Profile of Steve Sxwithul’txw: Director of “Leave It On The Water”

This year marks the 19th annual Imaginative festival held in Toronto on Oct 17 – 24th.

We are proud to have been able to support a number of films at this years festival. We received the opportunity to speak with Steve Sxwithul’txw one of our Creative BC supported, director’s of the documentary short “Leave It On The Water.” Here is what he had to say about his project.

Tell us about your project!

This is a project which focuses on First Nation youth from Vancouver Island who are destined for the world’s largest outrigger canoe race in Hawaii 2017. The youth who are guided by parents and elders through the rigours of commitment, training and discipline must fight the challenges of our past to prove they have what it takes to make it to Hawaii.

What did you want people to take away from this film?

I want people to know that we are out there (indigenous people). We are working to create new opportunities for success for our youth. The hard work and dedication pays off when you are supported by your communities

Were there any challenges you had to overcome while creating this project?

Budget! Of course! It takes funds to tell these types of stories. As well, for our people to believe in what you are trying to portray to our

audience

How did the support from Creative BC help you create this film?

To be honest, the help was such a welcomed gift. We would not have completed the film without Creative BC…so thank you so much! xo

What other BC creators inspire you? How so?

Any independent Indigenous producer in BC is gold. Why? Because we are commodity that is not yet been unearthed, like an old diamond waiting to be discovered.

An Interview With Sharon Taylor for Animal Logic Group

What we need to succeed is to continue to connect with our industry, and other creative industries, in meaningful ways. -Sharon Taylor

 

Sharon Taylor started her career in finance and accounting. Twelve years ago, she answered a newspaper job posting from animation studio, Animal Logic. Today she is Animal Logic’s, Group Chief Operating Officer.

“On the day of my interview at Animal, I knew I was home – it was definitely where I wanted to be. During my years at the company it’s really been incredible to see so many great individuals come together with a collective creative vision, that’s the glue that holds us all together and it’s what resonated with me and what I love about the industry.”

When Sharon started at Animal Logic in Australia, they were working on their first animated feature, Happy Feet. “The company was doing something that had never been done in Australia. We were making Australia’s first CG Animated Feature Film – breaking new ground in technology and pushing our creative boundaries to new heights! The vibe was so inspiring!”

When Animal Logic expanded into Vancouver, Sharon contacted Bob Wong and the team at Creative BC right away. “Their knowledge, support and generosity in helping us understand the ins and outs of opening a studio in BC was incredible. They are the biggest supporters of our industry, and they help us navigate the challenges we face as an industry. We cannot thank them enough for their continued insight and support.”

 

 

Sharon’s first impression of Vancouver? She settled in almost immediately. “The city is beautiful and multicultural, much like Australia. The differences lie in industry. Production studios are fewer and more spread out down under while here in Vancouver it feels like there’s a VFX or Animation studio on every block. Although many of us are competitors everybody comes together, contributing to building a robust industry in British Columbia.”

According to Sharon, the VFX and animation community needs to continue to work with government and industry partners. She believes a collaborative industry approach can solve shared challenges. “There are things we can’t control, like exchange rates and cost of living, but we need to come together as a collective force to tell the story of this industry.”

The story for Animal Logic is currently revolving around the LEGO movies. “For us, The LEGO Movie was the little film that changed everything. Whilst working on The LEGO Movie we saw its AWESOME potential close to the end of production. When it was the blockbuster hit that it was, we were so proud. It was such a ground breaking film for us to make and was the start of an incredible franchise, in Vancouver we are excited to be working on The LEGO Movie Sequel and build on the great success of the LEGO movies.”

For Sharon, staying inspired is key. “Inspiration can come from anywhere, really. The more we can bring different creative industries together – not just over issues as they arise, but to come together as an engaged community – that’s where we can really build this industry up.”

An Interview With Director Mina Shum

Investing in more BC projects – that would not only help me, it would keep us all going, keep us ignited. -Mina Shum

 

Mina Shum has always wanted to be a storyteller. As a child, living in an immigrant tenement house, she remembers wanting to tell stories visually. As an adult, she set off to become a filmmaker in the city she calls home. “So much of how I feel and what I think comes from living here. The people on the street, the way the city looks against the mountains – Vancouver is my muse.”

