IN THIS ISSUE
Feature: Squad Goals
Tech Corner: Odd Couples
with Abner Collette
The Shot List
Calls, Grants, Opportunities
Sylvia Mok on Good Grief, HIFF’s Open Field grant, and the magic of filming with friends
It is often said that the most difficult, daunting part of any endeavour is beginning—taking the first step, the first sketch, the first words, the first reel. As we begin our projects, we are often overwhelmed with the possibilities that unfold before us of what our art could be, of who we could be. Yet our ideas and indeed our selves are never truly alone in those moments just before, and this is perhaps most true in the collaborative medium of film.
Certainly this is true for Sylvia Mok in her upcoming short Good Grief, the first film made through the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival’s Open Field Grant, which commissions brand new, carte-blanche short works from alumni of the fest’s Atlantic Auteurs program. She sees the film as a celebration of community—both of her longtime relationship with HIFF and AFCOOP, as well as a testament to her growing group of friends.
“The reason why this project could even be a thing was community and collaboration,” said Sylvia. “My communities came together to forge this movie. It’s why I love film so much, at its core it’s a collaborative medium, and experiencing it while working with others is where I gain my life force.”
Good Grief is a coming-of-age story about a young queer girl, who dies and is brought back to life. Afterward, with the help of her punk brother, she’s finally able to put herself out there and stop taking her life for granted—after all, anything can happen now that the worst already did.
“The film is really inspired by the Halifax community,” said Sylvia. “When I was in high school and started coming out of my shell, I met all these wonderful people and had all these amazing experiences, and I wanted to share that.”
Sylvia says she found her start in filmmaking through HIFF. When she first went to the fest in 2017, the summer before she started high school, she found a community who quickly encouraged her to join AFCOOP, apply for grants, and explore and experiment with her passion for film.
“In regards to living my life, my first visit to AFCOOP was really the first time I went out and did something new, but it wasn’t scary,” she said. “I remember Jenna Murphy showed me how to properly write a grant, which I will carry with me forever, and I got to see AFCOOP and the media suite and it was all so nice.”
That first step into AFCOOP immediately rippled out into more opportunities for Sylvia, who was able to build connections and community in the Halifax film scene, including a chance to shadow cinematographer Nicole Cecile Holland after they met at Dee Dee’s following a co-op visit.
“It was so sweet because she saw that I was a new person and she really wanted to get me into it, and it really snowballed into so many different opportunities,” she said. “One thing led to another, where I kept volunteering, like box office coordinator for the next HIFF, and the HIFF after that, and eventually I did AFCOOP FILM 1, submitted that film for the next HIFF and it got in, miraculously, and it was a cool full-circle moment.”
It wasn’t long before Sylvia began experimenting with different narrative and technical approaches to filmmaking.
Her first animated short, The Racket, was completed in just 48 hours during AFCOOP’s Weekend Film Challenge, and Ivy, her dreamy FILM 1 project, helped earn her the Open Field grant after its festival debut at HIFF last year.
Sylvia was at film school in Toronto when she found out she got the grant, but she knew she needed to film in Halifax. It was important for her that Good Grief celebrate her community, both the one she was forging through school and the one she’d built back home.
“When I found out I immediately told my friends at school and we were all excited. I wanted them to be a part of the project so I planned to do my pre-production in Toronto, but I knew I wanted to film in Halifax and finish [my movie] with the help of my AFCOOP people.”
Remarkably, many of Sylvia’s friends in Toronto were able to come to Halifax to see the film through, bringing the two communities together in more ways than she imagined.
“It was so cool, I’m so lucky,” she said. “They came in and I showed them around Halifax, all my favourite spots and even a special tour of AFCOOP. And then we shot, and Nicole [Cecile Holland] even stopped by the set one day and helped out.”
As HIFF 2022 nears, Sylvia is in the final stages of post-production on Good Grief. She’s already excited for whatever comes next and eager to bring more people into her filmmaking world.
“Knowing that people are there—that they want to make it happen, that they believe in you—really helps you to make the project and get it off the ground. And that they happen to be your friends, that makes it into a party everyday,” she said. “Filmmaking has shown itself to be this way for me, and I remember thinking: this is so great, why wouldn’t I want to do this for the rest of my life?”
Good Grief will premiere at HIFF 2022’s opening night, screening in-person only before Martin Edralin’s feature Islands at 7 p.m. on June 9. Get your passes and tickets here!
THE ODD COUPLES
Don’t spread this around or anything, but sometimes I come into AFCOOP on the weekends. Often it is just for general work reasons, or forgotten personal items, but sometimes… Sometimes I’ll be enjoying my weekend, and I will have no intention of coming into work at all. But then, a question begins to form, and I know I’ll end up there sooner or later that day.
I find myself standing in the gear room, hunched over the folding table, mumbling to myself about the various combinations one could put together. Sometimes the dream falls apart, and what you imagined in your mind is way more complicated when you start to rig it up. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, it actually works as planned! Those are the days that keep me curious.
So without further ado, I would like to share a few of my favourite off-menu combinations in the AFCOOP equipment pool, and why I think they’re nifty as all get out.
