Luke Campbell Knows How to Rally a Network to Help Others

In early April we saw ICG 669’s former treasurer, Luke Campbell, take swift leadership in a DTES meal delivery initiative at the peak of COVID-19. His actions were quickly aided with support from Teamsters Local Union 155, IATSE and DGC members, and every corner of B.C’s motion picture industry.

In concert with the non-profit, Potluck Café Society, Campbell, Teamsters and IATSE members work to supply Downtown Eastside single residential buildings. Luke and his team’s unbelievable determinism and steadfast commitment prove that it takes a village, and the motion picture ecosystem can work together to help when needed.

We spoke to Luke Campbell about the work he’s done to take this initiative off the ground, and his calls for the community to help as funding for the meals on the street have run out effectively today, and the community needs your help. You can donate directly to Potluck Café Society’s Charitable DTES COVID-19 relief fund here to help this initiative successfully distribute 102,000 meals by the end of the month.

 

We love seeing the unbelievable initiatives you are taking recently to deliver meals to the Downtown Eastside. Could you tell us a little bit about getting the initiative started?
I have few friends in Europe that were sharing how bad things were getting so I felt I was a little more prepared mentally that we needed to get into action fast, when our industry closed down on the Friday. I had noticed many of my favourite restaurants were struggling and closing and wondered if we could collaborate to have meals paid for via donation that would help the local restaurants and in turn help feed those in need. On a Monday morning I started by reaching out to the community and my contact at the GRVD Food Bank, Nicole Campbell, and heard back on March 24th. She put me in contact with six other groups in the community, I quickly realized that the need would be greater than what I could easily organize through aggregating meals from restaurants and with 3000 of the 5000 quickly closing, I also worried about the supply chain failing. So I shifted gears, I contacted Lorrie Ward from Teamsters and said there may be a demand for their members in the catering department and their trucks to provide meals, I just put a bug in his ear to get the wheels moving. He informed that membership in all the unions were tasking the offices pretty heavy as all were trying to get on EI, but ultimately the following Monday things should be at hand.

In talking with former board member Crystal Braunwarth Publicity Member at Large who is now the assistant business agent at Local 891, she suggested that we maybe should reach out to Meals on Wheels for logistic advice. I spoke with their executive director to gain some insight, soon after we realized the permanent catering kitchens that were idle just made more sense to use, but she shared that as more than half of her 600 clients had meals delivered by drivers that happened to be seniors and no longer felt comfortable doing the deliveries they had to cut their program down in half. I reached out to my social network and sent volunteers their way including two cinematographers Phil Lanyon and Ian Kerr.

I then reached out to other labour organizations inquiring who was in charge of COVID relief requests with 891, 669, the CLC (Canadian Labour Congress), the BC Fed, and a new group that I was not aware of the Vancouver and District Labour Council. The VDLC and other food bank networking brought me to join a COVID-19 meals program that was being chaired by Steve Johnston, the Executive Director of Community Impact Real Estate Society a social enterprise whom the City of Vancouver sits on their board. They were partnering with Naved Noorani, Executive Director of Potluck Catering Society who wanted to provide meals to those in need too.

Initially from this Friday meeting the request was for a one-tonne truck to pick up 1000 meals on Saturday and Sundays with Mondays to Fridays being delivered by Union Gospel Missions. Goodly, the largest catering partner happened to be close to my office so I jumped on driving those meals myself.

I then attended a logistic meeting while a doctor tended to my “annual” physical and quickly out of this meeting it was asked if we could set up a logistics distribution centre and staff it with six people per day, to which I said absolutely. Shortly after an additional request to provide four delivery vans with drivers 7 days a week was put in. I quickly reached back out to Lorrie at Teamsters 155 and asked for help with an industry special on one truck and four vans, he partnered us up with Miranda Luyten at Discount Cars, and then he proceeded to find a crew of four drivers including a captain.

I reached out to Rhonda Taylor 2nd AD / UPN DGC who we had talked on set months earlier about our skills being transferable for disaster recovery and asked if she could come on board and help run the operation with scheduling the volunteers I was rostering. I was having a hard time getting an onsite production coordinator to come on board, so I turned to my friend Abigale Flint from the commercial world with the “just get it done” attitude.

I then reached out over the weekend and the following Monday morning to three different locations providers for table, chairs, tents, trash bins, cones, and fans to stock the distribution centre. All were supportive but Jason Cox with Whites LES was able to accommodate us and provided everything we need. I had my sole employee who was in travel quarantine reach out to Panavision to borrow a pallet jack and ramp for my weekend deliveries, and they were happy to accommodate.

On Tuesday, March 31st I started moving vans, and then the Teamsters business agent Shawn and another volunteer came to help, I picked up the location supplies and we got the distribution centre ready with the help of Darcy from Potluck. Then we waited for the city to issue the purchase order for the food. Two days came and went and then finally on Thursday morning in early April, the meals started flowing.

Who are your partners, volunteers and supporters that help you carry this out?
Darcy Green, Potluck Café Society Operations Manager
Rhonda Taylor, Directors Guild of Canada BC Team Leader
Abigale Flint, Abigale Flint Commercials, Scheduling and Team Leader
Darla Chibi, Milita Ouellette, Mike Farley, Brandon Tutt Lorrie Ward, Shawn Henter, Teamsters 155
ICG 669 members
DGC and members
IATSE 891 members
Actors Guild
ACFS
Rey Torres, Union Gospel Mission
Navid, Ian, Prashant, Cornelious, Potluck Catering Society
Aart Shuurman Hess and team, Goodly Food
Adriane King and team, HAVE Cafe
Whites LES
Panavision
Discount Cars
and B.C’s commercial film community

 

How many volunteers were able to help you with this?
We have a total of 29 Volunteers, we usually crew 5-6 for the lunch service and a team of 2-3 for the street dinner service. As people’s commitments have changed, or they have moved to be with family, we’ve been training one team member a week to replace outgoing volunteers.

How many meals have you delivered so far?
Approximately 85,575 meals as of May 20th.

What have been some memorable moments working on this initiative?
My weekend pickups from Aart and his team at Goodly, hand-passing the meals at our centre thinking that more than 55,000 meals have personally gone through my hands (I’ve taken four days off). I used to provide a few meals directly on Main Street, it was very heartfelt, I came to know a few members of the community by name. Now that I’ve hired more industry friends to help get my business ready to come back, and we’ve merged our “family units” it’s too high a risk. I’m very thankful for the month that I was able to do this, it was extremely humbling to call strangers sir, or ma’am, offering them a warm meal, and see the joy and true gratitude in their eyes. I’ve gotten so much more from this effort than I could have possibly known, and honestly, it’s going to be very difficult for me to go back to our industry. This has been an awakening for me, I had planned to do more community service and disaster relief in five or so more years when I felt I would slow down in our industry and look for a change, but now I’m going to need to find a way to balance this most important and rewarding work with work within our industry.

Finally, the most important for our film community has been offering the opportunity for others to be of service, to help out, and try to do something meaningful during such strange times, as well as letting them connect with other film members between the rush of the meals.

What would you like everyone to know about this initiative? Are there ways anyone can help?
There are some really caring people in the DTES community, members living on the street, members who were on the street, and those helping to support them, even some of the first responders. You get back so much more than you put in when you help people in your community. Help us deliver meals to the end of the month by donating directly to Potluck Café Society’s Charitable DTES COVID-19 relief fund here.

Martyna Czaplak hopes A-Yi inspires you to create community

A-Yi, Directed by Martyna Czaplak

When a group of friends moved into their traditional East Vancouver home eight years ago, they couldn’t have known about a new mysterious roommate, a staple of the neighbourhood, who slowly occupied the empty spaces around their home and then their hearts. A-Yi (Auntie, in Cantonese) collects cans at all hours and tends to the garden that she has built on their rented property, where she also operates her personal ’bottle depot‘. With the help of a translator, the housemates finally get a chance to communicate with A-Yi, straightening out hilarious assumptions and, most importantly, letting her know that they’re moving out. What will A-Yi do once they’ve gone?

A-Yi will take you on a journey of friendship, familiarity and storytelling that will warm your heart. We connected with the director of A-Yi, Martyna Czaplak, about her work on the CBC Digital Original Short.

