IN THIS ISSUE
Short: On Set With The Year Long Boulder
by Iain MacLeod + Josh Fifield
Feature: Practicing Imperfect
by Evan Bower
with Gen Oliver
The Shot List
Calls, Grants, Opportunities
ON SET WITH THE YEAR LONG BOULDER
For this month’s WorkPrint short, AFCOOP’s Iain MacLeod and Josh Fifield paid a visit to the set of The Year Long Boulder, the 2021 FILM 5 project from director Brielle LeBlanc and producer Sean Galway.
Synopsis: Weaving together lyrical mise-en-scène, dreamlike montage, and spoken-word poetry, The Year Long Boulder meditates on the nature of queerness, love, and friendship. The piece is about coming to terms—learning to feel at home in oneself by bringing to light and releasing one’s struggles—through the redemptive hearth of poetry and true friendship. Equally witty and melancholic, funny and sad, The Year Long Boulder taps into the complexities of queer relationships and tells one young poet’s story of what it means to love, lose, and let go.
It’s also the first FILM 5 project to shoot on celluloid in nearly a decade.
Click the image below to view the video.
INSIDE GOBLIN DEN PRODUCTIONS
by EVAN BOWER
You might not have a script when you show up to a Goblin Den production. You won’t always have a shot list or even a story, but give it a few hours and you will have a movie.
Since 2016, Goblin Den founder Ryan Schimmel has brought his loose, playful approach to filmmaking to just about any location that will have him, often arriving with no more than a crew of friends and maybe a genre in mind.
“Whether it’s Mom’s basement, it’s here or there, it’s York Redoubt, we have a two-hour time limit,” he said. “We have to come up with a story on site, then shoot that story, and whatever we get at the end of two hours is it. We have to finish.”
Five years later, Ryan now has a massive and diverse oeuvre to show for it—he suspects he’s worked on about 90 projects during that time and released over a half-dozen short films in 2020 alone.
“Of course there’s always a couple in there that, you know, no one gets to see those,” he said. “But for the most part, we make these to be seen, right?”
His interest in filmmaking began when he heard about Halifax’s 48 Hour Film Project, only he heard about it a month too late. But after a decade of moving from job to job—warehouse gigs, window installation, bathroom renos—the discovery got him longing for an outlet to put more of himself into his work.
“I was a jack of all trades and a master of none, and trying all these things I was never satisfied,” said Ryan. “Sure you’re dead beat at the end of the day, and you’re paid your money, but I felt like there’s got to be more to this, you know what I mean?”
For the next year, he spent hours every day watching YouTube filmmaking how-tos like it was a part-time job. “YouTube can teach you how to build a house,” he said, and he didn’t want something like a script getting in the way of him trying out what he’d learned.
He says he tries to approach a project with one specific goal in mind, like improving his framing or blocking, and otherwise lets things go.
“Things don’t have to be perfect, especially when you’re working with micro or zero-dollar budgets,” he said. “You don’t have anybody to look up to.”
When the next 48-hour challenge came around in 2017, his short No Control earned five awards, including one for Best Film.
(SUBMITTED PHOTO: Behind the scenes of Goblin Den’s short Primitive Business.)
What he didn’t expect was that this no-fuss approach he’d come to by necessity would be appealing for other filmmakers in the area. Goblin Den now has a stable of eight people in its creative team (team being a key word here: Ryan is a die-hard football fan and refers to their open-ended shoots as “practice”) and many more ready to show up on shooting days.
“This started out as four friends … with a video camera like, ‘Let’s shoot a movie,’ and has grown to, well, we have over 150 cast and crew people ready to donate time to us when they’re free,” he said. “When people get on set with us they want to come back, it’s a family atmosphere.”
Goblin Den’s output ranges from Battle Royal, a comedy about duelling gangs facing off in a scrapyard street fight complete with striped-shirt referee, to Family Values, a tense crime short where gangsters confront an associate who’s “gone against the family,” to Haunted By the Void, a horror short in which a lost hiking group is sliced up by a masked slasher.
