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2013 western magazine awards finalist September / October 2013


Ben Ratner’s journey

Post and VFX community combine forces on big budget Hollywood film Elysium Bruce Sweeney scores in The Dick Knost Show

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Down River takes him to VIFF



14 A Journey Down River


Ben Ratner took his grief over the loss of good friend/actress Babz Chula and turned it into a film inspired by her role as a mentor and guide to so many. In a film diary, he charts his journey making Down River, which makes its world premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

5 bits and bytes

18 Home Sweet Home

9 BC Indie Scene

Homegrown talent is being celebrated at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival with the inaugural B.C. Spotlight, a showcase of local films. Also among the highlights of the 16 day festival, a strong lineup of Canadian and international documentaries, Asian Films and a reborn late night genre series.

12 Beginnings

Production Update

7 Legal BrIEFS


22 A Stamp of ApprovaL Matthew Kowalchuk says he would have stopped traffic on the Second Narrows Bridge if his first feature, the dramedy Lawrence & Holloman, didn’t get into VIFF. Luckily for him — and Vancouver commuters — it got into both the Vancouver and Edmonton festivals. That’s a double score for the filmmaker who grew up in Edmonton and now makes Vancouver home.

24 Broadcasting is a Contact SpoRT In Bruce Sweeney’s seventh feature film, he takes on hockey and the media. The Dick Knost Show, screening in the VIFF B.C. Spotlight, is a satire about an impulsive sports talk show host whose tweets get him into trouble.

26 A Hollywood Blockbuster finished in Vancouver Skeptics in LA didn’t think a big budget VFX movie could be finished in B.C. but Vancouver post, VFX and sound facilities proved them wrong, teaming up to finish Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium locally.

Cover: Down River Director Ben Ratner; Photo by Dean Buscher. Contents: JENNIFER SPENCE TAKING DIRECTION FROM BEN RATNER; photo by James Brown. Reel West Magazine is a wholly owned enterprise of Reel West Productions Inc. It exists and is managed to provide publicity and advertising that supports the growth of the Western Canadian Motion Picture Industry. Executive publisher: Sandy P. Flanagan. Editor: Cheryl Binning. Publisher: Ron Harvey. Sales: Randy Holmes, Adam Caddell creative Director: Andrew von Rosen. art director: Lindsey Ataya. Photo Editor: Phillip Chin. Contributors: Nathan Caddell, Katja De Bock, Janos Molnar. Reel West Magazine is published six times per year. Subscriptions Canada/US $35.00 per year (plus $10.00 postage to USA). Reel West Digest, The Directory for Western Canada’s Film, Video and Television Industry, is published annually. Subscription $35.00 per year (plus $10.00 postage to US). Both Publications $60.00 (plus $10.00 postage to USA) Prices include GST. Copyright 2013 Reel West Productions Inc. Second Class Mail. Registration No. 0584002. ISSN 0831-5388. G.S.T. # R104445218. Reel West Productions Inc. Suite 114 – 42 Fawcett Road, Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, V3K 6X9. Phone (604) 553-1335 Toll Free: 1-888-291-7335 Fax: (604) 451-7305 Email: URL: Volume 28, Issue 5. Printed In Canada. To subscribe call 1-888-291-7335 or visit our website at Reel West welcomes feedback from our readers, via email at All correspondence must include your name, address, and Phone number.

Reel West September / OCtober 2013


Production update

What’s coming. What’s shooting. What’s wrapped.

PASCALE HUTTON and ADAM BEACH are back for a third season of Arctic Air. Photo By Phil Chin

Season 3 of Arctic Air Takes Flight


eason 3 of the CBC series Arctic Air started shooting in August and will continue through to late November. The adventure series is set at a fictional Yellowknife airline and stars Adam Beach, Pascale Hutton and Kevin McNulty as a trio of squabbling pilots. Produced by Omni Film Entertainment, Arctic Air is executive produced by Michael Chechik, Gabri-


ella Schonbach, Gary Harvey, Ian Weir, and Jon Cooksey and produced by Ian Hay. The DOPs are Bruce Worrall and Michael Blundell; the production designer is Joanna Dunn, the production manager is Chris Rudolph, the production coordinator is Cathy Fullerton and the location manager is Hans Dayal. Production began in late August on My Mother’s Future Husband, starring Lea Thompson (Back to

the Future, Caroline in the City) and Matreya Fedor (Cedar Cove, Mr. Young). It’s the story of a mother and widow of five years who has thrown herself into running a bistro and being the best friend of her 15 year old daughter Headley. Meanwhile, Healey, while still grieving over the loss of her dad, secretly plans to find a husband for her mom while dealing with her own first romance. The TV movie is produced by

Deboragh Duffield and Legacy Filmworks and directed by George Erschbarner. Julie Brazier (My Name is Sarah) wrote the script. The ensemble cast also includes Sebastian Spence (Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome), Gig Morton (Mr. Young), Burkely Duffield (House of Anubis, Supernatural), and Everick Golding (Human Target). The movie will air on US family entertainment network UPTV. The new Hallmark Channel series When Calls the Heart, starring Jean Smart and Lori Loughlin, is in production in Vancouver. The series about love and life in a 1910-era small town has Michael Landon Jr. directing, Vicki Sotheran and Greg Malcolm as producers, Robert Brinkmann as DOP, Brentan Harron as production designer, Simon Richardson as production manager, Michael Lien as production coordinator, and David Fullerton as locations manager. The series is in production until mid-December. The CW action adventure series Arrow began shooting its second season in July and continues through to April next year. Based on the DC Comics costumed crime-fighter Green Arrow, the series follows billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Steve Amell) who fights crime and corruption as a secret vigilante using a bow and arrow. The series is directed by John Behring and Nick Copus, executive produced by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg, and produced by JP Finn and Wendy Mericle. The DOP is Glen Winter and Gord Verheul, the production designer is

Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Richard Hudolin, the production manager is Todd Pittson, the production coordinator is Fawn McDonald, the SPFX coordinator is Dave Gauthier, and location managers are Kirk Adamson and Robert Murdoch. The fourth season of the TNT sci-fi series Falling Skies, exec produced by Stephen Spielberg, began shooting in September. The series stars Noah Wyle as a former Boston University history professor who becomes the second-in-command of a militia group of civilians and fighters fleeing post-apocalyptic Boston following an alien invasion that devastated the planet. Grace Gilroy is producer, Nate Goodman and Barry Donlevy are DOPs, Rob Gray is production designer, Yvonne Melville is production manager, Genevieve Bridges is production coordinator, Casey Nelson-Zutter and Ritch Renaud are

locations managers and Dan Keeler is SPFX coordinator. Production continues through to February 2014. The Fox pilot Wayward Pines wrapped on September 9. In the style of Twin Peaks, Wayward Pines is based on Blake Crouch’s novel Pines, and is described as a mindbending thriller in which nothing is what it seems. It stars Matt Dillon as a secret service agent who comes to as small town to investigate the disappearance of two federal agents. The pilot was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, executive produced by Chad Hodge, Donald De Line, M. Night Shyamalan, and Ashwin Rajan, and produced by Ron French. The DOP was Amy Vincent, the production designer was Curt Beech, the production manager was Craig Forrest, the production coordinator was Jennifer Aichholz, and location manager was Dan Carr. n

Soska Sisters See More Evil

Vancouver-based horror duo Jen and Sylvia Soska (American Mary) are directing See No Evil 2, produced by Lionsgate Studios and WWE Studios. The slasher movie is a sequel to the 2006 movie See No Evil and stars WWE wrestler Kane (Glenn Jacobs) reprising his role as reclusive madman Jacob Goodnight. Co-written by Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby, the horror flick follows a group of medical students fighting to survive Jacob Goodnight’s latest killing spree after he rises from the dead in a city morgue. Lionsgate will handle worldwide distribution. “We are so pleased to extend what has been an ideal partnership with Lionsgate,” said Michael Luisi, President, WWE Studios. “Their expertise in distributing and marketing thrilling genre films complements our own vision and efforts for these movies perfectly. We are equally excited to work with the Soska Sisters, who will apply their truly unique filmmaking style to See No Evil 2.” The twisted twins, as they are often called by fans, said in a statement, “it’s been a long time aspiration for us to work with both these phenomenal companies.” Filming began Sept 23 in Vancouver. The twin sisters will also contribute to 2014’s horror anthology sequel ABCs of Death 2, along with Vincenzo Natali, director of Cube and Splice. Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Bits and Bytes

Once Upon a Time crew on barge transporting a Whites Telescopic Supertechno 30 Crane.

Whites Telescopic Launches William F. White International has launched Whites Telescopic Camera Cranes, the country’s largest full-service camera cranes company. The move follows WFW completing its acquisition of Vancouver-based Telescopic Camera Cranes and its fleet of cranes used in film and TV production. Telescopic Camera Cranes founding partners Andrew Mulkani and Barrie Wells will continue in their respective roles as President and Vice President of the company. “Andy and Barrie bring a widely-respected and long-standing reputation around the world for excellence in their craft,” said Paul Bronfman, Chairman/CEO of Comweb Corp. in a statement. “I’m delighted to have them become part of the Comweb Group of companies.” Whites Telescopic equipment arensal includes the SuperTechno 50, SuperTechno 30 (both the Technovision and the Orion versions), the Technocrane 20, Techno 15, and the Technodolly. This initiative is part of William F. White’s commitment to expand its specialty equipment department and offer the latest products and technologies. Comweb/White’s previously announced a $20 million investment in new production technologies in addition to a $40 million financing agreement with BMO Financial Group.

