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!

No comments: