THE ALIENS premiere in Toronto at Coal Mine Theatre

We opened our fourth season with Pullitzer-Prize winning playwright, Annie Baker. THE ALIENS held it's Toronto premiere at the best theatre in town, Coal Mine

JASPER | Noah Reid (Schitt's Creek

KJ | William Greenblatt (Even Steven's

EVAN | Maxwell Haynes (Toronto debut)

(L to R) MAXWELL HAYNES, NOAH REID, and WILLIAM GREENBLATT | Photo by TIM LEYES | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

(L to R) MAXWELL HAYNES, NOAH REID, and WILLIAM GREENBLATT | Photo by TIM LEYES | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

Having read the reviews before watching the production on stage, I realized I was preparing myself for all those moments the critics reported: silences, the feelings of loss, frustrating unrealized potential, the perfect play for millennial misfits, etc.

What I didn't expect was the tears. I was barely able to clap and woot at the end, so much was I chocking on emotions that Annie Baker brought out through sparse dialogue.

I hand it to Mitchell Cushman. The direction was unbelievable. You (audience) are in the back of this cafe for the whole two hours and the world feels so much larger than it really is. We were seeing this "space space" the way Kevin Janos (KJ) and Jasper saw it. 

Here are my thoughts as to why Annie Baker is pure genius - the kind Jasper and Kevin talk about.

THE ALIENS

We find out in one conversation early on that "The Aliens" was a proposed band title for KJ and Jasper. Jasper said he thought it was lame. Near the end, though, KJ lists off the band names once more, stopping at "The Aliens." We then understand the relevance of the name and how it resonated with KJ. He never says this, but we get it. This is the name he holds dear to his heart.

UNREALIZED POTENTIAL

This is a big theme running throughout the entire show. Jasper never goes off to college but is an aspiring author; Nor does he know KJ in high school. They meet after KJ drops out of college first year and have been together ever since. There blossoming friendship seems to be founded on silences, hearty "bro" statements, and an inability to express any sort of emotion outside of anger and excitement. They are two passionate people. 

NOAH REID (forefront), WILLIAM GREENBLATT (left) and MAXWELL HAYNES ( right) | Photo by TIM LEYES | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

NOAH REID (forefront), WILLIAM GREENBLATT (left) and MAXWELL HAYNES ( right) | Photo by TIM LEYES | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

Would I read Jasper's novel? YES. What was so interesting is how Jasper chose to reveal parts of his own personal past through his fictional main character (a character without a name). For example, when Jasper found out his ex was dating a new person named Sprocket, he transforms his rage and feelings into hard work, producing "20 pages." The end result is that his once placid and content character decides to become nomadic and move away. We can only imagine that had Jasper remained alive, he and KJ would have planned the same road trip and been thoroughly disappointed with what they saw in America. 

Evan's poignantly shy and awkward comments also factor into Jasper's work. After admitting he doesn't celebrate the Fourth of July because it's weird to "sit in a football field and watch things explode in the sky," Evan blurts out that he hates America. Jasper looks at Evan - maybe even for the first time - seeing something more than a loner teen working at a coffee shop. 

Perhaps this is the bitterness evoked in Jasper's main character after arriving in California and realizing it all looks "the same" as the rest of America. "Was Miller lying? Is he curled up underneath some billboard writing this shit with the drive in movie theatre offering a dim light?"

THE MAKING OF JASPER

What really struck me a few days after thinking about the production is how Annie Baker sets up Evan to take over Jasper's place. There were three important moments in which this became apparent: 

  1. At the beginning during an early conversation in which KJ talks about what their friends are doing, he mentions one guy - Jasper's weed dealer - who now lives on a wind farm. Jasper asks, "how does he live on a wind farm?" Later in the production, two weeks after Jasper's funeral, KJ brings up the wind farm as a potential destination for him. And Evan replies, "how do you live on a wind farm?" 
  2. After KJ storms off to the other side of the cafe, Jasper continues to belittle him - playfully - and talks about KJ's mental breakdown. We at this point begin to see KJ's character unfolding and get a glimpse into how he has coped with a mental illness. Jasper said KJ would walk towards people on the street and go "zip" to their face while touching their forehead gently. Like a baptism of sorts, KJ also does this to Evan after Jasper passes. He asks Evan to kneel. Evan respects the process and allows KJ the dignity of committing this act. 
  3. Jasper sees Evan as a potential protegee - asking him if he smokes and if he writes poetry. Evan says occasionally - and coughs after inhaling. And he says he writes occasionally but comes full circle and says no, he doesn't write. In the final scene, KJ notices Evan smoking and asks him if he is addicted. Evan's response is, "yes. Well hopefully." 

Further to these, we see Evan beginning a potential relationship with a CIT he met at "band camp" - Nicole - and we can only assume Evan's timid and shy behavior will lead him to be a good and loyal boyfriend. We also hope Nicole is a good person too. 

The end offers us a glimmer of hope. KJ tells Evan he "loves him." Evan allows KJ to cry and to express emotions outside of anger - something KJ was not able to do with Jasper. KJ even tells Evan, "it's okay if you don't know how to cry." Evan later apologizes for running away from KJ after finding out about Jasper's overdose. These two moments of human affection give us hope that their blossoming friendship might allow for greater emotional connections - the type KJ needs and Evan is able to offer.

