ANSWER PRINT FALL 2013
PROJECTING THE FUTURE 35th Anniversary Edition
CSIF Board of Directors: President: Leah Nicholson | Vice President: Duane Martin | Treasurer: Michelle Wong | Secretary: Donna Serafinus | Tina Alford | Lewis Liski | Emily Mody | Taylor Ross | Carl Spencer
STAFF Operations Director Bobbie Todd email@example.com Programming Director Nicola Waugh firstname.lastname@example.org Communications Director Nicola Waugh email@example.com Production Director Yvonne Abusow firstname.lastname@example.org Programming & Communications Intern: Anne Garth email@example.com Production Coordinator: Dan Crittenden firstname.lastname@example.org Designed and Compiled by Dave Reynolds + Nicola Waugh Editors Erin Sneath + Nicola Waugh Cover Illustration by: Sasha Foster Advertising Inquiries: email@example.com The Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (CSIF) is a non-profit, member-driven media arts cooperative that encourages the production and exhibition of independent film. Suite 103-223 12 Avenue SW Calgary, AB Canada T2R 0G9 Phone: 403.205.4747 Hours: Tues-Sat, 10am â€“ 5pm Web: csif.org
IN THIS ISSUE QUARTERLY MANIFESTO 4 PART I: THE PAST INTERVIEW WITH DOUGLAS BERQUIST INTERVIEW WITH NOWELL BERG INTERVIEW WITH JANE EVENS
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PART II: THE FUTURE
11 SUMMER MEDIA ARTS CAMP 12 INTERVIEW WITH BENJAMIN HAYDEN 13 ON THE SLATE 14 INTERVIEW WITH VINCENT VARGA
CSIF is grateful for the involvement of its members, the network of artist-run cooperatives throughout Canada and for the financial assistance of its funders: The Alberta Foundation for the Arts, The Canada Council for the Arts, Calgary Arts Development, and from its donors, members and individuals.
QUARTERLY MANIFESTO “The Past and the Future” by Michelle Wong, CSIF Treasurer I first walked thought the doors of the CSIF in 1990 having moved to Calgary after three years of being a high school/ junior high drama teacher in Northern Alberta. I had applied to NAIT’s CTSR program, but decided during their interview process that instead of going back to school, I was going to enrol in a different kind of school, the school of ‘learning by doing’. So what did this mean? A friend noticed a sign on 16th Avenue NW: “Society of Independent Filmmakers”. It was located in the basement of the United Church and it was there that I was first introduced to the Calgary filmmaking community. The co-op was small, but I was greeted warmly by Denise Clark, a CSIF administrator, who kindly took the time to explain the goals of the organization and the resources it had to offer a newbie filmmaker like me. She listened to my dreams of ‘directing a documentary’ and made me feel right at ‘home’ with what the CSIF could offer me as a member. Denise helped ease me into the community and was great moral support as I ventured into raising money and shooting my first film, Return Home, which eventually became a co-production with the National Film Board of Canada. In tandem with the CSIF, I also contacted SAIT and was introduced to Richard Zywokoich who had a group of students who had decided to pool their film resources together to work on a feature film project The Wayside. Of course they needed volunteers and I was 4
game to do anything. Richard informed me the crew needed a ‘continuity/script supervisor’. I had no idea what that was, but he handed me a thick binder and said ‘read through this’. So my first filmmaking volunteer opportunity was born. After the 30+ day shoot, I was well versed in how a film set worked and had met a group of really great filmmakers including Rick Youck, Carol MacDonald, Darin Wilson, and many others who are still working in the industry today. I joined the Board of the CSIF last year, stepping in as the Treasurer and remaining for a second term. Whenever I’m asked about why I volunteered to sit on the Board, I tell people it’s because I sincerely believe in the mission and mandate of the CSIF: to provide support, resources and serve as a reasonable access point for independent filmmakers. I managed to parlay my passion for film into a full time career, and when I see young ‘up and coming’ filmmakers finding their way to the doors of the CSIF (with ‘dreams and aspirations’, much like mine were), I can’t help but want to give back to an organization which believed in me when no one else did. I get very excited when I think about the future of the CSIF as an organization. Even after almost 25 years of my own journey through the CSIF’s doors, the process of getting involved in filmmaking today is relatively the same as it was back then. The process is as simple as walking through the CSIF’s doors, introducing yourself to the staff and sharing your vision, and passion with a great group of like-minded artists. Celebrating its 35 anniversary, the CSIF has a bright future ahead. Not only have we kept up with the latest technology and trends, the on-going strength of our membership and the participation of alumni continue to lay the foundation for future filmmakers. If you have ever walked through the doors of the CSIF, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t done so in a while, drop by and check us out.
THE PAST An Interview with Douglas Berquist by Erin Sneath
Douglas Berquist is a founding member of the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers. He has a long career in the artistic realm of indie filmmaking, but is also a commerciallevel producer, director, and crew member.
His credits include Death in the Family (1996) and War Bride (2001). ES:You were one of the original members back in 1978. Tell us about what it took to make the Society happen. DB: A lady named Francoise Picard was running the film and video department at the time and thought that a film cooperative would be a good thing. There was already one in Montreal. Eventually there was a coop in Toronto, and then they parachuted into different regions. There were four of us participating in bringing the funding to Calgary. We had to have a board of directors, and a plan. And then the money was parachuted in and we had to get additional funding from federal and provincial sources. ES: What changes have you seen in the local film community in that time? DB: The motion picture industry has gone through lots of changes because of attempts to get funding. Alberta has been consistently used as a location rather than an indigenous production centre, but there have always been artist generated work and documentaries. The organization grew from around eight people to what it is now, which is a hundred plus. It still grew, but it grew at its own rate and as the technology changed. People had to make a living, so many of them went the commercial route and did the artist run stuff in their own time. ES: Why do you believe that film cooperatives are still important? DB: An artist-run cooperative is important because itâ€™s the only place where you could go and experiment and work with the media and not be faced with box office pressure.You can work with the media and new conventions. Itâ€™s cultural discovery at the point of the sword. Without the point of the sword, there is no way to break ground, and anything new eventually becomes broken down into the culture. You canâ€™t work in a vacuum.You need artists working together and sharing ideas. 5
An Interview with Nowell Berg by Julien Testa
JT: When did you first join CSIF? NB: I joined CSIF in Sept 1980 when I enrolled in a 16mm camera workshop. In the early years, CSIF was made up of people from the “movie industry” and artists. It soon became apparent that in order to survive and grow, CSIF had to acquire some funds. At that time, the Canada Council was spending money to establish artist run co-ops across the country. In order to access money from this funder, CSIF had to become a artist run centre focused on independent personal filmmaking. At that time, Marcella Bienvenue, Douglas Berquist, Lela Sujuir and Andy Jeremko were the key organizers and driving force to obtain Canada Council funding. There was no Alberta Foundation for the Arts or Calgary Arts Development. By 1980 the commercial members had drifted away and most CSIF members were independently focused. It was very hard to make films back then due to a lack of money to cover the costs of shooting
16mm double system. Rick Doe owned the local film lab, and was a big supporter who processed film for many people back then. Andy and Doug were responsible for acquiring all of the early 16mm cameras and Steinbeck editing table. They also taught many workshops on filmmaking. I joined CSIF and continue to be a Production Member because it offered a chance to learn how to make films and movies. JT: How did CSIF affect your filmmaking career? NB: As a filmmaker, I began making experimental films in a dramatic context (1980). I’ve done five shorts and a documentary. In the beginning, I was not much interested in the Hollywood model of making movies.You need to keep in mind that at that time, those who were involved in CSIF were all young baby boomers. We had all been through the late 1960s and early 1970s counter culture revolution that swept across North America. We were all very anti-establishment. Our experiences in the 1970s very much influenced how we thought about films, movies and cinema. And, being Canadians, we were influenced by European filmmakers. For me Goddard was a big influence. Also, Truffaut, Bergman and Fellini. Several of
my early films were based on writings of political philosophers – Foucault and Ortega Y Gasset. In recent years, I’ve switched focus to concentrate on writing screenplays. No matter if I’m making a film or writing a script, it all comes from my understanding of the world. My stories reflect how I see the world and the ideas and emotional experiences I want to bring to an audience. JT: How has local, non-commercial filmmaking changed since you first started out? Changes in the filmmaking community (noncommercial) have been immense. I believe the technical revolution from digital cameras to digital editing has opened up the process to just about anyone who has a creative mind and passion. The ease with which one can make a film or movie these days is staggering, considering what it took back in the 1980s to get a film made. The other biggest change is the Internet and the ability to use it to exhibit, distribute films and movies. With Kickstarter you can even raise money. JT: What do you think of the film scene in Calgary? Both in terms of producers and exhibitioners NB: Filmmakers in Calgary are strong and resilient. They will continue to make films - experimental, personal narrative, documentary, found footage and mainstream narrative. The movement away from film to digital will continue in production, post-production, exhibition and distribution. JT: Where do you hope to see the Alberta film scene go from here? NB: I hope the Calgary film scene continues to push boundaries, experiment with story and narrative structure. Most of all, I urge young people to make great films and tell captivating stories with universal appeal. Nowell Berg is a filmmaker, writer and photographer. He is a past CSIF President and is still an active member.
An Interview with Jane Evans By Ron Devitt
Artist and filmmaker Jane Evans recalls having to sell her house to make her second short film. Such was the lot for Calgary filmmakers in the early days of the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers. The CSIF was formed in 1978 and is operated on a non-profit basis. It was created by local filmmakers in response to a growing interest in film production and need for equipment and resources. Evans joined the small cadre of CSIF filmmakers in 1983. “Those were interesting times,” recalls Evans via telephone from her Edmonton home. And by interesting she also means, “troubled times” In those days, the CSIF’s mandate was to provide facilities for author-driven film. “It was to provide a place and equipment for filmmakers to work on their own film,” said Evans. An art school graduate, Evans admits she had always thought of herself as an artist and not a filmmaker. But making films and joining the CSIF seemed like a natural progression from her video installation work she had been doing in the 1970s and 80s. “It was very small even when I came on board – only about four or five active people,” she said. “They were very passionate about what they were doing.” Evans served as Vice-President of the board and worked at the CSIF offices as a Coordinator. She saw, first hand, the struggles of cooperatives like the CSIF right across the country. There were funding problems, low memberships, and uneducated public in the world of art films. “It seems like it was yesterday but it was so long ago,” said Evans. Her first film, entitled The Beginning, was just over two minutes long, and won the Canadian Film Award for best musical score that year. “That was pretty cool,” she recalls. She chuckles at the seeming simplicity of the digital film age: 7
35 YEARS AGAINST THE GRAIN
“It’s just a lot different than working with film. You couldn’t take it home and work on it on the computer. It was scarier in those days. We shot on 16 mm film, used Steenbecks and to use the lights, you had to have someone who was technically trained to use them,” she said. In those days, filmmakers estimated that the cost of film, equipment, and editing amounted to about $1,000 per minute of footage. Evans’s next project was going to be a lot longer than two minutes. “It was 14 or 15 minutes long and the hard costs were big enough that I decided to sell my house,” she said. The one good thing was that all the CSIF filmmakers brought their own unique talents to filmmaking, so finding crew for film projects was never a problem - and each one was a collaborative effort. “Nobody was ever paid for anything,” she said. “We all helped out on each other’s films. I worked as art director on one and craft services on another.”
