An Interview With Anoushka Ratnarajah Co-artistic Director at Out On Screen – Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

“I think that trust and respect are so important when it comes to artistic integrity.”-Anoushka Ratnarajah

Anoushka Ratnarajah has always been a creative person, even as a little girl. “My parents encouraged me and my brother to be creative – they really uplifted our creative expression.”

As a kid growing up in Ladner, B.C., Anoushka was exposed to books like Anne of Green Gables and authors such as Jane Austen. “I think the thing that drove me into becoming a storyteller was that as a young, mixed-race, queer person I didn’t see a lot of stories about people like me, or families like mine. I didn’t have a lot of stories I could relate to, so I would write stories about characters I could identify with.”

After a degree in Creative Writing at UBC, Anoushka found herself in New York pursuing a Masters in Arts Politics. This degree allowed her to explore what it meant to be an artist with a social justice lens, and it encouraged her to work in various forms of art making. She met a friend in a performing arts training program and found her way into filmmaking. “I’ve always had a cinematic imagination – I see things in pictures, and there’s always a musical score in my mind throughout the day!”

When Anoushka was asked to be the coartistic director at Out on Screen, which produces the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, she was very excited. “I feel so fortunate to work for an organization that has queer people of colour on staff. There have been a lot of folks who have broken down doors for us in so many ways, yet there’s still more work to be done.”

This year’s festival will showcase many films by young trans or gender non-conforming filmmakers, perhaps a sign of what’s happening more globally when it comesto authentic representation of queer stories. There are also lots of local filmmakers telling their stories as part of The Coast is Queer series. “We are so grateful for the support from Creative BC because it encourages us to spotlight local artists and local content.”The Out on Screen society was founded 30 years ago when the Gay Games came to Vancouver. “Queer folks were hungry for visual representation of their stories,” Anoushka says.

The festival started off with films being projected in people’s basements and it has grown to become the second largest film festival in Vancouver and the largest queer film event in Western Canada.

Anoushka believes they’ve been able to do all of that because there’s been a continuing effort to build a reciprocal sense of trust with artists. “Film has a long history of untrustworthy narrators who tell stories that don’t necessarily reflect their own lives or experiences. Often times, especially with documentary films, there can be a feeling of exploitation. Trust building is essential to the work we do here, especially because we are working with communities who have had trust broken so many times. We need to realize that trust doesn’t just get built and then exist permanently – it’s a relationship, and we need to keep working at it.”


An Interview with Musician Nadine Tremblay

“I didn’t always trust myself, or my voice. That trust came with a lot of practice.”-Nadine Tremblay

“I really wanted to be Shirley Temple when I was four years old,” recalls Nadine Tremblay. “I started as a dancer and then moved to vocal lessons.” After getting a degree in opera and a certificate in musical theatre, she cofounded Iron Mountain Theatre in the Kootenays. Nadine wrote six musicals in 10 years, and toured Canada many times over. “It was hard though, people on the team would leave to get real jobs, but there I was, trying to keep the dream alive!”

Nadine chose the name Sexton Blake for her musical persona as a nod to the fictional British detective. “As a musician, I felt a bit like a private investigator. I would take themes and ideas and then analyze them and turn them into art. I think there was also a sense of feeling like a fake. I had this idea that I had to fake it until I made it, when really I just needed to get out there more.”

One of the challenges to making art in a small town is finding people to learn from and look up to. “The pool of talent is smaller here; there aren’t that many people pursuing music as a career. I learned by making mistakes, but I wish I had asked more questions, found more mentors.”

It can be quite isolating being an artist in rural British Columbia, especially when trying to get the word out. One of the things Nadine hopes for in the future is more face-to-face time with other musicians. “It’s really special to have the in-person get togethers. We don’t get a lot of opportunities to meet up, which is why the Kootenay Music Awards are so special.” And of course, she also hopes for more funding as it’s hard to make a proper album or music video if you can’t pay people a competitive rate.