However, when Mina finished film school, it was very difficult to work in Vancouver as a filmmaker. All of the decision makers seemed to be elsewhere, and little interest was gathered for initiatives happening in Vancouver. “Yet we endured and we persevered until we found our own community, our own niche. Now, there are so many benefits to being different.”

Mina has lived through the ebb and flow of the BC industry, but she does not let obstacles set her back. “If you don’t like challenges, don’t be a filmmaker. I don’t get frustrated by it; I learned to work around it. I’m always creating, whether I have money or not – maybe the struggle is good!”

 

 

Perhaps that same adversity is responsible for the close community that has developed here in BC. “There is definitely an allegiance here because we know that energy begets energy. The more people that are supported, the stronger our voice becomes.”

It is also a great place for people starting their careers, as they can gain experience unique to the environment. “It’s fertile ground here for making great things,” states Mina.

In order to create more inspired projects, support is definitely needed. “I’d love to know that my next three ideas are going to be developed with proper funding so I can keep the writers and producers interested. Creative BC has been key, putting money in and giving us the vote of confidence we need. They’ve also helped us with marketing and travel, as we take our films out into the world.”

Mina knows that in order to succeed she needs to keep several irons in the fire. “I have a feature film script ready to go, I’m applying for development funding for a new film I’m writing, and I have a book I might option. Feature filmmaking is just getting harder, and we need to be creative in how we approach this work.”

 

An Interview with Victoria Weller for the Thompson-Nicola Film Commission

Creative BC has been so supportive helping us gain access to the film industry. We need more of that if we want this region to grow as a film community. -Victoria Weller

A film commissioner does many things, but at the core of it they promote a region by showing the film industry how it can incorporate different areas into its production. If a film or television show then decides to shoot there, the film commissioner works with the production company to ensure everything runs as smoothly and successfully as possible.

“I wanted to work in the film industry since Grade 7,” remarks Victoria Weller. “Becoming a film commissioner was a convergence of time, place and situation. I love the process of organizing, and I was drawn to compiling and presenting all of the different assets a region has to offer into something compelling. I’m the liaison between all types of people and businesses; I’m like a stage manager helping everything come together.”

Productions are drawn to the Thompson-Nicola region because “We have desert, grasslands, spiky mountains and rolling hills; there isn’t anything we can’t do.”

 

 

The Thompson-Nicola region has been growing in terms of productions taking place, and a large part of that is the work that Victoria has been doing “There’s been an influx of television productions. In 2016 more than 16 film, television and commercial productions shot in our region. My ambition is to have productions film their entire project here and have filming take place all year around, so people can make a living working in our region and not have to go elsewhere when things are slow.” From an economic perspective, the small communities in the region gained approximately $8 million in economic impact with very little leakage. From a taxpayer’s perspective, they made 1,300% back on their investment. That is not including what local production companies produced.”

The challenge is sustaining local experienced crews because there is no guarantee as to when the next wave of productions will hit. “We have to look at this all through the lens of economic development. We want people to have jobs. We’ve seen how the film industry can impact our local economy – from hotel rooms to charity donations, a healthy economy benefits everyone.”

This past summer, the ThompsonNicola region witnessed just how critical the film industry can be to their economy when floods and fires ravished the area. “The film industry was like a train – it came in, filled the gap, and helped save our tourism season. Plus, there were new productions coming through right after the last.”

Victoria admits she feels a sense of pride when she sees her region being featured in Super Bowl commercials or in films. “It’s fun to share the industry with people who normally would never have these experiences. You get to know your community so much better, and we get to celebrate what we have.”

 

 

An Interview with Steve Smith from Aircover Inflatables

If Creative BC can help get the word out about what we’re doing next with the Air Panel, that would be a huge door opening for us. -Steve Smith

Safety was a big motivator for Steve Smith and his partners when they started Aircover Inflatables, an alternative to the traditional green screens used in the film industry. Their previous experience as key grips had them putting up substantial screens for visual effects, with no way of controlling the elements. “It was actually quite dangerous; there were incidents of large screens blowing over in crazy wind storms.”

