Access Reelworld, the new national database strengthening diversity and inclusion in Canada’s motion picture industry

Tonya Williams is leading the mission to diversify Canada’s screen-based industries with the new database, Access Reelworld. Launched summer 2020, the database is creating access and inclusion for Black, Indigenous, Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American creatives and communities in the Canadian entertainment industry.

With the intention to correct the lack of representation of people of colour in the film and television industry, Tonya wants to open up these spaces to create and strengthen opportunities for racially diverse creatives both in front and behind the camera.

 

Courtesy of Access Reelworld

 

“Since founding Reelworld in 2000 it has been my desire to have a national database. You have to know where the talent is to be able to hire them. I created Access Reelworld as the platform for Black, Indigenous, People of Colour creatives to be in one place where not only can the Canadian industry find them, but the USA and International productions can find and hire our great diverse talent. We have many co-production treaties and many of those countries are struggling with their own diversity issues.  Canada and Access Reelworld can be the shining example of how other countries can improve their diversity hires.  I say to all our Canadian racially diverse talent, it’s up to you now.  The ball is in your court.  You have to sign up so that the industry can find you!”

Tonya Williams

 

 

In a matter of a few weeks, the database has already been populated with over 500 names of people of colour working in departments like costume design, cinematography, and animation, where current and upcoming productions can reach out to fill roles on their teams.

Tonya is no stranger to driving social change in the industry. This year marks the 20th year of Reelworld Film Festival and Reelscreen Institute, incubators and champions of diverse filmmakers. Access Reelworld is rather an antidote to the lack of diversity and representation Tonya found in the industry. With optimism, Tonya believes the changing narrative for Canadian Black, Indigenous and people of colour can catalyze change in how the Canadian motion picture industry operates.

Access Reelworld is owned by Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Foundation also known as Reelworld Screen Institute. To find out more visit www.reelworld.ca

#WATCHBC online at VIFF 2020

British Columbia’s biggest annual celebration of cinema, VIFF, is just around the corner. From September 24 – October 7th, film lovers province-wide will enjoy over 100 feature films and events showcasing exciting, groundbreaking and provocative cinema and creators from around the globe. For the first time, audiences across B.C. can watch VIFF curated cinema and viewers around the world can tune into VIFF Talks and Conferences via VIFF’s new online streaming platform, VIFF Connect.

Curated below are the 21 B.C. films selected for this year’s festival. Purchase passes and tickets to VIFF 2020 here

 

Benny's Best Birthday Image

Benny’s Best Birthday, Benjamin Schuetze

 

Brother, I Cry Image
Brother, I Cry, Jessie Anthony

 

Cake Day Image
Cake Day, Phillip Thomas

 

Canucks Riot II Image
Canucks Riot II, Lewis Bennett

 

Chained Image
Chained, Titus Heckel

 

Cosmic Image
Cosmic, Meredith Hama-Brown

 

The Curse of Willow Song Image
The Curse of Willow Song, Karen Lam

 

Deeper I Go Image
Deeper I Go, Michael P. Vidler

 

First Person Shooter Image

First Person Shooter, Cole Kush

 

Fucking Idiots Image

Fucking Idiots, David Milchard

 

Laura Image

Laura, Kaayla Whachell

 

The Magnitude of All Things Image
The Magnitude of All Things, Jennifer Abbott

 

Falling Image

Monkey Beach, Loretta Sarah Todd

 

The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel Image

The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel, Joel Bakan, Jennifer Abbott

 

A New Leash on Life Image

A New Leash on Life, Daniel Jeffery

 

Nuxalk Radio Image
Nuxalk Radio, Banchi Hanuse

 

Rag Doll Image
Rag Doll, Leon Lee

 

Spring Tide Image
Spring Tide, Jean Parsons

 

Sunken Cave and a Migrating Bird Image
Sunken Cave and a Migrating Bird, Qiuli Wu

 

The Train Station Image

The Train Station, Lyana Patrick

 

tu Image

tu, Suzanne Friesen

 

Congratulations to VIFF for their resilient pivot for their 39th edition!