MOTHERS

There are three mothers that factor a lot in this work:

(L to R) MAXWELL HAYNES, WILLIAM GREENBLATT and NOAH REID | Photo by TIM LEYES | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

(L to R) MAXWELL HAYNES, WILLIAM GREENBLATT and NOAH REID | Photo by TIM LEYES | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

  • Jasper's mom who died when he was 15 years old - this we find out when he is reading a part of his novel and the main character loses his mom at age 15
  • KJ's mom - the eccentric new age woman that Jasper is keen to mention whenever he can,
  • Evan's loving mother that contradicts him over the phone about what to eat for dinner

We don't know much other than Jasper lost his mother. KJ at first says that that part in the novel seems too fabricate or obvious; at which point Jasper opens up and admits, "my mom died when I was fifteen." 

I think the most heartfelt scene is at the end, when KJ tells Evan the story about "ladder." When KJ is unable to stop saying ladder his mom holds his hand and says, "you can say it as much as you like. I'm going to sit here and hold your hand with you." We feel for KJ. He clearly has a bright mind - having gone to school for math and philosophy. But there are so many other underlying issues that he may never have received proper support for. The sadness he feels at the moment is described in relation to his thesis: the logic charts,  if p then q. This becomes his way of explaining this issue to Evan.

Moments before, Evan's mother had called to ask when he would be home for dinner and if he would prefer "carrots or asparagus." Evan seems annoyed by this question, but all of this is trivial in comparison to KJ's recent remark, "I want to kill myself." Evan doesn't leave him and stays to talk and listen. They bond over stories about their mothers.

-----

There is so much more you can say about this production. I'll leave that to the other critics. All I can say is that it just really affects you. It's tough to verbalize in a way, so strong do you feel near the end. My heart goes out to KJ and Jasper and Evan. And my heart goes out to Noah, William and Maxwell for giving each of their characters respect and dignity.

Stay connected to the Coal Mine Theater for the rest of the fourth season: subscribe here.

Thank you Coal Mine for continuing to challenge your audiences with relevant and insightful subject matter.

- Jennifer

Script Reading with Friends - Round One!

After five years of research and keeping the idea to myself, I finally got up the courage to share my drama scripted series with my group of friends.

PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

KYLE reading descriptions | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

KYLE reading descriptions | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

I am so fortunate enough to have these people in my life who, even if shy or semi unwilling, brought my words to life!

PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

KIRA playing ELLA D'ARCY | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

KIRA playing ELLA D'ARCY | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

I got to hear voices associated to what had been, up until this point, figments of my imagination that remained firmly in my head.

BYDEN, ALANNA, KRISTINA, and ANDREA | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

BYDEN, ALANNA, KRISTINA, and ANDREA | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

It was shocking, gratifying, and extremely rewarding! I couldn't have asked for a better group!

BYDEN and ALANNA | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

BYDEN and ALANNA | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

Thank you.

- Jenn

At Shutter Speed - So Far This Year

As TIFF is coming around the corner, I had a moment to reflect this morning about my year. I looked back on all the wonderful people I have had a chance to work with and some truly outstanding projects. These I shall relate to you in a JAMES JOYCE rambling sort of way. Apologies:

My year started off with a bang, and I was able to work with a dedicated team to produce a local award show that honoured ingenuity and entrepreneurialism in Canada.

SPIN MASTER

Working with a truly creative team at SPIN MASTER and maintaining a connection with my favourite creative director of all time, MIKE ARNOTT, and all my friends (cough cough Rachel, Dave and Sylvia).


GINUWINE CONCERT

Next came a GINUWINE concert at The Danforth Music Hall. I met two ambitious and hard working producers from IMPOSSIBLE Productions and we nailed it. Literally!

GINUWINE | DANFORTH MUSIC HALL

GINUWINE | DANFORTH MUSIC HALL

DELON | BTS | DANFORTH MUSIC HALL

DELON | BTS | DANFORTH MUSIC HALL


DOCUMENTARY PROMOS

I have also been working closely with two talented producers / directors to help them create documentary promos that aid with outreach and funding initiatives.


HOT DOCS

OH, and of course working with the best team ever at Hot Docs 2016 this past year was a journey I shall never forget! I got to see 15 docs and met a wealth of talented people. If you can, go see: HOLY HELL, LEAGUE OF EXOTIQUE DANCERS, UNDER THE SUN, and MR GAGA.

ME | HOT DOCS 2016

ME | HOT DOCS 2016

BLOOR TEAM | HOT DOCS 2016

BLOOR TEAM | HOT DOCS 2016


SHORT FILM

Working with an amazing group to produce a short film! We filmed at a local shop called Tatyana's Boutique and braved the five degree Canadian weather (it was a piece of cake, eh?). Looking forward to seeing the final results!

TATYANA'S BOUTIQUE | TORONTO

ACTORS AND CREW | TORONTO

ACTORS AND CREW | TORONTO


TORONTO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

I am currently partnering with an outstanding team who will be producing videos for The Toronto Symphony Orchestra. All 24 concerts, and here we come!

ROY THOMPSON HALL | TORONTO

ROY THOMPSON HALL | TORONTO


LADIES SOCIETY

Just a week ago I got to spend an entire evening with the most inspiring and wonderful group of women. SHELLEY SAYWELL (Emmy nominated director), Deborah Parks (outstanding producer), Mary-Ann Bedard (City of Toronto, and the most heartfelt person), Jackie Garrow (Impact Producer, and mother of two), and Jean Stevenson (Maddison House, and the life of the party). 

We talked about everything under the sun, unrestrained. I felt as if I were in some secret society and club in which we wile away our time drinking wine and talking philosophical jargon. 