Her second film was called Gaea and, although it won no awards, it was accepted at several women’s film festivals. Evans said Gaea was never mean to be a feminist film, but that’s exactly what it became. Evans said, “It was impossible to make a film without some kind of assistance. CSIF was very important in those days.” In 1991, Evans recalls members of the CSIF putting on a showcase – Above Ground, Underground - of art films. She said at the time there was no outside audience for “art” films, so the filmmakers themselves had to educate a public on art films. “We saw some international and national films we wouldn’t have been exposed to without the co-op,” she said. “It was a very unusual time. I don’t think I could have done what I did without it in those days.” With a Canada Council grant in her pocket, Evans left for Mexico in 1990 and returned for a couple years in 1991. She returned to Mexico a second time - this time staying there for 22 years. She returned to Canada two years ago and now lives close to family in Edmonton.
An Interview with Vincent Varga by Dan Zimmerman
DZ: How did you get your start in film/in making movies? VV: I got my start in film when I was in grade eight making current events video projects for my social studies class. I was determined to make the coolest video in the class with my group. It ultimately ended up with myself sewing together a green screen that I hung in my garage, mounting work lights to the ceiling to from a low budget studio. In grade 9 I made my first short film called Freddy Should Have Made the Basketball Team, as the title suggests it was about Freddy trying to prove to his coach that he should be on the team after getting cut. This was based on a true story, as my friend Freddy did actually get cut from the team, however the means of proving his skills to his coach is pure movie magic. The film ultimately ended up screening in the Calgary International Film Festival Youth by Youth Cinema in 2009. Having that festival experience gave me the motivation to continue in film and take things to the next level. DZ: When did you join CSIF? VV: I joined the CSIF in 2010 after taking the Summer Media Arts Camp. After spending two weeks in the old Sofa Cinema I got hooked on the spirit of the CSIF. DZ: I noticed you shot some Super 8 for your film The Plant. How has your experience been with celluloid film?
VV: I really enjoy shooting on film as it brings a different state of mind to shooting. Shooting on film slows down the way I shoot as I am more careful on making sure that my composition, exposure, action, etc. are right before I start rolling. In the case of The Plant it was a one take film, as in all editing was done in camera. This added the extra challenge of timing out scenes so that I wouldn’t run over or under the three and a half minutes of a roll of Super 8. Shooting actual film is definitely something I would like to explore further. I’m interested in shooting more future projects on both Super 8 and 16mm when the opportunity arises. DZ: It seems a lot of your films are melancholic, or even in the case of The Plant a bit dystopian. Can you talk a little more about how you’ve chosen the content and aesthetic of your films? VV: The content and aesthetic of my films comes from searching for characters true personalities. I try to expose the moments in a characters life in a way they wouldn’t always portray themselves as to others. Instead of casting a veil of false happiness around them I prefer to show how they can really be on the inside. DZ: How has living in Calgary affected you as a filmmaker? VV: Living in Calgary has given me the chance to utilize the amazing landscape of the city, in both the urban and natural settings. I enjoy shooting in Calgary as there is a lot of variety in locations across the City and that the people here are also generally really film friendly so getting access to cool locations is a plus. DZ: What’s next for you? VV: Lately I’ve been gaining experience working on the big budget productions that have been shooting in the Calgary area this summer. What’s next for me is continuing my marketing degree with a new media minor at the University of Lethbridge, and shooting a variety of projects like music videos, corporates, and shorts. 11
An interview with the 2013 Summer Media Arts Camp by Gillian McKercher
The child prodigy is a familiar concept. A youth with an uncannily mature talent is regarded as equal to its adult contemporaries. We can all list a few: Mozart, Beethoven, Picasso. The technical skill of a child prodigy cannot be denied, but in terms of artistic value, what allows one individual greater status than another? Why were my seven-yearold scribbles graded at 80% while Akiane Kramarik sold paintings at $3 million at the same age? Asides from aesthetic merit, what weight do we assign to process, concept, and emotional resonance, and do they matter? Is art limited to sensory pleasure? I have yet to meet a person who describes art only by the achievement of superficial beauty, symmetrical lines or lifelike realism. Similarly, I have not met anyone who believes that the experiences from their youth are less important than those from their adulthood. In
