WorkPrint — March 2022


IN THIS ISSUE

Director’s Report: Martha’s Farewell
by Martha Cooley

Short: Dear Hollywood

by Brandon Boyd

Feature: Henry Colin’s Supermarket Cinema
by Evan Bower

Tech Corner: Apple’s New M1 Chip Off The Old Block
with Abner Collette

The Shot List
Calls, Grants, Opportunities

MARTHA’S FAREWELL

 

(PHOTO: Martha in AFCOOP’s CBC Radio Building office in 2011.)

I remember when I got the call that I’d been offered a job at AFCOOP. I was in Saint Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, working on the CBC TV show The Week the Women Went. I pulled the rented PT cruiser I was driving over to the side of the road and answered my pink flip phone. Walter Forsyth, AFCOOP’s ED at the time, was on the other end of the line, and he told me that I was their chosen candidate for the position of Programs and Membership Coordinator, an 8-month replacement for Erin Oakes, who was headed out on maternity leave. I looked out at the water and thought finally my life was on the right track, that through some accident of timing and luck I had landed my dream job. Since graduating from NSCC’s Screen Arts I had realised fairly quickly that on-set production wasn’t for me—the stress, the personalities, the long hours, I wasn’t cut out for it.

AFCOOP at that time was in the CBC Radio building on the corner of Sackville and South Park Street, with windows overlooking the Public Gardens, on a mezzanine floor that you couldn’t reach from the elevator, like something out of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. You had to either get off at the floor above and then go down a half flight of stairs or the reverse. On the floor above us was the Centre for Art Tapes in what had been the art deco office of the owner of the car dealership (the building’s original tenant), its walls lined in teak veneer. AFCOOP’s space was much less glamorous: industrial carpet stained with years of spilled coffee, the crumbs of a thousand lunches ground into its fibres. The staff, which included Chris Spencer Lowe, Al DeLory and Walter Forsyth, was packed into two small rooms amidst stacks of clutter and boxes of film stock going rancid in the heat of the overzealous central heating.

On the main floor was the Atlantic Film Festival, which we had surprisingly less interaction with. We were always in communication with CFAT, running up that half flight of stairs to talk about something or exchange a piece of gear. But the film festival kept to themselves for the most part. Despite their reserve, that building made it clear through sheer proximity that we were all part of the same project, that our goals and our ambitions were linked.

My first day of work at AFCOOP was actually during AFF 2007, the day after AFCOOP’s annual festival party at Garrison Grounds on the waterfront. Walter asked me if I had my license and when I said yes, he gave me his keys and tasked me with driving down to Garrison and cleaning up what was left from the party. This turned out to be an apt introduction to my work at the co-op. It was the kind of place where you got to do everything, and over the years I would hold pretty much every role from writing grants, teaching workshops and writing newsletters, to cleaning the bathroom.

(PHOTO: Martha shows off an AFCOOP tee in 2008.)

But what a place to work. I quickly realized the beauty of an organization like AFCOOP was in its very scrappiness—there was freedom to make the job whatever I wanted. I helped create programs that I myself as a filmmaker would have wanted to be in, or that I thought would help develop the film community—the Cinepoetry project, Directed by Women, the Expanded Cinema program, Languages of Nova Scotia, Super 8 workshops with youth from Mulgrave Park and North Preston, numerous residencies, and analogue-based programs. Then there was the community, the packed General Membership meetings, the daily visitors, the oversubscribed workshops and events, which made it all feel worthwhile. And the opportunity to be involved in people’s first experiences with filmmaking, and to witness their vulnerability, excitement and passion.

My first year at AFCOOP I was also thrown into the deep-end (Sarah MacLeod I’m looking at you!) of organizing AFCOOP’s film festival, the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival. The festival at the time was just a year old and trying to find its footing in terms of mandate and what it offered the community that was different from other festivals. Over the years HIFF has grown to be something quite special, a home for alternative and experimental films both local and international and an intimate community setting for audiences to engage with creators. During my time at HIFF’s helm I’ve tried not to compete with other festivals but to see what HIFF offers that is unique and to embrace the idea that Halifax deserves multiple avenues for cinema. 

When I started at AFCOOP I was so afraid of the limited public speaking I had to do that I would plan events so I had time to workout at the YMCA beforehand. I had been a participant in FILM 5 twice but never moved forward into the production phase, and now my job was to run the program—to say I had impostor syndrome would be an understatement. The first year I ran FILM 5, all the teams were led by male directors, and Andrea Dorfman, the program’s long-term mentor (and one of the reasons I moved to Halifax), dropped out to focus on supporting women. This was pre-WIFT-AT and when I suggested running a program to develop more female filmmakers, my male coworkers looked at me blankly.

I mention this because all my work at AFCOOP over the past 15 years (!) has been informed by where I started. I have worked to support women and under-represented artists and to make space for quieter voices (like my own) in all that I’ve done. I’m so proud of where AFCOOP is now and all the films and filmmakers we’ve supported and will continue to support. In my time here, I’ve grown as an administrator, as an artist and as a person, and it’s all thanks to AFCOOP’s incredible community. And even though I’m off to a new adventure at the Atlantic International Film Festival, my heart is still at the co-op and, virtually speaking, I’m just moving to another floor of our shared filmmaking home. Please come and visit. —Martha Cooley

Martha’s last day at AFCOOP will be April 22.

SHORT

DEAR HOLLYWOOD

by BRANDON BOYD

All I ever wanted to do with my life is to make films. As a kid growing up with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I enjoyed going to a theatre to see them on the big screen. But as I grow older I’ve learned to see behind the scenes. In a day and age when “representation matters,” the portrayal of autism has always been black and white, only casting big-name, able-bodied actors to portray stories about us. For decades this has been common in mainstream media, starting with Rain Man (1988) up until Music (2021). In my short film Dear Hollywood, I deliver a message of change that needs to be addressed: that it’s time the film industry starts casting autistic people in autistic roles. We want to be in stories that centre on autism, not excluded. To sum it up, what they are doing is not acting, it’s ableism. I believe not just autistic people, but any disability deserves to be represented on the screen.

The inspiration and desire for change came from my mother who helped represent hospital workers through NSGEU and my aunt Pamela who is the head of the CNIB here in Nova Scotia. I helped the disabled community through my advocacy work with non-profit organizations. With a drive for film, I want to be one of those people to innovate to make change for the industry.

Click the image below to watch Dear Hollywood:


FEATURE

HENRY COLIN’S SUPERMARKET CINEMA

by EVAN BOWER

Two years ago, Halifax filmmaker Henry Colin’s hopes of making his first feature were on hold, if not dashed altogether. Attempts at finding funding through the suggested methods had gone nowhere and left him in “doomsday mode.” Meanwhile, the pandemic had just hit, and he faced its most uncertain early months in public, stocking shelves at a grocery store.

At home, he processed it all as he does most things: with an immense, omnivorous diet of moving images. And it was then, when he was deep in Roberto Rossellini’s humanist portraits of Italy’s working class, that Henry’s workplace stressors began to take shape as the focus of his next project.

Now, after an intense five-month turnaround from shooting to completion, Henry’s debut feature, I Am Not a Hero, is set for its broadcast premiere on Eastlink Community TV in October.

This week, AFCOOP’s Evan Bower spoke with Henry about balancing film-loving and -making, his foray into grocery-store realism, and how he found the funds to make it happen.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Evan Bower: Can you pinpoint when it started to hit you that your experiences at work might turn into a film?

Henry Colin: It was back in January of 2021. I think I just needed to give myself a creative project—I wasn’t working on anything, and I was thinking a lot about this whole period and this void spot in my creative life. I needed to at least write something. And I was watching a lot of old [Roberto] Rossellini films, so I was like, let’s just make a realist film about working in a grocery store.

EB: What was happening at the store in those early pandemic days that you wanted to share in the film?

HC: I wanted to share what it felt like to work there, and the anxiety attached really drove it home, but on top of that I was fired from my job for complaints with regards to our pandemic payment being cut and the “danger being over.” I knew I needed to share that side of things.

EB: Can you tell me about finding the funding for this? What has your experience been like trying to get your first feature made and getting the money together to do it?

HC: Well, it’s a pretty strange story … I’ve been really, really working hard to get something off the ground in the feature territory, but it’s the same story. Rejection here, things aren’t coming together. All the while, I had started talking to Ron Foley MacDonald at Winter Light [Productions], just kind of putting some feelers out there to see what the deal was with the current season of Cinema 902, and during those conversations I passed along the screenplay. Nothing came of that for quite some time, but quite by happenstance in October of last year, I was walking to work where I’m working now, as a cleaner at a hotel, and suddenly I had an email that said, ‘Hey, we have a little but of cash, do you want to do the movie?’ And suddenly we were in production—you know, a very, very small budget, just $35,000. But it was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.

EB: You mentioned Rossellini being a big inspiration for this. When you’re working on something, how rigorously do you look for inspiration in other films? Do you do that on a scene-by-scene level?

HC: I try really hard not to get into referencing other films, which is completely and utterly impossible for me, because all I do is watch films … With this one, it wasn’t so much a search for the influences—the influences were what I was already interacting with during the pandemic, which were the Rossellini films, going through those on the Criterion Channel. I keep coming back to ‘70s and ‘80s German cinema, and then I kind of got whacky with it—I’ve been watching a ton of Shinya Tsukamoto films the last couple of years. Not to say we’ve made a cyberpunk body-horror film set in a grocery store, but that kind of visceral intensity bled into what we were doing.

EB: I’m always curious about that relationship between being a devout film lover and a creator, as well. Do you feel that relationship is purely positive? Sometimes personally I’m like, is this paralyzing me creatively, because I put this work I love on such a pedestal that it maybe becomes harder to make things myself.

HC: It’s definitely brought some anxiety along the way. Like you say, I hold it on such a pedestal, and as a creator I’m my own worst critic, so the combination of those two things results in a lot of, ‘Oh gosh, I’ll never make real movies like these things I love.’ Which sort of drives me crazy, but then I flip around on that and I go, well I have to do it, I have to try. So I guess through that anxiety, it also creates inspiration.

EB: Do you have a way of balancing those feelings?

HC: I guess it’s just a matter of getting through it. [laughs] Anything with me and my film intake is completely unbalanced.

EB: How long did you shoot and what was that experience like?

HC: The shoot was a fascinating experience. We shot for 13 days in February, and you know, it was a tough shoot—that’s a short amount of time, and we had a lot of ground to cover, a lot of big scenes and big oners … so we went in with a certain degree of ambition despite our budget level. On top of that, we got slammed with a snow storm every week that would cost us a day of shooting. But it was cool, I’ve never worked on anything so large before, I’m so used to a 2-3 day weekend shoot to make a short film. I’d never experienced whole days of shooting hard scenes that are style and filler and abstract, it was a very different experience. I knew that going in, but hearing about it and doing it were two completely different things.

I mean I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, there’s no way I’d be having this conversation if it weren’t for my cast and crew, who really turned it out. Everyone was so fantastic and hopped into that pressure cooker with me. I’m super grateful for all the hard work they put in, so I want to spread the word, because they’re all fantastic.

EB: So to take it back, when the [Telefilm Talent to Watch] funding didn’t come through, did you think that making a feature wasn’t going to happen for you?

HC: Oh I definitely was in doomsday mode. I totally thought it was never going to happen. It was like, this is it, I shot my shot, it didn’t go over well, and thinking about going through that process again, even just putting together the application package and having it be so flimsy, that what if, that just didn’t feel like something I wanted to do. I’m not really interested in waiting around for my turn. I’ve got too much I want to do, and I’m not a particularly patient person. So when something like this came up, for me, every filmmaker I’ve ever idolized has started out in kind of a similar fashion, so it felt like I kind of had to. And it taught me a lot of lessons I think a Talent to Watch film wouldn’t have taught me. I mean, $35,000 is clearly not enough to make a feature film. It puts a lot of barriers between what you can and can’t do … in a way that is not necessarily productive. It was such an intense, crazy way to have to make a feature, and I got a lot out of it, but also [laughs] I wouldn’t say it’s the first thing you should try to do.

EB: That might be the nice flip side to being a cinephile and making films. The benefit might be that you’ve seen how so many career arcs have worked, and that some truly great work comes about through some very untraditional ways.

HC: I just watched Alex Ross Perry’s The Colour Wheel the other day, and it kind of lifted my spirits a bit, knowing his great films that would come from these no-budget beginnings.

EB: Do think people in our area, or Canadian filmmakers in general, know enough about these alternative paths to making a feature? Or do we focus too much on the traditional ways?

HC: I think in my experience, this is just speaking for me, we kind of hyper focus a bit on traditional means. And I understand that, I can totally see it. But I think too many talented people spend too much time waiting to make something instead of just making something, and that bums me out.

APPLE’S NEW M1 CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

 

Ah, the winds of change… As every tech-lover knows, new technological developments are happening all the time—often at an astounding, break-neck speed. But rarely comes along an innovation that provides a new benchmark for an entire industry. I dare say that Apple’s new M1 chip might be worthy of that title.

The Apple M1 series chips are the company’s own creation. Over the past two years they have demonstrated that the M1 chip outperforms Intel and other competing processors at every turn. The comparison, however, may not always be a fair one.

Most major computer components are normally separate pieces of hardware attached to the processor. The components talk to each other, sending information back and forth and accessing necessary information as it is requested.

In contrast, the M1 chip is referred to as a ‘System On a Chip,’ or an SoC. Instead of having all the major components talking to each other from separate areas inside your computer like an Intel setup, the M1 chip “talks” to itself nearly instantaneously. The graphics processor (GPU) and central processor (CPU) can exchange and access information instantaneously with the whole system using the same memory (RAM). There is no real distance for the information to travel as everything is embedded in the same chip.

One of the coolest things about the M1 is the inclusion of a neural engine, something Apple has already used in their A-series chips, primarily in iPads and iPhones. The neural engine uses machine learning (aka artificial intelligence) to assist in image processing, video analysis, and voice recognition. The basic 16-core version can perform 11 trillion operations per second.

Mac chips have changed several times over the years. In 1994, Apple switched from Motorola 68000 to Power PC chips. In 2006, they switched again from Power PC to Intel. It was over a decade ago, in 2009, when Apple first conceptualized the M1 chip. They knew the design would be effective, but it required them to make a series of big changes slowly to put things into place for the M1 to succeed.

In 2019, MacOS Catalina was the first Mac OS to drop support for the 32-bit x86 architecture. Apple has since developed a translation tool to allow 32-bit apps to run on the M1 chip, but they no longer accept 32-bit apps as the M1 chip has a different architecture which requires 64-bit apps to run properly.

Apple launched the M1 in 2020, quickly followed by the M1 Pro and M1 Max, and finally M1 Ultra, which just came out in March 2022. The M2 model is rumoured to hit the market sometime this year as well, with improvements to speed, efficiency, and increased GPU cores.

The biggest drawback of the M1 is that the RAM is not user expandable, meaning users must pay for a full upgrade if they want to add more RAM. That said, RAM on the M1 does perform better than the same amount would on an Intel, so that might offset this grievance a bit.

One imposing limitation is the lack of support for 32-bit software, but those who really need to run specific programs at 32-bit can either use the translation fix provided or purchase an Intel version of the new Mac for the same price as the M1. This also means that the M1 version of most software is still essentially in beta, so there are definitely some growing pains as per usual.

Another annoyance regarding the new M1 Macs is the ports or, more specifically, the lack thereof. Users can outfit their Mac with a maximum of two Thunderbolt 4 ports and two USB 4 ports. There is no headphone jack, HDMI port, SD card slot, or full-size USB 3.0 ports.

Obviously, this is a hassle if you want to use your existing accessories and, perhaps more impactfully, it means users will have to purchase a dongle, hub, or adapters to connect their computer in normal, everyday ways.

However, Thunderbolt 4 allows for charging, data transfer, and video output at ridiculous speeds all through the same cord. That is the flip side. So, I guess we should just buy the darn dongles already and quit complaining!

Happy shooting, everyone!

Do you have a tech question that needs answering? Ask Abner! 

Send your questions to: abner@afcoop.ca