Tuesday, November 9, 2010

2011 Submission Deadline

December 17th(postmarked) is the final deadline! Get your film IN!!!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

The End (For Now)

T.S. Eliot wrote that "April is the cruellest month", but I'll forgive him for that because he, poor schmuck, never got to spend an April in Dawson.

It began, of course, with the film festival--four days of incredible films, workshops and people. There are so many highlights it's hard to know where to begin. I'm going to gloss over my well-known love of Postalolio and admiration (adoration?) of Marv Newland, and instead commend Karen Hines for her Pochsy work. In her workshop on Sunday afternoon, Karen spoke about the "Manitoulin Curse" and all the difficulties and outright disasters that she has faced throughout her career and particularly while creating Pochsy. It was a really great counterpoint to the workshops hosted by Marv and Chris Landreth. They were both quite technical, and I really appreciate how Karen, while touching on technical issues, really spoke about an artistic struggle--how a need to reflect and shape the world through art can be a very personal need (and she did it without being sentimental or cliched). And of course A Tax on Pochsy was just so good--funny, sharp and beautifully shot.

Other memorable films include I Am So Proud of You, Don Hertzfeldt's disturbing and hilarious stick-figure animation, The Island by Trevor Anderson, about a piece of fan mail he once received, and Kevin Acevedo's look at writer's block, The Last Page. I was also really, really happy to get to see Katherine Berger's Migrating Patterns again. I was on the jury that chose Migrating Patterns as the winner of the 2010 48 Hour Film Challenge, and seeing it again confirmed that my fellow jury members and I made the right choice. (I am making sure to mention Katherine here because she's so heartbreakingly modest; I think she's brilliant and that she needs to do the world a favour and start owning up to her amazingness.)

The social aspect of the weekend was also incredible: there were great laughs and intense discussions, fuelled by Georgia's tasty concession and the ever-excellent martinis at Peggy's. The energy during the final screening of the weekend was unreal; it was fascinating to hear audience members singing along to the end credits of Poi Dogs. Movie-watching can sometimes be such an individual experience--just a whole bunch of people sitting in the dark, not talking, only watching--and yet somehow there are these magical moments when the individuals create a community of response.

The film fest was just the beginning of a whole month of movie madness--the energy it created just kept growing and seemed to inspire (or perhaps infect?) the whole town. I'm a keener (by which I mean slightly crazy) and by taking pretty much every film-related opportunity presented to me, I participated in almost every aspect of filmmaking over the course of the month of April.

Stefan and Katherine, of Nude Study infamy, decided to shoot another feature in Dawson--this one a hilarious gross-out zombie flick--which gave me a chance to do some behind-the-scenes stuff like shopping for props in Whitehorse, as well as an opportunity to step in front of the camera. I got to show off my moves as a rapper's "back-up dancer", and to stumble around spewing up fake blood as a zombie. But I definitely prefer being behind the camera: Andrew Connors ran a workshop on the Yukon Film Society's new HD camera, so I was able to try shooting in hi-def and to try to understand some new technology. This workshop also provided a crash-course in editing with Final Cut Pro, as Dan Sokolowski, Maureen Abbott and I used footage from the workshop to create a funny little he-said-she-said short about memory.

I was also able to get in touch with some older forms of technology. Katherine Berger shared her knowledge of experimental film techniques with Evelyn Pollock, Meg Walker, Julia Freyrer (a newly arrived artist in residence) and me ("and Alex, too!"), and together we created a collaborative short called "Bleach Sisters." And I picked up a Super-8 camera and shot my very first film under the aegis of the 1 Minute Film Challenge. I used my knitting to create an abstract little piece, and was able to edit it as well--after, of course, processing all the film for the challenge with Dan, Katherine, Julia and Kerry Barber.

This very crazy month of movies and movie-making wrapped up with the screening of the 1 Minute Film Challenge last night at KIAC. It was a very, very fun screening (especially if you were lucky enough to be sitting next to Megan Graham, like I was). I loved being in the audience while my film screened--I actually felt the ripple of confusion throughout the room when it started and people couldn't tell what it was. The women behind me were wondering if it was crop circles! Katherine and Stefan threatened to try to vote it off, but fortunately they were able to tolerate it for a minute and a half.

