Stephanie Limage: Breaking the Norms of Filmmaking

WIFTV member, Stephanie Limage is redefining traditional filmmaking as we know it.

Steph is a filmmaker, musician, social entrepreneur, and Canadian delegate for the G20 Young Entrepreneur Association with the confidence and vision to impact change around the world through her art. She once relocated her entire life to Haiti for 5 years for a project. She has trained and educated film units in foreign countries to be ready to shoot at any given moment of crisis. She has mentored underprivileged people to use the power of film and documentation to change their own lives and get them out of poverty. Steph fully invests her time, attention, and energy to her art and to the people she works with. Her films are more than just entertainment, they are social impact projects that address and change social problems around the world.

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Steph at the G20

I met Steph for the first time at a coffee shop in Vancouver. She wore a black brimmed hat and a black top. But she beamed light and energy and rarely broke eye contact as she led me through story after story of her adventurous career.

Steph founded her production company, Limage Media Group, in 2008 in Vancouver BC. She is originally from Manitoba and currently resides in British Columbia, but her travels do not stop there. Limage Media Group has successfully set up a variety of media literacy programs in Canada, Haiti and Argentina to help assist marginalized and underrepresented individuals.

Steph’s first taste of humanitarian aid was through making art with the residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). During the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Steph received a small grant. With the money, she bought canvases and paints and invited passersby to make art with her. Steph saw the moment as an opportunity to help others. She explains, “Why not create an event that benefits all parties and gets the artist outside of narcissism to make them think outside of self and inside the community. Treat a social problem through art.” Through her work in the DTES, Steph created the foundation and template by which she would move through every subsequent project of hers. “What I found is that when you have a community in unity, you have progressive social change that is enacted,” explains Steph.

At 26 years old, Steph uprooted her life and moved to Haiti for a project, which ultimately became her film Voices of Haiti. There, she helped communities get access to clean and potable water, helped musicians and artists produce work, and covered the presidential elections at the time. During the 8-year long project, she took time to teach people how to use the camera equipment and how to tell their story through the medium of film. “I wanted to put the power and control of the narrative into their hands,” Steph says. By reproducing herself in the people who surround her, Steph allows the story to be told by the communities it directly affects.

Through their training, Steph hired these filmmakers to work as content creators for her company. In this way, Limage Media Group can activate these teams abroad in the event of a humanitarian crisis or social unrest, rather than Steph flying a crew down. The rest of the year, these employees are kept busy with other projects so they can remain on the payroll, allowing them to build a life and a career for themselves. “I am essentially an investor,” Steph explains, “like microfinance in a different capacity. There’s nothing out there like it, and they know that.”

These groups of trained individuals became the content creators for Steph’s new channel, Ghetto News International. Ghetto News has been a dream of Steph’s for several years. Through the channel, Steph gives the power of media and storytelling to those at the margins of society. She believes in investing in human capital and having trained workers who can work on different projects in various locations.

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Terri and Steph in Buenos Aires

In 2018, Steph set up her most recent division of Ghetto News in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Terri, a young Argentinean woman, covers women’s issues and the women’s rights movement in Latin America, with a focus on inner city Buenos Aires. Terri is a single mom and is passionate about social justice. With Steph’s mentorship, Terri will create and produce monthly episodes for Ghetto News, while showing viewers how they can better support the women’s movement in Latin America.

Through Ghetto News, Terri’s life has changed. “She is able to have a predictable pay check, to see her family, provide food security for her child, and pay into a retirement plan,” explains Steph. “That’s huge.”

With Haiti and Argentina already underway, Steph looks to broaden her horizons for Ghetto News. Ultimately, she will have 1,000 employees stationed all around the world, just like Terri in Buenos Aires or Patrice in Port au Prince. In this way, Ghetto News can remain real, raw, and authentic, just like the people who are covering it.

As a filmmaker, Steph has always let her heart lead her through the story. She urges young filmmakers to prioritize doing the same. “Don’t worry about the money; worry about the narrative, worry about the story, and just go for it,” Steph encourages.

Written by Zoe Arthur. Zoe Arthur is a filmmaker living in Vancouver, BC. Her films tell stories of social justice and expose the need for change for communities at the margins of society. 

If you are interested in supporting Steph’s work, Limage Media Group needs equipment. If you or your organization is retiring equipment, Steph is taking donations so that she can grow Ghetto News around the world. You can contact Steph through her website: https://www.limagemedia.com/

 

 

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Beyond the Dark Side with Gada Jane

Genre film has, for a long time, been a mode of storytelling perfect for communicating both the personal and the social. A horror film and a western can both be analyzed in terms of cultural milieu, or they can be seen as indicative of a filmmaker’s mood—or some combination of both. Thus, genre film is a valuable tool for understanding human experience, whether or not you enjoy gore, ghosts, or fantastic creatures. Each genre has its own complex set of images, character-types, styles, and techniques which, when used skillfully, pay clever homage to earlier films and push the boundaries of what film can say or do to an audience in the future. Genre films are an integral part of the larger cinematic conversation, whether they speak in the language of sci-fi, thriller, fantasy, western, or horror.

Thus, it is important to keep the door open to new and emerging genre filmmakers. In doing so, the creative conversation maintains its richness and its innovative streak. The From Our Dark Side Incubator Program is designed to prop open the door and let fresh ideas in. As a program meant especially for the development of women’s genre projects, it provides space for “the rebirth of genre” as a diverse medium. To quote the program’s webpage: “From Our Dark Side sees limitless possibilities in genre for women storytellers [and is] designed to provide [filmmakers] with a better understanding of the market, the fans, and the kinds of stories that will connect and kick some genre ass.”

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Gada Jane

Testifying to the success of the program is former participant Gada Jane, a filmmaker and new-media creator from Kitchener, Ontario, who took part in 2016. She found out about the program through a friend on Facebook, and was soon in Vancouver, BC amongst a group of talented and enthusiastic filmmakers and storytellers, all with a passion for genre. She then had the opportunity to network, collaborate, and build lasting professional and creative relationships, both during the 2016 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival and afterwards. Most notably, the program participants travelled to Montréal that year, where the Frontières Co-Production Market took place as part of the city’s Fantasia International Film Festival. While there, Jane and fellow From Our Dark Side participants further connected with professionals in the genre community. When asked about experience, Jane highlighted its value as a networking platform: “Going to Frontières was a big thing for me, because I’ve kept in touch with a lot of the people who I met that first year. Even now, I’m in [Tallinn, Estonia], and I’m supposed to meet someone who I met at Frontières, to talk about various projects, and we might actually do some work together soon. That [connection is] coming directly out of Frontières, and From Our Dark Side.”

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Gada Jane pitching thier web series at Storytek demo day. Photo by Laura Oks (@photosbylauraoks)

Not only did the experience strengthen Jane’s professional connections, it changed the way she thought about networking as a process of collaboration. In her words, “people often think [they] should network because it’s good to network and I should find the person who can do this thing for me, but I feel like what networking actually enables you to do is find the people [who] are aligned with what you want to do [and] also help you understand how to shape what you want to do so it works with the industry… you have to find the points of intersection.” Jane says she uses these learned skills all the time, and in various fields of work. She works in new media research at the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute, and told me about how useful her knowledge of the film festival environment has been within the scope of her career. In fact, her department sent her to the Cannes Film Festival, two years in a row, in order to connect with new partners and extend her network. Her creative projects have directly benefitted from her From Our Dark Side experience as well; she was asked to take her latest project, a web series titled “La Boheme,” to an accelerator program in Estonia. Making connections, she says, “is a much more personal process… it’s about finding teams that I want to work with in the long term, and developing relationships.”