COAL MINE

I was invited back to work with the team at The Coal Mine this season and AHHHH it has already be crazy and fun and amazing. Looking forward to some rock'n'roll theatre on The Danforth!

DESIGNED BY KOSTIS PETRIDIS


MUFF SOCIETY & HER-STORY

AND, if that isn't enough, I have been so honoured and involved with The MUFF Society for 2 years and now will be spearheading out Documentary Series called HER-STORY and oh my, I cannot wait to tell you the line up of amazing female documentarians we have in store for you Toronto!


I haven't even begun to process just how blessed I feel.

I must close with a final note. My mind is overwhelmed in the best way possible and my heart is ready to burst. Thank you thank you thank you to all the people who have made my life amazing this past year.

- Jenn

National Canadian Film Day & Hot Docs

What a crazy four months it has been for me and At Shutter Speed. It is officially the new year for my blog, but I am already a third of the way through the year. So happy 1/3 third of the new year!!

I think it is the perfect day to blog because tomorrow is National Canadian Film Day and next week Hot Docs International Film Festival begins.

NATIONAL CANADIAN FILM DAY

If you are an avid movie goer, a film bluff, or a patriotic Canadian, then this day is meant for you!

What is this day you ask? All across Canada, theatres in select cities are screening only Canadian Film. Most screenings are free too!

SCHEDULE HERE.

Here are some in my hometown, Toronto, that I am most excited for:

  1. The Grand Seduction | CBC Atrium | April 20th | 7PM
  2. Ginger Snaps | Fox Theatre | April 20th | 7PM
  3. Corner Gas: The Movie | Brentwood Library | April 20th | 2PM
  4. Dr. Cabbie | York Memorial CI | April 20th | 9AM

TWITTER | WEBSITE


HOT DOCS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

North America's largest international documentary film festival is just around the corner and I could not be more excited.

Last year, I was able to watch 22 films (on top of working and attending all the parties and networking events). PHEW.

This year, I've been fortune enough to take advantage of film screeners, and will be telling you some of my festival favourites.

  1. How to Build a Time Machine | dir. Jay Cheel
  2. Holy Hell | dir. Will Allen
  3. Girls Don't Fly | dir. Monika Grassl
  4. Under the Sun | dir. Vitaly Mansky

Jay Cheel takes us on an extraordinary adventure between two characters obsessed with "time travel". One drawing inspiration from H.G. Wells novel The Time Machine, while the other, a professor of mathematics, wanting to find an equation that solves time travel.

Holy Hell is exactly as it sounds. Filmmaker Will Allen joins The Budhist Society in California with a hundred other members. What starts as an ideal retreat and community focused group turns into a nightmare. Watch as the leader of the group destroys each persons life in his own masochistic pursuits of an ideal society.

Girls Don't Fly drew my attention initially because of the title. I said to myself, what do you mean girls don't fly... of course we do. In a small Ghanaian town, a group of determined and strong willed young women attend a local flying academy. Their dreams of a better future for themselves and their families seem distant and far away, and they endure verbal abuse from the director of the academy. He is a British imperialist with archaic views of Ghanaian culture. At the heart of this sad story is white colonialism taking place today. Will the women prevail over the male white power? Watch and see!

Under the Sun is one of the most clever documentaries I have ever seen. Fighting strict filming limitations, the North Korean government and its control over the image, director Vitaly Mansky tells us a story and asks us to read in between the lines. In this case, I mean that he shows us footage in between each take - before the government official yells "ACTION". "WAIT," you say, "action?" "Is this not reality, is this not a documentary showing truth?" Truth for us is recognizing the lie in each scripted and practiced dramatizations. The government attempts to show us an ideal family through the perspective of an eight year old girl. However, there is nothing ideal about the situation or family or work environments. The horror unfolds and the pressure reaches its peak at the end, when the little girl is unable to contain her tears. We are left hearing the final words of the government official regulating the shoot, "tell her to stop crying. Think of something happy."


What am I most excited for? 

  1. Ovarian Psychos
  2. Mr. Gaga
  3. Ants on a Shrimp
  4. Sour Grapes
  5. Apology
  6. League of Exotique Dancers

The list really does go on but I had to hold back for the sake of making this a relatively short blog.

TWITTER | WEBSITE


There is so much film action going on in Toronto this month. I hope you have the chance to go out and share in the success of all our great Canadian filmmakers!

- Jenn

Women in Post Panel | CCE & DGC & CFC at The Gladstone Hotel

This past Thursday I attended a panel discussion at The Gladstone Hotel. Hosted by the CCE, with the DGC and CFC as friendly supporters, this event invited five talented women on stage for a discussion about women in post-production roles. Here is the panel

Sandy Pereira (assistant editor, editor, Toronto)

  • Works with David Cronenberg

Gillian Truster (editor, Toronto)

  • Degrassi | The Next Generation (TV), Orphan Black (TV)

Michele Hozer (editor, producer, director, Toronto)

  • edited over 50 docs, Hot Docs premiere of Sugar Coated (2015)

Susan Shipton (editor, Toronto)

Jane Tattersall (sound designer, Toronto)

  • won over 60 awards for sound design
  • works with Deepa Mehta
  • Vikings (TV)

The moderator for the evening, Marla, has 20 years experience in the industry. She is a passionate woman who lead an interesting and evoking conversation about success in the post-production world.