 

Tell us about A-Yi and your process and influence in the creation of the film.
I met A-Yi when I moved into the Whale House about 7 years ago. Over the years, she not only stored her cans under the deck, but also started a huge vegetable garden on the property. Because we didn’t share a common language, we couldn’t communicate any other way besides using our hands and feet, and over the years my roommates and I found ourselves wanting to find out more about her. Google translate was not an option for the unique dialect of Cantonese she spoke as we discovered over multiple attempts to communicate through the app. Back then I didn’t work in film and didn’t have the tools or resources to make a documentary. Fast forward 5 years, I had changed my career and worked on a number of films in different departments, as well as started a production company with my husband. In January of 2019, the last of the original roommates moved out and this marked the end of an era at the Whale House. I had a sense of urgency to tell this story before everyone left, including A-Yi, who was told to take down her garden once everyone moved out. We weren’t sure what the future would hold for the house, the garden, and A-Yi and the chaos of the Whale House being emptied out was the perfect visual setting for the film so I grabbed a little Handycam we had around and captured those early moments. A little after, I approached Gregory Czaplak and Nicolas Ayerbe Barona with my idea and started building my production team. With the help of translators and cultural advisors April Liu and Dong Yue Su, we were finally able to communicate via spoken language for the very first time. And so our documentary began.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I moved here from Germany in 2007 to pursue a career in the snowboard industry. Little did I know, I would end up becoming a filmmaker after a freak accident on a bicycle. I worked in different departments starting out in art and moving to Camera as an Assistant Camera and then into Post as an Assistant Editor. In 2018, I started a production company with my husband (www.adanacfilms.ca – coming soon!). That same year, I began working for the Documentary Organization of Canada, BC Chapter. Working for DOC BC allowed me to dive into the documentary world; understanding funding structures and building my network. This led us to pitch A-Yi to the CBC/Creative BC digital production fund.

 

What were the early days of your career like? How did you get to where you are now?
I would say that I am still in the early days of my career in above-the-line positions like producer and director. I started out in multiple departments on set, which I see as a blessing, as it gave me the ability to understand the many moving parts of a film and the importance of each and every one of these positions. Being able to create and express myself through the medium of film became important to me as I was learning and working in all these departments at the service of someone else’s vision. I am lucky to be surrounded by talented filmmakers who are guiding and mentoring me on a journey to find my voice in the documentary world. Working for DOC BC has given me the opportunity to build a great network of inspiring people who are always willing to share their wisdom, encourage, and support me when things get tough.

 

What inspires you as a creator? What are your influences?
When I first moved to Canada 13 years ago I found it difficult at first to know my place. Very soon I noticed I was just one of many immigrants in this multicultural country. I was fascinated by how different cultures seemed to live together so seamlessly in micro-neighborhoods in Vancouver. I was inspired to dig deeper and find stories that are never spoken of but should be told. In this sea of catastrophic topics (be it political, environmental, or crime-related), I am here to tell the stories that are meant to leave you smiling and seeing the good in everyday life. I am also inspired by my badass female filmmaker friends, who are constantly pushing to create wonderful content, be it in directing, camera, producing, or working in any other department. In this male-dominated industry, it is them who open up doors and create opportunities for all of us – you know who you are :).

 

What impact do you hope to achieve with those who watch A-Yi?
This film was made to showcase how beautiful friendships can flourish despite language, age, and cultural barriers, so long as people treat each other with respect and kindness. I want to provoke people to create community, to meet and know each other with curiosity rather than judgment. But most of all, in this sea of documentaries that deal with harsh and devastating topics, I want this to be a bright and positive experience that leaves you with a feeling of connection and perhaps makes you shed a cheeky happy tear. Since our documentary has been released, we have received an overwhelming amount of comments, many of which were quite emotional and triggered some wonderful memories of other A-Yis.

Here are a couple of our favourite comments from YouTube where over 180,000 people have watched the film so far:

“Stories like this make me proud to be a Canadian, that’s what being Canadian is all about. It just shows we have so much we can learn from each other and so much we can learn about ourselves. This is a great story in a troubling time, it helps to remind us who we are and what we can be.”

“My heart is so full from this! Love this story and the local content.”

“My nana was from Guangdong as well. When I was born, she quit her job to stay home and take care of me so my mom could go back to work. She passed away in 2016. This video brings it all back for me. I still love her. I miss her. Cherish the moments you have with your elderly family and friends while you can. Ask all the questions you can. Because if you don’t, and they pass away, you’ll regret not taking the chance to talk to them more.”