On first viewing they seem to have little in common aside from a few visual hallmarks—Ryan has a deep love of low, moody lighting, just a few shades brighter than Zack Snyder’s brooding palette.
But Goblin Den’s YouTube-tutorial origins can still be felt in everything they produce. DIY props, homemade blood shooters, lo-fi CGI effects: this is the Goblin Den aesthetic, the ecosystem in which all their films co-exist. Shop class meets art class.
Up next for Goblin Den is a new challenge: a “reality competition” series called Bluenoser Battles that will pit friends against each other in East Coast-themed contests.
But for now, the pandemic has forced them to pace themselves. The group still meets on Zoom multiple times a week to discuss projects and even hammer out scripts, something Ryan says they’ve been focussing on more when filming isn’t an option.
“But as soon as the first lockdown was over and we were allowed to have 10 people together, we had five people at the park that Sunday,” he said. “That day we were out filming.”
Whatever they got while they were out there, odds are we’ll see it one day. It will be cut together and given a name and, if you’d like to watch it, it won’t be hard to find.
Evan Bower is AFCOOP’s Online Projects Coordinator. He’s also a writer, reporter and film programmer living in Halifax, NS.
with Gen Oliver
With cinemas closed (again) and new film releases more-or-less halted, what’s left to do but dig into the archives? Every month, we’re asking AFCOOP members and staff to share a few memorable discoveries that have come across their screens.
Blue (UK, 1993, dir. Derek Jarman)
Derek Jarman paints a picture of his experience dying of AIDS and losing his vision; his picture is a bright, unchanging blue screen. Jarman notes, “Blue is darkness made visible.” The viewer travels through the story by inhabiting Jarman’s lush, textured soundscapes that blend narration, sound effects, voices, and music. His narration weaves brutal realism with abstract, poetic allegory. We drift seamlessly from waiting rooms, to mythic shores, to hospital rooms, to a Berlin techno club. Blue is not just an inessential backdrop, Jarman’s writing is infused with blue and it surfaces throughout the film in innumerable metaphors and poetic interpretations. The colour blue proves itself to be anything but void of meaning—it bursts with meaning. This film is a devastating, urgent, and beautiful watch that will certainly stick with me forever. It’s streaming on Kanopy here.
Greener Grass (USA, 2019, dir. Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe)
Greener Grass is a suburbia satire that sets itself apart through its indulgence in the delightfully strange; rather than being too on-the-nose, it gets under your skin. The film takes the all-familiar, mythic landscape of suburbia, with all of the media-encoded tropes, relationships, and gestures that constitutes it, and reorients them in wholly unexpected ways. It plays out as a sketch-comedy game of broken telephone where everything is slightly off-kilter, misinterpreted, or viewed through a funhouse mirror. It defamiliarizes the familiar and reveals the nonsense of normalcy. This film is hilarious, absurd, and hard to pin down. Sit back and enjoy the silly dollhouse world! Stream it on Kanopy here.
Funeral Parade of Roses (Japan, 1969, dir. Toshio Matsumoto)
Funeral Parade of Roses is a convention-shattering retelling of Oedipus Rex in the queer bar scene of the Shinjuku district of Tokyo from the point-of-view of transfeminine hostess Eddie. Toshio Matsumoto’s radical voice deconstructs cinematic form around every corner, cutting together elements of experimental film, melodrama, cinéma vérité, horror, and comedy. Visually striking cinematography meets avant-garde editing to create an absolutely unique work. This film is a dizzying, dazzling celebration of queer youthful exuberance while also presenting dark and shocking twists; it refuses to be limited by respectability politics. It’s also streaming for free on Kanopy now!
Gen Oliver (she/they) is HIFF’s 2021 Festival Assistant. They studied Cinema and Media Studies, Contemporary Studies, and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of King’s College and are also currently a Halifax RISE Ambassador under Apathy is Boring.
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