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Lesley Brady joins UBCP/ACTRA


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UBCP/ACTRA has appointed Lesley Brady as Director, Film, Television and New Media. Brady has been with UBCP/ ACTRA for 15 years, the last eight of those as Business Agent, Film & Television. This new role is an expansion of Lesley’s existing responsibilities with UBCP. Along with a continuation of her previous duties, she will provide enhanced support in

areas such as collective bargaining, contract administration, and industry and joint union relations. The Union of British Columbia Performers (UBCP/ACTRA) is an autonomous branch of ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists), the national organization of professional performers working in the Englishlanguage recorded media in Canada.

Piers Handling, TIFF’s director and CEO; honourable mention Kevan Funk (Vancouver); national winner Christoph Rainer (Vienna); honourable mention Dan Popa (Montreal); and Jennifer Tory, RBC’s regional president for Greater Toronto. PhotO By RBC / Marc Rochette

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Kevan Funk of Vancouver received an honourable mention in the Toronto International Film Festival’s RBC Emerging Filmmaker Competition. Funk’s short film Destroyer is about a young athlete who struggles with the weight of witnessing his fellow teammates commit an act of violence. “These winning films demonstrate the work of unique, emerging voices in filmmaking,” said Piers Handling, director and CEO, TIFF. “The Emerging Filmmakers Competition is a platform to share these voices …” The RBC Emerging Filmmakers Competition is part of Talent Lab, a four-day intensive program at the Toronto International Film Festival that offers artistic development opportunities to a select group of emerging Canadian and international filmmakers. Each filmmaker is provided with $500 cash to develop a one-to-five minute short film for the competition.

Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Legal Briefs

Yeti Farm will collaborate on the production of Rocket Monkeys.

International Co-Productions


or Canadian producers, there are many obvious benefits to participating in an international co-production. Perhaps most obvious is that treaty co-productions allow Canadian producers to access

Lori Massini Entertainment Lawyer

Atomic and Yeti Team Up

Atomic Cartoons has signed a three-year joint venture with Kelowna-based animation studio Yeti Farm Creative. The deal is worth up to three million dollars in production value and expands Atomic’s animation production capabilities into Kelowna. “We’re very pleased to be able to springboard from our long time success in the Vancouver marketplace and to expand production into Kelowna, a growing and vibrant animation market within B.C.,” said Rob Simmons, partner, Atomic Cartoons. “Kelowna offers a natural extension to our work, and a supportive business and lifestyle environment. Having committed and experienced partners in Yeti Farm Creative is a great approach to the Okanagan for Atomic.” Yeti Farm will collaborate on the production of two Atomic Cartoons children’s animated television series, Rocket Monkeys, for TELETOON in Canada and Nickelodeon in the US.; and the comedy Pirate Express, forTELETOON and Nine Network Australia. Yeti Farm Creative, founded by Todd Ramsay in 2007, will be hiring 30 more crew as a result of the joint venture with Atomic Cartoons. Rental House Produces Short Pacific Backlot Services, an equipment rental house in Vancouver, BC., is producing its first short film, The Magic Ferret. Directed by Alison Parker and written by Scott and Paula Merrow, the short shot in early September. It’s a family-friendly comedy about a six year old orphan who can’t find a family (played by JaReel West September / OCtober 2013

cob Tremblay) and his pet ferret Booger. Also starring in The Magic Ferret is Beverley Elliott (Once Upon A Time), Fred Ewanuick (Corner Gas) and Lisa Durupt (Less Than Kind). Alison Parker, Hugh Brompton and Synnove Godeseth are producers, with Shawn Seifert as Director of Photography.

financing sources in more than one country, and still produce “Canadian content” productions. Since Canadian producers are often forced to piece together financing from a number of sources, and since those sources are increasingly in short supply, co-productions can offer producers a way to beat the financing hurdle. Despite the benefits of participating in a co-production, many producers are still unaware of the requirements for certification. This article contains a brief overview of the requirements for obtaining Official Treaty Co-Production status. In Canada, the certification of a project as an “Official Treaty CoProduction” is the mandate of Telefilm Canada. Canadian producers are fortunate enough to have coproduction treaties in place with more than fifty other countries. The United States, however, is not one of those countries; so, unfortunately, Canadian producers cannot produce an Official Treaty Co-Production with an American producer. With the exception of certain excluded genres of production, such as pornography, any film or television project can technically be produced as a treaty co-production. The issue is simply whether the producer is able and willing to comply with the terms and conditions of the applicable co-production treaty. Each international co-production treaty will set out the requirements, including creative control, and certain minimums with respect to the financial contribution of each country. As each co-production treaty was negotiated independently, each treaty will contain different requirements, so a producer should always familiarize themselves with the applicable treaty prior to committing to a co-production.

Notwithstanding the fact that each treaty needs to be considered individually, there are some general Telefilm guidelines regarding the participation of Canadians in any coproduction. First, co-production treaties will require a minimum contribution to the overall budget by each coproducer. Secondly, although the source material for a co-production may be based on an underlying work conceived of by a party who isn’t a citizen of either co-producing country, Telefilm requires that the coproducers meaningfully develop the property. Also, the copyright ownership of the production between the countries must correspond to that country’s overall financial contribution. The allocation of key creative positions should also correspond to the financial contributions of the coproducing countries. However, in the event that the co-producers cannot satisfy this requirement, Telefilm has provided for some creative evaluation grids, which can be found on their website. With respect to exploitation, Telefilm requires that there is an equitable sharing of markets and potential revenues among the coproducers, which sharing will also be dependent on the percentage of each party’s financial contribution to the co-production, but in any event, the exploitation of the production in each co-producer’s home country must remain under the control of the applicable coproducer. In other words, a Canadian co-producer will need to own the distribution rights in Canada, and must be entitled to receive an equitable share of the net profits derived from the exploitation of the project in all other territories. Co-producers will generally share in such worldwide revenues in proportion to their respective financing contributions. When it comes to official certification, the process consists of two stages. The first is preliminary recommendation, and it involves the submission of an application with certain supporting documentation Legal Briefs continued on page 28 7

Where Where Industry Industry Professionals Professionals Meet Meet

2013 2013

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The Timekeeper Wins Hot Shots Contest The winning script in the 6th annual Hot Shots Shorts Film Contest is The Timekeeper by Cookie Boyle and Walter Sawadsky. The filmmakers will receive approximately $10,000 in cash and $30,000 in-kind sponsorship to make their short film. “We are so honoured to have been selected,” said Boyle. “The Hot Shots Shorts contest gave us the opportunity to develop a script with what we believe is a universal story. Now we’re able to move to the next phase of the project, working with the Di-

rector, Scott Weber as he brings The Timekeeper from the page to the screen.” The script is about a watchmaker who pawns time from people who waste it, so he may give it to others who value it. The story reminds that time is the one luxury that people desire but they cannot buy. The annual contest provides sponsorship and monetary support to an exceptional Vancouver short film script that might not otherwise have the opportunity to be made into a film.

Tactica Interactive in the Ring with Boxing App

Winnipeg’ digital media company Tactica Interactive has launched the Fit First fitness app to accompany the launch of the third season of APTN series Fit FirstYouth Edition. The ap allows users to train alongside Canadian National Boxing champion Kent Brown. The TV series Fit First: Youth Edition follows four Aboriginal youth from different walks of life, who all struggle with being overweight but have set a goal to get healthy in mind, body and spirit. The four participants become part of Kent Brown’s gym and learn to sweat off the pounds to become lean and powerful, both inside and out. Fit First: Youth Edition is a joint venture between Animiki See and Indios Productions Inc and produced by Stephanie Scott, Vanessa Loewen, and Holly Moore with writers/directors Shannon Letendre, Stephanie Scott, and John Gurdebeke. Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Indie Scene

Short Films on the Big Screen at VIFF


hat time of year again. In the uncertain climate that is the BC film industry, you can count on the Vancouver Internation-

Paul Armstrong Producer

al Film Festival to come around every Fall. It’s a reminder that summer is over. Like that back to school feeling when you are a kid …. but something you look forward to. You can also look forward to a selection of some of the best short films made over the past year. In terms of BC-made shorts, this year’s VIFF is no exception. One such local film is Anxious Oswald Greene, written and directed by Marshall Axani, and winner of the 5th Annual Hot Shot Shorts Contest operated by the Celluloid Social Club. In the film, Oswald Greene, played by Ryan Beil, visits a shoddy clinic in a desperate attempt to cure his crippling anxiety only to be confronted by a series of unpredictable characters, including a blind nurse, Ellie Harvie, a talking fly, and an eccentric doctor with a knack for rhyming, John Novak. This is Axani’s first time screening a film at VIFF. But in this era of everything moving on-line, what are the continuing benefits of film festivals? Many, most of the filmmakers agree. “They are still a great way to capitalize on exposure, publicity, and networking as they bring people together, and no one can really deny that there’s not a great feeling to sitting and watching your film in a theatre,” says Marshall. “We’d also like to use the Festival to develop more relationships for future collaborations, as well as to promote upcoming projects in development and hopefully further those along.” Producer Diana Donaldson adds: “The opportunity to see your short film in a festival on the big screen is a magnificent experience not offered on YouTube or other online outlets. You are surrounded with a live audience and get to partake in that special feeling when they laugh, jump and cry in all the right spots. You get to hear the whispers of what every-

one loved or thought was cool about the film.” One of the 2013 Crazy8s Film Event finalist films is also screening at VIFF: Under the Bridge of Fear by Mackenzie Gray, recently seen acting in the new Superman movie, Man of Steel. Under the Bridge is an homage to the great film noir thrillers of the 1940s and 50s in which hard-boiled private eye Hamilton Drake, played by David Lewis, is hired to chase down the rat who’s blackmailing rich dame Georgia Thurlow and her sultry movie star companion, Carrall Cordova. But in this sapphic underworld, nothing is black and white. “For many films, festivals are the only place they get seen on a big screen, which is where films are meant to be seen,” says Gray. “And film watching is meant to be a SHARED experience. It is part of its whole dynamic. So festivals are even MORE relevant than before.” He adds, “I enjoy VIFF because it is about the films, first and foremost. In some bigger festivals you feel lost amidst the glamour, celebrity, eventmania and press. VIFF let’s you stand out and shine.” Yet another local film contest winner screening at VIFF is Beauty Mark directed by Mark Ratzlaff, a darkly satirical story of 8-year-old Annabelle, Taya Clyne, a child-beauty-queen who is pushed to the edge and must take drastic measures to reclaim her childhood. The film won the MPPIA Short Film Award pitch competition in 2011 at one of BC’s other major festivals, the Whistler Film Festival. “Viewership is always important, but screening online can’t give you the same opportunities to network with industry professionals and fellow filmmakers,” says Ratzlaff. “There’s something wonderful about the spontaneity and random nature of networking at a festival that can only happen in the flesh with a drink in your hand.” And what makes VIFF a special festival to screen at? “VIFF has always gone above and beyond for their filmmakers,” he explains. “They still manage to keep things personal Indie Scene continued on page 28 9