“This is so wholesome. I’m gonna cry. Finally watching something about the young in North America being so nice to an old Chinese grandma. It just shows you that language isn’t a difficult barrier to cross if you’re sincere and open-minded.”

 

 

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Be prepared to work hard! As in every other aspect of life, everyone has personal opinions and not everyone will like what you make – be ready to be rejected and sometimes even criticized. When I nervously pitched my idea for the first time, I was told that this movie would never be funded and no one would want to watch it, yet here we are. I took this opinion as a challenge to improve my work. I think constructive criticism and opinions can be painful at times, but don’t ever let them discourage you from doing what you love, but rather take them and make your project better, your pitch stronger, and your voice louder. Also, in documentaries, sound is your best friend :).

 

Are there any other upcoming projects or initiatives you’re working on? 
Yes, there is some exciting stuff coming down the pipeline, which I cannot fully discuss yet. Let’s just say that my husband Greg and I have been busy working on development during the quarantine. Small hint: it has something to do with the Night Skies. Look out (or up)! Other than that, we are just excited to continue building our portfolio for Adanac Film Production Inc. , not only in documentary but also in narrative and commercial, offering pre, production, and post-production services.

 

Are you doing any innovative creating from home during this time?
It is a great time to pick up on those old projects that have been set aside due to work. We are both working on scripts at the moment, which will hopefully lead to some short and feature films in the future. I’m taking this time to build our demo reel, a new website, develop and pitch new projects for production next year. Aside from film, we have become avid balcony gardeners, and apartment furniture movers and gourmet cooks.

 

Watch A-Yi with Chinese subtitles and learn more about Adanac Films here.

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Whister Film Festival Announces Finalists for Producers Lab

The Whistler Film Festival (WFF) has selected six Canadian producers, with five hailing from British Columbia, to participate in its seven-month, multi-phased Producers Lab. Designed to prepare Canadian producers to develop, pitch, market, and sell their creative content, the Lab is focused on strengthening original scripted feature projects.

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The six producers and projects selected for the 2020 WFF Producers Lab are:

Alex Duong (BC) with BREAKING BREAD
Sibel Guvenc (ON) with LOYA
Camille Hollett-French (BC) with MAN IN PIECES
Kate Kroll (BC) with RED WINGS
Todd McCauley (BC) with THE MEDICINE LINE
Krista Rand (BC) with RE:UNITING

Phase I will take place online throughout June and will be followed by a five-month mentorship program. Participants who complete Phase I will be invited to participate in Phase II, a business immersion experience leading up to and during the Whistler Film Festival and Content Summit from December 2 to 6, 2020.

WFF Producers Lab faculty consists of accomplished experts with extensive production experience and comprehensive knowledge of the entertainment industry. The returning program facilitator is John Galway (ON), President, Harold Greenberg Fund. The Producers Lab faculty includes Producers Lab alumna Lauren Grant (ON), Producer, Clique Pictures (RIOT GIRLS); Jason James (BC), Producer/Director, Resonance Films Inc. (ENTANGLEMENT); and Damon D’Oliveira (ON), Producer/Founder, Conquering Lion Pictures Inc. (BOOK OF NEGROES).

The WFF Producers Lab is presented by Netflix in association with Telefilm Canada, and sponsored by Creative BC and the Canadian Media Producers Association.

Become Reel Green from Home


Jennifer Sandoval, Green Spark Group

In response to COVID-19 measures, Reel Green training has quickly been adapted, now offering digital classrooms for free online. You can now learn with Reel Green online while productions pause, stay home and do their part to support B.C. in flattening the curve. Sustainable production efforts in British Columbia were formalized 10 years ago through the Reel Green initiative, a resource centre with a collection of best practices to help productions reduce their environmental impacts and improve their overall environmental footprint.

The Carbon Literacy course is a unique, engaging and solutions-based training session offering attendees the information and inspiration to live and work in a more sustainable way. After training, attendees will have a sound understanding of the science of climate change, understand how to act to reduce their impact, recognize the impact that production has on the environment and retain knowledge of the tools and techniques to lessen this impact

Powered by The Albert Project, the Reel Green Carbon Calculator is a one-hour digital training session to learn how to track the carbon footprint of your production. Calculating the carbon footprint of your production is an important step in understanding the impact of film production. Having consistent data and metrics from the industry can help organizations like Reel Green understand priority areas for sustainable practices as well as help productions understand and measure their carbon impact.

These courses are for crew members, independent producers, film students and all of you in the film industry. Anyone interested in taking initiative to grow their skillset for the future of a more sustainable industry should attend. The courses are free for industry members and will elevate your on-set skills. Gain expertise now while there’s time before the industry returns to set.

The Reel Green initiative is a mainstay at Creative BC. They look ahead to the next decade about how to empower and inspire productions to innovate and implement sustainable production practices, and industry stakeholders to collectively support this effort. They prioritize education, engagement, communications, and resources as they develop a platform for the reduction of environmental impacts and stakeholder engagement at the local level to set an example for other jurisdictions globally.

Take both courses online via Zoom: 

Carbon Literacy training – 2 hours
Check here for dates, times and to register

Carbon Calculator training – 1 hour
May 20th, 2020 | 1:00 – 2:00 PM | ONLINE Carbon Calculator Training | Register

Learn more about Reel Green initiatives here.

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The B.C. Film Industry Adapts to Support Each Other

British Columbians take a collaborative approach and bring heart to every production. Together, the provincial ecosystem of film and television resources is devoted to providing a premier centre for screen production with an unmatchable sense of community. Productions, suppliers, vendors and companies throughout the province are finding creative ways to go above-and-beyond in giving back to the communities in which they film, adapting to support each other and its neighbouring industries during this time. We look at a few local industry companies that have acclimatized to accommodate the health industry.

Vancouver film industry supplier offering battery power for hospital equipment
Portable Electric

Portable Electric, well-known for manufacturing, selling and renting its battery-powered, no noise, no emission generators used on film and television productions has worked to pivot to health services to assist with non-traditional areas that can accommodate health services. Their signature VOLTstack generator unit is powering temporary triage centres, mobile clinics and drive-through testing. Read more in the original article by Business in Vancouver.


Vancouver Mobile Dressing Rooms

Vancouver Mobile Dressing Rooms, a leader in the mobile entertainment company yielding the largest fleet of trucks and trailers in Vancouver set up one of their new eco-friendly cast trailers to support the B.C. Governments Mobile Medical Unit positioned at the Abbotsford Hospital. Their unit will be used as a place for Correctional Officers to shower, and isolate while on and off active duty. Vancouver Mobile Dressing Room continues to collaborate and work with the community to provide safe mobile areas to prevent outbreaks and support those seeking isolation.

 


ABC “The Good Doctor”

The popular ABC series filmed here in B.C. and produced by Brightlight Pictures, “The Good Doctor”, was among the medical productions in North American to contribute by donating masks, gowns and gloves to medical workers and hospitals in need. Brightlight Pictures worked directly with the provincial government to ensure that medical supplies from the series were being distributed where needed and abided by national safety standards.

Have good news to share from B.C.’s motion picture industry? Send us your stories!

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Motion Picture Industry’s PPE Drive Delivers

Location Managers, MPPIA, DGC BC and IATSE 891 Support Province’s Call for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

B.C.’s motion picture industry is staying home and staying safe in observance of measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 in B.C.

However, their coordination, resourcefulness and community-mindedness are being redirected in support of pandemic relief and provincial collaboration. To serve government authorities’ need for more PPE to keep B.C.’s frontline healthcare workers safe, many companies, productions and individuals in the province’s film industry are rallying to round up materials and donations, ensuring they serve the COVID-19 Supply Hub directly and efficiently.

Coordinated by Location Managers Ken Brooker and Mary Jo Beirnes (who works on The Magicians), along with their teams with support from the DGC BC, IATSE 891, MPPIA, Whites LES, and Creative BC.

Results of the drive include over $57,000 worth of PPE donations, all of which were identified by local film industry productions, suppliers, and individuals for diversion in support of the provincial effort.

The Province of BC indicates that priority products for support of the COVID-19 response are medical in nature. View them on the COVID-19 Supply Hub.

Here’s the list of priority products that B.C.’s film industry delivered in support of the Province’s COVID-19 response:

23,790 nitrile gloves  |  6,635  shoe-covers  |  2,515 N95 masks  |  1,903 isolation gowns  |  890 dust masks  |  700 surgical masks  |  612 full-body paint suits  |  407 safety-glasses/goggles  |  51 half-mask respirators  |  40 Surgical caps  | 36 Litres Hand-Sanitizer   |  25 Surgical drapes  |  12 full face-shields

If you can donate or supply products from the list below you are invited to submit an offer through the Province’s webform.

Hollywood is watching its friends in British Columbia as both Deadline and the Hollywood Reporter covered the story.

Marie Clements captures the beauty of the land and people in Red Snow

 

Red Snow follows Dylan, a Gwich’in soldier from the Canadian Arctic, caught in an ambush in Afghanistan. His capture and interrogation by a Taliban Commander releases a cache of memories connected to the love and death of his Inuit cousin, Asana, and binds him closer to a Pashtun family as they escape across treacherous landscapes and through a blizzard that becomes their key to survival.

 


Marie Clements, Red Snow

 

The British Columbia film written and directed by Galiano Island filmmaker Marie Clements has gained acclaim since its debut at Vancouver International Film Festival in 2019. The award-winning feature opens this Friday, March 13th in Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I am Métis/Dene filmmaker with an independent media production company, Marie Clements Media, specializing in the development, creation and production of innovative works that ignite an Indigenous and intercultural reality.


What were the early days of your career like
?
I originally started out as an actor, then writer and producer, and director in theatre and then formed a theatre company to produce works I was committed to bringing to stage. In some ways this has mirrored my transition to documentary, film and television, creating and producing works through my company MCM. Starting in theatre gave me an incredible appreciation for every single part of creation and a kind of single-minded discipline that was crucial to not only survive my own artistic goals but the many challenges that was put in front of me in doing so.

How did you get to where you are now?
We make decisions along the way that will determine the how of it, and ultimately what we want and need to create. There’s a time when these decisions aren’t conscious really but as you evolve in the doing, you begin to understand that your work defines you, and that you define it. I think there is a great responsibility to this but also a clarity that is freeing.

 


Marie Clements

What inspires you as a creator? What are your influences?
I have been impacted by artists that have gone before me, but James Baldwin helped me hang on. He gave witness to his time. His voice was undeniably unique yet inclusive, his perceptions razor-sharp and his humanity unapologetically massive. I found these attributes talked to me when I was younger and that it inspired me to use who I am at this time in history, my family’s history, this country’s history and our present realities as a resource in breaking a story that speaks to me. I am like so many filmmakers in the sense I am propelled into story by the influences of other artists, activists, musicians, current events and untold stories rising. Story is everywhere.


What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Know what your job is. Know how to start and also finish. Take responsibility when you should and don’t pass the buck.

Align yourself with like-minded and passionate people that hold integrity in the same ways you do. Beware of the posers. Rejection is part of the business. You are one “no” away from yes. Work hard. Be persistent. Lean into it. Take the risk of being extraordinary.


What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Red Snow took nine years to get to the screen, so I am grateful and proud to have it realized with the artists I worked with. I think there is an accomplishment in committing to stories you can’t not tell. This doesn’t always make it easy, but it makes it incredibly worth it on so many levels.

 


Red Snow

Tell us about RED SNOW and your process or influence in the creation of the film?
Dylan, a Gwich’in soldier from the Canadian Arctic, is caught in an ambush in Kandahar, Afghanistan. His capture and interrogation from a Taliban Commander releases a cache of memories connected to the love and death of his Inuit cousin, Asana, and binds him closer to a Pashtun family as they escape across treacherous landscapes and through a blizzard that becomes their key to survival. Filmed on location in Canada’s Northwest Territories and the desert interior region of British Columbia (the Ashcroft Band Lands, Cache Creek and Kamloops). Over a rigorous 20-day production schedule, the Red Snow team worked in temperatures as high as +38 degrees and as low as -40 to capture the beauty of the land and people. Red Snow was filmed in four languages – Gwich’in, Inuvialuktun, Pashto and English.

 

What’s next for Marie?
I am currently working on a slate of projects with my company MCM including Bones of Crows, a mini-series and Tombs, a feature drama.  

 


Red Snow

Heather Perluzzo frees herself through filmmaking

Heather Perluzzo is a film director originally from Montreal, Quebec. Her desire to tell female-driven narratives and reimagine traumatic life experiences through sci-fi brought her to Vancouver Film School in 2017. Since then, she has directed multiple short films, including Girl in the Galactic Sun, which received Best Sci-Fi Short from Women in Horror and was an official selection at Whistler Film Festival.