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Gada Jane and her business partner Victoria Buchy at Storytek in Tallinn

When asked to impart any advice to new From Our Dark Side program members, Jane had this to say: “It’s really valuable to use to program to figure out what you actually want to do. You get access to all these different people and conversations, [but] that becomes most useful when you can check it against what you actually care about, what you actually want to accomplish. I think we often get caught up focusing on one side or the other—[either] shutting out the outside, or absorbing it and adjusting until you lose track of why you started in the first place. I think if you can constantly be checking between the two, you’re going to find yourself in a much stronger position.”

-Written by Sarah Bakke

To check out Gada Jane on Instagram, click here. To find out more about her web series and other creative endeavours, go to: @thevelveticons or www.gadajane.com

WIFTV presented From Our Dark Side genre concept contest, in partnership with Creative BC, Super Channel, Telefilm Canada and Telus. For more information on From Our Dark Side, click here

Sarah Bakke interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager.

 

From Idea to Screenplay, How Tricksters & Writers Helped Jessie Anthony’s Upcoming Feature Film, “Brother I Cry”

Jessie Anthony, a Proud Haudenosaunee woman from the Onondaga nation and member of Beaver Clan from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ontario, participated in the Tricksters and Writers Program under unique circumstances—she already had a project underway, funding secured, and deadlines to meet. Though the program is only in its first iteration, and thus is still in stages of development for both participants and organizers, Anthony knew that you only get out what you put in; her intention was to take the structure of the Tricksters and Writers program and apply it directly to her process of brainstorming, story editing, and character development.

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“I took advantage of being in a room full of Indigenous women, sharing my story, and hearing other stories,” Anthony says. “That’s the best way to learn—observation. I felt like I was held accountable for my progress and my process.”

Her latest project, titled Brother, I Cry, tells of two siblings connected by strong spiritual ties, who are both experiencing the inter-generational trauma of residential schools. “It’s commenting on family dynamics post-residential school, and how we enable our addicts,” Anthony explains. Production on Brother, I Cry just recently wrapped, and Anthony credits her experience in the program as a positive influence during the earlier stages of filmmaking. “One of my biggest [goals] was learning how to let go of the characters; how to not micromanage the characters and [instead] just write them and let them live,” she says. Being in a room with Indigenous women of various backgrounds and experience levels, as well as collaborating with other industry professionals, helped Anthony reach this goal. “I felt supported while I was brainstorming and organizing those thoughts,” she further explains. “To write a first draft and feel the encouragement and support of people who understood the journey [is] amazing!”

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Understanding the journey, in this case, means not only witnessing individual growth within the Tricksters and Writers program itself but also knowing what it means to have an Indigenous story to tell. The women involved in the program all identify as Indigenous but come from a multitude of territories, backgrounds, and experiences. “Everybody has a different story, but their bloodline is connected,” Anthony says. She describes a sense of inimitable community and sisterhood within her group of fellow screenwriters and cites their shared Indigeneity as a major source of this connection. “We hold space for the introduction of each individual woman, where they come from, who their family is, but we don’t have to explain reasons or histories,” she states. “There’s already this knowing. I think that’s what really sets [the program] apart, and we take care of each other.” Folks who don’t identify as Indigenous may take for granted the assumption that when they walk into a room and tell their story, others will have a framework of knowledge that helps them understand exactly what the story’s meaning and purpose is. For Indigenous writers, that isn’t always the case. Details of life outside the settler experience are inextricable from the stories told by Indigenous filmmakers, and so working with people who can skip over the minutiae of cultural explanation and jump straight into a richer understanding of a story’s nuance and intent is exceptionally important. A multitude of experience exists within the definitions of Indigeneity, but in the case of the Tricksters and Writers program, this kind of cultural acumen and insight is shared amongst the participants.

“When you move away from your community—as most people who live here have done, especially Indigenous people—you look for that type of community; [in this case] Indigenous female writers who are on the same wavelength for creativity and inspiration, or who are in the same headspace for storytelling. When you step into a space like that, you don’t have to explain yourself. You can just be, and everybody understands the storytelling [style] and the story structure, so we don’ have to spend time on that. We get to just jump right into the work,” Anthony says when asked what the special value of a specifically woman-led Indigenous screenwriting program is. “You really find your community and your support, and [now] I can say, I know where there are 13 other female Indigenous filmmakers who will read my story and will understand the foundation of it.”

WIFTV is launching a Tricksters and Writers Program on Vancouver Island North and is currently accepting applications until Dec 5, 2018. For program info and application, details click here

Tricksters and Writers has been possible through the generous donation from Matrix Production Services as well as support from TELUS, CMPA-BC, Vancity Credit Union and the BC Arts Council. More information on the Tricksters and Writers program can be found here.

To learn more about Jessie Anthony’s filmmaking practice and future projects, go here.

The program

WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship Awarded to Jen Walden

Jennifer Walden has been awarded the WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship for her project Elijah and the Rock Creature. Jennifer Walden is a Yellowknife filmmaker and noted visual artist whose distinctive style explores Canadian and Northern life through people, wildlife and topography. Her unique eye for aesthetic detail and captivating storylines has resulted in three award-winning short films. Jennifer’s first short, Painted Girl, found success as one of nine national finalists in the CBC’s Short Film Face Off competition and her first feature Elijah and the Rock Creature has been developed from a script that was chosen for the IndieCan 20K contest. Elijah and the Rock Creature was shot entirely on location in the Northwest Territories with a northern cast and crew. The film opened the Yellowknife International Film Festival in September 2018 and will be screening at the 2018 Whistler Film Festival.

Upon learning of the news, Jen expressed, “I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in this mentorship. I am passionate about filmmaking, and I’m also passionate about learning. The chance to have one on one sessions with a seasoned professional is a dream come true. With my first feature film screening at this year’s festival, I’m so motivated to keep my career moving forward. I think this mentorship will be the perfect opportunity to help me do that.”

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Jen Walden – 2018 WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Market Preparation Mentee

Jen will receive industry immersion at the Whistler Film Festival, as well as personalized coaching sessions with an experienced producer. This year’s mentor is producer and creative partner at Sepia Films, Tina Pehme. For the last two decades, Tina has developed projects and relationships internationally through her extensive work on US, Canadian and International co-productions. Her background in production allows her to bring a hands-on knowledge of physical production as well as the ability to anticipate production needs in a variety of budget ranges and co-production scenarios. As a partner in Sepia Films, Tina has developed, consulted and produced for both film and television in Canada, the US, India, the United Kingdom, China, South Africa, Ireland, Spain and Argentina.

Special thanks to the WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Mentorship jury which consisted of Christian Bruyere, Producer, Mystic Films Ltd; Nick Kendall, Coordinator and Documentary Instructor, MOPA at Capilano University; Eileen Hoeter, Line Producer and former WiFTI International President; and Dusty Kelly, Secretary & Business Agent Vancouver Musician’s Association and Chair of the selection committee and member of the WIFTV board.

Visit www.womeninfilm.ca  to find out more about WIFTV’s mentorship opportunities!

From Our Dark Side Winner, Sandi Gisbert, Shares Her 3 Tips for attending the Frontières Film Market

Attending the Frontières Co-Production Market is the high point of the From Our Dark Side program. You get to pitch your project, meet cool filmmakers and industry professionals from all over the world, and if you’re lucky you’ll even catch some movies. If Frontières will be your first market, here are some tips on how to make the most the experience.

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Sandi Gisbert Pitching “Opal” at the Created By Women Pitches at #Frontières2018

Before you go: Do your research. Review the program guide and rank your meetings. Everyone attending is listed and you can learn a lot about who they are, what they do and what kind of projects they’re interested in. If they list a website, check that out too. You’ll get something from every meeting, but you’ll get the most interest from companies that are well suited to your project.