The Town that Came A-Courtin Lands in Vancouver

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In August, Valerie Harper (Rhoda), Lauren Holly (NCIS, Motive), Cameron Bancroft (24) and Lucie Guest (Blackstone) were in Vancouver for production on the UPTV movie, The Town that Came A-Courtin’. The film is produced by Vancouver’s Odyssey Media and directed by David Winning (Andromeda). The movie is based on best-selling author and syndicated columnist Ronda Rich’s novel and loosely based on an experience she had during a book tour. Sheryl J. Anderson (Charmed) adapted the script. The movie follows a successful author and fiercely independent southern woman (Holly) who visits the town of Bliss, Mississippi on a book

tour but gets more than she bargained for: the town helps her find a love match in the widowed Mayor (Bancroft) and she winds up being kept captive in a remote cabin by an obsessed fan. “…this uplifting, sometimes bumpy romance showcases how a community’s spirit and good will can help people connect and find each other,” said Barbara Fisher, SVP, original programming at UP. Executive producers are Kirk Shaw, Stan Spry, Rich Middlemas, Marybeth Sprows and Eric Andrews. The DOP is Curtis Petersen and the editor is Sabrina Pitre. The Town That Came A-Courtin’ will air on UP in January 2014.

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Blackstone Back on TV Season three of Blackstone, a dramatic TV series set at the fictional community of Blackstone First Nation, is now airing on APTN in Canada and Maori Television in New Zealand. Produced by Edmonton’s Prairie Dog Film + Television, the raw series tackles universal themes of domestic violence, criminal justice, child and family welfare, the devastating consequences of addiction, and the long process of healing and reconciliation. “It may be our most explosive season yet and we look forward to having our viewers experience it,” says Executive Producer, Writer and Director Ron E. Scott. Blackstone has won 20 awards including two Gemini Awards, and received dozens more nominations. Jesse Szymanski is Producer, and Damon Vignale is Writer / Producer on the series.

Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Photo by Phil CHin


Reel West September / OCtober 2013


The Adventures of a Drama Queen Storytelling has always been in Margaret Mardirossian’s blood and as her company Anaid Productions celebrates its 20th Anniversary, she looks back on her colourful career with no regrets ... even though it meant ignoring her dad’s advice and choosing TV over the E.R.


here was a period of time where I did not own a television. That was the dark ages. I was at McGill University and focused on becoming a theatre director extraordinaire. My English degree was simply an excuse to be in an environment where I could stage plays. I had been staging plays, acting, writing, and living the life of a drama queen since popping into this world. There was no question I would land in the field of entertainment despite my father’s persistent mantra (even to this day) “you could still be a doctor. It’s not too late.” It’s not that I didn’t want to follow a different profession; I was just hardwired to channel stories. I studied sciences for a year at Capilano College until my Bunsen Burner blew up in my face and my calculus teacher took pity on me. Over the years, his career counsel has stretched into a full-blown musical number that crescendos in my mind much like Mother Abbess’s climactic “follow every rainbow till you find your dream”. Still, Capilano College was my first turning point. I met two very important people who inspired my career path: Dawn Moore (my acting teacher who, as fate would have it, continues to teach there!). And writer/actor, now publisher, Marc Coté. He was the Casanova (albeit, gay) to my Camille (the courtisane/ French slut) in Dawn’s production of Ten Blocks on the Camino Real by Tennessee Williams. Marc and I bonded over our self-indulgent, angst-ridden dramatics. We picked up where we had left off when I moved back to Montreal to study at McGill. Marc had beaten me to the punch and was instrumental in escorting me through Admissions and opening my eyes to the weird and wonderful world of the Canadian literati. I had finally found “my dream.” We smoked, drank, partied like we were living in Paris as expatriots in the 1920’s – which led Marc to adapt Hemingway’s Moveable Feast to a stage play, and I had the honor to direct my first play as a grown-up. It was a hit – sold out for the five nights in a small studio theatre at the University. Marc and I continued to collaborate on more plays over the course of my academic life. Fast forward to 1988. I had been working as a stage manager for three years for some of the best theatre companies in Calgary, Alberta.…but I was champing at the bit to direct. Tired of making zero money and having nothing to show for it except a resumé, I knew I had to test drive the world of film. I’d at least have a tangible asset to make up for all the sweat equity. I soon discovered that in order to direct, I had to learn how to produce…meaning, I had to raise money. I took my father’s consolatory advice. If I wasn’t going to be a doctor, I should really brush up on my business acumen. I took the Canadian Securities Course through correspondence. Still a theatre practitioner at heart, and a huge Shakespeare fan, I couldn’t get past my Reel West September / OCtober 2013

mental image of stocks and bonds as medieval tools for public humiliation. I hired a tutor (not Tudor), who miraculously became my life partner of 23 years! Miracle #2 - I passed the course. My first job in television was on 21 Jump Street….as a parking lot attendant (aka “location production assistant”). Seriously – I didn’t give a shit about Johnny “whoever the !#@$ he is” Depp as I stood drenched wearing nothing but five inch heeled, peep-toe sandals and a summer dress guarding cars. I lasted two days. My next adventure was on the bazillion dollar Japanese feature film shot outside of Calgary - Heaven or Hell or maybe it was Heaven and Earth. I was one of 50 PAs in charge of 50 extras but by the end of it I was ready to take a Samurai spear to the backside of the 1st AD. It was obvious that my aspirations went beyond PAing but I knew that I had to remain patient. “Ambition without knowledge is like a boat on dry land” (The Next Karate Kid). I continued to hone my skills in filmmaking. I had a temporary job at the National Film Board in Edmonton, joined the Film and Video Association volunteering as a camera assistant, production managed for local productions and whatever else came along. In the meantime, I put my financing and creative skills to the test. I created a Limited Partnership to raise $30,000 to produce my first documentary. It was on Ronnie Burkett, Canadian puppeteer extraordinaire. Mysteriously, it had all the ingredients necessary to create a compelling “reality” show: a lead character who is larger than life and an absolute expert in his field. There was jeopardy: Ronnie had less than a month to create and build 40 puppets, write and memorize the lines to all 40 characters, create the set and costumes - Perfect!! Potential for disaster. But just when it looked like the obstacles were insurmountable, miraculously, Ronnie pulled it off with success – happy ending. In 1993, Ronnie Burkett: A Line of Balance won the Canadian Conference of the Arts Rogers Award for most innovative documentary. Capitalizing on the critical success of Line of Balance, Anaid Productions was born and I produced a second project using the Limited Partnership financing model. This helped pay for the company’s first employee, Helen Schmidt. I wanted to focus on the creative and was more than happy (in fact, ecstatic) to pass off the accounting work to an expert. Helen is now an integral partner of the company and heads up Business Affairs. Within 3 years, Anaid launched two new TV series simultaneously: the Family Channel live action series Mentors created by the award winning writer/producer Josh Miller and in partnership with Minds Eye Pictures (4 seasons); and The Tourist in partnership with comedian Rick Bronson and Beginnings continued on page 28 13

Diary Feature

Writer/Director Ben Ratner. Photo By Dean Buscher

A Journey Down River

The loss of a friend inspired Ben Ratner to make a film about living. In the following diary, the Vancouver filmmaker recounts his journey to bring Down River to the big screen. The film is a gala presentation in the B.C. Spotlight programme at VIFF. Diary by

Ben Ratner April 2010 My dear friend, mentor, and collaborator Babz Chula is in her final weeks after a long, brave fight with cancer. I ask my friend Colleen Rennison, a gifted singer, to come over to Babz’s place and sing her a few songs. Colleen is still a pup at 22, but when she first met and acted with Babz she was in grade school. Colleen shows up with her friend Kevin House, a journeyman guitarist/singer/songwriter. Turns out Kevin knows Babz, too. Everyone knows Babz. We gather around in the living room overlooking Lost Lagoon and they start to play. The first song they sing is an original Kevin House ballad that grabs me by the throat……“Down river…Where the loons cry for you… Down river...The further we go…” May 2010 I host Babz Chula’s memorial at the Arts Club theatre, which is packed. I read the letter Babz wrote to say thank you to the many people who supported her, financially and spiritually, through her long illness. “I am there for you,” it reads. “For every one of you. It has to be that way. This cannot be about me. It must be about all of us, about community, and the world. Cancer 14

is the opportunity we’ve been given to all be better at what we do. To be bigger of heart and greater of mind.” Kevin and Colleen play his song Down River, and everyone feels it deep down in their bones. September 2010 I’m teaching acting class one night when two actors, Melissa Robertson and Melanie Walden, do a scene from a play called Delores and blow everyone’s minds. Somehow their work triggers something inside me. I want to write about all the crap women have to overcome in order to empower themselves as artists. Even if it’s just for a fleeting moment in front of twenty people, it counts. November 2010 This movie idea starts to spill out. Onto my computer, note pads and napkins, into conversations. I want to write about a woman like Babz, a friend to everyone she meets, a mentor, a mensch. And I want to write about a group of women she empowers, all of them artists. I don’t know the story, other than in the end the older woman will die and the younger women will have to find their own way, just like I had to find my way when Babz died. There will be a painter, and I’ll write that part for my fiancée, Jennifer Spence. There will be an actor, and I’ll write that part for my friend Gabrielle Miller. There will be a singer, I’ll write that for my friend Colleen Rennison, and there will be a dancer, written for another friend, Jennifer Copping. I know a bit Reel West September / OCtober 2013

about painting. I know a lot about music and acting. I don’t know anything about dancing. I’ll figure it out. Figuring out who to cast in the role of the “Babz” character is proving to be more difficult. One day Helen Shaver suddenly appears in my mind. I remember seeing her in Martin Cummins’ low-budget film All Fall Down, so I figure she’s got the “independent spirit.” She was fantastic in that film: funny, sad, sexy, and utterly raw and real. I get her number from Gabrielle Miller and call her up. I tell her about the movie I want to make. There will be no money, but it will be good. I can’t think of anyone else to play this part. Before we hang up she gives up and says, “I’m in, I’ll do it.” I am enthused, but I know no one as good as Helen Shaver comes that easy. I have a lot of writing to do, and the script will have to be something special. I try to think of a title. I want to call the Babz character “Pearl,” named after my dear old aunt Pearl. Pearl… Pearl… “Pearl and the Girls”? That ain’t bad. It is what it is. A film about “Pearl” and these younger women, “the girls.” December 2010 Larry Lynn, Babz’s widower, my dear friend, and a fantastic cinematographer, is going to shoot the film. Who else? I’m concerned the subject matter is too painful, and it’s too soon, but Larry is an artist. Like me, he deals with loss by working through it with his craft. And he deals with it in other ways, too. After Babz passed away, Larry decided he was going to become a Priest. But that’s another story. Larry asks how I’m going to finance the film and I admit I have no idea. Larry says he might “have a guy.” He tells me about his friend, Jack Ong, who wants to get into producing films. We set up a meeting. I tell Jack the story, making up parts of it as I go along. It doesn’t matter. Jack knew and loved Babz, and he trusts Larry. We shake on it and agree our budget is going to be “very, very low.” I feel like I just signed a three-picture deal with Miramax. January 2011 My friend Brian Markinson, the busiest actor I know, introduces me in person to Helen Shaver. The three of us have lunch in Yaletown. She looks great, and I love the touch of gravel in her voice. She sounds like she’s lived a life and I know she’ll be tremendous in the film. I barely get a word in as they Reel West September / OCtober 2013

“Babz’s voice, her sense of humor, her wisdom, her vulnerability, there’s an endless well to draw from.” yack away, excited to see each other and catch up. Two great ways to turn a woman off are by talking too much and being cheap, and I am careful not to do either one. I let them do the talking, and I pick up the tab. March 2011 We decide to shoot a little “teaser” on a 7-D to get the ball rolling. I know from previous experience if you want something to happen, start shooting. Even if you don’t have a camera, start shooting and a camera will show up. We shoot non-dialogue scenes with Jennifer Spence, Gabrielle Miller, Jennifer Copping and Colleen Rennison. We don’t really know what our footage is going to add up to, but I have a basic idea of how it’ll cut together. It’s going to be a montage set to Kevin’s song Down River. April 2011 I get Helen on the phone and ask her to shoot some scenes for us next time she’s in town. The day we shoot she comes over to Larry’s place and looks at all the photos of Babz on the wall, her art, her jewelry, her clothes still packed into the closets. We shoot scenes of Helen walking by Lost Lagoon. She’s got something going on in her head and emanating out of her great big eyes that gives me shivers and makes my heart beat faster. I keep my mouth shut and let the camera roll. My friend Rob Wenzek and I edit the footage in his basement. There’s something there. The women are all very powerful in very different ways. Kevin and Colleen’s performance of Down River is sublime. I decide to call the film Down River. How could I ever have thought of any other title? Pearl and the Girls was a sucky name. We finish the “teaser” and stick it on YouTube. People are liking what they see. They think it’s a trailer from an actual movie. This is just what I was hoping for. Now we have to make the film, or we look like total shmucks. May 2011 I keep writing. Some of it flows very easily. I hear Babz’s voice.

I know what she would say. Same for Colleen’s character, “Harper”. Jen’s character “Aki” and Gabrielle’s character “Fawn” are also speaking for themselves. I know them well, and I know what the men in their lives have to say, too. Babz’s voice, her sense of humor, her wisdom, her vulnerability, there’s an endless well to draw from. The most challenging character is “Sherri” (Jennifer Copping’s character). I don’t know dancing, and I’ve written her as a single mom for some reason, which I also know nothing about. I keep playing around with it and finally a good scene in a child psychologist’s office ends up on the page. I’m starting to get “Sherri”, and I like her. She’s so needy, even her ten-year-old kid can see right through her sunny optimism. “Pearl” will set her straight at some point in the film. The page count is climbing and the walls of my office are covered with index cards and that gives me hope. But I still don’t really know what it’s all about. It’s about losing your mentor, but I don’t want to write a bummer cancer movie. That’s not what Babz was about. There’s something else here, I just haven’t found it yet. June 2011 I marry the love of my life, Jennifer Spence. I gotta get the script for Down River finished, but life is so busy. We go to New York on our honeymoon and see amazing theatre, on and off Broadway and on every street corner. We return to Vancouver revitalized, and I’m determined to finish the script. November 2011 Jennifer Copping tells me she’s pregnant, and unless I can write “Sherri” as being “with child” she’ll have to drop out of the film. I feel bad, because Jennifer is an excellent actor and I was finally starting to understand her character. But the good news is she’s pregnant! I cut “Sherri” out of the script and we reedit the teaser. The show must go on.

December 2011. I go to Spain with my wife. We stay in a little town called Javea. I get up every morning while it’s still dark and walk down to a café on the Mediterranean where I work on the Down River script on my MacBook. It’s flowing, I’m banging out ten pages some days. It’s falling into place. One morning a very charismatic woman in her late 50s comes into the café and speaks loudly and dramatically to the owner in Spanish. I don’t know what she’s saying, but she makes me pay attention.. Her name is Nancy Harwood. She speaks six or seven languages, has lived in twelve countries and is Laurence Olivier’s second cousin. She asks me to come watch the sunrise from her apartment the next morning. I usually shy away from 7 am invites from strangers, but there is something grabby in her eyes that makes me say yes. And besides, the dozens of bangles and bracelets on her wrists remind of Babz. At Nancy’s place the next morning, Jen and I are served café con leche and croissants, as we watch the sun rise over the Mediterranean. Nancy tells us she is bi-polar, and it has been a tough winter. Meeting us has given her spirits a great lift. When we tell her we have to go she gets very sad. She asks where we live in Canada. I tell her Vancouver, and she asks me if I would mind hand delivering a package to her cousin who is dying of cancer in a hospice in North Vancouver. I say I will. January 2012 Back in Vancouver, I punch the address from Nancy’s package into my GPS. It takes me to the same hospice Babz was in before she went home to spend her final weeks with her family and loved ones. My knees are shaking as I get out of the car. In the hospice, the nurse tells me Sylvia, Nancy’s aunt is sleeping, so I leave the package and write a brief note explaining who I am and how 15

DOP Larry Lynn frames a shot with actor Colleen Rennison as ‘Molly’. Photo By Dean Buscher


Gabrielle Miller as ‘Fawn’. Photo By James Brown


I came to be delivering the package, then leave. Outside, something stops me. I need to wait awhile, see if Sylvia wakes up. I want to meet her. In a half hour, I head back up. As the elevator doors open I hear my name being called, “C’mon Ben! Come on Benny, come on, Benster!” I look over to see two nurses helping a little old man, obviously “Benster”, out of his wheel chair. He’s struggling, but the three of them are smiling and laughing, doing a little jig together. I feel like I’m going to faint. It’s as if Babz is speaking directly to me. I can almost hear her voice. “You’re gonna die,” she’s saying, “but you’re gonna live a long life, and you’re gonna be loved to the end. Stop worrying so much and enjoy it while you can.” February 2012 Sitting in the Sylvia Hotel, looking out at English Bay, I write the new beginning and ending to Down River, in which the characters go swimming in the very waters I’m looking at. I know what the film is about now. It’s not about dying. It’s about living. March 2012 James Brown likes the script and comes on as producer. I have worked with him on a couple of Carl Bessai’s films, and James is as cool as his name. He’s a young lion, and I need his energy and enthusiasm as I am older and perhaps a tad wiser, but not as upbeat about torturing myself through endless unpaid sixteen-hour days as I used to be. Andrew Halliwell, another precocious producer with a big heart, joins us on the journey. We crew up, nabbing a Red camera and a few veterans for key positions. We’re using a lot of students for our crew: my students, Larry’s students, our editor Rob’s students, and more. It’s a small, green crew of about a dozen, but “kids these days!” They know how to do things I can’t even imagine. One of them tells me a few Blackberry secrets that change my life. May 2012. We round out our cast with a bunch of first-rate actors, all of whom I’ve known for many years. Veteran casting director Stuart Aikins agrees to play himself in a pivotal scene. And as with all the other actors, he doesn’t have to audition for me, even though I must have auditioned for him at least 150 times over the years. I give all the female cast members bracelets that belonged to Babz and the tears flow. These are very special gifts, as all these women knew Reel West September / OCtober 2013

and loved Babz. They will wear the bracelets in the film. Colleen will never take hers off. June 2012. We start out the shoot with “Aki” and “Otto” (played by the razor-sharp Brian Markinson) scenes at an art gallery and at our executive producer’s place. Transporting gear, parking, unpacking and schlepping is a pain in the ass. But once we are lit and ready to go, I am in heaven. I am totally confident that I know the story, the characters, and how to get what I want out of the actors. Brian and Jen tear it up. It couldn’t go any better. I feel totally different than I did directing my first feature, Moving Malcolm in 2003. Back then I felt like I was playing catch with a nerf ball. This is hardball, baby! And when the ball hits your palm it goes “whap!” We shoot scenes with Colleen Rennison and Teach Grant at Stanley Park Manor, an apartment building that two of our cast members have lived in. Our production design team is making four apartments out of two, and they look fantastic, even on our micro-budget. The building manager is incredibly kind and patient with us, as are the residents.

