Do you ever use that Google thing? Stupid question. Of course you do. Let me be specific. Do you ever click on that Google Doodle? The banner image they change to commemorate something you never heard of before. I do… sometimes.
Last week the image was of an Indian gentleman gazing at a strip of film. It intrigued me because I was familiar with the scene. Back in the old days – 2007 – my son and I toured the old Simon Fraser University film school. SFU is a grand concrete wonder but the film school was housed in wooden portables. Forlorn hallway couches testified to a decade of late-night editing sessions. We liked the vibe. Then our guide opened one door. A disconsolate woman was sitting on the floor surrounded by 16mm film strips. She held one in front of her face. The Steenbeck machine, used to cut the film, loomed overhead as she searched for that one shot to make the next moment in her masterpiece. No little film cassettes or digital here.
At the time, the school insisted that first year students use film. It taught you to understand lighting, being frugal with your camera shots, and decisive in your editing. Now, in the digital age, you really have to understand how to use your software. No matter the medium though film is a collaborative art. You need other people with a range of skills, ideas, and energy that owe you favours. A lot of favours. But where do you go to learn film in Nelson once you move beyond the playing with a camera in the backyard phase?
Here in Nelson we’re fortunate that Amy Bohigan’s Watershed Productions has offered director’s chair film camps at Selkirk College for 8-18 year olds every July since 2007. Watershed stresses that camp participants work as a crew to develop technical and creative skills with an emphasis on collaboration and leadership skills but I know how much fun they have learning those skills.
LV Rogers and Mt. Sentinel schools have also incorporated film into media arts and drama programs or offered courses focused on film. Teachers there have challenged students to enter PSA (public service announcement) competitions and have travelled to regional and provincial skills competitions that cover everything from welding to film making. Some passionate students have even convinced parents to take them to one week Art Institute programs in Burnaby.
Festivals then bring everyone together to celebrate and enjoy their accomplishment. The Rossland Mountain Film Fest has always had an event devoted to youth film and last week The Civic was proud to host the touring Reel Youth Film Fest. It featured short films by youth from seven countries and from the Kootenays. In the organizers words, a “showcase for the diversity of a new generation of filmmakers.” Equally important it brought like-minded young artists together.
Then, as the Civic Theatre Society works to help build the local screen based industry and Nelson attracts more accomplished filmmakers I suspect we’ll see even more training opportunities and festivals.
Oh but once again I got off topic. Google Doodles. The gentleman with the film strip was Dadasaheb Phalke. I asked our family film aficionado if he knew the name and he texted back “Classic Indian filmmaker!” I’ve never seen any of his stuff but I want to.” Phalke, fascinated by a silent film he’d seen in 1910 traveled to London to learn the craft and in 1913 he created India’s first silent film Raja Harishchandra. He went on to create 95 more films. So there ya go.
On the topic of classic directors, Monday the 14th offers a last chance to take in one of the Ingmar Bergman films we’ve been showing to celebrate his 100th birthday: The Silence from 1963. Check out the Civic website for more info. And for what it’s worth Bergman bought his first Magic Lantern projector when he was nine and wrote and helped direct his first film at age 26.
Brian May is a Nelson Civic Theatre Society Board member