Profile of Loretta Todd: Director of Monkey Beach

Loretta Todd is an internationally recognized Canadian Director, who is bringing to life the acclaimed Eden Robinson novel, Monkey Beach. We had the opportunity to interview Loretta about this incredible new project.

Tell us about your project.

Monkey Beach is a feature film based on the iconic novel written by Eden Robinson. The book is in its 25th printing and is required reading in the Grade 12 curriculum in BC – and has been published in over 7 countries – including the US, Germany, France and the UK. It is taught in universities internationally and has a devoted following.

Monkey Beach is about Lisa Hill, a young native woman, confronted by her rebellious past, in possession of a mystical gift she doesn’t want, and driven to save her brother, whose death she has been foreseeing all her life and who now is lost at sea. The book and film are mostly set in and around Kitamaat Village. We are filming in Haisla territory – where the story was born and where it should live on screen.

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

Monkey Beach takes us on an epic, heroic journey. Yet Lisa is not the usual hero – in fact I see her as a new version of the hero. I think that is why Lisa, the book and story resonate with some many people – across gender, generation, culture, life experience – we are all searching for the new heroic. We can experience story and draw from those stories and match it with our own power. And especially Indigenous women. And that’s ok. Indigenous women need heroes, too. We’ve seen and experienced really ugly stuff but we’ve endured and survived and always knew we were strong or how else could we have survived?

Monkey Beach holds many stories about the metaphysics of life and death, about the poetry and pain of coming to know one’s self, about the fragility of happiness and family. And there are ghosts and spirits and the supernatural co-existing with us in the real world.  Monkey Beach the novel is fierce yet tender, lyrical yet honest. I feel a great responsibility to make an amazing film – sensitive to the integrity of Eden Robinson’s story and storytelling yet with my unique cinematic vision. Monkey Beach the film will cross genre, push boundaries and reveal truths about us all.

The book and the script move through Lisa’s life in an elliptical journey – rather than a linear progression toward conflicts resolved. Instead it follows the rhythms of Indigenous storytelling – where narrative elements flow from associative meaning, layering moments and meaning rather than being driven by linear cause and effect. Her stories are like hard realities and deep truths merged with glimpses of dreams and pieces of memories. Yet, if there is an underlying cause and effect of Lisa’s story, it is that if Lisa avoids facing her supernatural abilities, she will live a diminished life, a half-life.

And of course, I want to see the power of Indigenous filmmaking.

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

I’m always ahead of the curve – and started developing this project when the mainstream Canadian feature film industry was slow to respond to an Indigenous woman director with a complex script with action, lots of VFX and stunts and underwater filming. I wouldn’t scale it to remove those challenges – I was determined to ensure they were part of the storytelling. And I wanted to film in Kitamaat and with Indigenous crew. But I have to say there were supporters from the beginning that I am grateful for, including Telefilm, Creative BC, Greenberg Fund and APTN.

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

Creative BC support meant I could hold my head up and stay determined and focused and never give up.

What other BC creators inspire you? How so?

I am inspired by all Indie filmmakers – but especially Indigenous storytellers and artists. I was fortunate to be given guidance by people who are no longer with us – like Doreen Jensen and Leonard George. They believed in the voices and visions of all Indigenous storytellers and artists – not just one or two. They believed in us all and that they believed in me was very humbling and inspiring.


Profile of Odessa Shuquaya: Director of “Cedar Tree Of Life”

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

We are proud to have been able to provide support to a number of films and would like to highlight some of the incredible talent showcasing at this years festival. We had the opportunity to speak with Odessa Shuquaya, director of the award winning short “Cedar Tree Of Life.” Here is what she had to say about her project.

Tell us about your project?

This project began as my own investigation into cedar bark weaving and indigenous plants with three women that I had gotten to know in the arts community here in on unceded Coast Salish territory over the years. I previously filmed each of them doing more process focused activities and the footage was more informational, however, what became apparent to me was how deep their relationship was to this remarkable tree and I wanted to learn more. The National Screen Institute’s IndigiDocs program of which Creative BC is a funding partner, (you can change this line if I don’t have the correct language), application deadline was coming up and I just knew that it would be a perfect fit for the film I wanted to make.

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

I want people to have an understanding of the sacredness and importance of this tree to the Salish people and how we all need to take responsibility for the care and preservation of our forests.

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

There weren’t any huge challenges to overcome outside of regular making-a-film-challenges, but one day, our drone operator, Sean Sullivan and I went to the Sunshine coast to film and a slender bank of fog had rolled in only and exactly the spot where we wanted to film. It was brilliantly sunny everywhere else, of course! We went into the forest to film anyway and I think the fog did add something beautiful and mysterious to a few of the shots that we used in the film. We ended up wrapping early and going out on another sunny day to get the shots I wanted. In the end I was grateful for the fog not only to for its visual effect in the photography that day but if forced us to find another forest location and it was absolutely perfect. The opening shot is that location.

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

The support from Creative BC was so very valuable to our team. It enabled us to get all of the images we wanted and it has supported the life of the film at the end of production into its festival run.

What other BC creators inspire you? How so?

I’m very inspired by Marie Clements. Her vision is strong and she is able to bring it forth in so many different mediums. I love how through her art, she is lifting up our community with theatre, film, and even opera. I have had the honour to work with her and I’ll always appreciate her mentorship.


An Interview With Melanie Wood for Stranger Productions

From workshops to conferences, Creative BC has helped me stay connected with my industry and my own skillset. It’s no longer enough to have an idea – you need to flush out your idea and present it in a way that entices people to invest and get involved. -Melanie Wood


Melanie was not allowed to watch television as a child. Ironically, she now creates documentaries for a living.

“I started to think about stories and issues in a way that would intrigue people. My first documentary, “A Stranger in Our Home”, was about kids who fell prey to predators on the Internet, way before anyone was talking about that. That was the beginning of my love of telling longer form stories and doing it at my own pace, in my own way.” Melanie’s film career commenced after completing a communications degree at SFU, and being exposed to a new world entirely, while working at CBC.

“I love being able to tell stories of people who never thought of telling their own; it gives it all a greater purpose and you feel the support of an entire community. That keeps me going.” Melanie admits it is no easy feat to stick to documentary storytelling style films, but it is her calling.

While Toronto was once considered the hub of the Canadian film industry, times have changed. “Back when I first started making films, it was very difficult to pitch a film in Toronto that you wanted to make in Vancouver. Creative BC has helped to change that by supporting people like me here in BC. It’s not just about money – it’s about having people willing to help you make something before there’s money. That’s where I turn to Creative BC.”

The ever-growing feature film industry has also put Vancouver on the map. New stories can be brought to life in a vibrant city coloured by diverse talent. “We have the opportunity to access small, intimate stories here and tell something more universal. Being in Vancouver is a real advantage for me.”

The film industry is constantly evolving. From the shift to digital, to the new methods of film production and distribution, there is always more to learn to stay up to date with the industry. “From workshops to conferences, Creative BC has helped me stay connected with my industry and my own skillset. It’s no longer enough to have an idea – you need to flush out your idea and present it in a way that entices people to invest and get involved.”

Melanie does not shy away from challenging projects and complicated subjects. Her latest project, “Living in Hope”, explores the stigma of mental health and the strength of the human spirit. “Every time I do a new film, I grow. In the end, we are all just people.”



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


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.

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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

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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.