Kamloops filmmaker Cjay Boisclair joins the BANFF Spark and Super Channel Accelerator program

Cjay Boisclair is an award-winning filmmaker hailing from Kamloops, BC. Multi-talented in every corner of the industry that she touches, Cjay isn’t afraid to dip her toes into anything new. 

Her debut short script, The Bench, garnered numerous nominations and awards at film festivals around the world. Cjay’s second script, Stood Up, followed, winning the Women in the Director’s Chair (WIDC) Short Works Award and immediately went into production. The heartfelt short film debuted at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and is currently enjoying a robust film festival run. As of August 2020, Stood Up has been accepted into 78 film festivals internationally with 48 awards and nominations. 

Most recently, Cjay Boisclair was selected to join the second cohort of 50 women entrepreneurs to join the BANFF Spark and Super Channel Accelerator program, supporting and empowering women in entrepreneurship.

 

Cjay Boisclair on the set of Stood Up. Photography by John Enman


We love to see creators span across British Columbia. Tell us about the motion picture industry in Kamloops
The film industry in Kamloops is constantly evolving and growing thanks to the hard work of our local film commissioner, Victoria Weller, and many other local filmmakers. Vicci has brought in training initiatives, financing opportunities and productions to the area, opening the doors for local filmmakers to pave their own way into the film industry. She is a champion of anyone willing to work hard and very supportive of her local community of filmmakers.

Growing up, I never thought a career in film and television was even an option, it wasn’t even on my radar. It’s not one of those jobs that are listed or talked about in school, realistically I didn’t even know it existed in BC, let alone in Kamloops. I feel so lucky to do what I love!

When I first started in the industry, they had to ship people in from Vancouver to fill background roles. Now we own and operate a successful talent agency (What up my Askem Talent peeps?) and send talent all over BC from the Interior and Okanagan. It’s mind-boggling what a turn around that is!

At the beginning of my career, my sons and I were regular background performers just starting out in acting. We couldn’t find adequate representation in the area so my husband, Duane Boisclair, started Askem Talent to support us (he has supported me through every crazy dream and aspiration and there have been many!). News travels fast and the day we got our license we were meeting about filling a call for a feature film. We took that leap and have been growing since then. Askem Talent now supports talent all over BC with a specialty in the Okanagan and Interior.

This year we did a major expansion in the middle of COVID and plan another one in the winter, as well as being chosen as a Banff Spark participant. This program, meant to spearhead female entrepreneurs in the entertainment industry, will help accelerate an already thriving organization and give our talent pool even more opportunity!

A newer benefit of being a “remote” location is initiatives like Storyhive, the WIDC, Reel Youth and Doc BC who are seeking out new creators in our area. Without programs like these, I do not believe I would still be in this industry or have come as far as I have in such a short period of time. They have invested in me and my career personally through various mentorships and sponsorship AND my community by offering ongoing training and opportunities. Many more local productions are popping up and new people are joining the trade!

 

You’ve shapeshifted in many roles in the industry, how did those experiences build your work as a filmmaker?
Living in a location lacking typical film resources has had both a positive and negative impact on me. There is no film school in Kamloops so what you learn is on location, by showing up, paying your dues, and jumping at every opportunity. Most of our local crew are multi-talented and used to fill in where there is a need or doing multiple roles. It gives us all a varied skillset and understanding of the industry.

The downside to this is having to travel to the Lower Mainland to get gear and adding days to your schedule as well as rarely having the chance to excel and master skills (unless you create your own opportunity or move). We just don’t have enough productions up here to make a living in our own community or keep that kind of equipment.

My first job in the industry was as a background performer, my second as a production assistant, then actor and assistant director. Soon, I had a resume two pages long with all sorts of titles and skills. As a director this has been an ideal experience. I understand most of the lingo and needs from all the departments, so I’m not fighting with my own ignorance. Film is a constantly evolving mashup of storytelling, personalities, creativity and problem-solving. The more you know and can understand, the smoother things will run and the happier the crew.

 

What was the first project you worked on that made you want to pursue a career in motion picture?
The first film I ever worked on was Power Rangers (and I wasn’t even chosen on my own merit, they chose me for my truck!).

Back then there weren’t enough background performers in Kamloops, so big productions, like Power Rangers, would ship up busloads from Vancouver. I was lucky and a friend of mine was one of them. He was experienced and took me around the set explaining everything, crafty, union vouchers, wardrobe how to’s, the hierarchy, everything. Without his wisdom and enthusiasm that first day I probably wouldn’t have fallen so hard for the industry. So, thank you, Derek Usher, you were the first person to encourage and teach me about the film process.

The whole experience was amazing. We ran for 8-10 hours a day for four days, running from an imaginary beast (and not all of us made it either!). The whole experience was a pivotal moment in my life. Up until then, I was a boring suburban housewife, meandering through life, doing what was expected (and doing it well with enjoyment, no complaints!). Now, I caught the bug!

I knew instantly that I wanted a career in the industry, but I thought just as an actor. When an opportunity came along to direct my own work and I stepped into that role, it was like the heavens parted, the trumpets sounded, and the angels sang! Never have I been so sure (and unsure) of myself.

 

Rekha Sharma, Stood Up

 

The motion picture industry has shapeshifted over the last few years, in your eyes, what do you see for the future of film?
I think the future of film, even post-COVID, will thrive and grow exponentially in BC. I imagine more productions will shoot in the Lower Mainland and some will push up our way as well as our domestic growth here.

With the current COVID pandemic, it seems that the Okanagan has become a hot spot for filming, it is our hope that this will increase and the Okanagan and Interior together can share a crew list and live sustainably through the year while working in film.

We have lofty goals, eventually including having a training studio and education centre.

 

You are currently working on the feature adaptation of your short film The Bench, tell us a bit about your process in producing it into a feature
In 2018 I wrote my first script, The Bench, a short drama about a homeless teenager just trying to survive. It became an award-winning story internationally and helped get me into the Women in the Director’s Chair (WIDC) Short Works Award. The program offered mentorship to all the participants and funding to one production. Luckily my film, Stood Up, was chosen!

In October of 2019, Stood Up had its World Premiere at the Saint John’s Women’s International Film Festival. Since then it has been selected in 79 film festivals internationally and currently holds 48 awards or nominations (August 11th, 2020).

While in post-production of Stood Up, I started adapting The Bench into a feature-length screenplay that I plan to direct early next year. It is an authentic story, weaved from lived experience as a homeless youth, destined to impact its viewers and our local community.

We plan on using as much local crew as possible and providing on-set training to those new to the industry. We also will be shooting it in Kamloops and will be showcasing our landscapes and talent. The buzz from this production will hopefully create more attention on the Interior for filming in the future.

Cjay Boisclair, Rekha Sharma and Jason Burkart on the set of Stood Up. Photography by John Enman


What do you think makes for creating a great team for a project?
What makes for a great team? What a loaded question! I am very lucky that my local film community volunteered on my first film. It was truly surreal. We were all there with one purpose, everyone felt like they had the same stakes and opportunities. It made for a very chill atmosphere where everyone was encouraged to grow (mostly, we all have that one person, am I right?).

The traits most of our team shares are; being comfortable in who they are (this is really important, I feel like if you are comfortable in your own skin you are more likely to bring something unique to the table. One of my favourite things about film are how everyone is slightly different from the norm and has amazing, unique perspectives); knowing their craft (or a willingness to learn for trainees) but with an open mind to new ideas; team players (crucial, I have no time for drama, we are all grownups, can’t we all just get along?); and a desire to be a part of the project (if you can get crew who are passionate about the film you will see it in the end result AND the crew will bond better).