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Colleen is an animal: wind her up, let her go, and get the hell out of her way. Teach knows his character better than I do, and his subtle improvs are perfect. Ali Liebert glides in as “Molly”, “Harper’s” muse, and her chemistry with Colleen is palpable. I love directing this movie, so so, much. Larry, our cinematographer, sets an example for me of what it means to be a man. He is patient, calm, and in good humor, all the while operating the camera himself and treating everyone on the crew with respect and consideration. Babz would be very, very proud of him. We shoot a huge scene at The Cobalt. “Harper” serenades “Molly” from the stage, singing a song Colleen wrote. There’s a loud, live band, about fifty background performers and endless billowing fog. After some excruciating technical difficulties, we start shooting. This is turning out to be the most challenging day of my career – the chemicals in that fog are making my head spin and there is soooooo much to shoot and so little time. Helen Shaver shows up for her first day, looking stylish in a wide-brimmed hat. When a continuity issue arises,

she kinda grabs the reins in a way that makes me nervous. She doesn’t mean any harm, it’s just how she works, but I feel the need to assert myself so I ask her to step outside to chat. This woman is a very accomplished director, far more experienced than I, and as an actor she has worked under Scorsese, Friedkin and Schlesinger, to name just a few. But again, I know this story, I know the characters, and I have total faith that Larry and I know where to put the camera. I tell her so, being as respectful and tactful as I can. She assures me our little talk is uncalled for, but listens to what I have to say, and goes in and plays her part marvelously. Helen and I may not always agree on everything, but it always turns out good, and that’s what counts. I have nothing but gratitude for her being here, and the most important thing is that she gets what she needs from her director in order give her best performance. Doing is easy, learning is hard. And I’m learning. More days of high-voltage shooting follow. Helen mines the material, makes it her own, and her scenes with the fabulous Jay Brazeau and that ol’ sly fox Tom McBeath jump off the page. She makes it very clear to all that she’s not playing Babz, she’s play-

ing “Pearl”. I respect where she’s coming from, but she’s wearing Babz’s clothes in some of the scenes and I can actually smell Babz’s rose oil wafting in the air, so it’s hard not to smile. Gabrielle Miller is next up, and we start with a big five-page scene with all the women working at once. Gabrielle starts off a bit harder edged than I imagined her character. We do a couple of takes then I give her a slight adjustment. She gets stressed for a moment, but on the next take she is perfectly in character and stays that way in all her scenes. Gabe is one of the most skilled actors I know. It’s all gut instinct with her, and she knows how to make the drama funny and the comedy dramatic. It’s a rare gift. Peter Flemming plays his part with barely-restrained anger that makes his character less of a sap than he is on the page. Bull’s-eye. July 2012 The shoot goes on, the sun keeps shining… I am exhausted in ways I never imagined, but at least I can walk to work in the morning and stumble home at night - most of our sets are minutes from our home in the West End. One night Jen finds Diary Feature continued on page 28



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Festival Feature

Home, Sweet Home VIFF Celebrates the Best of B.C. amidst a lineup of 340 films from around the globe Story by

Cheryl Binning


ith a record number of British Columbia features submitted to the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), programmers are shining the spotlight on homegrown talent. Local films will be front and centre at the festival as part of a new BC Spotlight, a showcase within the Canadian Images programme that will screen 12 feature-length films. “The industry has been in trouble over the last year and despite this, B.C. filmmakers pulled together to make really great quality films without a lot of money,” says Canadian Images Programmer Terry McEvoy. “It shows a tremendous amount of spirit, and that is what we are celebrating.” Overall, VIFF will screen more than 340 feature length and short films from 70 countries, including 100 Canadian films. The festival opens on September 26 with the Canadian premiere of Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, about a cantankerous father (Bruce Dern) who thinks he’s struck it rich and wrangles his son (Will Forte) to take a road trip with him to claim his fortune. The American film screened at Telluride and has generated Oscar buzz. The closing gala, on October 11, is another American film, The Face of Love, directed by Arie Posin. It stars Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Robin Williams and Amy Brenneman in a drama about a woman who falls in love with a man who is the spitting image of her deceased husband. The B.C. Spotlight includes the world premieres of 3 Days In Havana, director Gil Bellows and Tony Pantages’ gritty film about a businessman

Annika Elyse Irving and Breazy Diduck-Wilson star in H & G

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who gets mixed up in a conspiracy; From Neurons to Nirvana: The Great Medicines, director Oliver Hockenhull’s documentary on psychedelic drugs; and Leap 4 Your Life, Gary Hawes zany mockumentary about a teen dance troupe. Also making its world premiere at the BC Spotlight gala is Ben Ratner’s Down River, a tribute to actress Babz Chula, which explores the themes of mentorship, living life to the fullest and letting go. Local documentaries in the showcase include Anne Wheeler’s Chi, following Chula’s trip to India during her final months before passing away in 2010. Vic Sarin also directs a very personal film, Hue: A Matter of Colour, examining attitudes on skin colour around the world and how it is a factor in shame and bigotry. There are also several hard-hitting documentaries, such as Charles Wilkinson’s Oil Sands Karaoke, exploring the issue of tar sands from the vantage point of workers who are preparing for a karaoke contest, and Twyla Roscovich’s Salmon Confidential, about the government’s efforts to suppress information about dangerous viruses in B.C. salmon. But it’s not all serious. McEvoy points out that there are quite a few comedies in the lineup, including Bruce Sweeney’s story of an acerbic talk show host in The Dick Knost Show, Matthew Kowalchuk’s satire on the modern rat race, Lawrence & Holloman, and Jason Jame’s hilarious account of a man with a sexually transmitted disease in That Burning Feeling. “It’s an exciting year for Canadian film, especially B.C. film,” says McEvoy. “They are all really high quality movies, informed by Hollywood, but telling stories from our own backyard.” The B.C. spotlight includes two new cash awards: the BC Emerging Filmmaker Award ($7500 cash and $10,0000 rental credit for production equipment) and Best BC Film, which comes with a $10,000 development bursary and $10,000 in credit for editing services.

INgrid HaAs and Paul Costanzo star in That Burning Feeling


Photo by Janos Molnar

“A lot of festivals think people aren’t interested in documentaries but we have proven that wrong. We have built up a huge audience for documentary and non-fiction films.” - Alan Franey, VIFF Director There is also the opportunity for audiences to vote for their “must see” B.C. films, as well as a BC Spotlight Industry Party. Canadian Images is screening over a 100 feature and short films, culled from more than 800 submissions. The programme opening gala is the Manitoba-New Brunswick coproduction All the Wrong Reasons, Gia Milani’s romantic tragicomedy about four troubled souls whose paths intersect in a department store. The cast includes the late Corey Monteith, Karine Vanasse, Emily Hampshire and Kevin Zegers.

Also from Manitoba, is the world premiere of Danishka Esterhazy’s H & G, a provocative updating of the Hansel and Gretel story dealing with the themes of single parenthood, substance abuse, child neglect, pedophelia and murder. There is also four short film programmes in Canadian Images, curated under the themes: Dark Matter, Objects of Desire, Performance/ Anxiety and Young Offendors. While the BC Spotlight is new, the three pillars of VIFF remain the same with a emphasis on Canadian, East Asian and non-fiction cinema. Dragons & Tigers is the largest

annual exhibition of Pacific Asian films outside Asia and this year includes 32 features and 15 shorts, including the gala presentation of Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin, a Cannes prize-winning drama about China’s gangsters, massage parlours, vicious bosses and desperate workers. “We are bringing in a lot of innovative, fresh films from East Asia,” says festival director Alan Franey. “We are most interested in emerging Asian talent and introducing them to the West. We have a very receptive audience here in Vancouver for Asian films so the festival is a great launching pad for new talent.”

VIFF will screen over 80 nonfiction films, more than any other general festival. “A lot of festivals think people aren’t interested in documentaries but we have proven that wrong,” says Franey. “We have built up a huge audience for documentary and non-fiction films.” The non-fiction program also includes Arts and Letters, a line-up of films exploring architecture, dance, painting and music. “We have a lot of great films this year dealing with artists and some outstanding music films,” says Franey.

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Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Arts and Letters also showcases films that are works of art in and of themselves, such as the Canadian premiere of Tito on Ice, directed by Max Andersson and Helena Ahonen, which uses stop-motion animation sequences and a Balkan new wave soundtrack to bring a punk rock spirit to this documentary. “It has extraordinary animation and it’s a young hip film based on a graphic novel,” says Franey. This year’s festival will also have a large line up of Latin American films and a strong showing of French film screening in the Spotlight on France programme. The biggest change at VIFF is the venues themselves. With the loss of the Granville 7, the festival decided to convert several non-cinema spaces into digital screening venues, including The Centre for the Performing Arts, Simon Fraser University’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, and Vancouver Playhouse. Overall, the festival is using 9 screens at 7 venues. Also new this year, these theatres are not all downtown, allowing the festival to expand its footprint into different neighborhoods. For example the Rio Theatre at Broadway and Commercial Drive has been added as a venue. “I am most excited by what we have accomplished with the new theatre venues and the fact that they are in different neighborhoods,” says Franey, pointing out that the festival screenings will take place downtown, in Gastown and the Commercial Drive district. “We are taking the opportunity to style the programming to the theatre and the neighborhood,” he adds. For example, the Rio typically serves a younger late night crowd so VIFF is planning a late night series for the theatre, titled Altered States. The programme will screen some of the best in international fantasy, sci-fi, horror and other genre films, as well as experimental cinema. “It’s an eclectic mix from the trippy to the terrifying,” says Franey. “We haven’t done a late night series for a few years but a lot of younger people are attune to that kind of programming so it was time to bring it back and where it on our sleeve.” n Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Festival Feature

JASON JAMES directs JOHN CHO in That Burning Feeling Photo By Sarah Murray

More Meetings, More Access: The VIFF Film and Television Forum 2013 When Producer Robyn Wiener spoke at a recent Women

industry that they would like more access to our guests. So we

in Film breakfast event about the power of networking, the VIFF

are ramping up our meeting schedule,” says Hamilton.

Film and Television Forum topped her list of best events in town.

Established industry professionals with a day pass to the

“If you work in film and television in Vancouver, you can’t miss

forum will now have more chances to sign up for one-on-one

it,” Wiener told a mixed audience of newcomers and veterans. About one thousand delegates attended the Forum in 2012 and more are expected to attend this year’s October 2nd to 5th event. “We’re really trying to grow our audience, reach out to not

meetings with guest speakers on a first-come, first-serve basis. “So if they want to meet with a showrunner, a writer, a director, a filmmaker and talk projects, they can do that,” Hamilton says. Among the guest speakers will be big names like EmmyAward winning documentary filmmaker Adam Ciralsky (The Proj-

just emerging filmmakers, but the large, established, thriving

ect, about pirate hunters in Somalia) and Dan Krauss, whose

community that is the Vancouver film and television industry,”

doc The Kill Team about soldiers in Afghanistan won Best Docu-

says Bre Hamilton, a former CanWest production executive

mentary Feature at Tribeca. Both films will be screened at VIFF.

who is this year’s program director. “We strive to engage and

Terry Rossio (Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean), one of Hol-

serve our industry – and the city at large – by bringing to Van-

lywood’s highest paid screenwriters, will present a master class

couver top-tier Canadian and international talent.”

in screenwriting.

Among that talent is Vince Gilligan, creator of the TV series

Rob Cohen and Chuck Tatham of Maple Gravy are Cana-

Breaking Bad who will be featured at a pre-Forum public event

dian screenwriters in Hollywood, who are returning to Canada

on September 27 at the Centre for the Performing Arts. “We will

to write and showrun. They will speak about their work with

be screening Vince’s favorite episode from Season 5, followed

American and Canadian broadcasters.

by a moderated Q&A,” says Hamilton. “We’re really excited about this, I think the public is going to be all over it.”

Director David Lowery will speak about his award-winning film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, with Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.

This year, the Forum is scheduled in the middle of the Van-

A session on showrunning for the web will feature Erica

couver International Film Festival (VIFF). The intent is to dovetail

Oyama of the highly successful series Burning Love and Geoff

with the Canadian Images section of the festival, which will be

Lapaire of Space Janitors.

celebrating the BC film industry this year. Whenever possible,

New Filmmakers’ Day will include sessions with Elisabeth

the forum celebrates local filmmakers whose films are screen-

Holm from Kickstarter, and “First out of the gate: First time

ing at VIFF, such as Tony Pantages and actor Gil Bellows, the

feature directors screening at VIFF” features Chloé Robichaud

directors of Three Days in Havana, and Jason James, director

(Sarah Prefers to Run).

of That Burning Feeling.

Producer Ron Heaps, who just launched his company Next

An inaugural Direct Distribution Lab for Independent Film-

One Media, will attend this year, as he has for the last two years.

makers called “Power to the Indie: New Frontiers” is giving five

He says the top level speakers and the broad industry knowl-

selected film producers the chance to develop distribution and

edge are what keep him coming back.

engagement plans with a series of experts, including Dylan Mar-

Brishkay Ahmed, director of the documentary Story of

chetti from Variance Films, a specialist in theatrical and digital

Burqa: Case of a Confused Afghan, has attended the Forum

releasing, marketing expert Sara Kiener from Film Presence, and

for several years.

Jamie Wilkinson of VHX, a new digital self-distribution system. This pilot project is an adaption from Ted Hope’s Artist to Entrepreneur labs at the San Francisco Film Society. But more than just those lucky five will have close access to high-calibre experts. “We’ve heard back from the established film and television

“To me, it was very helpful having the international broadcasters there,” says Ahmed, who is currently working on a new doc about women’s role in Islam. “It’s not about closing deals necessarily, it’s about have face-to-face time. It makes it easier to approach them later at more intimidating venues like Hot Docs.” n - Story by Katja De Bock


Festival Feature

Ben Cotton and Daniel Arnold in Lawrence and Holloman. Photo By Katie yu

A Real Stamp of Approval Edmonton native Matthew Kowalchuk’s first feature Lawrence & Holloman makes its world premiere at VIFF and screens at Edmonton festival Story by


Nathan Caddell

hen talking about the importance of getting their film, Lawrence & Holloman, a dramedy about two department store workers who are polar opposites, into the Vancouver Film Festival (VIFF) producer Paul Armstrong and director Matthew Kowalchuk don’t mince words. “We would have probably jumped off a bridge if we didn’t get in,” says Armstrong, his deadpan so effective that one can’t help but wonder how much of it is in jest. “We would have stopped traffic for days on the Second Narrows Bridge,” laughs Kowalchuk. It’s easy for the two to joke about it now, but there’s a definite seriousness behind their claims. Lawrence & Holloman has been in development since 2009 and getting into VIFF means the world to the cast and crew. “It’s a real stamp of approval,” says Armstrong, who was born and raised in Vancouver. “You never know, we’ve been involved with the film for so long and lost all perspective and we needed some outside verification that what we 22

were working on was worthy and getting in VIFF was the first step to that.” Kowalchuk, for one, doesn’t take the festival for granted, having had the experience of being both accepted and being rejected by VIFF. “The Janitor was my first film ever and it got in, and we just thought ‘Oh that’s how it works. You make a film and VIFF takes it and that’s it.’ No, no, I’ve done a couple others since and they didn’t get in so I realized it’s harder than that.’” Indeed, it was a long journey for Lawrence & Holloman to get to the festival. The script was written by Kowalchuk and Daniel Arnold, who plays Holloman and was adapted from a play by Morris Panych. It’s the dark and twisted story of a cynical and suicidal accounting clerk who gets taken under the wing of a happy-go-lucky, ever-optimistic suit salesman, and their opposing outlooks on life collide. Originally the two were going to take it to the stage, but had a change of heart and decided to bring it to the big screen instead, which brought with it the usual challenges of an independent film: getting the project funded. “We ended up being pretty lucky,” Armstrong says about the film, which was shot primarily in Mission at an old residential school. “We got some development money from BC Film and a couple other funders [Harold Greenberg Fund, Corus Entertainment] to go through a couple drafts of the script. Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Then Telefilm came on board with production funding, so that was big.” For Kowalchuk, Lawrence & Holloman marks the Edmonton native’s full-length feature debut, and the balancing act between the creative and business sides took some getting used to. “I’ve directed shorts and a music video, but doing a feature for the first time was a big challenge,” he says. “I guess it’s just understanding how much of an undertaking it is compared to a short. When I do a short, it seems massive but it’s just a drop in a bucket in terms of this. Just the day to day, figuring out the schedule, all the technical stuff that comes before the artistic stuff is challenging. Because all you really want to do is create but you have to take into account schedules and budgets and how many pages you’re doing that day and who’s allowed to talk to the extras.” Kowalchuk learned some valuable lessons along the way. “Really it became all about communication and that’s a joint challenge between producer and director to make sure the communication is good,” he explains. “And it’s about handling the business sides of things while still being firmly rooted in the creative.” The dark comedy stars Ben Cotton (Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome), Arnold, Katherine Isabelle (American Mary) and Amy Matysio (Just Friends). Lawrence & Holloman is produced by Armstrong, Arnold and Kowalchuk. Mary Anne Waterhouse and Andrew Currie of Vancouverand L.A.-based Quadrant Motion Pictures are exec producers. Robyn Wiener is co-producer/line producer and Don Thompson of Finale Editworks is associate producer. Lawrence & Holloman is also screening at the Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF) on October 4th and 5th. The fact that the film will be showing at festivals in both of their hometowns is extremely important to the filmmakers. Next, they will submit to international festivals and OutTV is on board for a television broadcast. But for right now they are concentrating on optimizing their film at the Vancouver festival and making a theatrical deal. “Hopefully distributors will pay attention and want to release it,” says Armstrong. n Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Festival Feature

lauren lee smith in Cinemanovels

Vancouver’s Gastown Sets the Scene for Terry Miles’ Sixth Feature Cinemanovels Terry Miles has lived in Vancouver since 1991, but the

that we’d finance it ourselves. And then of course, the hard part

Moose Jaw-born, Calgary-raised writer and cinematographer

becomes, how do you make a movie with very little budget?”

has grown to love his adopted city, featuring the coast prominently in his films. This year he releases his sixth feature, Cin-

The answer to that question, at least in reference to Cinemanovels, was quite definitive: ‘you do it yourself.’

emanovels, which is playing the Vancouver International Film

“Because we worked together in the past, there’s shorthand

Festival (VIFF). It’s Miles’ fifth time screening at VIFF, which

with Lauren and Jennifer and Ben Cotton (who plays the male

makes perfect sense given the role Vancouver plays in his films.

lead Ben),” explains Miles. “And that’s great for me because

Cinemanovels is about a young woman named Grace (Lau-

I’m shooting, editing, producing, writing and directing. It’s a lot

ren Lee Smith) whose estranged father is a famous French-

easier when certain factors are controllable. I know what those

Canadian filmmaker. His passing inspires Grace to put on a

actors bring to the table and I know what that day is going to

memorial retrospective of his films, and she watches them for

be like from a performance standpoint. So at least I know these

the very first time, learning more about her father than she ever

people, and they’re fantastic actors so it was easy.”

knew when he was alive.

Screening at VIFF is important to the filmmaker.

For the film, Miles decided on Gastown as the main shoot-

“This is the one festival that’s programmed a film I’ve di-

ing location, as he was convinced the area would provide the

rected almost every year since 2008,” says Miles. “This is the

perfect backdrop for the drama.

home court festival, so it’s nice to celebrate the film in the place

“There are just so many different Vancouvers,” says Miles. “In my first film, When Life Was Good, it was all sort of glass

it was made. I hope that people come to see it and I hope it allows me to make more films.”

towers. You could see the green glass in all of the shots. It had

Then, he adds, tongue firmly planted in his cheek: “It would

a very specific Vancouver feeling I think. Then Night of Dying

be great if some financiers come to the screening. Maybe a

Tigers was kind of a mid-century modern poem and it had that

mining company or some technology people can invest in my

west coast modern feeling, it felt like a different kind of Vancou-

next films. I promise I’ll make them more commercial.”

ver. Then this one, it’s basically all in Gastown and everything’s in a loft, there’s exposed brick. It feels very Vancouver but with

But jokes aside, festivals play a critical role in a filmmakers career.

a French tinge. That was my intention anyway, I hope it works.”

“It helps raise my profile and it brings more awareness to the

Funding Cinemanovels proved difficult and forced the film-

film,” says Miles. “I think it’s important to be in Vancouver, I do.

maker to seek alternatives to raising the money, and eventually he and his star Lauren Lee Smith funded it themselves.

It sort of gives it credibility in the west.” Whether or not screening at VIFF leads to a theatrical deal,

“We tried to find some money to put it together for a couple

Miles’ is determined to get his film into theatres. He’s hired a

years and we just couldn’t do it,” explains Miles. “It is an art

sales agent and is aiming for a theatrical, followed by VOD re-

house film with perhaps not the most commercial potential, so

lease, but if that doesn’t pan out, his “DIY” attitude will kick in:

not a lot of people wanted to open their wallets. So we kept trying, and eventually Lauren and I went for coffee and we said ‘What would it take to get it made?’ And we both just decided

“If no one wants us, we’ll do it ourselves,” says Miles. “It’s got to play a couple weeks in theatres.” n - Story by Nathan Caddell


Festival Feature

Broadcasting is a Contact Sport

Vancouver Director Bruce Sweeney talks hockey and his new film The Dick Knost Show 24

Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Story by

Katja De Bock


n a rainy day in August, director Bruce Sweeney enjoys chilling “off the grid” during a short family holiday at the Sunshine Coast. He just finished his seventh feature film only two days earlier. The Dick Knost Show is screening at the Toronto and Vancouver International Film Festivals. A media satire, the film follows a prickly, acerbic sports talk host (Tom Scholte) who falls from grace after dismissing the dangers of concussions in hockey on Twitter. Despite suffering a series of concussions himself, he remains addicted to hosting, with veteran producer Kelly (Gabrielle Rose) by his side. “I wanted to make a sports talk host as the central character because I was drawn to that kind of character that you never really know what you’re going to get. They’re flattering you, while interviewing you, while putting you down,” says Sweeney, a self-proclaimed sports talk junkie. “That kind of volatility drew me to write that character.” Sweeney says he stopped reading hard news headlines 10 years ago, only taking in sports and entertainment. He shaped the fictional character Dick Knost with a nod to colourful real-life presenters such as Don Cherry, Bob McCown and others. Though the full-contact hockey debate is front and centre, Sweeney says The Dick Knost Show is not a message movie at all. “It’s pretty much the opposite of that. I tried to stick quite tightly to a satirical kind of vein,” says Sweeney, whose own 14-year-old son plays inline hockey on roller blades, just for fun. “No one needs someone to now, two years later, come out and talk about concussions and say concussions are dangerous. Now the players are so much bigger and so much better, so much stronger, I think that it’s kind of the nature of the beast that you have more collisions and you have more head injuries just because the speed and the ferocity of the game have naturally increased.” Sweeney wrote the main character as a hockey-loving, soccer-hating fanatic. “Basically, it is written from the Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Director Bruce Sweeney Photo By Noa Neuman Spivak

perspective of a sports talk host working out of Vancouver. And in Vancouver, and in Canada, hockey is number one. Soccer is down on the podium,” Sweeney says. “He [Knost] doesn’t like soccer because he finds there’s too much diving and prancing and prima donna activities. He likes the more roughand-tumble culture.” Leading man Tom Scholte, who met Sweeney at University of British Columbia has worked with the filmmaker on several features since 1995. He says the Dick Knost Show script knocked him out. “Like Bruce, I am a rabid sports fan and, like any rabid sports fan, I am full of strong opinions that I am willing to argue with great vehemence. So, basically, this role gave me license to be an even more obnoxious version of myself,” says Scholte. “As an actor, you are always going to be allowed a lot of input with Bruce and, rather than foisting an interpretation on you, he is always going to allow you to find your own authentic relationship to the character. He genuinely wants your unique version of what the character can be and how the lines can come out of your mouth.” Sweeney had been contemplating this story since working on his 2012 feature Crimes of Mike Recket.

“It was an older script that I reread and gave another pass at. And then we shot it over the winter. From start to finish it was probably about six months.” Self-produced and shot in Vancouver in 12 days with a tiny team, the film was coproduced and edited by Rafi Spivak, mixed at DBC Sound and finished at Deluxe. Telefilm Canada’s Low Budget Independent Feature Film Assistance Program helped raise the budget to $254,000. The actors, many of them recurring faces in Sweeney’s films, were hired through the UBCP Ultra Low Budget Program. “The fact that the film’s budget is very low means that it’s very hard to make the film, but it also frees us to make exactly the film that we want to make, without constantly being accountable on how well it performs as a commercial product,” says Spivak. The Dick Knost Show is Spivak’s third collaboration with Sweeney. “Our film moves along at quite a brisk pace, but as a satire, the pace, for the most part, is dictated by the dialogues and performance and not by the action,” he explains. “There are some exceptions though, like a squash scene which is cut differently than the rest of the film, using lots of jump cuts and reaction shots.” Sweeney says it hasn’t been the

best climate for making movies in B.C. “The last years, it has sort of been shrinking the opportunities, but you can’t take away people’s fun. We just had a blast making this movie,” he says. “In B.C., we have some amazing actors. Gabrielle Rose and Tom Scholte, they’re truly amazingly talented people.” When actors get into the groove and produce the perfect take, that’s the moment which makes filmmaking addictive for Sweeney, who says he is otherwise a neurotic person and afraid of every first day of shooting. Sweeney looks forward to the special celebrations of B.C. film this year, at VIFF as he feels the festival has been a tremendous help for his previous films, including Excited (2009,) which went on to win four Leo Awards. “Excited and The Dick Knost Show were made in the same kind of vein,” says Sweeney. “They are also very personal films to make and some of the same faces you saw in Excited you’ll see in this one too.” Sweeney adds that he enjoys the possibility of showing his films to a wide range of friends and family at VIFF. “I really love VIFF and what they do, they’re pretty amazing. I think it always gives you a real boost.” n 25

Feature Story

MAtt Damon stars in Elysium. Photo by Kimberly French © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

A Hollywood Blockbuster Finished in Vancouver Post, VFX and Sound facilities combine forces on Sony Picture’s Elysium Story by


Katja De Bock

uring the one and a half years of post-production on the sciencefiction movie Elysium, Andrea Chlebak would sometimes wake up dreaming of droids in a dystopian futuristic landscape. Not because she was afraid of the creatures. She was obsessed with making the droids look completely real. Chlebak is a film colourist and director of creative services at Digital Film Central (Central), a post-production facility in Vancouver’s Cambie Corridor and one of three hubs that finalized Neill Blomkamp’s second big Hollywood feature. The producers, Media Rights Capital and Sony Pictures opened an edit bay near Central. Image Engine, only a few blocks away, was responsible for thousands of visual effects (VFX), with help from other facilities including Method Studios, The Embassy and the Moving Picture Company. Sharpe Sound Studios did sound mixing. Elysium takes place in 2154 and tells the story of Max (Matt Damon), a 26

car thief living on a ruined earth, who takes on a mission to fly to Elysium, an idyllic, luxurious space station only accessible by humanity’s elite. The film was released on August 9. Curtis Staples landed the post-production for Elysium at Central, where a team of eight people was involved. In order to provide more flexibility to the colour grading and finishing process of a film of this scope, Central developed an innovative workflow they called ShadowConform. Essentially, they created a duplicate, or “shadow” of the film, so that colour grading could begin while the cut was still being finessed in the edit bay. ShadowConform enabled colour grading to happen in tandem with VFX and editorial, creating a feedback loop between all processes, which provided Blomkamp more time and freedom to achieve his vision. During rough cut stage, Chlebak worked with “hero shots”, footage from the film with key actors and key set-ups without VFX, to discuss and develop the overall look of the film with the director. “I was able to produce a LUT, a look-up table,” Chlebak says. “It’s like a filter, essentially, that represented the ‘Elysium look’. That look enabled the VFX teams to preview their composites in context of the director’s preferred look while they were building the effects. The director would then approve the VFX shots with Reel West September / OCtober 2013