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At the market: Pick a hotel close to the venue. The Market runs from 9am to 5pm and you know you’ll be going to the nightly cocktail parties! They are a must: tasty snacks, cold drinks and an opportunity to network in a more relaxed atmosphere. By the end of the evening, you’ll be exhausted so you don’t want to have to commute to a hotel. If you can’t afford the sponsor hotel, try Airbnb. I stayed with two other writers in a little condo a few blocks from the venue and it was a blast! It was like a writer’s sorority. It gave us time to debrief about that day’s meetings and prep for our next ones over cheap noodles at the pho place next door. If you do go Airbnb just make sure there’s AC. Montreal in July is HOT.

After the market: Follow up with everyone you met. Send them an email. Thank them for their time. Remind them of who you are and how cool your project is. But don’t fire off those emails the moment you get home; wait a few days. Everyone will need some time to decompress and catch up on their business affairs. Including you!

Sandi Gisbert

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Submissions for the 5th season of From Our Dark Side are open until October 31st, 2018. Click here for more information on the program, for application guidelines, and to check out the project one sheets of the past winners. To stay up to date on all things Dark Side follow us on Facebook and Twitter

From Our Dark Side Winner, Nicole Steeves, Shares Her Experience at the 2018 Frontières Market

Being chosen as one of the six women to pitch at the Directed by Women Networking and Pitch Session at the Frontières Co-Production Market at Fantasia was an invaluable opportunity.

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Nicole Steeves Pitching “A Method” At the Created By Women Pitch Sessions at

I didn’t quite know what to expect as it was my first film market, and I was blown away by the professionalism and experience of the industry experts with which we met with. I was given great advice and had considerable interest in my project, A Method. I’m looking forward to the feedback I’ll be getting once I send the finished script.

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From Left to Right Maude Michaud, Nicole Steeves, Alison Hepburn, Carleen Kyle, Sandi Gisbert, & Jessica Tremblay

As a woman in the Film and Television industry, I have noticed that often we are put in a “training loop” however this experience felt different. I felt that I was treated as a professional artist with a project that had merit and potential to become a produced piece.

Being part of the From Our Dark Side has been nothing short of inspiring. I got to meet and work alongside some incredibly talented women and share the exciting experience with them. I’ve made new friends and professional contacts. I am excited to move forward with my project and all the better to do so because of the experience.

Nicole Steeves                                                                                                              Writer/Director

A Method

Submissions for the 5th season of From Our Dark Side are open until October 31st, 2018. Click here for more information on the program, for application guidelines, and to check out the project one sheets of the past winners. To stay up to date on all things Dark Side follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Beauty & EQ: WIFTV Members with Films at VQFF 2018 Part Two

The 30th Vancouver Queer Film Festival is officially underway and one of our WIFTV blog writers, Hanna B, recently took a moment to catch up with five WIFTV members with films screening at the festival. 

Beauty, directed by Christina Willings, is a short documentary exploring the lives of five gender-creative kids through their understanding of themselves, the changes they are going through, their thoughts about how others perceived them, their daily challenges, and their hopes and dreams.

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The film not only tells incredible stories of understanding and acceptance, it is also a timely piece that reflects on current issues as we watch the kids talk about dealing with bullies or discussing relationships and gender with their parents. A notion the director was also personally familiar with, “I’ve always kind of felt gender was a bad experiment – the way it can lock us into being caricatures of ourselves,” explained Willings. She then added that having children at the center of the film to relay this message was crucial, “Listening to a child really has the power to make irrelevant concerns fall away, leaving only what’s important behind – their survival, their happiness, their thriving. Love.”

The film features animated details and surreal sequences that bring something magic, almost like a modern fairy tale, where a child gets to be what they want to be – their true self. Through ups and downs, with beautiful and heart-wrenching moments that illustrate how far we’ve come to have kids be able to freely express themselves and be accepted for who they are. Yet, the world is far from perfect and more changes need to happen, as some discussions in the film surrounding “bathroom issues” and parents not wanting their children “playing with gay kids” will remind us. But this is the right time, a time when these changes can happen, and as Willings stressed, “We now have this window of opportunity as things have allowed it and changes in society.”