We ended up with a very loyal crew who have joined us on many more projects (and we’ve joined them on theirs’ too!). In fact, there is a core of about 9 people that always seem to work together while others drift in and out depending on availability. Those people that were there in the beginning, who all came together to make my vision come to life (all volunteer!), they are my people and always welcome on my sets. I am honored that they would donate their time and talents and will always be one of their supporters.

In fact, I was fortunate to build up a relationship with an amazing young DP, Nolan McAllister, very early in my career. He was one of the first people to encourage me to write and direct, he volunteered his time, talent and gear, and made everything I could think of out loud, look beautiful on film. He is the first person we call with a new idea or production and often the first person signed up as crew.

It takes every position to make a film. As a writer/director, I try to always remember that everyone is there working to bring MY vision to life. I am very thankful my team is willing to share their talents with me, and it is very humbling to have that kind of support.

We believe that if you take care of your crew, they will take care of you. I think a good director realizes the value of the people they have around them and can encourage the best out of them. It is a team effort, any successes I have had are because of my team, right down to our p.a’s. I am only a conductor weaving their talents together.

On our sets, we really try to make a positive, family-type environment. This is especially true with crafty and catering, our spreads are the best and I know the whole set appreciates it!

 

What’s the best advice you’ve received that you would pass along?
I have learned more in this career by doing, than anything. Textbooks and tutorials are great resources for new ideas to understand how things work, but there is nothing like being on set; learning by finding out what doesn’t work and making mistakes.

If you want to get into directing, make a film. If you have no money, no friends, no resources, use your cell phone. Put together a short film and edit it yourself! It is amazing how much your thinking changes if you know the end game and the way you want it cut together. It will inform your choices on camera angles, blocking, lighting, camera movement, everything. You can really create a piece of art, not just storytelling, with enough foresight.

For anyone who wants to be a creator; apply for everything, volunteer for your first few credits, be nice to EVERYONE (you never know who will be the next director), work the extra-long hours, watch the tutorials, listen to experienced crew’s advice, be innovative, pay your dues, be thankful, and find a mentor and ask for help!

The biggest lesson though is the same in every industry. If you want it, you have to work for it, so see every “No” as a short-cut to the next “Yes”.

 

Cjay Boisclair

Cjay Boisclair, The Bench


What’s next for Cjay Boisclair?
Lol, it is an odd thought, “What’s next?” when your roster is full! Currently, our focus is getting “The Bench” into production, completing the Banff Spark program, a new documentary, and expanding Askem Talent. We are still working on other projects but they kind of float in a master pile, slowly gathering detail and bulk, until something pushes one of them to the foreground. Right now, there is a series and a feature both competing to be the next focus!

I would also love to direct one of the MOW’s shooting in the Okanagan. There is something incredibly satisfying in creating a film that makes your heart smile and is a throwback to simpler days. I grew up watching all the old black and white and technicolor love stories with my grandma (Oma). Stood Up was written right after she died in a moment of complete and utter heartbreak and is heavily influenced by those early memories and epic romances. It is sweet, innocent, and full of heartwarming charm. In a way, it was the perfect send off to someone who had such a huge impact in my life and makes her legacy last that much longer.

It’s amazing the things that can inspire you too. The Bench was written from my own experience as a troubled, homeless youth and while it shows the realities of a harsh life, it also gives hope and inspires compassion. I don’t know what my next inspiration will be, or which project will capture our hearts, or even the genre! It could come from a simple conversation, the punchline of a joke, a tragedy unfolding before my eyes (hopefully not!), a simple memory, or a whisper in the wind. Whatever it is though, my team and I will be ready!

 

Learn more
Askem Talent
BANFF Spark Accelerator Program
Thompson-Nicola Film Commission

Apple TV+’s “See” Nominated for Outstanding Locations for 7th Annual Location Managers Guild Awards

“See” Season 1 has been nominated for Outstanding Locations in a Period Television Series for the 7th Annual Location Managers Guild Awards. The Location Managers Guild Awards celebrate the outstanding contributions of location professionals in television, commercials and feature films. The awards spotlight the craft, honoring productions in which the creative use of film locations set the tone, enrich the character and inspire the narrative.

 

C/O Apple TV+ 

 

The Apple TV+ series takes place in the distant future, after a deadly virus decimated humankind. Those who survived emerged blind. Jason Momoa stars as Baba Voss — the father of twins born centuries later with the mythic ability to see — who must protect his tribe against a powerful yet desperate queen who wants the twins destroyed. Alfre Woodard stars as Paris, Baba Voss’s spiritual leader.

 

 

C/O Apple TV+ 

The series filmed in various locations in the Vancouver Island North region including Buttle Lake, Ralph River, Myra Falls all in Strathcona Provincial Park and Campbell River’s Discovery Industrial Park. Visit Vancouver Island North Film Commission’s website to learn more about the regions “See” was filmed in. Earlier this year, “See” was announced to be returning for Season 2. Learn more about “See” on Apple TV+.

See' Trailer | Hollywood Reporter

C/O Apple TV+ 

Feel in colour with Daniel Code and Graham Kew

Colour Study is a meditative and evocative experimental short film that will entrance you. Writers Charles Demers, Chelene Knight and Shazia Hafiz Ramji take us on a dreamy journey through ROYGBIV, while organizing objects and locations by their exact colour. Eager to share this visual narrative, we touched base with Graham Kew and Daniel Code, the filmmakers behind Colour Study.

 

Watch Colour Study on CBC Gem here

 

Tell us about Colour Study, the inspiration, the people involved, the narrative

Graham Kew: The three narratives in Colour Study were written and narrated by Chelene Knight, Charles Demers, and Shazia Hafiz Ramji. At the outset, we gave the writers basic parameters and shared information about colour theory and colour science, but then we just tried our best to stay out of their way. Reading each of their first drafts was both exciting and daunting. I do love that in film you can hand over control to a writer or a composer or a production designer and then they come back with something so creative that it just blows your mind and elevates the entire project to a whole new level. We got very lucky with the whole team on this project.

Daniel Code: The concept started to take shape after I found a video about scientist Neil Harbisson and his sonochromatic scale, and how he created a camera to transpose light frequencies into sound frequencies to help with his colour blindness. After that I dove deep, listening to pure sound frequencies while looking at different colours. Once I got off my laptop, I noticed that the colours in the room had really popped for me as if my eyes had been through a colour workout or something. I started thinking about the order of colour and creating an art piece based on this experience.

 

C/O Anthem Jackson Productions

 

Tell us a bit about yourselves, your careers and what inspires you

GK: Anthem Jackson is the name of our production company. Dan and I have both worked in the industry for years across a variety of departments, but AJ is our creative outlet. We want to produce innovative and authentic projects that matter to us.

DC: I’ve always been inspired to work on projects that provide a certain level of creative and social fulfilment. I’ve stayed pretty clear of the Hollywood movie machine to focus on smaller projects with friends and people I enjoy collaborating with. Sometimes you have to treat it as a creative lifestyle rather than a job.

C/O Anthem Jackson Productions

What advice do you have for emerging BIPOC filmmakers?

DC: Building a community is important and finding allies in that community can go a long way.  Work with your friends and/or develop relationships with the people you connect with on sets. Network at bars, art galleries, clubs, or places outside of film work environments. I’ve always found the best networking relationships are with people I’ve shared a meal, coffee or drink with randomly in a place people were out just having fun.  Volunteer in the area you want to learn something from and don’t waste your time on areas you don’t need. Learn as much as you can for your goals.  Put some sweat into those areas until you feel comfortable and then let people know with conviction exactly what you do in film.

It’s an uphill battle in the film industry as a BIPOC. Quite often I’ve been surrounded by primarily white creatives and it’s been a challenge to make your voice heard.  Having a more diverse video production can really create a beautiful and comfortable creative atmosphere. It allows room in the project for different cultural perspectives that otherwise wouldn’t be noticed without this diversity.  You would be surprised at how many BIPOC creatives are out there and a lot of them like myself would be willing to help foster their talent or point them in the right direction.

GK: I wouldn’t presume to give advice, but if any emerging BIPOC filmmakers reading this are struggling to break into documentary editing, they can hit me up at graham@anthemjackson.com and I’ll try my best to connect with them.

However, I will give advice to well-established non-BIPOC filmmakers… Reach out and see who you can help get a leg up! The mentors in my career have been incredibly important to me and it’s a relationship you will most likely enjoy and get a lot out of.

 

C/O Anthem Jackson Productions

Do you have any upcoming projects you can share with us?

GK: We are developing a scripted series with Shazia – one of the writers from Colour Study – and we have two documentary projects in the works, one of which is about a legendary 1970s Nigerian Afrobeat music group.

C/O Anthem Jackson Productions

 

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Thunderbird Entertainment wins prestigious Peabody award for ‘Molly of Denali’ series

Thunderbird Entertainment Group announced that their animated series ‘Molly of Denali’ was a Peabody award winner this year in the children’s and youth category. Molly of Denali follows the resourceful Molly Mabray, who has cultural heritage from three Athabascan groups: the Gwich’in, Koyukon and Dena’ina, as she helps her parents run the Denali Trading Post in interior Alaska. She and her friends explore the epic surroundings and rich Native culture that is home. The series is designed to help kids ages 4-8 develop informational text skills through video content, interactive games, and real-world activities. The series is co-produced by WGBH Boston and the company’s kids and family division Atomic Cartoons, for PBS KIDS and CBC Kids.

 

Molly of Denali 

 

Often compared to the Pulitzer Prize for literature, Peabody Award winners represent the most compelling and empowering stories released in broadcasting and digital media. Sixty nominees were announced earlier this year from approximately 1,300 entries across news, entertainment, documentary, children’s, public service, and web/interactive programming. From those 60 nominees, Molly of Denali is one of just 30 productions chosen to receive a prestigious Peabody award.

Since its 2019 premiere, Molly of Denali has been widely recognized as the first nationally distributed children’s series in the United States to feature an Indigenous lead character. More than 60 Alaska Native actors, writers, advisors, producers and musicians are involved across the production, which is designed to help kids ages 4-8 develop informational text skills through video content, interactive games, and real-world activities.

 

 

In Canada, Molly of Denali airs Wednesday and Saturday mornings on CBC and is also available on the free CBC Gem streaming service.

‘Who Am I’, directed by Adhel Arop

‘Who Am I’ tells the story of Adhel Arop’s quest for identity as she reconciles with her mother’s past as a child soldier in South Sudan.

 

Adhel Arop is a two-time award-winning documentary filmmaker residing in Vancouver, BC. Her career began in 2018 when she was awarded the TELUS Storyhive documentary film grant, with additional funding from Creative BC and mentorship from the National Screen Institute, which led her to complete her first 20-minute documentary, ‘Who Am I.”

 

Who Am I (2019) Directed by Adhel Arop

 

The film premiered and sold out in July 2019 in Vancouver, BC, going on to win two awards at festivals for outstanding achievements in the short documentary category. This film provided a platform to showcase the Canadian immigrant experience, something she authentically achieved by embracing her narrative of being a child born in the Kakuma refugee camp and drawing from her own stories of immigrating to Canada at the age of four. Her work aims to explore a social justice narrative, focusing on the untold stories of refugees and immigrants that are a part of Canada’s diverse identity. Through the medium of documentary filmmaking, she captures stories, many close to her heart and home, which would otherwise go untold.

Adhel now aims to pursue a career in filmmaking and advocating for renewable energy options in developing countries.

Please read, share and engage in this content. 

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.