BC Stories at Whistler Film Festival 2007
The Whistler Film Festival (Nov 29-Dec 2) is a 4-day flurry of films, workshops, parties, and more films. But this year there was an exciting new development on the roster, as three British Columbia filmmakers took part in the inaugural BC Stories short film commissioning program, a joint initiative between the WFF and Telefilm. The program provides training, mentorship and commissions to create short films that represent the spirit of British Columbia and the four Olympic pillars of culture, education, environment and/or sport. I had the opportunity to talk with the filmmakers about their exciting BC Stories projects.
The Replacement: A Film Noir is a film by writer/director Jilena Cori, about a competition between two paper carriers which results in the Vancouver Sun arriving early one morning on Arbutus St. and the subsequent disruption of reality in the neighbourhood. Cori is a UBC and McGill grad who initially pursued a career in journalism but soon found herself studying acting in New York. After returning to Vancouver, Cori began writing scripts for her acting class on a dare. The screenplays garnered interest from production companies and Cori rolled with it, continuing to write and develop characters. A 2 year stint in LA allowed her to attend as many lectures and workshops as she could to develop her screenwriting skills. When she heard about BC Stories, Cori committed herself and was creatively challenged by the desire for a positive, inspiring script that was also unique. She solved this by setting The Replacement in a surreal setting and playing with the power of perception. Andrew Bronstein will produce.
Shanna Dempsey will direct Marilyn Thomas’ Sxwexwetamsh, the story of a young native snowboarder whose hurried state leads to an encounter with the little people, Sxwexwetamsh. Dempsey’s passion for painting led to her fascination with filmmaking, as her canvases never seemed able to contain the bustling narrative constantly emerging in her work. She studied film at the Art Institute of Chicago and Vancouver Film School, and through one of her subsequent projects met Marilyn Thomas, an aboriginal woman whose vision aligned nicely with Dempsey’s. Thomas invited her to direct Sxwexwetamsh for BC Stories and Dempsey was immediately on board, inspired by the weight of the story and the message it conveys in just 5 short pages.
Spirit Within: The Jim Pattison Story is Graem Luis’ project, and focuses on Pattison’s earlier life – first as a small town boy and then on his early days in Vancouver and the start of his business. Luis’ filmmaking career began with his venture into acting, though he soon realized his skills did not reside on stage but behind the camera. He recently participated in the Whistler Stories funding program, and when BC Stories was announced he knew he wanted to be a part of it. The history of Pattison and his supreme resonance in BC drove the script development for Spirit Within, and Luis believes his subject innately embodies many of the Olympic pillars – Pattison’s entrepreneurial success depended on these values. The film will be produced by Kate Green and Angela Heck.
During the festival, the participants met with mentors Scott Smith, Mina Shum and Jonathan Tammuz, and took part in workshops developing their projects and beginning pre-production plans. The next phase will see delivery of final shooting scripts, budget and production plans by February 2008, and if the projects are up to par they will be rewarded cash commissions and services to facilitate production. BC Stories is an ongoing cultural legacy program that aims to hold true to its namesake – provide the means and tools necessary for talented local filmmakers to tell their own BC stories for many years to come.