Their goal was to build something that was not only safer, but also more efficient and environmentally friendly. The end result won them an Oscar. Steve credits their success to their persistence; “It took several years and many prototypes, but we created an inflatable wall, the Air Wall, that could be used as an outdoor VFX screen.” Since then, productions like Godzilla, Tomorrowland, and Planet of the Apes have implemented use of the Air Wall successfully.

According to Steve, there have been some incredible inventions designed by grips. “Grips are inventive; we’re problem solvers. We’re in charge of making shadows and supporting cameras. We install large outdoor screens and backdrops, mount cameras to cars; we do all kinds of things. We’re often asked to do things that shouldn’t be possible, yet we have to figure out how to do it on the spot! That’s the mind you need to have to be a grip.”

Steve’s been amazed at how other grips have used their products in ways they didn’t initially intend on.“They were using one of our Air Walls on Pirates of the Caribbean in Australia when they started to deflate it to let more sun in. Someone suddenly yelled to stop as they realized they could control the airflow to have it maintain a specific angle. They slowed down the airflow and it got them the shot they needed!

”Steve and his team are now working on a smaller Air Panel that tilts, pans and rotates. It’s particularly helpful for smaller productions that don’t require large outdoor screens. “The Air Panel will be a huge time saver; it’s compact and easy to get into locations with limited space. It’s completely unique – there’s nothing like it anywhere.”

As Steve and his team head into prototyping, they need support with funding and making connections. Coming from Los Angeles, Steve is proud to call Vancouver home. “I’ve been here for 17 years and it’s amazing how well the crews and departments get along and work together. We’ve had an incredible response from people here, but it’s always hard in the beginning with a new product. We can always use more support when it comes to getting the word out.”

Learn more about Aircover Inflatables on their website: aircover.ca

An Interview with Mike Wozniewski from Hololabs

 

We want the online universe we are creating to become a resource for kids, parents and teachers interested in computational literacy – and we need support to make that happen. -Mike Wozniewski

Mike Wozniewski came from the world of academia, where he was studying virtual environments and game engines in Montreal. Yet, he gravitated toward artists and how they push the boundaries of technology and creativity. “The most satisfying work for me is building technology that helps artists create new art.”

Mike launched Hololabs in 2010, and then moved to Victoria with his wife and three kids. He set out to ensure that every project he worked on – from video games to virtual and augmented reality, to web portals – would help empower people to be more creative. When asked what Hololabs niche focus is, he was quick to respond: “We make wacky, experimental, weird things! Most importantly, we want to empower people to learn and be creative through technology.” Yet, there’s something even bigger motivating him these days. “Two of my kids are young girls, and as they started to engage with technology – mostly through the app store – I was frustrated with what was available to them. Everything was so gendered and stereotypical. And then I met Jordan.”

 

 

Jordan Stratford, who lives on Salt Spring Island, wrote The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, a book series featuring positive female role models in science, technology, engineering and math. Based on young Ava Lovelace, the first computer scientist, and young Mary Shelley, the first science fiction author, the series follows two young girls in the 1820s as they set out to solve mysteries often connected to other female trailblazers.

 

 

Mike is now turning that literary world into an online universe. “Our hope is to create a video game that can play across platforms, as well as a web portal that gives kids the opportunity to engage with the characters on an ongoing basis. They can learn how to become a better detective, they can read about female pioneers, and they can even interact with a mechanical computer. We want this website to become a resource for every school that is teaching computational literacy.”

With the support of Creative BC, Mike is building the online portal, yet he knows that’s only the beginning. Hololabs is self-funded, so they not only have to find development money, but they also need to figure out how to maintain everything once it launches. Mike believes that finding people who will champion his vision is key.

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Michael Gazetas, Lost in Space Location Manager

Lost in Space, the latest Netflix series to be filmed in British Columbia is being released this Friday, April 13. BC Creates had the opportunity to talk to Michael Gazetas, the location manager for Lost in Space about what it was like filming this one-of-a-kind production in British Columbia.

First off, where in British Columbia was Lost in Space filmed?

We filmed in almost every municipality in Metro Vancouver and in other areas of the province, such as Squamish and Kamloops. A majority of the 2nd unit filming occurred near Cache Creek at the CN. In Langley, we mostly shot at farms including the Johnson Farm and Emerald Springs where Legends of Tomorrow and Travelers were also filmed. In North Vancouver, most of the filming took place in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve and Lynn Canyon Park. We had the opportunity to collaborate a lot with the community in Lynn Canyon which was great for the crew and the community.

What was it like being a Location Manager for a set based in space?

I had to imagine what a lost planet would look like when envisioning filming locations, a unique task which ultimately ended up including some spectacular wilderness locations.

With a crew of 200+ and some remote wilderness shooting locations, managing complicated logistics was a large part of the job. For example, one of the shoots took place on a glacier in the Mount Garibaldi range, we had to get 75 crew and their equipment up the mountain in one wave, a real logistical challenge for the Park Rangers, Conservation Staff and the Sno-cat operators. We were grateful everyone was collaborative and a great help getting this shoot done. 

Where there any unexpected challenges during the production?

The snow was a big one! The production was filmed last winter when we saw extraordinary amounts of snow, it was one of the coldest and snowiest seasons Metro Vancouver ever faced! We did a lot of filming in Watts Quarry, near Squamish and it seemed like the snow was non-stop, there were times when all only access road was buried under several feet of snow, and on one very long night, we had a grader drag out our work trucks one-at-a-time so we could film the next day at studio.

While shooting at the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, the unusual amount of snow also meant that bears came searching for food lower down the mountain than they usually would. It was a unique challenge keeping the bears away from the catering trucks! To help, we hired bear management experts for the set and they also conducted special bear management training for the crew.

What’s next for the Lost in Space crew?

I believe the family feel of the show is a great niche for Netflix, with a potential audience of those aged 8 to 80, I think the show will do well!  The ultimate hope is for Lost in Space to be renewed and keep using Metro Vancouver as a studio hub.

Anything else to add?

This was a wonderful production to be a part of, although there were challenges with the weather and wildlife, the crew always found a way to overcome adversity and successfully complete the shoot.

North Island Film Commission & North Island College Create Careers in Film + TV

Vancouver Island North Film Commission (INfilm) partners with North Island College (NIC) to celebrate the completion of BC’s first TV and Film Crew Training program–one that has successfully prepared more than 135 students in its first graduating cohort for careers in the motion picture industry. NIC launched the program last year, after the federal and provincial governments allocated almost $500,000 to deliver the pilot program on Vancouver Island.

 

INfilm championed the inception of this program as the regional film commission that provides liaison and location services to film, television, commercial and media companies filming from Nanaimo northward. INfilm commissioner Joan Miller saw an opportunity to increase the region’s success through availability of local crew and led collaboration with NIC to deliver local training which now qualifies crew and creates a base of talent that can help attract a wider range of film projects to Vancouver Island.

Current synergy exists between the acclaimed show Chesapeake Shores, which filmed its first two seasons in Parksville and recently announced its renewal for a third season. This announcement coincides with the graduating class and representatives from the show will be present to congratulate graduates.

Chesapeake Shores is the Hallmark Channel’s most-watched original television show (in Canada the show airs on the W Network).

In a previous interview, Matt Drake, Chesapeake Shores producer, said crews are excited to take advantage of North Island College’s TV and movie industry courses, “I think that will be a really good way for us to get some new faces into the industry.”

Today’s graduation is taking place at Vancouver Island Film Studios in Parksville which will provide the motion picture industry with three new sound stages, office space and prop shops. A portion of the space is already complete with the remaining sections scheduled to be completed in mid-2018.

 

Festival of BC Film Returns to Maple Ridge

The ACT Arts Centre and Ridge Film Studios, with the support of the City of Maple Ridge, are presenting the second edition of the Maple Ridge Festival of BC Film. Highlighting films created throughout British Columbia. The festival is taking place at The ACT Arts Centre from Friday, March 23 to Sunday, March 25, 2018.

The ACT Arts Centre’s Acting Executive Director, Philip Hartwick, says, “As an addition to our programming that includes our Golden Ears Movie Series, we are thrilled to once again present the Maple Ridge Festival of BC Film in partnership with The Ridge Film Studios and the City of Maple Ridge. Through this festival, we are able to not only bring more film to the heart of our community, but high caliber, domestically-made films too. We are proud to be able to support our local film industry in this unique way.”

The Ridge Studios’ John Wittmayer adds, “The Ridge Studios supports a talented and thriving local film community. We are very pleased to collaborate with The ACT Arts Centre and introduce these remarkable films to the public. It’s important to create a strong Canadian film industry.”

According to Lino Siracusa, Manager of Economic Development with the City of Maple Ridge, “Maple Ridge is regarded as a film friendly community, and this is reflected in the high volume of movies and series that are shot here every year. The film industry provides employment to over 600 Maple Ridge residents. In addition, the wages, which total over $24 million, and services procured by production companies help support local businesses. The Maple Ridge Festival of BC Film contributes to the City’s film profile by showcasing some of these exceptional productions filmed in Maple Ridge.”

The Maple Ridge Festival of BC Film kicks off with an Opening Reception on Friday, March 23 at 6:30 pm and features a total of six shorts, four feature films, and one documentary over the course of three days. To purchase tickets and view the full lineup visit http://www.theactmapleridge.org/FestivalofBCFilm/ 

 

 

 

Vancouver journalist, Sabrina Furminger, launches YVR Screen Scene

YVR Screen Scene is a digital magazine and podcast that celebrates the shining stars who power Vancouver’s booming film and television industry. Helmed by award-winning film and television journalist Sabrina Furminger, YVR Screen Scene is a go-to source for in-depth conversations with the dynamic artists, actors, writers, directors, and all manner of behind-the-scenes magicians who’ve made Vancouver’s screen industry the juggernaut industry it is today.

Sabrina honed her craft as the force behind the Westender’s wildly popular Reel People column and with YVR Screen Scene, she continues in her mission to showcase Vancouver’s film and television storytellers through engrossing, revelatory, informative, funny, intimate, and regularly confessional conversations with Vancouver’s brightest stars.

We had a moment to check-in with Sabrina and learn more about what led her to YVR Screen Scene, read our full interview below and follow along with YVR Screen Scene on Facebook and Twitter.

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

We hit the ground running on January 8 with a full slate of articles featuring top-notch industry talent like Amanda Tapping, Vincent Tong, John Cassini, Agam Darshi, Lee Majdoub, Christopher Russell, Christina Sicoli, and the filmmakers behind Adventures in Public School and Scout and the Gumboot Kids. As soon as we launched, the response from the film and television industry (and people who love reading about the film and television industry) was immediate and validating, which reiterated something I’ve long believed: there is an appetite for these kinds of stories. I spend my days conducting interviews and writing articles while also seeking out the next generation of entertainment journalists and planning for the podcast, which is coming in March. My goal is to publish at least two interview-driven articles a week but I’ve been surpassing that because there are so many wonderful stories to tell, and I have ample space to tell them. I have some incredible interviews in the can that I’m excited to share, featuring an array of established and emerging film and TV industry talent from both sides of the camera.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the numerous articles I’ve written over the years in which the interview subjects have trusted me with their deeply personal stories. In my journey to find the story behind the screen story, I’ve written articles about pregnancy loss, racism, sexism, domestic violence, poverty, #metoo, missing and murdered Indigenous women, grief, trauma, being an outsider, and all manner of love. I’m just as interested in why someone chooses to tell a particular screen story as I am in how they choose to bring it to the screen. I told many such stories at the Westender, and I’ll continue telling them at YVR Screen Scene.

I’m proud to have been the first recipient of Women in Film and Television Vancouver’s Iris Award for shining a spotlight on female filmmakers, performers, and storytellers in my column (you can watch her full speech on YouTube!).

I’m proud of the cover story I wrote in October about the #metoo movement which featured several brave women speaking out about sexual harassment and violence they’ve faced on set and in the industry. I am proud of those women, full-stop.

Where can readers learn more and sign-up for YVR Screen Scene?

The best place is the source itself: www.yvrscreenscene.com.