Regarding the animation, Willings mentioned she was quite thrilled about the creative freedom she had. “Thanks to the National Film Board of Canada’s involvement in the project, I didn’t have to produce it or finance it. I had the luxury of writing and directing only, which was amazing.” While she had the idea of including the drawings from early on, she explained, “I had never worked with animation, so figuring out how to create a parallel ‘narrative’ track was a new avenue from me.” Moreover, she confirmed that the ideas and imagery, from mermaids to astronauts, all came from the children, who either drew them or gave instructions. “I really drew on collaboration with the children for the animation. I had them send me images, and chat with me about [what] they were really into … I also love the idea that the children somehow had to break through to another dimension, where they could create a reality of their choosing and bring it back with them, to change the way things are, and their own experience, here on earth with the rest of us.”

Another striking thing about “Beauty” is how well-spoken all the kids involved are, even the younger ones. Seeing kids managing to pinpoint and articulate their feelings with simple yet meaningful phrases, such as “I have a girl body, but a boy brain,” or “I think there’s more than one gender” (a sentiment that will be echoed through Orene Askew in ‘EQ’ discussed below) or that they wanted to be “reborn as a boy”, is not so common and the director indicated that what these children have gone through has forced them to mature and find words to describe/define themselves. Willings noted, “I began to meet kids who had such a deep knowing about themselves – that something about who they were told they should be just wasn’t right – and they knew it with such clarity, so early, I knew I had to amplify their beautiful voices.”

“Beauty” was shot in 10 days over a period of roughly 2 years as Willings had to gain the trust of each subject to ensure their best unfiltered unpolluted representation. She had to make sure that they were comfortable being who they are and feel safe, but as they were all kids it proved to be a challenge that she willingly took on. “Working with kids, although delightful, was also a challenge, but a good one. I had to be really present and willing to adjust on a dime, kids don’t stand around waiting for you to make your mind up – and when they’ve had enough, they let you know!”

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“Beauty” Director Christina Willings

As Willings reiterated, the idea of “feeling safe” was fundamental for the kids and parents alike. Although the first half of the film surprisingly does not really feature the parents, she included them later on to highlight the importance of showing that “the kids were loved and safe” in their environment. They probably would have not become who they are, so comfortably or openly, if it wasn’t for these amazing parents who decided to trust her with their family-stories. She described this process: “I pulled the threads of a few connections I already had and made some more – I reached out to people within the gender creative community and began to work to establish trust … and they put me through quite the extended family smell test! I loved it actually! I loved all of it – I was thrilled to have deep conversations about trust and exposure with all of the parents. It’s an indispensable part of earning the right to tell anyone’s story in my view – particularly children’s stories, and most especially trans children’s stories.”

As challenging as a project like “Beauty” can be, Christina Willings succeeded in delivering a very touching and informative piece displaying her knowledge and expertise. She has worked in various companies (as a legal editor, doing poetry on the side, working in a health food store, in women’s shelters and Rape Crisis centres) but has been in the film & TV industry for more than 20 years, She has done it “the long way!” learning through experience, starting as a locations PA “like everyone else,” working in nearly every department before settling in set decoration and becoming a senior Union member (Art Direction). She, also started her company with a colleague in 2011 as she realized she “wanted to be closer to the creative process” and went on to write, produce, direct multiple acclaimed films, broadcast documentaries and also factual TV programs for Discovery, History, Slice, HGTV, Discovery ID, Global and OWN.

Willings is now working at TELUS, commissioning and producing original stream of content, but she revealed that she still has a plan for another important and profound project in the vein of “Beauty”: “I’m fully occupied with other peoples’ projects at the moment! However, when I look down the road, after this experience with “Beauty”, using a more drama/doc hybrid style of shooting, I know I’d love to explore that more.”

“Beauty” screens at The Coast is Genderqueer on Friday 17 August 2018 at 5:00 pm
At SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.


EQ”, directed by Anika Syskakis, a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker specializing in social justice and inclusivity, follows local DJ Orene Askew aka DJ O Show.

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The short documentary observes and explores the interesting life and career of the Indigenous-African-Canadian/American multi-hyphenate (DJ, entertainer, entrepreneur, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation council member, and music instructor) as she talks about her work, her identity, her sexuality, and her understanding of the world. As Syskakis explained “This film originally started as a documentary focused on female and gender non-identifying DJs in Vancouver. Orene Askew, better known as DJ O SHOW was one of the subjects of the film. After spending time with her, I realized that her story needed to be told individually.” As the camera follows Askew in her daily activities and through the various interviews, viewers get a sense of the person she is, learn about her path to finding herself and her passion for empowering people like her or encouraging the youth in her community.

While delving into the duality or multitude of her person, her ethnicity, her self-identification as a two-spirit person, the film also addresses questions and issues around representations or lack of diverse representation in the media; especially when it comes to First Nations peoples.

EQ” not only presents us with a portrait of a complex individual but it also manages to put things in perspective with its self-conscious or self-reflexive style, which might be why Syskakis was the right director. She remarked, “Film is such a vehicle for empathy and understanding – it allows the viewer to be part of something, be it a movement or worldview, outside their everyday experience.”

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“EQ” director Anika Syskakis

Being first an Anthropology graduate, Syskakis mentioned that she has “Always been so intrigued by humans and their stories, from our own local communities to worldwide.” She then studied Documentary Film Production as she understood that it was a great way to blend her two passions. “I yearned for a deeper worldwide cultural understanding to build upon my worldly experience … filmmaking would allow me to support the sharing of stories, while promoting human connectedness, with such potential of reach,” Syskakis added.

Now, a seasoned filmmaker described as “Committed to shining light on topics that spark empathy through diverse stories,” Syskakis has work featured on platforms including CBC ARTS, Out in Schools and various festivals before making “EQ” – that she said was not so easy to make: “I made this film with a VERY small budget. This meant that the filming, sound, lighting, and editing were all executed solo. This definitely proved to be a challenge, but it also taught me so much about all sides of the filmmaking process.” – is ready to tackle a new empowering story. “My current project is a documentary film named “Dancing Through”. It is the story of powwow dancer and metis jigger, Madelaine McCallum, and her journey through cancer of the breast.”

“EQ” screen at The Coast is Queer on Friday, August 17 at the York Theatre at 9:00pm.

Hannâ B works in the industry and writes about Films & TV Shows on her blog What2watch2night.com.

Button Out! & Pass The Salt: WIFTV Members with Films at VQFF 2018 Part One

The 30th Vancouver Queer Film Festival is officially underway and one of our WIFTV blog writers, Hanna B, recently took a moment to catch up with five WIFTV members with films screening at the festival. 

Button Out! is a video art project about the power of buttons by Kathleen Mullen, and while this short short-film seems like a fun-to-watch spot in between longer heavier piece, do not be fooled!

Still from Button Out!

Still from Button Out!

The tiny pins and buttons shown above all carry their own stories. While some buttons are a call to action, others are a humorous token. By simply filming them successively on the same jacket, the viewer is invited to imagine whether they were worn in a celebratory manner at marches, or casually sported to let others know who you are and what causes you support, or maybe, they were fearlessly displayed as an act of defiance and bravery during a darker time.

In Button Out, Kathleen Mullen tells a new story about the history of the simple yet effective art of using buttons to make a statement. She explains, “buttons change as our times and issues do, and more than ever we have to be vigilant about fighting for our history and our present-day rights. This is a rallying cry.”

Kathleen, who has contributed to film and art festivals for 20 + years (including Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Inside Out Toronto, Planet in Focus, and VQFF), first got the idea of making this short when she saw the collection of over 1500 buttons at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. She said, “I felt there was a lot of potential to play with the visual appeal of the buttons and their defiant, provocative, and courageous messages.” Furthermore, she was inspired by her “own love of buttons” which she wore them over the years at marches, protests, pride events. “Buttons speak to me in a profound way as they encompass so many experiences that I have had in the queer community since I came out in 1985.”

Kathleen Mullen, Director of Button Out!

(Fun Fact: Kathleen actually own one of the pins shown in the movie! She revealed: “I have the pronoun button that is the last button in the film.”)

As straightforward as it seems, the film did not come without a challenge as the director stated, “I was living in Vancouver and I had to travel to Toronto to shoot the film in the archives so I had to make a lot of logistical arrangements. But really it was organizing all the buttons, and trying to pin them on the red leather jacket without them falling off!”

‘Button Out!’ will be playing at VQFF next week but Kathleen plans to put the film online after “so that people can see this amazing collection.” She also has few things on her plate that we can look forward to, as she concluded “I have a couple of short films to finish and one I have to re-edit. I am working on getting a bit of funding to finish them. And then I am trying to write a feature. At the moment I have returned for a seasonal contract as Festival Programming Director of Twist: Seattle Queer Film Festival.”

Button Out! screens on Sunday, August 12 at International Village at 4:30pm just before Sarah Fodey’s The Fruit Machine


 

Directed, written, and produced by WIFTV members Panta Mosleh & Hayley Gray, Pass The Salt is a lively comedy about two women of different faiths, Jewish and Muslim, trying to find a way to reveal their love—and announce their wedding plan—to their traditional families, all gathered together at a luncheon. Between jokes, arguments, culture clash, and a Pictionary-like game, this animated gathering turns from confrontational to peaceful and friendly as the film tells a story of “love and acceptance.”

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The short uses the familiar soap-like appeal, found in many comedies about lovers from different backgrounds, to its advantage in order to convey its message. As Panta attested, “I always try to wrap an important message with a sweet flavour of comedy. It always makes it easier to swallow the facts that way.” As to the style of the film, she then added, “The feel of the film was influenced by big middle-eastern family dinners that I have been through. The closest thing I could compare it to would be My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the middle eastern version.” Hayley later explained that to give a genuine quality to the piece they “Brought in actors from the Muslim and Jewish communities and worked with community organizations that were able to help us better frame our discussion.”

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Left to Right, Hayley Gray & Panta Mosleh

Hayley, who started as an actor then made her way behind the scenes in production roles, reinforced this idea of authenticity as she shared how Panta was a huge inspiration, drawing from her own life experiences as a source of insight for Pass The Salt. Panta, who has also been in the industry since a very young age, first as an actress on Iranian TV, then working in Japan, and now an established member of the industry here in Canada, revealed, “As a bisexual woman of color myself coming from a family that has one side with a super religious Islamic beliefs and the other side with a more modern non religious conservative side. I knew that a situation would and could arise that I might possibly pick a female as a life partner.” And, as the project began to form in her head, she asserted in her director’s statement, “I thought to myself how would the encounter with both families go and how would I hope for it to turn out, so I explored that idea.” From there she went on to work on the script and processed it for about a year before approaching Hayley to co-direct the film with her.

Although Pass The Salt was not without any challenges when asked about difficulties the directors replied, “This film definitely did have setbacks, we worked on many grants and pitches, none of which moved forward which meant finding the people, the locations, gear, and actors with only ourselves for support.” Hayley and Panta are now, “Working on reimagining Pass the Salt into a series and are excited to see where that leads!”

Pass the Salt screens with EQ at The Coast is Queer on Friday, August 17 at the York Theatre at 9:00pm. 

Hanna B. works in the industry and writes about Films & TV Shows on her blog What2watch2night.com.