“Creative BC helped me make an amazing video and it was really successful because of the quality of people on board. It was nice to be able to pay people what they are worth and not just offer a small honorarium.” The video “Go Outside” had 20,000 views in a matter of days and was nominated for best music video at the Kootenay Music Awards. “I wrote the song to encourage people to put themselves out there, to step outside their comfort zone and try something new.”

And that’s just what Nadine did with her music career. “Having a small community means having a small family. I really know my community, and they know me. I didn’t realize I had so much support until I was nominated. The love was overwhelming!”

According to Nadine, the key to producing a great album is trust. “You need to trust your team and you need to trust your instincts. It’s a small miracle when everything works out on a creative project, and for that reason your heart is consistently on the line.”


An Interview with Michael Cline Owner of Vinyl Envy

“We are building a music community where people trust each other.”-Michael Cline

When Michael Cline pictured his career, running an all-ages music venue was not exactly what he had in mind. Yet, it could not have turned out any better. “I’ve been a record junkie since I was 13, and I was booking bands in high school.” Running Vinyl Envy, a record store and all-ages music venue in Victoria, is what Michael was meant to do.

After working in the restaurant industry for 20 years and running a team of more than 20 people, Michael realized he was no longer enjoying himself. He wanted to have more fun in life, and so he opened Vinyl Envy to be surrounded by music. What started out as a record store has also become one of the city’s most popular music venues. “I’m having a crazy amount of fun! We do 75-100 shows a year and the store is open seven days a week.”

In the past, most all-ages venues haven’t been able to survive in Victoria. Yet, there was a gap that needed to be filled. “It’s like I’ve come full circle – I have 15-year-olds coming up to me now and thanking me for the opportunity to see a show. That was me at their age! I couldn’t get into the bars to see bands play – so for them to havethis place, that’s as good as it gets.”

Vinyl Envy attracts a wide array of people, but the one thing everyone has in common is a shared love of music. “Our shows are special – local musicians fill the room to support each other. There’s no ego, just a chill environment where people trust each other and can play music together.”

“Our shows are special – local musicians fill the room to support each other. There’s no ego, just a chill environment where people trust each other and can play music together.”

Vinyl Envy has become so much more than a record store or a music venue – it’s a place where people can be themselves. “This whole concept is best described as a soulful experience. Guys who gave up their record collections 30 years ago, are getting back into collecting records, and young kids with turn tables are just getting into it.” This is a place for everyone.

Michael’s vision is to be as supportive of musicians and music fans as possible, and to deepen the roots of Vinyl Envy along the way. He wants to continue to build up the community, and the best way to do that is by creating a trusting environment. “We give musicians a comfortable place to play. It’s a safe house for them, and I think the no- alcohol aspect is a big part. It changes the vibe – it’s like a house party.”

Vinyl Envy was able to get off the ground thanks to the support from organizations like Creative BC. “They supported me right from the minute I asked. They helped give us status as a venue, not to mention functional washrooms!”

Victoria is a city that draws an astounding calibre of musicianship, and Vinyl Envy is more than happy to host music that truly brings people together.


An Interview With Vici Johnstone Owner of Caitlin Press

“Trust for me is when people take the time to understand the value of our industry.”-Vici Johnstone

Vici Johnstone has worked in the arts her whole life, but it hasn’t always been a straight line. She went from high school drama classes, to working in theatre production, to being a rock’ n’ roll roadie for a sound equipment company. From there, she worked at the Banff Centre and then at CBC Radio.

Along the way, she met Howard White and started working at Harbour Publishing. “I worked my way up and learned the nuts and bolts of publishing.” Vici was given a crash course in the business of publishing, which proved serendipitous a few years later. While she was working at Harbour, Howard’s sister, the owner of Caitlin Press, sadly passed away. There was an opportunity for Vici to buy the publishing house, and she jumped at the chance to build upon its longstanding history.