Late last year, Heather was awarded the MPPIA Short Film Award, presented by Whistler Film Festival and Creative BC in partnership to assist emerging talent to develop their career. Heather is now currently working on the short, Wildflower, which follows a woman who creates an AI version of herself to escape an abusive relationship.

Heather is an advocate for balanced gender representation on and off the screen and prides herself on reinventing her struggles as a woman into strange yet meaningful films.

 


Tell us about yourself and your work

I am a female-forward director and writer from Montreal, though I have moved around quite a bit. I was bullied for being weird as a kid, a true victim of the classic stereotype of pre-pubescent “mean girls”. I’ve never stopped being a weirdo though, and now surprisingly it’s been embraced here in the indie film scene. My work up to this point have been trials and errors of communicating my imagination and mashing it with a dose of personal trauma.

What were the early days of your career like? How did you get to where you are now?

Well, honestly, I still believe I’m in my early days. I have a lot of passion and as someone who has worked hard for everything in my life, I value how important these opportunities are. I don’t want to make another version of a film everyone’s already seen, I want to put myself, my true vision on the screen and I want to talk about the hard things. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be my calling card, I feel happy that I tried something different. And I think that’s why I am where I am now, by stepping out of the box and being real about it.

What inspires you as a creator?

Thus far, most of the inspirations for my films have come from personal experiences. I am rather anti-social and introverted, and most of my life I’ve kept all the bad things that have happened to me in my head. I never really figured out how to communicate and grow from them until I started filmmaking. Film has given me a way to express myself and, in some ways, “free” myself from those negative moments in my life. I’m also very influenced by music; artists like Banks, Allie X and Grimes inspire me to push boundaries and not be afraid to let my freak flag fly.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

Surround yourself with an environment that allows you to focus. Don’t be afraid to explore yourself and say yes to your gut, remember this is your perspective. And just put the work in, no one is going to hand you a career. That being said, you’ll do your best work when you make time getting to know yourself, so set time aside every now and then to reconnect with who you are and what you want. And on top of that, unfortunately for us introverts, networking! I know it can be hard when you’re socially awkward, but they’re good people I promise. Vancouver has a wonderful indie scene and we all want to succeed together!

 

 

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

My student film, Girl in the Galactic Sun, is one of my biggest accomplishments. I know that’s strange to say, most people want their student films to go away forever. But for the first time in my life, I was in an environment that encouraged me to be creative and in turn, I made something entirely unique, powerful and proved to myself that I’m worth something. Since film school, I’ve been a part of two Crazy 8s films and just won the MPPIA Short Film Award. I feel so humbled but also proud of myself. I never thought anyone would ever really see value in me, and this community in Vancouver has really helped me grow.

What milestones have you achieved or are you focusing on now?

After Wildflower, my sights are set on a feature. While I love short films, I know the large, gated doors will only truly open once I dive into that new territory. That is the biggest, scariest milestone ahead. I’ve also found an amazing production company, Aimer Films, that have taken me under their wing and are pushing me to better not only my career but myself. I’d always wanted to have that core film family here, and I feel that I’ve found that in them. But yeah, just keep going until I can maybe make a living off of doing what I love.

Are there any upcoming projects we should know about that we can promote for you?

Well my upcoming MPPIA short film Wildflower is something I’ve been waiting to make for a while now. It’s about a woman who creates an AI replica in her image and the two form a romantic relationship, reflecting on how romance is something we can feel for ourselves. I’ve been saying, “This is the one, the last short that I need to make before I make a feature”. And we are making it this year.  My feature, New Places to Hide, is in the script stages. So, if anyone has any advice for someone starting out in the big bad feature-length woods, I’d love to hear it.

Zena Harris, President, Green Spark Group 

“The leaders of every single industry organization I deal with feel strongly about sustainability.”

Zena Harris first learned about corporate sustainability 20 years ago while she was working for a large corporation. “I was frustrated with how things were being done, and I knew there had to be a better way.” After studying organizational psychology, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in sustainability and environmental management from Harvard University. 

In graduate school, she realized that the film industry was lagging behind when it came to sustainability, and so she started to do some research to develop some best practices. It just so happened that she moved from Boston to Vancouver, where she discovered a strong film and television industry. “It was a right-place, right-time scenario. I started to work on set, focusing on sustainable production work. I could see where the gaps were, and I made it my mission to fill those gaps and help the industry transition.”

Zena started Green Spark Group to help educate people in the film industry around sustainability. “When I talk to people about climate change, it’s so overwhelming for them. There are so many things to do, but I try and put their mind at ease. If you just think about two or three things you can do right now, that makes it more manageable. That’s how we change behaviour.”

Changing behaviour is an education process. Most recently, Zena’s been trying to shift people’s ideas around donating food. “For a lot of them, they get hung up on a perceived barrier. So I’m sharing stories about how other shows are donating food, and if I give them one good example, they get behind it.”

Zena believes people need to tell their stories to inspire each other about what’s possible. The Reel Green initiative focuses on bringing people together to inspire and catalyze a movement that will transform an industry. “The way our industry has been able to become an icon and shift our culture in various ways is through storytelling and inspiration. We need the data, but people need to hear it in inspiring ways.”

B.C. is known as a sustainable production centre, recognized for the resources and efforts put toward sustainability – and it has become part of the dialogue in Vancouver. Organizations like CreativeBC are stepping up to help spread the word. “Creative BC provides a space to discuss sustainability. They spend time being thoughtful about how this could best be incorporated in the industry. They are willing to get out there and talk about it, both locally and internationally.”

What is needed now is scalability when it comes to educating everyone around sustainable practices and their impact. The more we talk about this, the more people become aware. “This industry loves a challenge, and we need to challenge them to do more. We really do need to act more urgently. There’s a big crisis on our hands and we all need to act a little bit more mindfully, with more intent to reduce our impact. It’s such a creative industry that when you empower people with information and give them the tools and resources to act on their ideas, great things can happen.”

Discover more about Green Spark Group and Reel Green.

Kat Jayme, Filmmaker, Finding Big Country

You could say that Kat Jayme was destined to become a filmmaker. “I’ve had a camera pointed at me all my life. My grandfather was a director in the Philippines, and so everything was documented.”

 

Kat grew up in Vancouver, where she was the point guard for her high school basketball team.  When she got her first video camera, she started documenting her friends in their day-to-day life. Capturing moments was something she innately knew how to do, and when she graduated from high school, she naturally gravitated toward film. She studied film production at the University of British Columbia and then interned with the National Film Board for three years, learning the ropes. “That experience was invaluable,” she reflects.  

While she was at film school, she knew that she had to tell the story of her childhood heroes, The Vancouver Grizzlies. “I had a feeling that I had to make this film, so I started to do some research. Bryant ‘Big Country’ Reeves was the only player people couldn’t track down, it was like he was missing, and so I set out to find him.” 

Kat documented her journey in Finding Big Country, and she learned so much along the way. “He had become the scapegoat, the guy people blamed for how terrible The Grizzlies were. As a little girl, I loved them, even though they were terrible, and I wanted to find my long lost hero. It was the perfect recipe – you couldn’t have written a better storyline.” Yet, it wasn’t always easy. As a young, female director, Kat knows how lonely it can get, working by herself all day. Finding a group of like-minded individuals was a game-changer for her. “I’m really lucky I found my film family. We’re all female documentary makers, and we lift each other up.” 

In a genre heavily dominated by white men, Kat was often the only female in a room full of male sports reporters. They assumed she was lost, or that she didn’t belong, yet she would use that to her advantage. “I believe I got access to Bryant and his family because he wasn’t as guarded with me as he might have been with someone else. No one else had been able to do that except me.”

Kat believes her basketball training helped her become a better filmmaker. “Being a point guard is very similar to being a director. You’re a leader on the floor, the one trying to bring out the best in everyone.” She also knows that nothing great happens without a strong team. “When it comes to producing an independent film, you need all of the help you can get. Creative BC was nothing but supportive. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to complete this film the way I wanted. We are so lucky to have organizations like this supporting emerging filmmakers, helping to bring their dream projects come to life.”

As for Kat’s grandfather, he was able to fly to Vancouver to see her film premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival. “That’s something I will always be grateful for, to see him there opening night. He was so proud that I was following in his footsteps and keeping the family tradition of filmmaking alive.”

Kat Jayme
Finding Big Country