"If you want to get something different, you have to do something different" - Marla

Each women in the panel came from a different background, but agreed on several topics of interest. The first was that early on in your career, there is a large amount of luck that plays into knowing people and having the confidence to put yourself forward for work.

"Getting a job is a campaign" - laughed Gillian.

She waited two months to hear back from Temple Street Productions before she was asked to be an editor on Orphan Black.

Sandy discussed the merits of starting at the bottom. Most of the women in the panel created short films in school and PA'd on set before they settled into their role. All agreed how important mentorship is and how difficult it is sometimes as a women to find someone who "hires" women. Gillian finds this very backwards as she believes the greater the diversity in the editing room, therefore the better the work. 

"I hate wasted potential" - Gillian

No one should be judged for their gender, age, sexual orientation, or culture.

"I hate wasted potential" - Gillian.

Susan was adamant that people should be judged based on their skill and to refrain from marketing yourself as a good "female" editor. You are an editor. As soon as we point out our gender, it is easier for the world to point it out too.

"Work hard, be creative, smart, and you will overcome obstacles" - Susan.

Marla brought up some alarming stats in Canada, wherein 17% of the film industry are female editors, 4% cinematographers, and 25% producers. Yet women make up 50% of the population.

Another point of discussion was surround assistant editing vs. editing. Everyone was quick to agree that assistant editors play an ENORMOUS role in the editing room. Michele particularly said she always has an assistant editor helping her edit the docs. You can't do it by yourself. You need a team to bounce ideas off of to create a fluid and organic storyline. Question each other and the storyline to strengthen it.

"a documentary editor is the filmmaker in the editing room" - Michele.

Editors in the DOC industry have greater creative input.

The conversation ended by talking about possible ways to get more women involved in post. Jane mentioned that when the industry switched over to digital, more young males who were computer savvy jumped on board, leaving women far behind and not trained for the new landscape. Jane regrets that she knows so few women sound designers and mixers. 

Women in Post | CCE | The Gladstone Hotel | Toronto | 2015

Women in Post | CCE | The Gladstone Hotel | Toronto | 2015

Michele and Gillian both suggested that you make obstacles work for you. If you are interested in having a family, but are worried about the hours and time commitments post-production requires, you confidently set your hours with the producer. Explain why you need to be home between 5-8 every night and that you are willing to return to the editing room after you have settled with your family. This creates a standard system that others can understand and makes your life, career, and family happy by eliminating stress of always missing out on the personal side of life.

"What people really want from an editor is a point of view" - Sandy.
"No one will take your career as seriously as you will. [Prove your] tenacity and staying power" - Gillian.

If there are more women in higher positions, then more women feel confident applying to positions underneath and more women are inevitably hired. It is a cycle that needs to be standardized without making it obvious that it is a gender thing. All people deserve equal opportunity.

Michele ended the discussion powerfully by saying, "talk loudly. Take our space" as creators and post production experts in the film industry.

Truly a passionate and inspiring discussion! 

Back to the cutting room for me,

- Jenn

Coal Mine Theatre | The River in review

The theatre is a unique space. It plays out in real time, without editing or cutting to improve the narrative flow. Stuff can happen (Murphy's law), and you have to role with the punches.

The world can feel so large and yet so small at times. Here's what I mean. One of my favourite English professors from undergrad met up with a fellow classmate in Ottawa for a seminar talk. They conversed and he mentioned his daughter's and her partner's theatre company, Coal Mine Theatre, and their need to build a website before the new 2015 / 2016 season. And presto, through fate and good fortune, my name got thrown into the mix and I got to go on an amazing journey with Diana Bentley and Ted Dykstra this past summer.

Working with two graphic designers, Catherine Erkinger and Kostis Pedritis, the three of us constructed and fashioned a website that is simple, easy to navigate, and rich in colour.

What is Coal Mine Theatre? It is a company that produces off-off broadway plays. Very indie, with large name actors occupying intimate spaces and creating an experience like no other for the audience.

"If you sit in the front row of the Coal Mine’s tiny theatre, a storefront venue on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, you’ll get a close-up view of Ferry as he nimbly beheads and eviscerates a glistening silver trout while an instrumental version of Cole Porter’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin plays wryly in the background." - The Globe and Mail

The 2015 / 2016 theatre season is comprised of four plays: The River, The Winter's Tale, Killer Joe, and Instructions (to any future socialist government proposing to abolish Christmas).

The 2015 / 2016 season at Coal Mine Theatre

I watched "The River" (Jez Butterworth) this past weekend and I was mesmerized. My partner and I were struck with the mystique, the open ended plot, the brilliant stage direction (ahem Ted Dykstra) and the intense emotion evoked by each actor on stage.

"Butterworth’s style easily moves between mundane exchanges and a heightened poetic prose." - Stage Door

Post City captures "the man" (David Ferry) in the narrative hauntingly beautiful, showcasing the intricate and detailed set design and the uncomfortable and open ended story.

Truly a work that will haunt me moving forward. I canno wait for the rest of the season.

BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE.

This is an experience like no other!

- Jenn, an enthusiastic theatre goer!

COAL MINE facebook

COAL MINE twitter

Beeba Boys, A Contemporary Toronto Gangster Film

Set and filmed in contemporary Toronto, Deepa Mehta's newest feature film Beeba Boys is a smash hit. It had its World Premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Some of her earlier films, Water, Earth, Fire, and Bollywood Hollywood, have placed her securely in Canada's canon of filmmakers. This feature however, is a bit different.

In an interview, Deepa was asked why she wanted to suddenly create a gangster themed film. Her reply: "I just want to create something that is bad ass."

Let's take a look at in greater detail:

1. Where does this film take us? Well it is actually a very familiar landscape. Toronto. Today. But there is something unique and cinematic about its approach. The contemporary film uses floating steadicam movements to tell the story. Its ideologies are presented using clashing images: vibrant suits of the gang members set against simple shaded backdrops, violent dialogue and beautiful scenery, city life (penthouse) and suburbia, gang loyalty and family love. 

2. How did the film make me feel? I was completed glued to my seat. I bought into the filmic world instantly and was taken on a whirlwind journey. Emotionally, there was some sympathy and admiration for the gang members, almost sadness when they died. Deepa's attention to detail, while drawing on a contemporary and clean aesthetic, was a pleasure to behold. 

3. How did this help me understand the world a little better? It was another window into a world very different from my own yet only next door and within reach. Deepa's subject matter always touches on her culture (Indian). Therefore, the film was a breath of fresh air because it features few male or female white leads. Further, it presents strong and intelligent men and women of colour. More films of this nature should be main stream to prove how diversity on screen can be equally successful at telling a compelling story. The main figures who are white were presented as empty caricatures. It's about time someone fought back against the prejudice on screen. Thank you Deepa for showcasing different perspectives and cultures.

4. Did it deliver fun and surprises? SURE. It was a gangster film. Maybe we all secretly wish we could evade the law like those characters on screen and live a high-risk life. Reckless behaviour, clubbing, romancing, brotherhood and sisterhood. Wealth, riches, and respect!

5. Was there a transformative experience? I think the film did a great job at delivering on the gangster genre. It set up a network of brotherhood. It contrasted this with several emotion scenes: several romances and family drama. Then, the main hero/villain has a moment of clarity and strays from his path of gangster-hood to do the right thing and dies for it. Therefore it met my fullest expectations.

A must see movie that is hitting theatres very shortly. And of course I got to see the whole cast at the Women in Film and Television gala night. Quite a handsome group!

- Jenn

The Toronto International Film Festival 2015

The city was alive last week with the International Toronto Film Festival.

King street was a buzzin' from University to John street. The Hyatt was full of industry delegates and filmmakers from all over the world.

Here I found a home amongst other cinephiles - dare I say cinefilles

From entertainment, to networking, dining out, and watching a selection of 300 hundred, it's no wonder why Cameron Bailey loves his job so much:

"I invite everybody to 300 birthday parties and show movies" - Cameron Bailey, Twitter.

As an industry member, I was fortunate enough to witness keynote speakers from across the creative spectrum: 

  1. Justin Benson (Director, Producer, & Filmmaker) and Aaron Moorhead (Writer, Producer, & Filmmaker), the creators of SPRING (2014)
  2. Stephen Frears, director of THE PROGRAM (2015)
  3. Jia Zhang-ke, director of Mountains May Depart (2015)
  4. Bianca Goodloe, legal concierge - state of financing and co-production
  5. Nicolas Chartier, producer of A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS (2015)
  6. Michael Moore, director of WHERE TO INVADE NEXT (2015)
  7. Barbara Twist (Art House Convergence), Mark Fishkin (California Film Institute), and John Vanco (IFC, NY)
  8. UPFRONT: Uncovering Unconscious Bias - Gender Issues
  9. David Garrett
  10. Phil Hunt (Producer), *thinks that MUFF is "brilliant"
  11. Asif Kapadia, director of AMY (2015)
  12. Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, directors of THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING (2015)

Stay tuned the next few weeks where I will be highlighting the major speakers and my most memorable moments.

The movies were spectacular. At least the select few I was able to see (12). ANGRY INDIAN GODDESS shook the ground and wrenched out my heart. A movie everyone needs to see. LEGEND, a gritty tale based on the true story of the gangster Kray twins, East Enders in 1960s London. One close to home, BEEBA BOYS by the brilliant Deepa Mehta, also had be rivetted to my seat!

An unforgettable time with the best people!

- Jenn


A Night with Nickolas De Pencier: DOC Masters' Series Class

One of the many organizations I have joined this year is the Documentary Organization of Canada. I came across this gem at Hot Docs Film Festival 2015.

DOC offers programming to emerging film professionals for a variety of roles.

Technicolour studio

This month's masters series class was on cinematography and lead by Nickolas De Pencier. He is known for his TIFF success, Watermark (2013). 

Nickolas graduated from school with a BA' in English Lit. and Art History. Growing up as a photographer who developed b / w photos from film, he carried this love over to working on set in a variety of roles. 

Laughing to himself, he says he never chose film as a career. Especially not documentary. He started working on feature film sets for drama and fiction. From PA'ing to grip, he tried out every role to get a good sense of the entire process.

"Start small and be excited about everything" - Nickolas.

On his spare time, he worked on dance films. His roommate at the time knew a group of dancers and Nickolas developed his cinematographic eye through fun experimentation.

After deciding that fiction film was not a long term career for him, he jumped ship to documentary filmmaking. Not only did he change subject matter, but he made the leap from film to digital.

My favourite part about De Pencier's talk was his philosophies, some of which I will share with you below:

"Rare link between subject and what you are reporting"
"Authentic subject = unobtrusive cameraman"
"Use what is there, the mechanics of production. The smaller the better"
"creatively owning camera is better"
"Ask yourself what can this camera do..."
"ethics of DOC filmmaking: good practice leading to stronger material"
"there is a difference between an authentic relationship in film and an expose film"

He then shared two of his personal mantras that I shall carry forward with me for life:

"never move until it improves on stillness"
"something human is more dear to me than all the world"

Nickolas ended his talk by addressing questions from the audience, one of which asked about the future of DOC filmmaking in terms of finding funding. He suggested that the current model of sponsorship may change in five years. Most DOC full length films attract a niche audience, meaning it is hard to make a solid living off of it. He has, though, and is living proof. Perhaps that generation is dying out slowly but it is good to see someone who is able to make it while still inhabiting the outskirts of the filmmaking industry. Further, as a filmmaking you might have to weigh in whether your sponsor has the same agenda as you or is looking to improve business through product placement and ads. This can affect the authenticity of your film and whether your film receives funding or not. It is always a delicate line to balance on.

Thank you DOC for such a great evening spent at Technicolour (Toronto) and the chance to play around with top gear sponsored by Vistek.

- Jenn

A Night with Maureen Jennings

There are always going to be those nights when no matter how blustery the Canadian winter weather is, you are willing to brave it (wind, rain, or snow) to go out and visit an author whose work excites and inspires you.

This is how I felt last night travelling to a Toronto Public Library branch to hear / see Maureen Jennings speak about her career.

Before you say, "wow a person talking about themselves... great?" There is something different when an author stands behind a podium and weaves their life into a tale of adventure. I was awestruck listening for an hour - only it felt like a minute had gone by.

She opened her talk with a passage she had recently written for a new Murdoch TV companion book that is soon to be released in book stores:

"The darkness is real [...] the actors are soaked to the skin. The one take is successful (here alluding to Shipwrecked) [...] My own story dramatized in real life [...] who would have thought it?!"

Maureen Jennings, born and raised in England (and NOT in any way related to Christina Jennings, owner of Shaftesbury Films) is the author of the Murdoch mysteries series, Bomb Girls, Season of Darkness, and other Tom Tyler books to come. Maureen Jennings grew up in North York, where she started writing "poems and short stories." A friend of hers who was an actor invited her to write a mystery play for their theatre. Of course being a writer, one assumes that a writer is able to write ANY kind of work (plays - short stories - poems - novels - screenplays) ... However, this experience turned out to be a major turning point in her career because it helped her develop a keen interest in the mystery genre.

Being a passionate Victorian, she wanted to base her detective stories in the mid 1890s. Maureen held up an old image of the man she used as inspiration for Detective William Murdoch. He has "integrity and intelligence in his face" she said smiling, hoping to meet him one day. The moustached man in the photo of course does not look anything like our glorious Yannick Bisson, who plays Murdoch in the CBC series, but Maureen is thrilled to have been with Yannick these past eight years. 

An eagre person in the audience asked Maureen how it all began. "It was a funny story," one day my husband, who does things and only tells me when he knows something good will come of it, took one of my five books and brought it to Christina Jennings at Shaftesbury. We developed three movies out of my books. The blond-haired blue-eyed detective cast in the films was much closer to the personality I had written in my stories. TV, though, generally takes the characters and does away with the story. Although she did mention that she is grateful at how faithful "CBC was with the show and her original story." Then CTV picked up my show and it has been running on CBC now for eight consecutive seasons.

"One of the things you can do as a writer is you can steal everything," she said with mischief in her eyes. "There is extra fun with revenge crime, especially when you write someone in and have to decide how they live or die."

She had specifically written these books to take place in Toronto, and one of her earliest memories on the show was remembering how hilarious it was that, given the time for the show to be produced, the first few episodes were shot in WInnipeg. The irony...

Mauren co-wrote three episodes and recently released a solo episode, "Shipwrecked," which explores William Murdoch's childhood and how he came to have such particular habits.

Maureen is currently working on her Tom Tyler series, set in 1940 England during WWII. There are so many country secrets that need a good story telling. You could see glitter in her eyes as she recounted a few fond memories. Her first book, Season of Darkness, explores interned camps in the war.

In Ludlow, there were camps where men and women were interned in the war if they were suspected of being enemies. The camps were peaceful otherwise and many of the brightest minds lay wasting away until someone decided that they could give classes each day. Top scientists and musicians gave talks and lessons and worked with other camp members, mentoring them on their talents. Two such violinists went on to establish the Amadeus Quartet after they were released.

In Burmingham, Maureen developed her munitions factory stories that lead to Bomb Girls. She worked closely with someone she met on set whose great grandmother worked at a munitions factory during the war. Using real accounts from ladies in history, the two embarked on a short episodic series.

Book three in her Tom Tyler series takes place back in Ludlow in a small village where there is a hotel called St. Annes. "I saw this, and the hedges, and imagined it was a hospital. She later discovered the town secret during WWII. When Pilots returning from the war were greatly burned and disfigured, they were sent here for peace and tranquility. The townsfolk were to invite them in their homes and rehabilitate them into social life. A special rope was built that lead from the country to the town centre so the blind but independent pilots had a guide to hold onto.

I think the best thing I learned from this talk was that genre fiction is a great way to explore your passion for life during a specific era but it is also a way to slip in things that you wish to say. Not in any obtrusive manner though. It is the engine to discuss issues. Current issues, set in a different time period but also allowing the audience to connect in the present!

Thank you Maureen for sharing your wide spectrum of storytelling success. I am so inspired with how you turn quirky facts into something wonderful and great.

- Jenn

Nick Price and Wander Lost

I distinctly remember having a talk about sensuality and art in school. It centered around how we as human beings experience art. Do we see it? Do we touch it? Do we taste it? Do we hear it? How can we define "art as experience" as a code of conduct. Must we always be able to see or is it how we feel. If you are trapped in a lonely dark space and all you have are your thoughts to keep you company, is that art?

Perhaps we can broaden this idea of experience and art to the feeling that resonates in us. Whether immediately after or as it brews and settles over a long period of time after.

Nick Price "Naked Souls"

Nick Price "Naked Souls"

I think the most interesting way of experiencing art is hearing it. Music cannot be seen, it cannot be touched. It is a concept. The wavelengths bounding off the wall and through the loudspeakers can only be understood on a scientific spectrum. We do not see, and we do not feel touch. Only bass can resound deeply within us but how do we even begin to describe that? 

We do hear. And it is the most intense of all things. Hearing how sounds are mixed together draws us to a different space. Something rooted deep within us. 

For me, music evokes visual iconography. I SEE things when I HEAR things. A classical symphony calls to mind a graceful ballet. A thumping bass hit makes me feel energized and ready to dance. A peaceful melody has me at a cottage or meditating in yoga class.

On Tuesday February 17, 2015, Nick Price released his EP album Wander Lost. He hosted the event at a cool venue in Toronto that was once a place of worship for buddhists. While I was hearing the sweetly tuned melody of the electro keyboard, the thick and heavy electric guitar and Nick's vast array of vocal octaves, I was taken elsewhere, outside the room. The songs made me escape in those moment and enter into others.

When I heard "Cabin Built for Two" I found myself first in an empty loft apartment in the great city of Toronto. I saw a couple, young and vibrant, looking at the space hungrily, soaking in every detail, dust particle, and crease that their home had to offer. I saw them rip open a box and string a king-sized white sheet across rope. They threw in pillows and blankets and a flashlight. As the light outside faded, their tree-fort haven lit up brilliantly. They built a space for two. 

I was violently taken away from the safety of this image and thrust into the great outdoors, surrounded by intense forest noises and perhaps the rushings of a close by brook. A small log cabin stood amidst nature's encroaching branches. Two people lay outside by a dim camp fire, in sleeping bags and gazing at the stars. Their eyes shining brightly with reflections of constellations. 

Nick Price - accompanied by guitar and keyboard

Nick Price on the keys

It was like this all night: mesmerizing and purely hypnotizing. I was taken on a guided journey. I let myself relax into the sounds and my imagination took over. All sense of time and reality stood fleetingly aside. 

As Shakespeare wisely put it, "if music be the food of love,  then play on. Give me excess of it" - (Twelfth Night). Music inspires those who listen.

Thank you for sharing with us your beautiful talents Nick. If you haven't heard any of these songs you are severely missing out. Just click and enjoy...

- Jenn

Let's Talk Social Media: #FNLROM

How are companies today using social media as free advertising? And what is the most effective way of engaging with your audience? 

In November, 2014, my friends and I went to the ROM on a Friday night to experience Friday Night at the Rom (#FNLROM). We were greeted with a DJ, dance floor, food from different cultures, bars in every nook and cranny in the museum waiting to dispense wine and mixed cocktails, and all the discoveries and facts the ROM has to offer.

Mammoth

Ice Age - Moose

It was a brilliant way to get together and enjoy a combination of interactive learning with a fun night out.

Hercule's bust - GREEKS

Mosaic Wall

This past week, I attended their themed night: Carnival. It was awe inspiring! Everywhere we went we heard live music, we saw a fashion show, and enjoyed watching the models dance on stage to Soca music. 

Carnival models

Carnival models dancing to Soca

I think what made the night even better is the massive screen they have in the main area that showcases Instagram photos of people at the ROM that night - live feed! It made me want to take photos and be a part of the live action. 

I even got a nice comment from the ROM for the photo below.

Caesar versus Pompei

Pterodactyl 

I find this combination of social media and interactive experience seamless. I never felt like I was a part of a giant advertising scheme because it was fun. It took the action of photo taking, something that exists already with the advent of smartphones, and made it special. Everyone likes to feel important and noticed and in this way, the campaign at the ROM was truly effective.

Besides, who doesn't like dinosaurs and wine and cupcakes?

- Jenn

Toronto's Film Resources

I'm a film tourist. I'll be the first to admit it. I'm scared to take the plunge and make my own film. However I am utterly engrossed in film culture. I read the magazines, I follow the twitters and I join the clubs. Film culture can be enjoyed by filmmakers and film lovers alike. They are great avenues for making new friends, networking, and discovering new work that you may enjoy. I'm lucky to live in Toronto which is home to a flourishing film culture.

Here are some of my top 5 film communities and resource providers in the T dot!

  1. TIFF | Toronto International FIlm Festival

Let's start with the most well-known. TIFF is much more than just a glamorous festival, it is a Film Reference Library, an exhibition of the creme-de-la-creme of international cinema, a champion of Canadian features and shorts, a host to innovative exhibitions and rife with programming for adults and children alike. Becoming a member at TIFF gives you a discount on screenings and early access to TIFF tickets. The actual festival has a great variety of films and events, from red carpet Hollywood premieres to a Canadian shorts program.

      2.   WIFT - T | Women in Film and Television - Toronto

I love WIFT-T. Don't let the name scare you boys, men can join as an associate member. WIFT-T offers a lot of programming, development and mentorship opportunities that are organized by experienced cohorts. Not only do they have formal mentorships, like the Ubisoft Toronto Producer Mentorship, they also encourage mentorship between members in their member zone. I love the focus on women, of building skillsets and making friends!

      3.   MUFF society | Monthly Underground Female Film Society

MUFF is in its formative period. The Monthly Underground Female Film Society, run by the charismatic Siârn Melton, focuses on female film community, films by women, and films about women. Currently it's a fun film screening hosted by the Royal where you can meet like-minded people and participate in photo booths and good fun, but it will likely grow soon!

      4.   LIFT | Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto

LIFT is a fantastic nonprofit, offering affordable courses, gear rental, panels and script reading sessions for members. Courses range from using a bolex to doing your income tax. Many events are free, including the Screenwriter's Circle and the Lift Out Loud screenplay reading series, which anyone can attend. LIFT is great for community building and a great gear resources. Go LIFT!

       5.   Hot Docs

Hot Docs is North America's largest documentary festival. For professionals, it has the Hot Docs Forum, which has pre-selected candidates pitch their projects to major broadcasters and distributors from all over the world, conferences regarding co-productions, kickstarter sessions, and Rent-an-Expert Meetings. For the casual film lover it provides a great volunteering opportunity and the chance to see remarkable documentaries from around the world!

I hope you found something useful and interesting to you within this list! Join! Meet! Have fun!

Until next time,

Andrea 

Happy New Year 2015

What an amazing year 2014 was. Especially when it came to film. I saw the most diverse group of films this year:

  1. Her (Spike Jones)
  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
  3. The Lego Movie (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller)
  4. An Eye for Beauty (Denys Arcand, TIFF screening)
  5. Madame Bovary (Sophie Barthes)
  6. Girlhood (Céline Sciamma, TIFF screening)
  7. The F Word (special TIFF screening)
  8. Gone Girl (David Fincher)
  9. Top Five (Chris Rock)
  10. Interstellar (Christopher Nolan)
  11. Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum)

Other films I want to catch up on such as Dear White People, Pride, Only Lovers Left Alive, and The Lunchbox are thankfully playing at local Toronto indie theatres.

What ceases to amaze me is how easy it is to become wrapped up in these fictional worlds for two hours. How easy it is to be that beauty on screen, the astronaut going to space, the femme fatale, the genius, and the witty comedian. Not only do the stories capture my interests but the art and craft of creating the films: the editing, the special effects, the musical compositions, the cinematography and costume departments.

If you are looking to get caught up on some much needed popcorn and relaxing time, here are my top choices based on the following criteria:

Comedy

Top Five is an immensely intelligent film, intermixing comedic skits with serious conversation centered around race and film. The film opens with a complex and intriguing suggestion: the main character states that all films are political - suggesting all films either explicitly or implicitly argue for a certain way of life. Something to think about as you laugh and ponder you way through this film.

Thriller and suspense

Gone Girl fulfilled my much needed Hitchcockian need for a thriller film this past year. Taking what appears to be an idyllic situation (a marriage full of love and bliss) and twisting the heck out of it until we are left feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, and frankly mystified. If you are interested in a plot that centres on the need for control between a husband and his strong femme fatale wife, this is for you. Warning, this film does have explicit graphic scenes.

Love

The F Word premiered at TIFF in 2013 and was released in Canada and the States (As What If). What a film packed with witty dialogue, real life situations (no seriously I know all those places in Toronto) and likeable characters. Dear Elan Mastai, thank you for such BRILLIANT original content. Though spun from a short theatrical staged production, Elan Mastai spent ten years producing this masterpiece and I couldn't be more thrilled that it ended up being filmed in Toronto, showcasing it in all its beauty. There is a little something for everyone in this film. And I don't say that to mean it is utilitarian - it is definitely indie and very niche, but there is something universal about the characters that makes you ponder - "wow, I've done that before." Daniel Radcliffe is awesome and Zoe Kazan is magical. From live projection mapping, to Fool's Gold, to trips to Amsterdam, this film is one in a million.

Kid friendly and secretly for adults too 

The Lego Movie. Need I say anything more? Who doesn't enjoy playing with lego? Now you can sit for an hour and be immersed into a fun packed world of lego characters with a fun twist at the end that will have your hands twitching and aching to play with those long forgotten childhood toys.

Quirky in the best way 

I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel twice in theatres and officially have my very own copy on DVD. A joyous tale within a tale within a tale... full of intricate characters, your typical and lovable Wes Anderson flair, and emotional conflicts that are resolved most bizarrely. Just watch it. Seriously.

Une Film Canadienne

one of my favourite parts about TIFF is being able to access all the great Canadian films that I am otherwise limited to throughout the year. I got to see An Eye for Beauty at TIFF and Denys Arcand, himself, came out on stage for a Q & A afterwards. I was so awestruck by the beauty of the film - so deeply involved in the characters and their lives. I felt the truth of the images and reality of their situations. All of it rendered in an artistically beautiful way with stunning scenery, interesting and modern architecture, and suave cinematography. We are so lucky to have such talent here in our own backyards.

Best foreign film

If you have the chance, go see Girlhood. Not only did it have the best soundtrack in 2014, the actors were raw, the story was raw, and everything about the film was (can you guess?) raw. I was sent for an emotional rollercoaster, and no, this one doesn't end in Disney World. But it really gives you a breakdown of what a girl goes through as a teenager in suburban areas. Did I mention how amazing the soundtrack was?

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this past year in theatres and make some new suggestions for all us hungry cineastes in the world!

Looking forward to seeing what is in store this coming year.

- Jenn