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.


An Interview With John Baer for Pixomondo

Vancouver is the centre of the world right now when it comes to VFX. There is so much innovation happening here, and we need to develop our talent so that we can continue to produce a new level of quality. -John Baer

When John Baer was a kid, he remembers watching Jurassic Park in the theatre and being amazed at what was happening on screen.That movie, along with a handful of others, set him on a path to inspire people through motion picture.

Yet, it’s not always as easy as it seems to break into the industry. “I started at the bottom as a production assistant on a soap opera and slowly worked my way up, eventually giving tours of NBC. At some point, I realized that if I wanted to work as a producer, something needed to change.”

John went on to work with some of his industry idols, including Michael Bay, learning what it takes to produce a film from start to finish. Yet, it wasn’t until he worked on the Transformers movie that he had his first real introduction to high-end visual effects. “I learned all about digital effects – we were doing things that hadn’t been done before.”

John was then given the opportunity to marry his production knowledge with his VFX experience by coming to work at Pixomondo. “When I joined, they were on an upward trajectory, growing at a fast rate, and they were looking to expand. All of the research pointed to opening a Vancouver office, so that’s what we did.” While Vancouver has a huge amount of talent, there’s also a lot of competition. Every major production company seems to have an office here, and there is a battle for the most experienced talent. “I’ve personally interviewed 300-400 people in the past year, but it’s not just about talent. You need a group that will get along and work well together.”

Many companies, Pixomondo included, are developing their own internal training programs so that they can train, and retain, their talent. “It helps deliver standardized results with artists of varying experience so that everyone isproducing at the same level. This is definitely an area that we could use more support with, as it costs a lot to set up the right kind of training program.”

In order to distinguish themselves, Pixomondo set out to offer something different. “I think what separates us is that we offer our artists the chance to work in a smaller, more collaborative environment where they get to see the whole picture. They get to talk to the different departments over coffee, and their insight is valued.”

While Pixomondo is best known for creating the dragons in Game of Thrones, and the film Hugo before that, they don’t want that to define them. “The bar has been set by the historical quality of our work. Yet, we also need to be cutting edge. Vancouver is the centre of the world right now when it comes to VFX. There’s a high demand for experienced talent and the demand seems to be growing faster than the supply. There is so much innovation happening here, and we need to develop our talent so that we can continue to produce a new level of quality.”

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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 Tarun Nayar for Delhi 2 Dublin

Making sure diverse populations are represented, empowered and well-funded – that’s where we could use more support as an industry.-Tarun Nayar

For Tarun Nayar, one of the most surprising aspects of his journey with Delhi 2 Dublin (D2D) was that it was never intended to be a band.“It was supposed to be a one-night collaboration at a club – we had no expectations going in, we just wanted to go out and have fun.”

Tarun grew up playing music but he never really thought of it as a profession. “I’m a scientist by trade; I used to work in genetics and moonlight as a DJ. And then D2D took off, so I quit my job and I’ve been on this great adventure ever since!”

In many ways, it’s the city of Vancouver that allowed D2D to really take off. “I don’t think D2D could have been born or nurtured anywhere else. There’s something unique about this city, the unique bed of different cultures, the interesting and weird music scene, the artistic expression, it’s all here.”

Since his success with D2D, Tarun started speaking out against the prejudices he witnessed in the music industry. He’s been working on a documentary centered on the plight of local Punjabi artists who have huge recognition and star power internationally, but have almost no access to local funding. “I noticed that most grant recipients were white males. Prem at Creative BC got in touch with me to discuss ways we could change that. Since then, she’s really helped draw attention to how we can be more inclusive as an industry.”

Everything started to change when Creative BC announced the BC Music Fund. “That fund has been the single most impactful thing I’ve felt in BC’s music industry in the last 15 years. It’s so amazing to see so much money reach different types of acts. Every musician I know has been impacted by this initiative.”

Tarun hopes the music industry in Canada can make way for even more innovation, and start to see its own failings. “We get frustrated with how slow moving things can be in Canada. Our TV stations and radio waves tend to be generic, and they don’t represent the breadth of Canada.” D2D has had to reach outside of Canada to find the majority of their audience, looking to markets that don’t qualify their music as ‘World Music’.

“Having access to workshops and grants is huge, but I also believe it’s seeing people like you being successful that can have the most impact.” With that in mind, Tarun continues to shed light on the pitfalls of the music industry, while offering up ways that the industry, as a whole, can become stronger and more representative of Canada today.


An Interview With AnnMarie MacKinnon for Geist Magazine

Publishing is a challenging field to work in, and the landscape keeps changing. To continue to succeed, we need help with staff retention. -AnnMarie MacKinnon

Annmarie Mckinnon has been a long time reader of Geist magazine, a BC-based literary magazine publishing since the ‘90’s. She even studied it during her degree in publishing and communications, so, when a job opened up at the well respected magazine, she jumped at the chance.

“When I was growing up, literature in Canada definitely had a certain feel to it. It was all about big trees and isolation and survival, but we have other stories to tell,” says AnnMarie. She is excited to see the face of Canadian literature changing, especially since she’s been at Geist. Under her leadership, there’s now an emphasis on opening doors to new voices and exploring different modes of storytelling.

It’s an exciting time for Geist, with AnnMarie taking the helm and becoming the third publisher of the magazine since its inception 28 years ago. Yet, it’s also a time of change and transition, especially in terms of recruitment. “There’s no shortage of people interested, but it’s tough to train them and get them the experience they need when there aren’t enough resources.” “A lot of people have this idea that working in magazine publishing is glamourous,” jokes AnnMarie. “It’s definitely not The Devil Wears Prada around here – it’s hard work, long hours. Your eyes burn from reading all the submissions…and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!”

More than 200,000 people read Geist each year, and the publication contributes greatly to the zeitgeist of what’s happening culturally, both in Vancouver and across Canada. “Like all creative industries, we’re in the business of telling stories, one way or another. We’re talking about what’s happening in the world around us. There’s a lot of courage and bravery happening in literature right now.” For AnnMarie, the highlight of her job is finding emerging writers. “I love working with young people who are just getting started, and helping them to make their piece even greater. It’s so satisfying when they get to see their work finally in print, and I know that, in some small way, I helped launch them into something bigger.”

The media landscape is changing, with people able to set up websites to showcase their work in just a few short hours. It can be hard to attract investment in the publishing industry. “Creative BC has been awesome, giving us access to grant money and recognizing literature and publishing as creative endeavors. We need to continue to educate people that writing is an art, while also reminding them about all of the invisible work that goes into publishing a magazine like Geist.”


An Interview With Carly McKillip for One More Girl

Being able to make the record is one thing – but being able to get out on the road and promote it, that’s where Creative BC comes in. -Carly McKillip

Growing up with parents in the music industry, Carly McKillip has been exposed to the business her whole life. She recorded her first album as an independent artist when she was only 18. Since then, she’s been on a decade-long journey, working with some of the biggest record labels out there, only to find her way back to where she started — independent and producing the music she and her sister, Britt, want to make.

Together, the sisters are One More Girl, a country music duo based in Vancouver, BC. With the release of their new album The Hard Way, they are excited for people to get to know them in a fresh way. “My hope for this album is that it’s heard by as many people as possible and that they get to know us in a way they never have before. We have a lot of stories we want to tell and our music has evolved. Our new album has a more mature sound, a bit grittier and more organic.” Vancouver hasn’t traditionally been known as a country music town, but over the last few years the industry has expanded and grown exponentially. The amount of country artists coming out of BC is increasing every year, and the genre is becoming more and more popular.

“The genre is growing because there are so many new platforms and channels that people are finding music through. It’s no longer about being limited to a pop, rock or country station. Most audiences don’t want a label on their music– good music is good music, and that’s empowering for us.”

As newly independent artists, Carly and her sister rely on the support of their community like never before. There are distinct advantages to recording an album independently, including creative freedom, yet it also makes promoting an album that much harder. Securing and arranging cross-country radio tours and international gigs are challenging for example. Funding and making the right connections are critical for those who venture out on their own.

“As a Canadian artist, it can be tough to reach people internationally as we’re limited by where we can go and how we can get there. The best way to get your music heard is to get out there and pound the pavement.” Carly and her sister were two of the first people to apply to the BC Music Fund, administered by Creative BC, and that funding allowed them to make the album they set out to make. “We’ve been so fortunate to have Creative BC’s support in making this album. I honestly don’t know where we would be without them.”


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.”




TD International Jazz Festival: Local Highlights

Summer Solstice is here and so is the annual TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival!


he event runs from June 22 to July 1 and highlights some wonderful British Columbia artists. Acts varying from jazz, blues, world, creative and everything in between. We would like to highlight some of Creative BC’s funding recipients who will be performing across the city at this years event.



An Interview with Tom Dobrzanski

How great would it be if the rest of the world started to see Vancouver the way we do? That’s where we could use support – in getting the word out! -Tom Dobrzanski

For Tom Dobrzanski, music started out as a hobby to help him relax. Then, somehow he found himself launching a recording studio in his parents’ basement while studying business at UBC. “At the time, home recording was just becoming possible. We were right at the cusp of disruption when it came to musicians recording their own music. There were big, expensive studios in Vancouver but no one else was doing what we set out to do.”

Tom had never been to audio school, but he was curious and driven, and he was offering something that smaller bands desperately needed – a chance to record a professional-sounding album without breaking the bank. As his business grew, Tom decided to hone his skills with part-time courses at a local recording school. When he graduated from UBC in 2005, his studio was fully booked, with no end in sight.

“I was reinvesting what I was making into the business, buying better sound equipment and working with more and more well-known bands. I had outgrown my parents’ basement and so I set out to find a new home.” He finally found the future home of Monarch Studios, and after a lengthy renovation process, he officially launched the next phase of his recording studio in 2012.

Yet, it hasn’t always been easy to navigate the ever-changing music industry. “If I was wrong about one thing, it was projecting how the studio would run when it came to bookings. I thought we would get bigger, international bands in for 30 days straight, but it’s mostly been four-day local bookings. Still, it’s been cool because I see the smaller bands getting bigger and growing into our studio.”

When Tom learned about Creative BC and the BC Music Fund, he couldn’t believe how simple it all was. “I was late finding out about Creative BC – I learned about them, when they announced the Music Fund, no one could believe it – musicians are used to an arduous grant process, having to write long essays and marketing plans. This was so easy, and once people figured that out, it was a frenzy!”

Aside from funding, another area that Tom would love to see more support with is bringing people in the industry together in meaningful ways. “We’re like hermits, us studio people. We live in these soundproof boxes and get quite busy – it’s rare that we all end up in a room together talking about our work.”

But, when they do get together, they often talk about the same vision – putting Vancouver on the world map as a destination for recording. “I daydream about the future and being able to work with people from all over the world. Having an international mix of people in the studio would be so healthy for the creative energy of our space.”