These days, I hear a lot of “How’s the Knowledge Documentary going?” as I get around town. Well, glad you’ve asked. The project is coming along nicely as we are now into the post-production of 11 unique historical shorts that will comprise the final half-hour documentary to air on the Knowledge Network. Ben Euerby is busy composing music for each piece as John Tucker looks to design the sound. Daryl Jolly has been hard at work in the heat of the summer piecing together photos in his editing bay and bringing them to life with the magic of After Effects. We’ve worked with over 30 regional archives and a pile of family photo albums to pull together hundreds of images, as this documentary is comprised only of archival photos and documents. Laura Fortier of Touchstones has been instrumental in helping us get many of the photos for the a handful of the stories.
One of the big pieces to report is that title has changed. Whereas, it was originally called “If These Mountains Could Talk”, it was becoming clear that the strongest stories that emerged for the series all centred around people and their experience of living and moving to the Kootenays. The mountains and landscape certainly play a role in the stories, but as Murray Battle, Director of Independent Production at the Knowledge Network, pointed out, “Amy, the mountains aren’t the ones talking anymore.” So, we reluctantly let go of the original title and looked for one to more directly frame the stories. This lead to the name “Dreamers and Dissidents: A History of Nelson and the Kootenays.” From a fierce Sinixt Chief to an emigre princess from Russia to the Draft dodgers and Doukhobors, the stories lead us to what shaped the character of the place we call Nelson and the Kootenays today.
The Knowledge Network has tentatively planned a World Premiere at our very own Civic Theatre in the spring of 2015. We hope to wrap the production this fall after we get our last pieces in place. History takes a long time to create and we are learning that historical documentaries take even longer! We’re looking forward to sharing it wide and far, but locally most of all.
Three weeks of the Summer Film Camp has just wrapped up and there are now 48 more young filmmakers who have been super-charged and sent into the community with new filmmaking skills.
We had many returning participants, including some 4, 5 and 6 year veterans of the film camp! The Senior Director’s Seat has made a tradition of screening their new films at the Civic on the last day of the program. This year, 11 proud young filmmakers screened to a friendly audience to great acclaim. Jason Asbell and Andrew Fry worked with these 14-18 year olds throughout the two-week intensive program, with Bryan Webb helping out during a few days of production.
Lily Miller, James Tucker and Noah Gaffran were the recipients of the Kootenay Emerging Filmmaker Award made possible by a grant from the Osprey Community Foundation’s Arts Legacy Fund. These three youth received a full scholarship to attend the two-week intensive film camp and each will get further mentorship as they move forward in their filmmaking careers.
For the first time ever, we had a 6-7 year old program Production Crew. These little filmmakers had big heart and made three films in just 15 hours of film camp. The Junior Director’s Seat and Director’s Seat program saw 28 young filmmakers come to the 10th Street Campus where 11 films between 28 participants.
Check out our Summer Film Camp Youtube Channel where you can see all the movies from this past summer and many of the ones we’ve made since the camp was founded in 2007.
Amy Bohigian of Watershed Productions finished the casting call for her new project, Wide Shot/Close Up. 25 people from all walks of life and of all ages attended one of the castings calls held in July. They were asked to do a variety of ‘on camera exercises’ that all hit on the themes of personal and community identity.
Wide Shot/Close Up is a new work to be exhibited at Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History starting from November 2014 to February 2015. One part art installation, one part social experiment and one part community development exercise, the project is intended to expose and explore how individuals present their own identity to others and how this impacts the way community is built. It is meant to engage a larger audience about the questions of how people from various backgrounds and beliefs can connect in meaningful ways.
The footage from these casting calls will be part of what goes into making the final exhibit later this year. The exhibit will be a multi-stage experience with various video-based stations around the gallery, each exploring the themes of the project.
This project is funded by a major project grant from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance and the The Mir Centre for Peace is partnering with Watershed Productions on content and delivery.
Hot Docs international documentary festival and conference is the place where documentary makers and lovers gather from all the corners around the globe to pitch, discuss and watch documentary films. I was selected to participate in the documentary Doc Accelerator Scholarship Program for 2014, designed to advance the career of eight emerging filmmakers from across Canada. The first weekend ‘lab’ for the group was spent meeting the best documentary producers, director, editors and cutting edge thinkers of non-fiction storytelling, including Julia Ivanova, Joe Berlinger, Mickael Brock, and Kate Amend.
The industry week, starting on Monday, was open for the scholarship participants to attend all the industry sessions, screenings and parties that one person could possible endure. The documentary Doc Accelerator program places each emerging filmmaker in a mentorship with an established filmmaker from the documentary community for 200 hours of hands on job shadowing.
I met Barbara Kopple, the pioneer director of Harlan Country U.S.A. and had a run in with the president of the free world (or his impersonator featured in the film Bronx Obama. The stand out films that I caught on the big screen were 112 Weddings and Before the Last Curtain Falls. The Forum where 16 pre-selected projects pitch for big money from international broadcasters was a highlight, given the best directors and producer are placed in the spotlight for 20 minutes having to articulate why they need hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete their passion project.
The marketplace is full of a range of perspectives of the current funding landscape for documentaries. Many filmmakers are starving to get their films made while an established few are getting broadcaster support that is dwindling by the year and competing with reality TV. The irony is that documentaries have never been more popular with audiences, as evidenced in the exponential sales in ticket sales over the years at Hot Docs. Broadcaster, while losing their power to less traditional distribution platforms and egregious government cuts, are playing it safe by backing fewer projects and less controversial ones. A group of three women filmmakers from Turkey pitched a project about a female to male trans actor in Turkey who risked everything to transition. They received the award for best pitch from the observers at the Forum and were looking like they would get all the money they needed to make their film happen. This is a sign of hope that great stories will still rise out of the pile and be told on a larger scale.
Either way, this is an art form (like all, really) that is best done for the love, not the money. The inspiration I carry from the week I was at Hot Docs is proof that the predominant current in the documentary industry is a get it done under any means necessary attitude. And, don’t quit your day job.
Margaret Tessman, the Editor of ARTiculate magazine, wrote this article for the Spring 2014 magazine. Margaret has been highlighting and supporting the artists around the Columbia Basin for years with her great work at the helm of this important magazine. She managed to captured the work of Watershed Productions so eloquently in this article. ARTiculate magazine, the first word on arts culture and heritage in the Columbia Basin, is a twice yearly publication that covers arts, heritage and cultural stories and events throughout the Columbia Basin.
Basin Stories is a series of eleven short documentaries, each between 5 and 10 minutes in length, that were created from over sixty interviews conducted throughout the Columbia Basin with displaced residents, biologists, First Nations people, elected officials, historians and former BC Hydro employees. Each video centres around a particular topic, like agriculture, electricity, and ecosystems, exploring how each was experienced in the Columbia Basin before, during and after the construction of the Columbia River Treaty dams. To view the videos visit the Columbia Basin website here. Produced in 2013.
I have never been an ambassador until now. Since moving here in 2006, I’ve shown family and friends from out of town what Nelson has to offer from the freshly baked fougasse at the French Bakery to the beautiful backcountry of Kokanee Glacier Park. I’ve always marvelled at the quality and breadth of cultural and artistic initiatives that go on in a city of 10,000 people. As I dig deeper into research for the Knowledge Network history series entitled “If These Mountains Could Talk” I only get clearer how this community was founded by a creative spirit. It takes imagination to live here – many of us traded in steady paycheques and a bit of our rational brain to move to this remote mountainous town. Unlike big city living where closing doors and saying no is habit, here, in Nelson, people are ready to say yes – to a conversation in the grocery line-up, to reinventing the local movie theatre, to giving folks like me opportunities to make a living here. Now, it’s my turn to say YES! – Nelson is a unique and special place to live. As the cultural ambassador (I know many of you play this role with me), I get to make it my official duty to turn attention to what people have known for generations about living here – it’s the relentless creative spirit of Nelson that captures people’s imagination and supports the claim that it’s Canada’s best small arts town.
Nelson Star’s article: