IN THIS ISSUE
Director’s Report: One New Year
by Martha Cooley
Short: AFCOOP Year in Review
by Henry Colin
Feature: Kevin Hartford and the Weekend Feature
by Gen Oliver
with Anna Sparrow
The Shot List
Calls, Grants, Opportunities
ONE NEW YEAR
AFCOOP’s July Annual General Meeting was formerly a sweaty affair. We’d crowd into that semi-octagonal room on Cornwallis Street, with those iconic red pipes lining the ceiling above us and the evening’s quickly assembled ‘decor’ fluttering in the breeze of every-single-fan-we-could-find.
Who could forget the pin-drop silence when we called for questions about the financial statements, or the descent into noisy chip eating at the meeting’s end, scraping our folding chairs to the edges of the room, cranking the spotify playlist and hauling out the cooler of $2 beer.
For two AGMs now we’ve been missing all that, the hot, glorious in-person-ness of those meetings, an experience no Zoom or Gather platform can come close to replicating. But the wonderful thing, the part worth celebrating, is that we haven’t lost each other in all this. Our attendance, even virtually, has been as high as ever, membership has remained strong and we’ve held numerous at-capacity workshops and events over the past year.
It’s also worth celebrating some of the long-term projects that we’ve finally gotten off the ground. An online members’ directory! The relaunch of WorkPrint! These have been on our organizational wish-list for years but it took a global pandemic and the grinding to a halt of many of our regular activities to give us the space and time to finally attempt them. That and some additional open-ended operational funds (thank you Canada Council and NS gov!) and of course the talent, energy and continued optimism of our staff.
We also spent this atypical year trying out new approaches to older programs and considering how we welcome people in, how we counter unconscious bias and work towards being a more inclusive organization. Again thanks to the pandemic pause and the reset called for by social justice movements, we began to rethink some of the most basic elements of what we do and why.
One conflict at the heart of many of our programs is their competitive structure. Application + peer jury process = acceptance of a few and rejection of many. As a co-operative organization, should we not be welcoming and encouraging people instead of judging and restricting access? We asked ourselves if there was a way we could create a program that was truly open to all. No juries. No rejections.
Enter One New Day! This summer intro to documentary program was our first attempt at just that. The training was offered up-front for free and then to move forward attendees simply proposed a short documentary project they wanted to work on. At this point we’re pleased to report that 17 filmmakers are currently in progress on their first (or third or fourth) documentary project through the program.
Now we’re looking at how we can apply the same structure and approach to FILM 1, our introductory narrative filmmaking program, and how we can modify FILM 5 to decrease competition and, instead, foster more collaboration.
So here’s to over-heated, over-crowded meetings in the (hopefully) near future. And here’s to reimagining more of what we do, coming up with new ways, new paths and new plans. Let’s keep what was real and sweet from the pre-pandemic world and move away from what soured a long time ago.
AFCOOP YEAR IN REVIEW
by HENRY COLIN
For this month’s WorkPrint short, we take at look back at the last year of AFCOOP life!
Click the image below to view the video.
KEVIN HARTFORD AND THE WEEKEND FEATURE
by GEN OLIVER
(GEN OLIVER PHOTO: Kevin Hartford, left, directing ‘Tato Crisanto (“Yvonne), right.)
Navigating the jump from shorts to features without funding is not easy-peasy, but with 10 short films under his belt and a team of close friends at his side, Kevin Hartford is driving full speed ahead with his debut feature film, Lemon Squeezy.
The film follows a young gay man who gets rejected by a straight guy for prom, which triggers a biblical apocalypse. It is narrated by God, who is generally a jerk and trying to turn the film into a musical. The film explores the stories of the young man and his family under a thick layer of dry humour.
Kevin has never been one to sit around and wait for funding. Instead, for the past 6 years, he has aimed to make a short every year, usually filmed over a weekend in his own home or a friend’s home with about $500 of his own money.
Last year, he had the idea to approach making a feature with the same mindset and method as his shorts. Filming this feature would be like filming several shorts back-to-back, spreading the 10 shooting days across several weekends.
“I hope that despite obstacles and limitations, people realize there is nothing saying that you can not or should not make a feature,” he said. “If you have the drive and passion, then go for it. You do not have to wait for Canada Council, Telefilm, or Nova Scotia Arts to give you permission to do something. You can just go do it.”
To make that work, in exchange for not getting paid, all cast and crew own a percentage of the film, and shooting happens when nobody has to make sacrifices or take time off work. He schedules around his DP, Tim Mombourquette, and next finds out when people’s homes are available to shoot in and runs those dates by the cast.
“Then, by some weird magic, everyone is alright with the 18th of July,” he said. “Except now it is supposed to rain all day and we are filming outside.”
I joined them on that third day of shooting—it was a rain-free but humid afternoon and everyone was grateful for the air-conditioned home and miniature fans that Kevin provided.
Kevin’s favourite part of no-budget filmmaking is getting to work with his friends, always finding new ways to involve more of them. That camaraderie was palpable on set as the friendly conversations between takes drifted between the ideas of legacy-making and personal artistic journeys.
When it came time for them to shoot a silly, improvised dance scene, finger-guns were flying and the entire room tried their best to stifle the eruption of their laughter until after the cut, with partial success.
Though laughter is a consistent presence on Kevin’s set, the no-budget method comes with its stress. Even if you make a film for ‘free,’ food is $200 a day and hidden costs like anti-shine makeup and $36 pocket New Testaments sneak up, he explains.
Kevin’s solid foundation of short films helped him develop the confidence he needed to handle the pressure of being his own producer on a feature film, and he highly recommends learning through shorts to other aspiring feature filmmakers.
“I am always surprised when someone does one short and then they do a feature—I always wonder how you make that transition so fast,” Kevin said. “It was not until my sixth or seventh short where I finally felt like I had a bit of a handle on how this works and was getting what I wanted. I needed to get to that point before jumping into a 10-day, big feature-length project.”
Making these shorts taught him how to write for a budget and specific locations. Tailoring his film to fit his constraints and using that as a creative launching point has been integral to Lemon Squeezy.
(GEN OLIVER PHOTO: Kevin reviews lines with Garrett G. Barker (“Larry”), left, and Jessica Barry (“Sarah”), right.)
This solid foundation has also allowed Kevin to dig deeper into the stories and themes that he loves to explore. Increasingly, he has become aware of the effect consuming queer stories has on him and his films.
“In the past year, from making an effort to read more LGBTQ+ fiction, I’ve realized how much more invested I get when there is a gay character,” Kevin laughed. “It’s the most blindingly obvious thing in the world but it took me this long to figure it out.”
He constantly finds queerness in parts of his stories that he was not aware of inserting—it flows freely through his writing, thematically surfacing time after time. Filmmaking, for Kevin, is an opportunity to tell the stories that he wants to see in the world.
“We are at a point in history where people want diversity, and I do not mean to check off a checklist, people want to see stuff that is authentic and unique,” said Kevin. “The more personal something is, the more it will strike a chord with everyone else. When I look at old movies and comics and see that it is an entirely white, straight group, maybe with one kooky, gay best friend, I can’t believe people got away with doing that for so long. How completely boring were things back then?”
Last week, the news broke that Kevin has officially received Telefilm funding for his second feature film project, To the Moon. After years of putting out short films without waiting for funding, he’s finally making something with a budget.
To the Moon is the story of Sam, a single dad struggling to come out of the closet at the age of 40, his daughter Ella, who is adjusting to life as the new kid in school while frequently acting as a parent to Sam, and their neighbour Claire, an aspiring writer who finds inspiration in this unique father/daughter dynamic. All three are trying to stop the moon from crashing into the earth.
With a second feature secured before his first has finished filming, we are about to see a lot more of Kevin Hartford.
“I would encourage anyone who wants to make something to just do it,” Kevin said. “Because making something is the hardest part. It is not the prep, or getting approved. It is actually having the drive to accomplish the goal you set out to do.”
Gen Oliver (she/they) is HIFF’s 2021 Festival Assistant. They are a Halifax-based film lover and creative who studied Cinema Studies, Contemporary Studies, and Gender Studies at the University of King’s College.
with Anna Sparrow
Remember that year we just spent watching films in solitude? Every month, we’re asking AFCOOP members and staff to share a few memorable discoveries that came across their screens.
Persona (Sweden, 1966, dir. Ingmar Bergman)
I made my mom watch this—she said “it was interesting.” There are heavy features of lesbianism and guilt… if that toots your horn (it sure did mine) it’s available for free on YouTube. And don’t worry, the image is so sharp you can see Bibi Andersson’s pores.
Thumbelina (USA, 1994, dir. Don Bluth & Gary Goldman)
My mom made me watch this as a child—I love it to pieces. It’s an ensemble animated musical featuring Carol Channing, Gilbert Gottfried and Charo. It covers topics such as arranged marriage, forced labour and, of course, true love <3. The songs are earworms and the animation managed to permanently affect my dreams due to chronic rewatches from ages two to ten. Give it a chance, it’s free on YouTube!
The Beales of Grey Gardens (USA, 2006, dir. David Maysles & Albert Maysles)
Maybe I should watch this with my mom. It’s an extension of the 1975 classic documentary Grey Gardens. No requirement to watch the original, The Beales of Grey Gardens works as a stand-alone doc. It follows the life of Edith Bouvier Beale and her mother, both estranged relatives of Jackie Kennedy, in their decaying East Hamptons estate. Little Edie’s musings will connect you to your femininity, her outfits to your DIY spirit, her circumstance to your hatred of systems of power. Guess what: It’s free on Youtube.
Anna Sparrow is a new-comer to the Kjipuktuk filmmakers scene with a Roladex of free movies available on Youtube. Give her a shout at @Angstieee on Instagram for more links :-).
Want to contribute? Send your SCREEN MEMORIES to firstname.lastname@example.org