Far better than watching my own filmic tomfoolery was seeing what everyone else had made. There were some contributions from afar--Marv and Karen had made films during the festival, for instance, and former artist-in-residence Scott Amos, who instituted the challenge last year, submitted long-distance--but seeing what the locals produced was priceless. Jay Armitage's animation, Nothing Ever Happens in Dawson, was just a riot, and the award for best ensemble cast surely must go to the Scotch Club Zombies.

It really does all come down to the locals, in the end. As incredible as it was to get to hang out with Marv and Dave and Karen and all the other amazing filmmakers who visited Dawson during the festival, there is no way all those people and all those films would have made it here if it weren't for the incredible community of artists that already exists in town. My entire winter here, and in particular this past month, has been truly inspiring. Being able to participate in all the events and workshops hosted at KIAC, and knowing Lulu, Meg, Evelyn, Dan (especially Dan!) and the rest of the artsy crowd in Dawson has made me rethink a few things. I went from swearing that I would never make a film to making two films in less than a month, and decided that, instead of leaving at the end of the summer to go travelling again, I would stay in Dawson indefinitely. I already have my next Super-8 film planned, and I even (heaven help me) ordered some old 16mm film off of Ebay this morning so that I can do more experimental work.

So I'll see you at the selections next fall, and at the festival next Easter. Who knows--I might even have a film to show.

But until then... See you at Peggy's!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Dear DC,

You were a beautiful lover, Dawson City International Short Film Festival, and I was happy to have intertwined my life with yours.

ONE LAST POST, in an ode to retrospecting every and all things! I failed to be a daily correspondent as was my original intention, due to my computer being held in a tower by a ferocious dragon with lock and key, and... it pains me more than it pains you, I be certain.

In summary, the festival was an obliterating mind expander, and true to all great lovers, I had my heart swiftly broken. This film festival was the first in which I entered a film, and I had great hopes, like those I had of my first lover. Instead of the long love and marriage, I dreamed of winning a prize, two prizes, seven prizes... I broke up with my first love and I won no prizes. I cried, at both experiences. But like I always say, it's not my fault. I'm a Cancer. We're a sensitive people.

A big congratulations goes to my school chum, Gemini Sophie Fuldauer who won the Emerging Artist Grande Pris. Ain't nothing like a school chum to remind you to step it up. Up your game. Game your up. Get going. Get her done. Et cetera.

Excellent weather, excellent proximity to my residence, and at the end of the festival free and free-ish food and beer for those of us that stuck it out to the end. Can't do much complaining in the face of the free, and the fun.

She was a good lover, she was a fair lover, and I thank her daily for a memorable weekend. Until next year, Dawson City International Short Film Festival- you were great.

J. McLovin'

Monday, April 5, 2010

Northern Lights and the final Movie Good Night 'til Next Year

OK, so it's quarter to 4 a.m. and I am just getting back from a little get-together at the artist-in-residence house here in Dawson... a bunch of us decided to head there after the "video dance party" at KIAC... lucky us, for we were blessed with one of the BEST NORTHERN LIGHTS shows that this correspondent has ever seen. Yes, even a camera was grabbed from inside, so we may even see how that spectacular represents... but it doesn't matter, for that memory will stay in my head forever... yes, even the fine art of film has its limitations, sometimes we just need to BE THERE!

I am certain the other bloggers will soon detail the awards that were handed out... I will just mention that I was pleased to see the film by Suzanne Crocker "Time Lines" take the top award, though I realize it was a difficult choice given the many options... but the simplicity and emotions of this short film speak for itself...and truly sum up the fine art of storytelling and the short film... and I think for that reason alone it deserved the MITY Award. Kudos to the judges for sifting through the difficult choices, as all the films had appeal and value.

That's it for now, I think i will hit the hay, somewhat saddened that the fest is over, that there is NO TOMORROW down there at KIAC... for those of you like myself that thought their particular film idea would look good and be well-received... well, we have a WHOLE YEAR to get off our asses and make it happen... see you next year film-goers... GOOD NIGHT.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I had been a little worried that I wouldn't be able to be able to come up with anything to say on this blog, but so many amazing things keep happening... I have way too much material and not enough time to write. There is, for instance, a great post about Stefan and Kath inviting me back to McCauley House last night after the risque Midnight Magic screening (Dawson rumor mill: do your worst!) and how I could not stop laughing (until things got serious and names like Barthes and Foucault got tossed around). But there's no time! I actually don't even have time to write the post I want to write about Marv's workshop this morning and how his film Postalolio is deceptively complex and way more challenging than it initially appears and perhaps could even be said to theorize about how we perceive film. All I have time to say is that this morning Marv told me that he likes my cowboy boots and now I never, ever want to take them off ever again.

Gotta run: Karen's workshop is up next.

The Hope and Love of the Human Spirit; I am Off to Brunch...

With each passing night things seem to get a little more risque around here...

Anyway, who the heck has much time to sit around and blog this weekend? I must tell you, with everything going on, it has been difficult to take the time...

So, yesterday, a big treat was had by all who made it over to the best little theatre in town... the Danoja Zho Cultural Centre of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in (the First Nation). I had the chance to sit back and relax and take in the "First Eyes" Program, consisting of 12 excellent films including the comical Tsi tkahetayen (The Garden) and Poi Dogs, which was shot in Hawaii. Other highlights included two films from Old Crow: one by Mary Jane Moses (who was in attendance), teaching us how to set rabbit snares; and another one about the importance and practicality of dogsled culture, by Erika Tizya-Tramm, who unfortunately was not able to join us in Dawson for the fest. The program ended off with a rather disturbing film called "Jacob", set in 1940s Australia, which reminded us of the sometimes brutal origins of today's multi-racial reality, while at the same time showing us that the hope and love of the human spirit transcends this thing we call race...

So, more later, right now I am off to the brunch being offered by the local French Cultural Association because I'm FAMISHED...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pics or It Didn't Happen

The first thing I saw this morning when I walked into McCauley House was Tim Jones flashing his bare chest--film fest parties apparently being rather rowdy regardless of the time of day. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera at the ready, which means there's no pin-up boy of the day today. I did get a few other shots, though (which are perhaps more representative of this morning's brunch).

This lovely lady was was doing the dishes:

There was a lot of intense conversation:

Sometimes seating was in short supply:

Dan made an announcement, because nothing can happen at this festival without Dan making an announcement:

Small children were in attendance:

And awesome socks were an unintentional theme:
That's Lulu in the purple tights, Laurie in the colourful stripes, and me in teal and grey stripes.

Marv Newland also sported some very kicky socks:

(And don't even get me started on that tie! Marv is so awesome! I like him so much I have to lurk at stalkerish distance!)

Big thanks to the Residence Committee for the great brunch--it doesn't get much better than good food and good company.

So Many Films, So Little Time

Here’s what my day looks like today: prep for making my one minute film; attend brunch at McCauley house; make one minute film; volunteer at twelve o’clock NFB screening; attend two o’clock youth screening at SOVA; attend Midday Magic screening at KIAC; 7 pm screening; 9:30 pm screening; 11:30 pm screening. Clearly I can be something of a completionist. It’s not good enough to go to just a couple of the screenings: I have to see them all. I do wish that the clone I’m making of myself in the mini-laboratory underneath my bed was ready now, because it’s killing me that at 2 pm and 4 pm today I am going to have to miss screenings because I will be at other screenings. It’s brutal. (What’s also brutal is that I will be spending about twelve hours watching films today. Awesome, but brutal. I wonder if I’ll actually make it to them all or if I will just end up at Peggy’s crying into a martini.)

Yesterday was great: in the afternoon, Chris Landreth taught a fascinating master class about his own particular blend of technology and psychology. I followed this up with a nap, so that I was well-rested to catch the evening’s screenings: Yukon and Beyond, By The Light of the Moon and Strange Things Done. There were too many good films screened yesterday to mention them all here. Stand-outs for me included 10North exquisite cadaver project and Miles to Go, by our own Evelyn Pollock; Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, The Art of Drowning, and Love on the Line from the outdoor screening; and The Wild the Untamed, The Black Dog’s Progress and Tu(A)Mor from the Strange Things Done screening.

More to come... but right now I need to start working on my film!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Drive, Rest Up.. the Weekend is Just Beginning

Happy Good Friday Yukon! I myself just arrived back in Dawson after a 2-week absence… and this time I was not only anxious to get home, but I also had the added incentive of getting back in time for this year’s film festival. In case any of you are still sitting in Whitehorse thinking that getting to Dawson today will entail 536 km of mud and hate, you could not be more wrong… I must tell you that the highway is dry and clear; there are no construction hold-ups or floods anywhere… In fact, I only counted a total of 400 meters of soft gravel on the entire highway! Yes… the blue skies and wide-open vistas you hope for and have come to love in the Yukon will greet you today on this highway to Dawson City. Don’t let any misunderstandings stop you from making the trip to this year’s film festival… you can do it!

The opening movie last night can be described as a shocker… yes, a shocker. The film “Nude Study” featured two continents and many local actors, telling the story of a young woman coming to terms with her family, her hometown, a Dawson winter, and all the sexuality that comes with the territory, including some sensual girl-on-girl and food-on-girl action. Although the movie at times went out of its way to recycle some well-worn stereotypes, it also had some breathtaking shots, technically brilliant sequences, and even came complete with a scene that could be said to take “auto-asphyxiation" to a new level! Thank you Stefan and Katherine for generating such lively discussions afterwards in Bombay Peggy’s with your film! Some will probably need to talk about it today… many folks had to be taken home after the film and tucked into bed so they could get over it, rest up and be ready to tackle Good Friday…

Cheers, gotta run… either to do dishes or check out the workshop with Chris Landreth…


Friday, April 2nd

First dutiful blog entry composed early in the morning (12 pm).

Well, made it through the first day of Film Fest, and was certainly NOT taken for fool, no sir, not this year. Last night (Thursday) was the jump off for this film festival madness, and the champagne to strike the boat was film by ADOPTED LOCALS Katherine Berger and Stefan Popescu. The film they created in Dawson two years ago called Nude Study was a trip, every kind of trip I can imagine, excluding positively lucid. The subject matter they touched on in the film was WIIIIILD –from the Momz dyin’ of the terminal cancer, to the beautiful muse being done from behind by her husband’s skeeze friend. Well, those are both rather tragic, now that I’ve listed them so linearly. But, alas! The film did not wreak of sorrow, or misdoings. Through employment of experimental film techniques, and using a bunch of cuts of some of the most beautiful footage I’ve ever seen (such as ginger cat stealing away a house rabbit from the grass for its lunch!) Nude Study, for all it’s dark bits manages to remain an optimistic film in my memory. What, you want a synopsis? Forget about it. It’s already in existence, in the festival booklets! PICK UP A BOOKLET. They are large! And FREE! And endlessly helpful in navigating the activities coming in the near future.

A couple of things Dan (Our Noble Leader, in all things film. If we were in the Sahara, Dan would lead us to water. Follow Dan.) mentioned last night, at the screening: there’s some contests going on, over this weekend. Yer first contest is to spot the hat! Dan will be wearing a different hat each day, and you are meant to catalog them, record them, present your recordings on the last day, and receive a FABULOUS prize! Second contest: there will be on film that will have a Bombay Peggy’s logo planted in it… spot the logo, report it to your officials, win DRINKS. No word of a lie. Third contest: Along the lines of the second, another film will have a drink? A drink, I think. I sort of misunderstood this one, but say you see a film with a drink reference, that may or may not remind of the DOWNTOWN… well, report it, because it could get you drinks at the DOWNTOWN!

I didn’t get to the hockey film afterward, because April 1st is moving day in Dawson, if your name is Jessica Viens, and so you see, my fates were written.

(Also my friend had a PUNK BIRTHDAY PARTY, which was pretty cinematic in and of itself.)

LASTLY, there was a FRIENDLY encouragement to show up HALF AN HOUR early if you want to hit the concession –it’ll be open, and you’ll allow the films to start on time, which is important, it’s a packed schedule.

Don’t forget about the one minute film contest, too. Free stuff, just saying.

Over and out.

Your friendly neighbourhood correspondant,
Alexander Keith

Crazy Town, Indeed

I was definitely surprised at the film festival last night. I didn't really know what Nude Study was all about, but knowing Stefan and Kath as two nice, laid-back individuals, I wouldn't really have expected them to create a film with so much violence and sex. Watching Nude Study was kind of a shock to the system for me, and I think other audience members felt the same: the little old lady who was sitting in front of me at the beginning of the film wasn't there at the end, and I heard one guy say "I need a stiff drink after that" as he was leaving the ballroom when the film was over. So: shocking, yes--but also good. It was difficult subject matter approached with artistry and intelligence, and portrayed by excellent performances from the actors involved (many of whom, it must be noted, were amateurs). My enjoyment of the film was rounded out by a long discussion with Stef and Kath about the film over martinis at Peggy's. We covered a lot of ground: the editing process, the Dawson City shown in the film, funding, horror, experimental film, selling out... I was nervous to bring up Georges Bataille, but really shouldn't have been, considering Stefan's enthusiasm for him. I hope other movie-goers in Dawson this weekend will enjoy every opportunity available to meet with filmmakers, and ask them about their work. It just adds so much to the viewing experience.

Before I made it to Peggy's and that great discussion, there were two more films to watch. Five Hole: Tales of Hockey Erotica, a short about unrequited love and hockey, neatly bridged the gap between the subject matter of Nude Study and the third film of the evening, The Hockey Nomad.

I'm really not much of a hockey fan, but the kind of passion expressed in The Hockey Nomad is always compelling: you can't help but be interested and excited when it is obvious that a filmmaker cares so much about the topic he is working with. Dave Bidini is clearly all about the hockey. And of course, it wasn't just about hockey: it was also a travel narrative, taking the viewers to the United Arab Emirates, Romania and Mongolia; and at the same time, the film broached the subjects of culture, politics and identity. Despite the subtext, it was still a nice light ending to the evening.

I know you're not really here to read about the movies, though. You want the gossip. Well... I'm not going to name any names, but there is a certain local filmmaker who challenged a certain local film enthusiast to see who will gain more notches in her belt, as it were, this weekend. There may be a cat-fight brewing, but in the meantime: Gentlemen, if any lady asks you to step up to the plate and help her win this throw-down, you know what to do.

XOXO, Film Girl.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Welcome to the DCISFF Blog

At the end of my first summer in Dawson, I swore I would never again live in a place with such a small library: I would simply waste away if I strayed too far from the millions of volumes of a well-stocked university library. Fast-forward five years, and after spending two more summers in Dawson, I stayed for the winter and learned an important lesson about quality over quantity. This "city" might not offer quite the same level of variety enjoyed elsewhere; what Dawson offers instead is an unparalleled opportunity for people to participate, instead of merely forming the audience. I may have been to a few film festivals elsewhere, but only in Dawson was I able to help make a film festival happen.

Selections for the Dawson City International Short Film Festival are community based. Rather than having an elite hand-picked jury choosing the films, everyone in town is welcome to attend the selection screenings and to weigh-in on the films submitted. Each person gives each film a score out of thirty: a possible ten points for production value, ten points for creativity and another ten for how engaging the film is. There is also a point-blank yes or no: should the film be accepted into the festival? There’s a safety valve, too, and films that are clearly not suitable for the festival can be voted off if half the selection committee agrees. It’s a process that brings the best of the submitted films to Dan’s attention, making his job as festival producer a little easier. It also injects some of Dawson’s unique character into the festival.

I attended almost every single selection screening this winter, only missing a few when I was away on vacation. I’m a rather exacting critic, and during the screenings I tried to keep my eye on the prize--choosing the absolute best films for the festival. I rarely hesitated to begin voting off a film if I didn’t think it should make the cut, and gained something of a reputation for the readiness with which I called out “One!”

I was also a member of the festival planning committee. This was a somewhat less exciting committee to be on, as all the fun film watching was replaced with things like debating the meaning of “ex-officio” and approving meeting minutes. All worthwhile, of course--the gears hidden behind the clock-face, and all that. Meg and Gord did a great job sourcing out festival swag, and I think that apron versus scarf will be the great debate of the weekend (easily solved by just getting both, of course). Our best committee meeting was the last one, when we convened at Peggy’s to rename the martinis in honour of the festival’s special guests. Alcohol consumption and hilarity ensued, and the morning after I wasn’t sure if I should be embarrassed or proud of my contributions to the discussion.

I loved the process of the screenings--the wine Dan provided and the good company of my fellow screeners certainly contributed to this--and with the festival only a couple of days away, I can hardly wait to see the end result. Sometimes going out to the movies can be such an individual experience: people sit, cocooned in the dark, not talking and only watching. But this weekend at the Dawson Film Fest, I’m going to be more than a spectator. I’ll be part of a community, surrounded by all the volunteers, filmmakers and Dawsonites who make this festival possible, and who make this crazy town a city like no other.

I hope this sense of community will spill over into the blog. Bill Kendrick and Jessica Viens will be blogging over the weekend, keeping us all updated on the screenings, socializing and salacious gossip. I hope that you, dear readers, will contribute as well: you are cordially invited to participate in the blog, too, by leaving comments on the posts. Just remember to set your martini down on a flat surface first: you’ll need both hands to type.