METABONES ADAPTER + 24-70MM CANON USMII LENS
When I started here at AFCOOP, I didn’t feel like I was getting the footage I would have expected from the BMPCC 4K sensor. I usually used the Rokinon primes to bump up the image quality. But then, one day I attached our Metabones booster to the BMPCC and realized I could put our 24-70mm Canon USMII lens on there instead. Even though it is a zoom lens, and primes would usually produce better results, in this case I would have to say the zoom outperformed them all. It was a match made in heaven!
This lens and adapter combo will also work really well with the Panasonic AF100, which is a full HD micro 4/3 camera which has a kind of film(ish) look to it. When you add the 24-70mm lens, it really comes alive. This is a niche look, but super interesting.
RED GEMINI + SUPER 16 LENSES
What happens when you put a Super 16 lens on a full frame camera? A big black ring (or vignette) will show up around your image, which is not exactly ideal for most situations. But, as one of our ever-curious Members theorized (shout out to Keith Mitchell), if you set the Red Gemini to a 2K sensor crop, you get a clean image! Completely free of black edges, and creating a really unique and natural-looking image.
5K setting with Super 16mm Optar prime lens. 2K setting with the same Super 16 Optar prime lens.
RED GEMINI + COOKE 20-100MM ZOOM LENS
This combination has become somewhat popular around the Coop! A beautiful high-end vintage lens, which is a little worse for wear but hanging in there, and a new cinema camera – you can’t really go wrong with this one! It’s an amazing combination which gives a really noticeable bump in quality. If you want a good chuckle, check out the slight vignetting at full frame. The lens may look massive, but it’s only 35mm, not Super 35. Hard to believe it doesn’t cover the sensor!
So next time you are looking for a unique visual style for your next project, roll on over to our website and start brainstorming. There are so many different combinations just waiting to be discovered (and tested!).
Happy shooting, everyone!
Do you have a tech question that needs answering? Ask Abner!
Send your questions to: email@example.com
Every month, we ask AFCOOP members and staff to share a few memorable discoveries that have come across their screens.
The Colour of Pomegranates (Soviet Union, 1969, dir. Sergei Parajanov)
In fact, pomegranates come in a variety of colours: the leaves, the skin, the pith, the seeds arriving in varying hues only to ripen and spoil into new shades, as you leave the fruit on your counter for hours, for days. Parajanov’s film is a tapestry—a series of tableaux woven together to recount the life of Sayat Nova, 18th-century Armenian poet and musician. The spiritual, sexual, artistic and intellectual development of the artist unfolds in iconographic compositions, which meditate rather than explicate his personal and cultural identity. The Colour of Pomegranates is as slow moving and rich as oil paint, creating remarkable images that are at one moment iconoclastic, fleshy and sensual, and the next pious, stoney and ascetic. What we talk about when we talk about the colour of pomegranates is somewhat undeniably about the juice produced by our encounter—the cut, the tear, the bite—that crimson stain. For Parajanov this mark is sweet, esoteric, and utterly impossible to wash off. Currently streaming on the Criterion Channel.
La Jetée (France, 1962, dir. Chris Marker)
La Jetée is the story of a man forced to relive his memories, seeking time travel ask a means of rescuing the present by calling upon the past and the future. Marker’s piece operates through the juxtaposition of partial views, as the film presents still images in conversation with narration and score to articulate something between distance and intimacy—a promise, perhaps, of a collective subject position through ongoing finite embodiment. Marker’s viewfinder floats patiently, gently on the boundary of reality and fantasy, of memory and daydream, and from eternity to humanity and back again. Dichotomies and definitions of image, object, past/present, are at odds with La Jetée, a film which seeks to (de)construct itself at every turn. The first time I saw this film I saw it twice, and only the guilt issuing forth from the ring of my seventh missed phone call from the person I was somewhat hopelessly late to meet stopped me from an immediate third viewing. Currently streaming on the Criterion Channel.
Your Father Was Born 100 Years Old, and So Was the Nakba
(State of Palestine, 2017, dir. Razan AlSalah)
The only non-negotiable aspect of the archive* is pathos, and this experimental short traverses a vast digital landscape to (re)collect and to (re)construct stolen land. We witness Oum, a Palestinian grandmother, as she (re)turns to her hometown of Haifa the only way she can—a digital ghost via Google Streetview. We watch as she struggles to reconcile two realities: her living memories and the unflinching pixels. AlSalah utilizes glitch aesthetics to disrupt violent colonial borders and to challenge the (dis)appearance of place and of people. Discursive practices—those ways in which we collectively organize the world around us through borders of land and of film—are not abstract and unflinching metrics but rather deeply emotional and fluid constructions. Your Father was Born 100 Years Old, and So Was the Nakba explores with visceral clarity the emotional dissonance wrought between arbitrations of land, border, and identity with their resulting displaced realities. I was able to stream this film through this year’s SWANA film festival and highly recommend that you keep your eye peeled for it.
*I use archive here broadly as a symbol for the compromise and confinement innate to the production of art objects, and, of course, communication. When we translate our ideas into words, into images, objects, and film, we necessarily bind them to the limits of those symbols in the minds of others and of ourselves.
CDF is an artist-academic-curator currently based in Kjipuktuk. Their work, through a variety of mediums and disciplines, seeks to explore notions of inheritance and identity in relation to immigration and (re)settlement, the construction of the gallery space and the encounter of the art object, as well as the ethics and pathos of the archive. CDF is very excited to join HIFF this spring and support the festival.