see Bardo Light—which stars Department of Theatre grad Shaan Rahman and features a cameo by Writing chair Bill Gaston—as part of the “Little Horrors” shorts program at 9:30pm Saturday, February 9, at the Vic Theatre.

Emily Piggford in Frost

Emily Piggford in Frost

You can also see Department of Theatre grad Emily Piggford as part of that same “Little Horrors” night when she takes the lead in the short film Frost, created by Pacific and Asian Studies alumni Jeremy Ball. Frost has been described as “stunning” and “epic,” thanks to its barren, snow-covered landscapes and dystopic sci-fi edge. (Check out this article about Ball by Michael Reid, film writer for the local Times Colonist).

Catch a video interview with Piggford here from when Frost also played at TIFF, or you can read an interview with her here. And proving that not all filmmakers come out of Writing or Theatre, recent UVic biology grad Julia Hostetler has her own short film Quiescence on view as well. Catch it as part of the shorts program “Kids Amok!” at 2pm on Sunday, February 10, also at the Vic.

Maureen Bradley

Maureen Bradley

Also of note is the work done behind the scenes by student jurors Charles Wagner, Caitlen Jessen and Max Johnson, as well as busy local filmmaker and Writing prof Maureen Bradley, who was once again on the VFF programming committee and will be doing a workshop as part of the annual Springboard industry discussion series. She’ll be participating in “The Drama Workshop” session, which runs from 2-3:30pm Saturday, February 2 at the Vic. “I’ll be presenting work and discussing narrative filmmaking for emerging filmmakers,” says Bradley.

UVic at VFF

A scene from Katherine Walkiewicz's A Brief Moment

While this year’s Victoria Film Festival program isn’t exactly brimming over with UVic content this year, there are a few films of note worth catching over the festival’s February 3-12 run:

• Department of Writing student Katherine Walkiewicz’s 20-minute movie, Une Mémoire Courte (A Brief Moment), which we wrote about when it was appearing at the Cannes International Film Festival earlier this year, will be playing as part of the “A Human Touch” shorts program, at 2:45 pm on Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Odeon.

Jeremy Lutter

•   Writing alum and busy emerging director Jeremy Lutter will be screening his short film, Joanna Makes A Friend (co-written by fellow Writing grad and childhood friend Ben Rollo) as part of the “Beyond the Playground” shorts night, at 9:45 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at the Capitol 6. Find out more about Jeremy from our recent blog post, or catch this recent interview with him and CVV Magazine‘s Leanne Allen and John Threlfall. (Threlfall, our Fine Arts communication honcho, will also be helping to cover the VFF as part of his side-gig as a writer for CVV Magazine.)

Dan Hogg

• Our own film production/screenwriting/cinematography/digital media staffer Daniel Hogg will be presenting his brand new short film, Standard of Living, at 7:15 pm on Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Capitol 6 before the screening of the documentary, The Ailing Queen. Hogg’s film came out of a partnership between the Victoria Film Festival and the Victoria Foundation to commission short films exploring the connection between arts and other aspects of our community. Described in the VFF program guide as one of “eight films with eight different perspectives in eight different styles,  all united by the idea that arts and culture are not isolated from other aspects of daily life and community living,” Hogg’s Standard of Living is part of the “Behind the Scenes: Victoria” program spread throughout the festival.

Scott Amos

• Another “Behind the Scenes: Victoria” offering is Transportation by MFA student and noted local experimental filmmaker Scott Amos. (Amos is also very busy behind the scenes himself this year as the VFF’s communications coordinator.) Transportation plays before Foreverland at 12:15 pm Sunday, Feb 5., at the Odeon.

• Also appearing as part of the Victoria Film Festival programming, is Zurich-born director Reto Caduff. The co-director of award-winning doc A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash, Caduff is coming to Victoria this year to promote his current documentary The Visual Language of Herbert Matter, about the highly influential mid-century modern design master. He will be speaking at UVic at one of our Lansdowne Lectures at 7 pm Tuesday, February 7, in room C122 of the David Strong Building.

Maureen Bradley

• Finally, it’s worth noting that Department of Writing graduate advisor and associate film prof Maureen Bradley was one again on the Victoria Film Festival’s programming committee. As well as shepherding the recent Leo Award-winning student success Freshman’s Wharf, Bradley has directed over 40 short films of her own, and her award-winning productions have screened at the likes of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A member of the Directors Guild of Canada, Bradley reached her largest audience of over 12 million viewers on the CBC TV series Road Movies.