many cases, childhood events are the fixation when explaining personality neuroses, morals, and life expectations. Nevertheless, a child’s perspective is generally acknowledged as less valuable. If an adolescent drew a man with an apple for a face during the surrealism movement, would the work be celebrated instead of Magritte’s? CSIF’s Summer Media Arts Camp (SMAC) is an example of where the youth perspective is taken seriously. Over the course of two weeks, a maximum of 8 participants between 13 and 17 years old create a short film with top quality equipment (this year, the Red Scarlet was used; past years used Super 16mm stock) and receive technical lessons on filmmaking theory. This year, the camp was headed by CSIF’s Production Director Yvonne Abusow and saw the completion of The Pie Father, a parody of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. Recent campers Kris Mish, 16, and Cage Mathes, 14, agree that CSIF’s SMAC is unique in its approach. Most of the filmmaking responsibilities fall on the attendees to assume rather than a counsellor, who acts as a guide, allowing for
a fulfilling creative experience and training of technical skills. By expecting attendees to accept ownership of their film, the end product encapsulates the youth vision uninterrupted by adult judgement. I recently watched the film I helped complete as an attendee of the SMAC five years ago: Rusteloos. I enjoy the film, but I recognize our immaturity through our filmmaking choices. I was 17 that summer and defined myself by the archetypes I admired in films: the cool girl with a fake ID; the melancholic existentialist; the well-dressed enigma. In actuality, I was not any of these ideas, and my search for identity is exemplified by the many hours I spent fitting myself into the Wikipedia definitions of agnosticism, nihilism, and absurdism. For the scenes I wrote, directed, and edited, my need to be taken seriously is obvious; while ambitious in scope, my scenes lack cohesion. Now, I would treat Rusteloos entirely differently, but the film represents the best of our abilities at that period of time. Our technical skill is impressive, our commitment undeniable, and our thematic meaning vague, and I surmise my 17-year-old summer the same way. I described my time at the SMAC for the Fall 2008 Answer Print as “…how my summer changed from monotonous to crazy, awesome, and with some cliché coming of age moments”. My fellow SMAC attendees and I will never have the same perspective as our 2008 selves, and I value Rusteloos for documenting the raw excitement and awkwardness that I forget we possessed. My experiences at the SMAC and as a teenager were not unique, confirmed by my discussions with Mish and Mathes. Both boys aspire to be full-time filmmakers and are idealistic when they describe their passion. Mathes insists that “it’s not whether you have […] fancy equipment that makes good films, it’s what you’re doing, what you’re using [that] makes [the] film. That’s what’s important. Not the actual outcome of the film”. For Mish, the value of art is its ability to allow “people to re-connect with what they once remembered or were once important
to them. Art always takes something out of a person and people always connect with things differently”. To my 22-year-old self, these opinions belie Mish and Mathes’ age due to their sophistication, and yet their comments remind me of my own sentiments at the same age. Mish, Mathes and my younger self possess a worldview that is the foundation to become nuanced with experience and age. Our work may not possess the technical mastery of a prodigy, but our intentions are equal in validity: a desire to assign our experiences meaning by sharing and validating them with each other.
An interview with Benjamin Hayden by Erin Sneath
ES: When did you join CSIF? BH: I joined the Society of Independent Filmmakers when I was in my first year of post secondary, reaching out after high school. What I found was a group of people who were not just collaborators, not just professionals but people with whom I have developed deep working friendships. ES: How did CSIF affect your film career? BH: Meeting those who were creating films as auteurs, authorial films, films where the creator was also the voice, and coming to understand that those kinds of films have a certain way that they work, artistically, creatively and technically. I found that this was the kind of person I wanted to be. ES: Did you have a lot of CSIF members on the set of your new film Agophobia? BH: I’m between the Society of Independent Filmmakers and different communities across southern Alberta and as well, communities that I have sussed out from Vancouver and internationally. 13
We definitely sought support through the Society of Independent Filmmakers for that production. We had their production support from the very start, and to the very end. ES: Tell me about Agophobia. BH: Agophobia is a transhuman odyssey of a digital avatar’s escape from the digital domain. [...] It is a high-fantasy science fiction, which has been compared, in terms of its art direction, to films like Avatar, The Matrix and the films of Tim Burton. We had donations coming in from F&D Scene Changes. They gave us a lot of raw material, and then our art team processed that and it took five months, and I thought, “Okay, this is the longest I’m going to have to spend on this.” And then production happened, and then I’m like “Okay, fine. This is where it really gets intense because we had a production team of about forty, and that was for ten days. Then, once that had wrapped, we carried into ten months of post-production, which to me was a tunnel for months where I would describe it to others as “I’m on the other side of it. I’m almost out. I see the light, I see the light, I see the light...” At the very end it became more of a process of post-production. That, to me, was the largest education of all.