Caitlin Press was originally named for Caitlin Thomas, the wife of Dylan Thomas, yet its feminist roots don’t end there. While Vici doesn’t solely publish books written by women, there is definitely a focus on women. “We have a stronger focus on women’s stories then the politics of feminism. The problem has always been that women’s stories haven’t been well documented. So much has been written about men, but I’m more interested in what lies in the trunks of our grandmothers’ attics.”

Over the years, Vici’s brought her own personality to Caitlin Press. She’s especially proud of her latest initiative, Dagger Editions, which focuses on queer women’s stories. “We’re trying to create a national voice for queer women. We want it to be a voice for the community.”She also hasn’t lost sight of one of Caitlin Press’s original mandates – to give voice to people in rural parts of B.C. “I’m especially interested in stories taking place in rural areas with connections back to larger cities.” Located in the coastal community of Halfmoon Bay, Vici understands the challenges of being both connected and disconnected from the big city. She also understands the importance of bringing the stories being told in rural settings to light. “The community is really supportive here on the Sunshine Coast, but export remains our biggest issue.”

Creative BC has been instrumental in helping Vici promote her books overseas. “Export is on everyone’s mandate because we’ll be the guest host at the Frankfurt 2020 Book Fair. Livres Canada Books and Creative BC sponsored my trip to Germany because they see the value in getting our stories out into the international market.”

Publishing is an art form, and there are so many nuances to consider. “I think publishing as an industry is really reaching outside itself – there are so many books now that are breaking the boundaries, pushing the edges. It’s not just love stories – our narrative here in Canada is different. There’s something like 10,000 books being published in Canada each year. What people read, what people write, it’s all changing. What doesn’t change is our desire to know people.” That’s what Caitlin Press continues to explore.

Publishing is an art form, and there are so many nuances to consider. “I think publishing as an industry is really reaching outside itself – there are so many books now that are breaking the boundaries, pushing the edges. It’s not just love stories – our narrative here in Canada is different. There’s something like 10,000 books being published in Canada each year.

What people read, what people write, it’s all changing. What doesn’t change is our desire to know people.”

That’s what Caitlin Press continues to explore.

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An Interview With Robyn Haddow Freelance FUI Motion Graphics Artist.

“People trust me because I show up 110%. I’ve been in the trenches and I’ve done the work to get to where I am now.”-Robyn Haddow

As a Fantasy User Interface (FUI) motion graphics artist, Robyn Haddow is often the only female artist in the room. “I think I’ve worked with one other female in my field here in Vancouver,” reflects Robyn.

Recently, Robyn was invited to speak on the Women in Motion Graphics panel at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las Vegas. “I didn’t have any female role models when I was starting out, so I know how important it is for women to be visible in this industry. I want young girls interested in this field to know there’s a real career path open to them.”

Motion graphics is growing out of its infancy, and the learning curve is steep, especially for women who might not see themselves represented. It’s not an easy industry to break into it, mostly because it’s so new and changing at a rapid rate. “In order to sustain yourself as a freelancer, you need to be a jack of all trades.”

Robyn’s specialty is FUI screen graphics, so whenever you see an actor interacting with technology on screen – whether it’s a computer, a smart phone or a hologram – she creates those graphics. The demand for her type of work has gone through the roof as the amount of technology on screen continues to increase.

“Five years ago, there might have been five builds needed in a scene – now with things like wearables, the content factor has gone way up. We often see 20 builds in one scene now.”

As a freelancer, she gets to work on all types of projects including the recent Ant Man and the Wasp with West Media. “I’m currently drawn to creating things that don’t yet exist. My favourite way to build is to draw influence from both the organic and mechanic worlds – if you can bridge that successfully, you can breathe life into something inanimate and make it so much more than just a machine.”

Robyn was attracted to the world of motion graphics because she wanted to push the boundaries. She studied graphic design at Vancouver Film School and then opened up her own design studio. After the recession hit, she started freelancing and creating motion graphics for video game trailers. Yet, it wasn’t until she worked on shows like The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow that she started to define her niche. “I was really excited by the people who were pushing the envelope. There’s a huge arena for creativity and exploration in this field right now.”

Robyn hopes her work can help people access information in beautiful and interesting ways. Yet, more importantly, she hopes her work can inspire new people to enter the field. “I want to help create a warm, welcoming and easily accessible community.”

An Interview With Josh Nilson CEO of East Side Games

“Trust happens when you show up and share.”-Josh Nilson

For Josh Nilson, video games are a way of life. “I think for everyone born in the 70s, video games were a huge part of their childhood. You’ve seen Stranger Things? I lived that. We stayed out late and played video games all the time.”

Josh started working in the video game industry 11 years ago, and he’s seen some great success. He launched East Side Games seven years ago and currently employs over 100 people. They’ve had 40 million+ installs across their various games, and they’re currently making a game for the hit series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Yet, while he’s currently riding the wave of success, he admits there’s been lots of failure along the way. “Lots of our games may have been popular but they weren’t always successful. We failed for years, and then Trailer Park Boys hit the market at the exact right time. We saw a huge opportunity to make a game for people who didn’t have much time by making it easy to play and hard to put down.” He believes everyone is a potential gamer because they can play on their phone when they’re waiting for the bus or grabbing a coffee.

The industry is changing quickly, and video games aren’t what they used to be. When Josh started East Side Games, he saw a lot of panic in the city. “The narrative of our video game landscape then was all about which big companies were leaving town or closing down. Sure, big companies are needed in our ecosystem, but what we really need is small companies that keep people here.”

The narrative is now shifting, with more locally owned studios than ever before. Amongst those studios, Josh sees more collaboration here than anywhere else in the world. “There’s a bunch of successful, home grown studios now, and we all meet up and share data and information. Creative BC can help us do that even more, connecting us not only with each other, but also with the other creative industries. Together, we can really make an impact.”

East Side Games isn’t only about making games, it’s about building and supporting communities. When they outgrew their Gastown office, they moved to the Cambie corridor, and while technically they’re on the West Side of Vancouver, the connection to the East Side remains strong. “I’ve lived in East Van for 22 years. For us, it’s all about supporting the neighbourhoods we work and live in. We have a charity initiative that focuses on buying local – from our furniture to our swag, our coffee to our beer, we make choices every day to keep our money in B.C.”

The video game industry is great at rallying around people when they are in trouble, yet they aren’t always great at celebrating success.

“We need to tell the world just how successful we are here. I think we have the best gaming ecosystem in the world. We could have opened our second studio anywhere, and we chose Nanaimo, B.C. because we see tremendous growth and opportunity across our entire province.”


An Interview With Kathleen Gilbert Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commissioner

“Connection is at the core of the trust we build.”-Kathleen Gilbert

Working in the film industry isn’t a typical nine-to-five desk job; for Kathleen Gilbert, it’s a pursuit of passion. “I was going down a different path when I found film,” reflects Kathleen. She was studying communications and women’s studies, and working with the Anglican Church on projects surrounding homelessness.

Yet, it was as a spokesperson for the Calgary branch of the Voice of Women that she got her first real introduction into film. “There was a big rally and encampment at Cold Lake, Alberta and I ended up staying with the film crew, which happened to be all women. I would listen to them talking about their shots, the angles, what they saw. I was so enthralled with the whole process that I knew at some point in my life I would end up working in film.”

When her husband got a job in Victoria, B.C., Kathleen decided to pursue a formal degree in film at Camosun College. She worked on several local productions as a locations scout and then as a locations manager before taking on the role of Film Commissioner for the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission in 2010.

The Regional Film Commission plays an important role in Greater Victoria’s film industry. “While Creative BC is the overseeing body for film production in B.C., no one knows our region better than we do. We add that extra layer of knowledge of our communities.”

Making people aware of the benefits and opportunities the film industry brings is Kathleen’s goal. “Perception is our biggest obstacle. I’ve had people ask me if there’s a grocery store on Vancouver Island! We need to continue to get the message out that we are an island the size of England!”

She’s also working to increase the crew base on the South Island, including getting into schools so that young people can see how much opportunity there is in this industry. “Last year, we had 1,800 people through our career information fair. We’re also reaching out to experienced film people in whatever ways we can, encouraging them to come here.”

“Part of what makes the film industry on the South Island so special is the support from the local community.”

Kathleen is capitalizing on that support with a campaign called We Love Film Too. “We want productions to know that we are passionate about their projects, and that local businesses are too.” The campaign introduces window decals with the branding We Love Film Too so local merchants can display their support, and hopefully be supported in return by the industry people spending time in their community.

For Kathleen, an important next step is to help local producers and filmmakers tell their stories on an international stage. “There are amazing independent filmmakers in Victoria quietly doing amazing work. We believe that telling our own stories and celebrating who we are in Canada, and in B.C., is so important.”


An Interview With Marie Clements President of MCM (Marie Clements Media)

“It takes trust and a leap of faith to tell a story like this.”-Marie Clements

Marie Clements started out as an actor, writer, director and producer in theatre before transitioning into film and television. “It’s been a long creative journey to be able to see and tell stories across disciplines and genres.”

“I wrote a lot of bad poetry as a kid,” she confesses, “but it wasn’t until I was touring as an actor with a children’s show in Northern Ontario that it occurred to me I could use this time, these long winter nights in small Canadian towns, to focus on the word.” Marie wrote her first play during that time, and she was hooked. “It’s liberating to be a writer, to not have to wait to tell a story. To look to yourself to tell a story and have the control and the ability to do it anywhere or anytime.”

Writing is anything but easy though, as Marie can attest, and it takes a very disciplined focus to hone one’s craft. “I was creating my own discipline, my own practice. Some days you think you’re brilliant for a moment, and other days you earn every letter, every word. But you have to write like there is no alternative, you have to be curious, be hungry to get to the story you’re meant to tell.”

Story is what drives Marie; it’s the focus of everything she does. “I’ve always been affected by the stories that have never been allowed to be told. I’m also motivated by stories that are affecting our realities right now, stories we are bearing witness to.” It was with that in mind that she set out to write Red Snow.

The inspiration for Red Snow happened eight years ago, and the story came to Marie like a bomb. “I was looking at a photo journalism spread on the war in Afghanistan and the Canadian government’s involvement. It occurred to me in certain angles that the people there didn’t look that much different than Indigenous people here. I was curious about what was similar and what was different and sometimes the only way of finding that out is to sit across from someone and look them in the eye. Red Snow was about that engagement, that conversation.”

With Red Snow, Marie set out to investigate the idea of modern tribalism by telling the story of a First Nations Gwich’in soldier from the Canadian Arctic caught in an ambush and taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan. “Each story has its own bones, its own way of being told. Red Snow took a considerable amount of time to get to the screen, but it brought together serious creative and cultural collaborations that could only have happened because we have an extraordinary diverse talent pool in B.C.

Marie wants to engage people in stories they might not normally be engaged with, and that starts with getting out into different markets. “Creative BC has allowed me to travel to markets where I can network and expand my circle. They have supported my work and invested in stories I am working to bring to the screen that are fighting for integrity, both culturally and artistically.”

It wasn’t easy to tell the story in Red Snow, but the collaboration and collective energy from her team made the journey worth it. “We understood that we had a unique chance to tell a story and that it was going to be demanding – the weather, the landscapes, the languages, the tight shooting schedule, it was all extreme. We had to trust that we were the right people to be doing this, we had to believe in each other and commit to the choices we were making and that they were the right ones.”

Marie continues to write and explore new stories from her home on Galiano Island. “Living on an island is not for everyone, but it’s great for artists. It’s nice to be quiet so I can write, think, and breathe before I start ramping up for the next project.”

BC Filmmakers at the 2019 Vancouver Island Short Film Festival

Since its creation in 2006, The Vancouver Island Short Film Festival (VISFF) has been curating incredible short films, from local and international filmmakers.

This festival draws people to the rapidly evolving, motion picture industry home, the island has become. More specifically, bringing people to the town of Nanaimo, where the VISFF is held every year.

This year, the festival will be taking place February 1-2, at Malaspina Theatre. We would like to draw your attention to some of the evocative, BC made films that will be showcased:

HOW TO HIDE A DEAD BODY (John Gardiner, Nanaimo)

Synopsis: Two idiots try to hide a dead body before a local gangster finds out what they did.

LIFELINES (Catharine Parke, Vancouver)

Synopsis: Overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations of high school, Arielle finds refuge in a dangerous habit – until her best friend discovers her secret.

Note: This film contains images of self-harm. It may not be suitable for all audiences and viewer discretion is advised.

LIVING WITH (Raymond Knight, Nanaimo)

Synopsis: ‘Living with’ is a documentary short film that follows Dexter, a young man who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer as a baby.

POSITIONS (Justin Ducharme, Vancouver)

Synopsis: Positions tells the story of a queer, Indigenous, male sex worker in Vancouver.

Note: This film contains sexual content. It may not be suitable for all audiences and viewer discretion is advised.

ROSES AND STITCHES (Maxwell Dowie, Nanaimo)

Synopsis: Losing a loved one is terrible. When Abigale’s beloved is killed, her mad scientist father brings him back to life. Love conquers death but will forces other than death keep this couple apart?

THE WRESTLER (Michael Chen, Nanaimo)

Synopsis: As a masked wrestler, Terry just wants to be seen as a good guy.

Tickets are on sale now and going fast! Visit the VISFF website here to get your hands on them.


Behind the Scenes of the TV Series Project Blue Book

Production designer, Ross Dempster provided us with an exclusive interview on the TV series: Project Blue Book. Ross has worked on other local productions such as, Lost in Space, Motive, and Wayward Pines, and shares his insight about working in film production throughout BC.

Where in BC did the filming take place? Are there any local landmarks we should lookout for when watching the series?

Filming took place in and around the lower mainland with locations ranging from farmhouses to the downtown core including the exterior Marine Building and The Vancouver Club. Outside areas included small towns like Matsqui or Langley and Delta.

Was it difficult to recreate the time era of the show?

Shooting a series set in 1950 is always challenging no matter where you are but Vancouver and the surrounding area has its own challenges in that it’s a very young city with a modern aesthetic that doesn’t always preserve the past. However it does have its gems and with creativity and a little help from VFX you can do a lot.

Were there any unexpected challenges during production?

Other than continuing to find cinematically interesting locations for each episode, one of the hardest challenges , though not necessarily unexpected, was finding airbases or aircraft hangars that were period appropriate. Thankfully, I suppose, Canada is a very peaceful nation with limited military presence so we had to adapt other spaces to look like aircraft hangars, such as buildings in the PNE and also utilizing one period hangar we do have in Boundary Bay airport to play as different locations.

ᴾʰᵒᵗᵒᵍʳᵃᵖʰ ᵇʸ ᴱᵈ ᴬʳᵃᵠᵘᵉˡ / ᴴᶦˢᵗᵒʳʸ / ᴬ⁺ᴱ ᴺᵉᵗʷᵒʳᵏˢ

What were some of the highlights of filming in BC?

It’s such a beautiful area and we were lucky to watch the city come to life through Winter into Spring and see the light change from moody and atmospheric to bright and hopeful.

Was there a noticeable difference in experience filming in Canada vs previous productions you have worked on in the USA? 

Filming in Canada is a pleasure – from crew interaction and team work to a level of professionalism, talent and enthusiasm that’s hard to beat.

Was much of the workforce was from BC?

Lots of local talent both in casting and crew.

Do you have anything to add?

This was an absolute pleasure to design and work on with the rest of the crew. The series centers around such interesting ideas and topics that we all have questions about. Mystery, Intrigue, Aliens, Government cover-ups and Conspiracies, UFOs – It’s awesome! And topical too!