WorkPrint — August 2022

IN THIS ISSUE

FEATURE
AFCOOP FILMS AT AIFF
Evan Bower

TECH CORNER
WHAT’S THE BEST CAMERA (FOR YOUR PROJECT)
Abner Collette

SCREEN MEMORIES
ARCHIVES EDITION
Iain MacLeod

THE SHOT LIST
CALLS, GRANTS, OPPORTUNITIES

FEATURE

AFCOOP FILMS AT AIFF

September is just a day away and once again we are ready to spend the better part of a week in Park Lane diving deep into the Atlantic International Film Festival program, engaging in spirited yet bleary-eyed lobby talk, and subsisting on popcorn alone.

This year, 19 works created by AFCOOP members and staff will screen at the fest, including a handful of FILM 5 debuts. To mark the occasion, we caught up with FILM 5 team members to learn more about them, their projects, and the experience of seeing their ideas go through a film development program.

Below that, check out the complete list of AFCOOP-member work screening at AIFF this year, September 15–22!

ANOMALIST

director: Michael Wohlfahrt
writer: Brandon Lorimer
producer: Annah-Lauren Bloom

Atlantic Shorts Program 2
Saturday, September 17 — 12:30 PM — Theatre 8

Occult-detective Daniel Grimson answers a late-night call from Elayne when paranormal events in her apartment threaten her life. He goes through the motions of his work as an anomalist, but navigating two grieving souls puts him at an impasse.

How did you get your start in filmmaking?

Brandon Lorimer: I’ve been doing scrappy film projects since high school, most meaningfully in creating music videos with Michael Wohlfahrt since my early 20s. But my first true experience of writing for film was with my short film Pareidolia in 2019. I had been playwriting for the better part of a decade, and after a long bout of writer’s block for a theatre project, I wrote out the screenplay for Pareidolia in a week. I filmed that out of pocket with a crew of four in my backyard in Montréal across two weekends and I’ve had the bug ever since.

What was the main source of inspiration for this film?

BL: I’ve had the concept of Daniel Grimson in my mind’s eye for years—this destitute, eccentric vagabond of an occult detective careening from oddity to oddity. The significance of Anomalist is the way this poignant case relates to Grim’s guarded character, and it takes a large amount of inspiration from the end of The Haunting of Hill House (2018). By showing the humanity of traditionally ghoulish horror staples and fostering empathy therein, I think genre films have a unique power to explore trauma, loss and hope.

What was your favourite day of shooting and why?

BL: Without a doubt, the second day was my favourite. Not only was there a comfort and flow found from having a day under our belts, but when we were shooting one of the big, keystone shots of Anomalist, Wohlfy took me outside to help me get to the emotion I wasn’t quite reaching. I won’t reiterate it because it was a talk never meant for anyone but the two of us, but needless to say I got where I needed to, and immediately went out after we cut for a good cry.

A WALK IN THE SUN

director: Tobi Martin Flemming
writer: Nikki Martin
producer: Israel Ekanem

NextGen Atlantic Shorts
Monday, September 19 — 6:20 PM — Theatre 3

An interracial couple sees the struggle of their story mirrored in an abstract painting as they try to find their way together across the divide of racial difference. Eden is an artist, grounded and self-assured. Jack is an idealistic literary student. As they face the challenges of a relationship fraught with subtle struggles the question becomes: is love enough to bridge the space between them?

What was the main source of inspiration for this film?

Tobi Martin Flemming: The inspiration for this story begins with [writer] Nikki Martin’s inherent ability to find stories from within herself and then tell those stories in the most beautiful and poetic ways. Within the story is the relationship between a black woman and a white man. For me, this struck a chord – it connects to the story of my own parents’ struggle to be together as an inter-racial couple beginning in the 1970’s. And then to my own experience of being in an inter-racial relationship and all of the thoughts and feelings that go along with that. A Walk In the Sun was an opportunity to explore experiences, thoughts and feelings that may be relatable to people who have connections in inter-racial relationships as well.

What was your favourite day of shooting and why?

TMF: When I think back to shooting our film, the moments that come back to me from our first day are the ones that surface the most. That was the day I walked onto our first set, after all the stress and work over months and months to get there, and felt completely at peace and like I was exactly where I should be. I looked around and saw everyone, and I do mean everyone, working so hard to create AWITS like it was just as important to them as it was to me. That felt so good and I also felt really proud of the team our producer, Israel Ekanem, had assembled. The weather cooperated, though we had back-up plans if it didn’t, and everything began to come together in a magical way. It was settling and shocking all at once.

What surprised you most about seeing this project go through the FILM 5 process?

TMF: I don’t want to say I was surprised by this, but more in deep gratitude for the way in which all of our department heads approached their roles as mentors to members of our team. I saw and heard them working with people, sharing their expertise, giving advice, offering guidance when something could be improved, and doing so in kind and joyful ways. I fully benefited from this as well. I had so many questions that I learned I didn’t need to be afraid to ask. I felt so supported. This contributed to an atmosphere on our set that was such a joy to work in.

EUA-LANDER

director/writer: Erica Meus-Saunders
producer: Emma Boardman

Atlantic Shorts Program 2
Saturday, September 17 — 12:30 PM — Theatre 8

 

Nineteen-year-old Tracey is living a charmed life: great adoptive-parents, college life and childhood bestie. On the eve of her 20th Birthday, she suddenly gets ill and undergoes a transformation, changing into an outer-wordly being. Her life makes a 180-degree flip, one that she slowly adapts to.

How did you get your start in filmmaking?

Erica Meus-Saunders: I got into filmmaking on a whim. I was founder and editor-in-chief of a women’s magazine back home in the Bahamas. We started a model search that morphed into a reality-TV series, and I found myself in the role of producer. From there I was hooked and wanted to learn everything about the filmmaking process.

What was the main source of inspiration for this film?

EM-S: Fiction (sci-fi and fantasy) is my first love. I’ve toyed with this idea of an unlikely female super-hero for a while, and when I decided to apply for FILM 5, this idea started to take shape in my mind. I knew she needed a BFF/sidekick, and I knew I wanted them to experience something unique together, so I decided to build from there.

What was your favourite day of shooting and why?

EM-S: Well, we only had two days, and there were both good and trying times within that period, so I would say, favourite scene of shooting. It would have to be the running scene at the beginning. It was early morning and the first shoot of the day, so there wasn’t any pressure, at least not for me. It was feeling things out and everyone was excited, fresh and a bit nervous.

INVISIBLE

director/writer: Dale Willman
producer: Jason J. Thomas

NextGen Atlantic Shorts
Monday, September 19 — 6:20 PM — Theatre 3

Invisible follows Helen, a recently retired woman, over two days. Having trouble adjusting to retirement and on her way to meet a friend at a cafe, a couple of events start her wondering if she’s becoming invisible to society. Situations in the cafe only heighten this negative feeling. When a stranger offers a wild proposition, Helen looks at invisibility in a different way. Sometimes we are so focused on our views that we don’t always see things that disprove them. Our self-imposed narratives stop us from seeing what others see when they look at us.

How did you get your start in filmmaking?

Dale Willman: I started working in the film industry as a background performer, eventually moved into casting work and then started studying acting and became a principal actor. My acting training included some intense script-analysis classes, and this led me to screenwriting. The first film I made was a two-minute short called Conspiracy, which can be found on YouTube with a deep search (include the words senior rap!). I co-wrote, acted, directed, edited, and shot it on two iPhones. It was made for a specific film festival that didn’t require great production value but instead relied on the story being captivating enough to entertain the audience. I learned a great deal from that experience, including the fact I wanted to direct with a crew who knew what they were doing!

What was the main source of inspiration for this film?

DW: Invisible was inspired by some early statistics that were released by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2019. These stats showed only half of roles in film and TV were written for females and of those roles most would fail the Bechdel test. This fact, combined with conversations with fellow students and friends, made me realize that we all feel invisible in our lives at some point. And visual media is a strong deciding factor in enforcing those feelings. But we can use visual media for change, and I hope to do that with my future scripts and films.

What are you working on next?

DW: I am in the process of editing my last draft of my TV series pilot script so I can start pitching it again. It’s been sitting in limbo for over two years so it’s time for it to see the light of day again. I’m also researching film festivals to submit Invisible to and getting back into working on my feature script that g

THE YEAR LONG BOULDER

director/writer: Brielle LeBlanc
producer: Sean M. Galway

Atlantic Shorts Program 3
Saturday, September 17 — 3:30 PM — Theatre 8

Crushed by a messy unrequited love, a young queer poet—through the confidence of their best friend and the truth of their art—finally reckons with their own emotional baggage (or ‘boulder’).

What was the main source of inspiration for the film?

Brielle LeBlanc: I suppose my friendships were a main source of inspiration. The film is as much about community support as it is about the process of self-reflection.

What was your favourite day of shooting and why?

 

BL: They were both so great for different reasons! We shot all interior on Day 1—long, dialogue-heavy sequences that develop the narrative. The energy was high and fun. All of our Super 8 exterior shots and the 16mm boulder shots were on Day 2 on the coastline in early April, so it was very cold. But we captured some really epic images that day, which felt truly incredible.

 

What are you working on next?

BL: Only time will tell. Over the last year, I’ve really focused on observing and learning, hopping around sets, helping where I can. I’ve only just put pen to paper again, and look forward to slowly developing my ideas with my team and friends.

Check out these other AIFF films from the AFCOOP programs, members and staff:

 

Gala Presentation

Bernie Langille Wants to Know What Happened to Bernie Langille (dir. Jackie Torrens)

Special Presentations

Bystanders (dir. Koumbie)
Compulsus (dir. Tara Thorne)

Features

Lemon Squeezy (dir. Kevin Hartford)

Atlantic Shorts Program 1

 

I See You (dir. Amy Trefry)
Mawitai’kw (dir. Bretten Hannam)
Music Resistance (dir. Erica Meus-Saunders)

Atlantic Shorts Program 2

 

Fizzy (dir. Koumbie)
The Burn Book Tour (dir. Tara Thorne)

Atlantic Shorts Program 3

First Kiss (dir. Margaret Donahoe)

Atlantic Shorts Program 4

Fairies/Forerunners (dir. Todd Fraser)

Atlantic Shorts Program 5

Moon River (dir. Misha Horacek)
Popcorn Poodles (dir. Meghan Macdonald)

NextGen Atlantic Shorts

Peripherals (dir. Erin Lee Brown)

Reel East Coast Shorts Gala

Homard Au Coeur (dir. Jenna Marks)
Keeper (dir. Tori Martin Fleming)


What’s the best camera (for your project)

As the summer months come to a close and we prepare for our busy fall season here at AFCOOP, I have found myself wondering about a new default camera ‘setting’ that is quickly becoming the new normal—but you won’t find this default setting in your camera menus.

When it comes to choosing your camera as an independent filmmaker, there are definitely a few well-worn avenues of selection.

Convenience being king, using your own camera, or your DOP’s camera, is certainly the easiest thing to do if you are lucky enough to have a decent kit. The next common route is to buy or rent some decent gear, if you have cash funding, in-kind funding, or if you are self-funding your film. This option usually results in getting the “best,” most expensive, usually 4K camera you can afford within your budget.

These are both totally valid options, of course! Because in the end the most important thing is to be able to just make your darn film, as we all know.

But an issue arises when we default our camera choice for any given project to our favourite go-to camera, or the most expensive camera we can afford at that moment, without considering the implications of that choice. It not only means that your projects may end up looking a bit visually similar if you use the same camera for everything, it also means we are missing out on the opportunities to make important creative and practicality-driven decisions that will have a huge impact on the mood, tone, look, and overall outcome of your film.

You may be in love with the look of the footage from a particular camera, but is it the right look for your current project?

Does it support the tone and style you are going for, or does it just “look cool” in general?

Is it going to be practical for this specific shoot, or could it potentially be a hindrance due to the size of your crew or the physical elements involved?

Are you just blindly picking the newest and shiniest camera because you have funding, or is it actually the right camera to tell your story?

These are questions worth asking. The ideal camera for any project can be chosen by a broad range of factors depending on the specific project, and you are always ultimately in charge of what the most important factors are to you. But essentially, it is usually a combination of practicality and creative reasons driving those decisions.

If after some intense research you chose your new shiny camera because you like the “look” of the footage, then that means there is a somewhat distinctive look that exists, and that it has a different look when compared with other footage. When RED cameras first came out, we all raved about the look of their footage, and indeed, it is still very distinctive in the market.

It is no secret to DOPs that cameras have different looks, they will often rent a second identical camera (or a camera with an identical sensor, at least) to use as their B Camera so that the look of the footage matches and can be cut together easily. If you shot a scene with two different camera models side by side with the exact same settings on each, you would still see a difference regardless of colour correction, HDR, RAW, Log, white balance, post effects, etc.

It is up to you whether the footage not matching the rest is a problem or not. Once again it depends on the project. If you are working in fiction, that may be a problem if it’s not what you’re going for. In documentary filmmaking, we can get away with a lot more of a visual patchwork from multiple sources.

To give you a better idea of what camera selection looks like in the professional world, here are a few neat examples. Note that they range from indie-level solutions to high-end fanciness.

The MTV show Catfish used Canon Powershot S110/S120 cameras to shoot a TV show back in 2015.

Powershots are not really a super impressive camera. They chose to use them mainly because they wanted something small and light that shot decent quality and would keep everything in focus nearly all the time, even when they couldn’t keep an eye on the shot composition. The cameras also provided a documentary-style look that the team was comfortable integrating with their other camera footage to create an acceptable overall documentary look.

Similarly, Steven Soderbergh loves to shoot on iPhones because they are compact and lightweight, and he also enjoys how quickly he can move from shot to shot on set. He includes the financial factor in his decision as well (just like we all have to in real life!) as he wants to continue financing his own films. Sticking with the iPhone for every one of his recent movies has made them look visually similar, though.

Lars Von Trier, the king of ultra slow motion, used 5000fps scientific cameras from Vision Research for his opening sequence in Melancholia. This is once again a case of practicality meeting creative choice, as he enjoyed both the capabilities and the look the cameras provided. I don’t think he factored in cost as an element (lol).

Peter Jackson chose to use thirty (yes, thirty!) Red Epic cameras for The Hobbit because he wanted to push the boundaries of new technology and create a 48fps 3D movie, motivated mainly by his excitement around the technology itself. Obviously, we need not discuss if cost was a factor in this case either!

A few smaller-scale examples I’ve come across here at AFCOOP have involved “which one of our Super 8 cameras has the smoothest manual zoom,” which was necessary for a particular shot. Another one of our renters used the Panasonic AF100 for a music video to emulate a film-grain look without the added cost and effort of shooting on actual film. They were also shooting in the woods and needed something easy to tote around, on a practical level.

As you can see, choosing the right camera for your project can be about more than just budget plus convenience. When you consider the specific needs of your production, story, and your creative goals while choosing a camera, not only will things run more smoothly on set in practical ways, but you will also have a huge creative piece of your work sorted out—before you even shoot a single frame.

Happy shooting, everyone!

SCREEN MEMORIES

ARCHIVES EDITION

by IAIN MACLEOD

Evan asked me to write this month’s Screen Memories column specifically about films that are part of our Archives, I guess because I’m the oldest one here? Maybe? In any case I did not need any encouragement, as I usually spend several hours a day thinking about 1992, which deep down I know wasn’t five years ago… and yet…  Anyway, enjoy my battle with mortality.

City Survival (Lulu Keating, 1985)
I first heard about AFCOOP in New Glasgow in the early ’90s reading a Chronicle-Herald article featuring Lulu Keating. I don’t know if it was about a workshop or one of her films but it mentioned AFCOOP and that Lulu was from Antigonish, which … blew my mind. In the world before the internet the idea that someone from Antigonish (of Mother Webb’s, CJFX and the Snow Queen) could make a movie was mind boggling. Like, for real. I didn’t fully understand what AFCOOP was yet but I suspected it was a magical place and I knew for sure Lulu was cool. And furthermore … oh right, the movie review … Yes so, City Survival (which Lulu has written about in this very publication) tells the story of rural Nova Scotian Mary-Francis as she moves to the big city, otherwise known as Toronto, and drifts through various adventures, always with her Nova Scotia perspective intact. Lulu’s episodic film is charming and whimsical in the best of ways, and Mary Colin Chisholm as Mary-Francis (“you don’t pronounce the hyphen”) would have been a revelation at the time, now she’s simply a provincial treasure. Watching City Survival, it’s hard not to think of the slightly older Goin’ Down the Road, but it’s interesting to see this out-migration story told from a female perspective (also by someone actually from Nova Scotia, unlike one-generation-removed Don Shebib). City Survival is less unrelenting and dark than that earlier film, and more funny too, which let’s get serious is the most important thing. If it only captured that particular time and place it would be worth watching, but I feel City Survival works just as well today as it did in 1985. Watch it here.

Beach Freak (Doug Pope, 1995)
After reading about AFCOOP in the Herald, I first stepped foot in the actual office itself (then on Barrington Street down the hall from MISA, which would eventually become ISANS) at the 1995 Christmas party. I’m not sure if Doug Pope was actually there or not but he was a legit AFCOOP icon during that era (you can see some of his other films in the Archives) and I’m still a little in awe when I think of him (or Lynda Rosborough, Glenn Walton, Mark Simkins et al.). Doug made Beach Freak in 1995 and it featured current AFCOOP member Misha Horacek, Pictonian producer of Trailer Park Boys Barrie Dunn, and the late David Renton, who was in Neptune’s first season in 1963 and would be in my first serious film the next year (he might have only mentioned the first thing in conversation though). In the story Misha plays Emma, a writer visiting the Nova Scotia seaside with her much older and angrier husband Charlie (Barrie Dunn, who out-broods Bergman actors in this movie—that is a compliment btw). The couple encounter an eccentric man (Renton) who lives on the beach and needless to say approach his mental health challenges in very different ways. Watching this film again after so many years, which full disclosure I was in love with in the ’90s, I was worried that some of that story would not have aged well. But Misha’s performance and Doug’s direction mostly skirt that danger and I still love this film. So, so much. The synth music, the Nova Scotia coastline, David dancing on a roof, Mike Melski in a supporting role yelling down at the Legion. Beach Freak has it all. 
Trigger warning: there is a Far West jacket featured prominently in this film. Watch it here.

The Diary Found by a Nasty Kid (Some Rando from New Glasgow, 1999)
When Evan suggested writing about my own film, the self-effacing, prudent part of me fought the idea hard, but then the shameless part of me stepped forward and that was the end of that. Perhaps it’s OK though as the archive films I’ve selected have been framed by my personal memories of AFCOOP. And it’s especially poignant to write about it now because the producer of the film, my close friend Jon Mackay, recently passed away. We made this French-language short as part of the program that had been and would again become FILM 5. That year two films were made through AFCOOP and two through CFAT (ours was one of the CFAT films). It is a gentle homage to the films of François Truffaut (the title is from his film Love on the Run) and is set in an unnamed town in rural France in the ’70s, which we believed the Hydrostone could pass for, and I think we got away with it? We were commuting from Pictou County throughout the process and my biggest memories are: sleeping on someone’s kitchen floor on Harris Street (multiple times) and making up silly songs together in the dark, an intense British story consultant (possibly wearing leopard-print pants?) telling me the story was no good and believing her for a time because of her accent, being left to our own devices once a CBC strike started (the offices were in CBC at the time), and most of all Lulu Keating’s directing workshop (I was nervous being in the same room as her!). I don’t know if you’ll like the movie or not but I will always cherish the time we made it. Watch it here.

AFCOOP has played such an important role in not just Nova Scotia filmmaking but Nova Scotia culture for nearly 50 years, and it has been an honour to be a small part of that and to share some of these memories with you. Watch the Archives!