Graduate research

Writing grad lights up film fest screens

It’s one thing to have parents who have found fame in the same field you’re studying; but who wants one as the head of their university department? Consider Connor Gaston, whose parents are author Dede Crane and acclaimed novelist and Department of Writing chair Bill Gaston. Big shoes? You bet.

But the younger Gaston isn’t just following in the family’s fictive footsteps. Instead, he has already started making a name for himself as a filmmaker: one of his short films, Bardo Light, appeared at both Montreal’s le Festival des Films du Monde and the Toronto International Film Festival; another—Stuck—will be debuting later this month at the Whistler Film Festival.

“Getting into the Montreal film festival was enough—it showed that someone enjoyed my work,” he recalls with a chuckle. “But when Toronto called it was like, ‘Oh god, what’s going on here?’” Despite his early success, Gaston—already an MFA student in Writing—remains realistic about his future as a filmmaker.

“I never really thought of myself as a director,” he admits. “UVic doesn’t even have a real film school—you can’t get a degree in film here yet—so I came at it from a writer’s perspective, which is pretty healthy if you want to become a director. Without a good story, any film is lost.”

Gaston quickly credits his grad mentor, filmmaker Maureen Bradley, for keeping him focused. “She really inspired me to keep writing short films,” he explains. Using the Whistler-bound Stuck as an example, Gaston notes that while he directed it, Bradley produced it and offered continuous hands-on mentoring. “I give her all the credit for my successes.”

When asked about future plans, Gaston hedges nervously. “I don’t like to think days ahead, let alone years,” he says. “So far I’m just doing what I like . . . I pitched a couple of feature film ideas to a Vancouver production company I met at TIFF, and they want to see a script—which I just finished writing the first draft of—and now I have to sign a release contract so they can read the script, which is kind of funny . . . and scary too.”

When asked about being the latest of the Writing department’s many success stories, Gaston downplays his own achievements to date. “There’s a whole bunch of super-talented writers and filmmakers up here and a lot of them have taken off recently,” he says with a nervous laugh. “I guess I’m scared this is going to be the high point of my life, and that it’ll all be downhill from here.”

Somehow that doesn’t seem likely—despite those big shoes.