Some of the most exciting experiences for the film are coming up. I will be touring to Mexico City, where the national cinematheque will be exhibiting the film as part of the Best Of North America program. It has three exhibitions there. That evening I’m leaving on a plane for Montreal where it will screen at the Montreal World Festival, one of the oldest film festivals in Canada. [...] We were accepted to the Sitges Festival in Spain, and we recently won Best Experimental Film at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, and that’s an Academy-qualifying festival. ES: What is your next project? BH: Our upcoming production is an interprovincial co-production between an Alberta based producer and a Winnipeg based producer who have jointly authorized the production of a science fiction feature film, presently titled The Rock Garden, [...] which is a story about an accelerating young neurobiologist named Alexa, who [undertakes a] journey with six others while encountering aspects of her cultural lineage. Her ancestors have previously undertaken vision quests, to set the stage for her to have true transcendence as a mortal whose soul is burning inside of her, trying to break free. Production is set to happen summer 2014. This is to be a horror first, and a sci-fi second.
ON THE SLATE PROGRAMMING Water Works A two-day screening series co-presented by the City of Calgary’s WATERSHED+ program. Friday, September 27th Bow River Pathway (at the South foot of the Peace Bridge) 7:30pm Blue Suns | Dir. Chloé Leriche | (2010) | 6min Wavumba: They Who Smell of Fish | Dir. Jeroen van Velzen | (2012) | 80min Satellite Installations by Joyce Wieland & Michael Snow, Nettie Wild and Noel Begin
Saturday September 28th River Walk (East of the Simmons Building- 618 Confluence Way SE) 7:30pm Magnetic Reconnection | Dir. Kyle Armstrong | (2012) | 13min Leviathan | Dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel | (2012) | 87min Satellite Installations by Richard Reeves, Larissa Fan and CSIF Film Club
Prairie Tales 15 Oct 10:The Royal Canadian Legion #1 (116 7 Ave SE) 7:00pm
A selection of films from Prairie Tales- an annual touring collection of short films and videos made by Albertan artists. Produced by the Alberta Media Arts Alliance (AMAAS)
Projecting The Future: CSIF’s 35th Anniversary Party Oct 25: National Music Centre (134 11 Ave SE) 8:00pm
Come out and celebrate CSIF’s 35th year supporting Calgary’s film community!
WORKSHOPS Shooting with the Scarlet
Saturday Sept 21, 2013 Cost: Members $95
Instructor: Aaron Bernakevitch Non-Members $145
Basic Camera Workshop
Saturday October 5, 2013 Cost: Members $200
Instructor: Philip Letourneau Non-Members $250
After Effects Basics
Sat Oct 19 and Sun Oct 20, 2013 Instructor: Mitch Barany Cost: Members $190 Non-Members $240 Makeup and Effects for Independent Film and Video
Sat & Sun, Oct 26-27 Cost: Members $210
Instructor C. Blake Evernden Non-Members $260
Writing the Short Film
Sat Nov 2, Thurs Nov 7, Thurs Nov 21, Sat Nov 30 Instructor: Corey Lee Cost: Members $300 Non-members $350 Producing Workshop
Sat Nov 16 & Sun Nov 17 Instructor: Michelle Wong Cost: Members $210 Non-Members $260 MORE INFO AT CSIF.ORG 15
The Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers' quarterly publication. Articles discuss independent filmmaking from scriptwriting, developmen...