that ‘Elysium look’ as well, so there was no guess work for the VFX artists in terms of how the final grade might transform the CG elements.” “I think it’s groundbreaking. It’s a rare collaboration between a VFX company and a post-production facility,” says Central’s digital intermediate producer Sam Trounce. “In order to make the VFX as good as possible, they need to know how they are going to be dealt with at the end of the process. And often what happens is, they will go ahead and VFX are wrapped before picture finishing,” Trounce says. “But Central presented colouring decisions to the VFX company before they were finished, so they would know how the film would look like.” Chlebak said Blomkamp was articulate about what he wanted, but let her put her creative stamp on the project. For instance in the heist scene, when Matt Damon fights the droid while trying to kidnap Carlyle. “Since Neill’s intent was for everything to appear completely real to the audience, maintaining the integrity of the VFX work was always at the forefront of my mind. I was only afraid that in the process of shaping the look for the film, I would spoil something that was created in VFX,” says Chlebak. “I was, fortunately, invited into the VFX world at points along the way so that I could understand their work more clearly and carry forward the visual intent into the final grade.” “Andrea [Chlebak] has tremendous eyeballs. She’s got the best eyes in the business,” says Shawn Walsh, visual effects producer at Image Engine. “I have absolutely nothing but glowing things to say about Digital Film Central. Absolutely everything they did, every process that they brought to the table, every suggestion was always with the most technically astute and high-end solution in mind.” Walsh and his colleague, visual effects supervisor Peter Muyzers, had started brainstorming about Elysium while working with Blomkamp on District 9. They intended to do as much as possible with the Image Engine team of up to 250 VFX artists. But as the film came together, they delegated subsets of work to others, like Method Studios, who created the Civil Cooperation Bureau data wall and Jodie Foster’s connection to earth; and Moving Picture Company, who deReel West September / OCtober 2013

Photo by Kimberly French © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

The Central team with their newest member, a droid from Elysium Photo c/o Central

signed the Carlyle shuttle crash. The weapon design for the heist scene was created only two storeys above Central, at The Embassy Visual Effects. Winston Helgason, VFX producer and president of The Embassy, had worked with Neill Blomkamp on District 9. The Embassy invented new technology to create the shield that antagonist Kruger wears during his fight with Matt Damon. “The creation of the shield effect was the biggest research and development effect for us,” says Helgason, who emphasizes that with the exception of the scenes shot in Mexico, Elysium is a homegrown film for Vancouver. Paul Sharpe, owner of Sharpe Sound Studios in North Vancouver, was self-

confident about landing the project. “Our sound mixing facility in Vancouver is geared toward feature film making and we had known the sound designer Craig Burkey for many years,” he says. “It helps showcase the city and show that we are capable of turning in quality product.” That self-confidence is echoed by Central. “There were a lot of skeptics in L.A. who said it couldn’t be done [in Vancouver],” says Trounce. But he hopes this film converts them. “People who traditionally might have shot their movie in Vancouver and not even thought about keeping the project there for post may have seen Elysium and who’s behind it and

then kind of think ‘huh, that was really cool, why not do that, next time.’” Chlebak agrees. “The sheer product of Elysium is a proof that we can absolutely finish a film, which should, you could hope, be something that would draw productions to stay here.” “Elysium, at least in my view, is very much a high water-mark for visual effects in the city,” says Walsh. “Seeing the work get done at such a high quality level, working so well with other vendors, in a non-competitive way, in a community-feel where everybody was trying to do the best for the movie and accomplishing all of that from a base in Vancouver, is a huge accomplishment.” n 27

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Legal Briefs continued from page 7

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Indie Scene continued from page 9

with the directors, which allows for a really social and engaging dynamic between the festival, the artists and the audiences.” No stranger to VIFF, Anne Marie Flemming has had numerous films screen at the Festival. This year she will screen Big Trees, in which Human nature meets Mother Nature in this animated musical about a woman who buys a waterfront apartment, only to find a tree blocking her view. Beginnings continued from page 15


#SAVEBCFILM Proudly supporting film and video production in Western Canada since 1980. 28

New Picture Crew founder Mike Ouellette (3 seasons). Reality shows were just hitting their stride in early 2000, and as a big fan of game shows like The Mole, Survivor and docusoaps like Growing Up Gotti, I positioned our next series to take on the style and tone of this new form. Taking It Off was the first weight loss reality series in the world! Yes, it preceded Biggest Loser. No, they did not copy us as much as we’d like to think so… Taking It Off evolved from a half Diary Feature continued from page 17

me “sleep directing” in the kitchen, naked. I am frantically setting up a shot over the sink, convinced the crew is in the living room waiting for me. Jen gently wakes me up and walks me back to bed. On our last day of filming, we shoot the “memorial” scene at Or Shalom synagogue. A very pregnant Jennifer Copping drops by to show her support. Jennifer Spence, as “Aki”, reads a letter written by “Pearl”. It is actually, for the most part, the letter that Babz wrote, the one I read at her memorial service.

Canadian co-producer’s taxation year in which principal photography commenced. n Lori Massini is a lawyer with the entertainment law boutique Chandler Fogden. Lori’s practice focuses on entertainment law with an emphasis on the film and television industry. Lori advises producers on varied legal issues, including production financing, labour issues, contract negotiations, talent agreements as well as errors and omissions issues. “Festivals provide a curated, communal experience, where everyone is watching on the same platform,” says Flemming. “There is the opportunity to speak with the filmmakers and, for the filmmaker, get to see how the audience reacts in the moment - is there a visceral response?” Flemming adds that VIFF is “a very audience-friendly festival, not a market. The audiences are usually wellinformed and I hope the film starts a discussion about how we humans interact with our environment.” n hour series to an hour, gained a healthy following online, won multiple Gemini awards, was featured on the Oprah show and spun off into the blockbuster internationally successful series XWeighted. This year we celebrate Anaid’s 20th anniversary. We have produced over 400 hours of television, and worked with some of this country’s stellar craftspeople, artists, business affairs experts and broadcast executives. If you were to ask me if I would do it all over again, I would say “not a chance in hell!” Moral of the story: listen to your wise father; become a doctor. Haha…just kidding! n …This life has been good to me. I know its abundance. Even the challenges of life: the career struggles, the financial worries, the dashed hopes and disappointments, the broken hearts, the tears, the fears, seem to me to be opportunities for something... for growth? For wisdom? For understanding? For something. Something good. As the camera rolls, Colleen and Kevin take the stage and nail Down River, live, in one take. Larry puts down the camera. We look at each other and nod. Our faces are streaked with tears, but we’re smiling. That’s a wrap. n Reel West September / OCtober 2013

Twice voted Western Canada’s Trade Magazine of the Year, Reel West is the most informative magazine for the film, video and digital production industry. Each bi-monthly issue features articles for and about the people, places and events that shape our industry.

Final Edit

Jason Priestley’s Cas & Dylan, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Tatiana Maslany, is the opening film at the 2013 Whistler Film Festival.

Jason Priestley Movie to Open Whistler Film Festival


he 13th annual Whistler Film Festival will open December 4 with the Western Canadian premiere of Jason Priestley’s road movie Cas & Dylan; and close on December 8th with the Canadian premiere of Lucy Walker’s documentary The Crash Wheel. Cas & Dylan stars Tatiana Maslany (Picture Day) and Richard Dreyfuss as a couple of mismatched road travelers. Priestley is expected to at-

tend this opening night gala presentation and ski in WFF’s Celebrity Challenge Ski Race on Whistler Mountain. The Crash Wheel highlights the life-long rivalry between two halfpipe snowboard legends heading towards Olympic glory, until a near fatal crash results in major trauma for one of their childhood buddies. “Whistler continues to be a mustattend event for hip, young film buffs and emerging filmmakers, and we are pleased to carve out our own unique

niche by offering a large number of Canadian premieres,” said WFF Director of Programming Paul Gratton. “This year’s titles cast a wide net in terms of subject matter, and our Summit will complement our film programming by addressing key challenges and opportunities facing the industry this year. This year’s Whistler Film Festival will have something for everyone.” Other festival highlights include the North American premiere of

Patch Town, Craig Goodwill’s first feature about a psychically damaged man who tries to escape with his wife and child from the drudgery of an oppressive society; and the Canadian premieres of Jane Clark’s Meth Head, starring Lukas Haas (Witness, Testament), whose character resorts to turning tricks to support his outof-control habit; and Arnaud Desplechin’s Jimmy P, starring Benicio Del Toro as a First Nations war vet suffering from a head trauma injury, mistakenly assumed to be a form of mental illness. WFF will also screen the Western premiere of Uvanga, from the producers of Atarjuanat - The Fast Runner. Co-directed by Marie-Helene Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu, Uvanga tells the story of a single mother who returns to Nunavut with her son, so that he can discover his roots and learn about his deceased father. The festival also includes the Whistler Summit, three days of industry sessions and networking events where delegates discuss the convergence of art, technology and commerce in cinema. New for 2013 is WFF’s Feature Project Lab, an intense four-day business and marketplace immersion experience for six Canadian producers that focuses on strengthening dramatic feature projects from script to screen. The festival will also feature the second annual China Canada Gateway for Film® Script Competition, a pitching contest designed to stimulate international financing for Canadian creators to participate in a China Canada co-production. The full festival lineup and film schedule will be available online by November 4th. n

Announcements & Appointments

Agent Paul Christie has joined the Vancouver office of The Characters Talent Agency. Christie has previously worked as an actor, producer, and business development executive and plans to draw on these experiences to establish a full-service business model offering production services to package TV/filmready projects. “We are thrilled to announce that Paul has joined us as an agent,” said Tyman Stewart, Senior VP at The Characters Talent Agency. “This is our first new hire at The Characters Vancouver in well over a decade. Given Paul’s unique background and broad skill set we are confident that he’ll be able to help us take the agency to a whole new level.” 30

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