Susie Winter’s feature film screenplay started as student project

It all started with an empty boat floating on a lake. Screenwriter Susie Winters (BFA ’16) recalls driving alongside the vast expanse of Cameron Lake just east of Port Alberni when the image first drifted into her mind, inspiring what would become the screenplay for her first feature film, All-in Madonna.

Susie Winters (BFA ’16) wrote the initial screenplay for the film All-in Madonna while attending UVic’s Creative Writing program

Finding inspiration

“I feel like it’s a prompt you might find in one of those books 500 Writing Prompts or something. But that’s what came into my head,” Winters says from her home in Edmonton where that day it’s a bone-chilling -25 degrees Celsius.

As is often the case with inspiration, the empty boat on the lake is nowhere to be found in the final draft of Winters’ script, although there is a lake and there is a boat. But that sense of mystery and menace lurks beneath the surface of the story centring on 17-year-old Maddie. The teen attends public school for the first time, where she learns dark secrets about her father and must reconcile herself with the man she thought she knew and the things he may or may not have done. 

Melanie Rose Wilson plays a teenager in a small Vancouver Island town forced to reconcile with her family’s dark past in the feature film All-in Madonna

Facts into fiction

Set in the fictional Vancouver Island town of Blue Lake, the film is as much about small town life as it is navigating the social dynamics of being an outsider despite everyone knowing, or thinking they know, your history.

“I moved around a lot growing up… so I drew from being a teenager going into a new place,” says Winters, who grew up in northern Alberta. “I think it’s so interesting the first friends you make in a new place and how that comes with no context or politics… But what if that’s different when you go to a new place and everyone knows who you are, but you don’t know who anyone else is.”

Winters completed the initial script for her fourth-year screenwriting class at UVic as part of her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. From there she was introduced to director Arnold Lim and producer Ana de Lara. The team received a BravoFact grant (worth $32,500) to create a short film of All-In Madonna, which served as a calling card to secure a $125,000 Telefilm Canada Talent Fund grant and a $25,000 BC Arts Council grant for the feature.

Arnold Lim (centre) directs a scene in the feature film All-in Madonna

Local film, local filmmaking

Lim, who grew up in the small community of Blue River, BC, says he felt an instant connection to Winters’ script. “She really has a strong understanding of people and personality that goes way beyond the surface,” Lim says, adding, “Her understanding of human dialogue, human nature and her understanding of how the structure of a small town works—those were the things that really attracted me to the story.”

The independent film, which was shot in Victoria and around Vancouver Island, has started making the festival circuit, with screenings at the Whistler Film Festival and the Victoria Film Festival. While Winters acknowledges the finished product deviates slightly from the source material—there was a magical- realism element in the original script, new characters were added and others cut—along with the empty boat floating on a lake—she enjoyed watching her script move from page to screen.    

“It’s exciting to see what it gets transformed into,” says Winters, who currently works in the field of public art administration. “What drew me to screenwriting was the collaborative nature. And it was a good challenge to drop the ego a bit knowing there are three different people with a major creative hold on what happens. So I was prepared to let go, and I think what Arnold did was beautiful. It’s a beautiful film.”

—Story contributed by Michael Kissinger (BEd ’94) and originally published on UVic’s Alumni Relations website  

Theatre class assignment: mask movement

While audiences only know theatre school from what’s on the stage, far more goes on behind the scenes—even during COVID times—than most people ever see. Consider this full-face mask scene, created for an assignment in the fourth-year movement class in our Theatre department

Students were asked to create (or discover) a mask character based on previous improvisations, then work with partners in their class to develop a full storyline; they also had to consider design, and use their own props or costumes.

The assignment also encouraged them to consider movement as choreography and include music if they wanted. As this video by Theatre students Justin Little and Teddy MacRae demonstrates, a successful result requires creativity, practicality, imagination and discipline.   

Justin Little and Teddy MacRae

Zoom into our spring Fine Arts open house on March 9

Already enrolled in UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts for the 2021/22 academic year? Still thinking about it? Either way, bring your questions to our free Fine Arts online open house, running 6-7pm Tuesday, March 9 via Zoom.

Register for the open house here. Registration closes two hours before the event.

School of Music student Lea Fetterman in February 2021 (photo: Dani Neira)

Your future in the arts

At the March 9 open house, you can talk frankly with faculty members from each of our departments, as well as co-op & career and our student advisor, to learn how our programs can help you achieve your creative future. 

From Art History & Visual Studies to Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing and our School of Music, we offer BC’s only dedicated fine arts faculty—which means you’ll be creating and learning in a like-minded community!

Whatever your creative path, UVic’s Fine Arts faculty offers a dynamic community where curiosity, experimentation and exploration are the cornerstones of the learning environment.

Our focus on dynamic, hands-on learning—anchored by state-of-the-art, purpose-built facilities—offers an extraordinary environment for artistic expression and the integration of research and education.

Fine Arts will help you develop the critical thinking and communications skills necessary to navigate and succeed in our rapidly changing and increasingly interconnected society. With us, you’ll make ideas come to life, develop and hone your abilities, all while collaborating with peers from various disciplines. 

Visual Arts student Rudra Manani’s “Get Your Om On” (2020, digital photograph)

Everything connects

As part of our open house, you can also sit in on the sample Zoom lecture “Everything connects: ways of thinking, the Internet and addressing climate change” presented by Art History & Visual Studies professor Victoria Wyatt from 6-7pm Thursday, March 11. An award-winning teacher, Wyatt will discuss how we can’t solve today’s complex problems—such as climate change—using the same way of thinking that allowed them to develop.

Instead, the global challenges we face require us to consider invisible interconnections and complicated relationships, and to understand how everything connects. As an interactive information web, the Internet encourages us to explore the relationships between ideas and to actively engage in navigating those connections.

Discover how the Internet may help our society shift to an “ecosystems” way of thinking emphasizing relationships and interconnections—and how vital this approach is when it comes to addressing the problems the world faces today. You’ll also explore the surprising ways that Fine Arts courses will help you use this type of thinking to benefit yourself, your career and your communities. 

This event will be held on Zoom. Registration closes two hours in advance.

AHVS professor Victoria Wyatt

Victoria Wyatt (UVic Photo Services)

In Memoriam: Dr. Anthony Welch

It is with great sadness we mark the passing of Dr. Anthony Welch, noted art historian, scholar and academic leader. Dr. Welch had a long and distinguished career at the University of Victoria, beginning in 1971 as a lecturer with the Department of History in Art (now Art History & Visual Studies) and progressing to full professor in 1980. Dr. Welch also served as Associate Dean (1982-1985) before becoming the longest-serving Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts for a remarkable 13 years (1985-1998).

Accomplished dean

As author Ian MacPherson noted in his history of UVic, Reaching Outward and Upward, “Under the leadership of the Dean of Fine Arts, Anthony Welch, the faculty enjoyed remarkable success. Each of its schools — Visual Arts, Theatre, Music, Writing and History in Art — flourished; each possessed faculty members with international accomplishments and excellent reputations as teachers.”

Indeed, a number of professors who came to be synonymous with UVic were added under Dr. Welch’s leadership, including Canadian arts icon Mavor Moore, conductor János Sándor, poet Lorna Crozier and the Lafayette String Quartet.

“Tony’s contribution to the university, the faculty and the department was a major one,” recalls professor emeritus Martin Segger, a longtime colleague and close friend who first met Dr. Welch in 1971 when they were both young academics. “Tony was a serious and dedicated scholar but he loved teaching. His passion for the arts of Islam was infectious.”

Remarkable scholar

Among his many accomplishments as Dean, Dr. Welch established the Orion Artists-in-Residence in Asia program, pioneered the establishment of what would become the Studios for Integrated Media as well as interdisciplinary programs in film studies and cultural resource management, and helmed the expansion of the Fine Arts complex with the construction of both the Visual Arts and Fine Arts buildings. He later worked as the first executive director of the Office of International Affairs, was on the board of directors for UVic’s Innovation and Development Corporation, and was Vice President of the board of the McPherson Foundation.

Dr. Welch was a remarkable scholar, who was equally at home studying architecture, epigraphy and the arts of the Islamic book. His areas of specialism encompassed Iranian painting, Mughal painting in India, Islamic calligraphy and Sultanate architecture in medieval India. He was the author of several books, including Shah ‘Abbas and the Arts of Isfahan, Artists for the Shah: Late Sixteenth Century Painting at the Imperial Court of Iran and, with Stuart Carey Welch, Arts of the Islamic Book: The Collection of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. He was also a visiting professor at the universities of Minnesota, Washington and Chicago.

Committed to teaching

Throughout his career he remained committed to teaching, particularly enjoying the supervision of graduate students—many of whom went on to have successful careers as teachers or curators of Islamic art in North America, Europe, and Asia.

“Tony took his student papers very seriously and spent hours reviewing them and in the individual conversations that resulted,” recalls Segger. “He earned the admiration and respect of several generations of students whom he mentored through both undergraduate and graduate studies.”

Dr. Welch’s generosity, kindness and gentle humour will be deeply missed by all of those who worked with him during his long and illustrious career.

Tony Welch with AHVS graduate student Fahime Ghorbani in 2015

Reading Break student wellness message

With the Winter 2021 Reading Break now upon us, the faculty and staff of Fine Arts offer this short message as a way to remind our students to pause, breathe and consider their own sense of wellness in a very stressful year. As School of Music professor Adam Con tells us all, “happy body, happy mind—happy mind, happy spirit”.

Students, please take some time to rest and recover this Reading Break.