Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Burnaby Arts Council to launch film festival in 2010

One of several benefits I enjoy is the fact that I live and work in Burnaby, B.C., the community which, in July 2009, was designated "The best-managed city in Canada". Those kudos came from MACLEANS, the Canadian news magazine which also ranks our universities. (If interested, you can read "Canada's Best-Run Cities" here.) Even though our population density continues to climb, Burnaby also enjoys the distinction of having more jobs than it does residents. It is a fact that many of the major film studios and software design firms operate from Burnaby, but use Vancouver as their postal address. We often tip our hat to the "Vancouver" Brand, but must continue to forge our own identity.

One cultural event we have sorely lacked in Burnaby, is a festival which could showcase the talents of our emerging filmmakers, those who may not be ready to compete on a national level. Recognizing their need, one of the city's busiest cultural organisations - the Burnaby Arts Council (B.A.C.), has decided to sponsor a film festival which we will launch in April - May, 2010. The details... specific dates, application requirements, sponsor information and more, will be available soon.


I first met Brian Daniel, the B.A.C. President, two months ago. We swapped ideas, he sold me a membership, and before long he had me enlisted for a project he had been working on. It was easy to agree on the fact we must do more to encourage students and other emerging filmmakers. We will start small, but our goal is a festival for the younger talent in the Lower Mainland - high school, post secondary students and the newly graduated, who want exposure for their best film work to date.

I was given the green light to begin the planning and promotion, and my first act was to meet yesterday with Burnaby Mayor, Derek Corrigan and discuss the festival. He was very enthusiastic and it's encouraging to know that we can count on city to play a supportive role. I am seeking volunteers to assist with the processing the submissions, and a myriad of other tasks as they arise. We believe our festival will be a good fit for the James Cowan Theatre at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, which is neighbor to the B.A.C. offices in Deer Lake. Press releases will go out soon.
Derek Corrigan, Mayor of Burnaby, receives his copy of the film OAKALLA. The mayor had a long association with the prison and was interviewed for the documentary. [Philip Jack photo]

Friday, October 16, 2009


"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." So said C.N. Parkinson in 1955, but having just observed something rather extraordinary, I can attest that in the world of student independent film making, the reverse is often equally true. "Work compresses to fit a madly optimistic shooting schedule." From October 12 - 18, 2009 an enthusiastic film crew assembled at Simon Fraser University prepared to work their tails off. They were joined by a troupe of talented actors who collaborated on the production of IMMINENT CONTACT, a science fiction script written and directed by my son, Philip Jack.

Philip Jack directs IMMINENT CONTACT at the SFU studio. This view looks forward over the shoulder of an OMNI trooper at the flight crew of the drop-ship. [a Cedric Yu photo]

My role was logistical - the picking up and delivery of loads of building materials, props, costumes, and assorted consumables. I must admit that on the Monday I delivered the first load of wood frames and paint to the set at S.F.U. I was a tad dismayed. An abandoned set, comprising an entire apartment with bedrooms and furniture filled the studio from wall to wall, and it had to be cleared by the crew before IMMINENT CONTACT even had a floor to work on. And yet it WAS cleared quickly and efficiently so that construction could begin on the large drop-ship, a simple yet effective design which Philip had laboured over for months.

Student filmmaker Cedric Yu rigged an overhead camera to shoot a time-lapse film in HD, capturing the last stage of demolition and then two days of construction of the large drop-ship set. Yu's film makes for four minutes of fun viewing, and is posted on the IMMINENT CONTACT Facebook page, along with dozens of photos of the cast and the film crew.The cast of the movie includes actors Kate Crutchlow and Sam Spear as drop-ship flight crew, with DENYC, Steven Stiller, Donovan Cerninara and Sebastian Bertoli as OMNI's.

Four OMNI troopers featured in the movie IMMINENT CONTACT. They are Gunnery Sgt. Avery (Donovan Cerminara), Petty Officer Shepard (Sebastian Bertolli), Commander Grey (Steven Stiller), and Master C.P.O. Kurita (Denyc).
[a Cedric Yu photo]

Donovan Cerminara plays Gunnery Sgt. Avery in IMMINENT CONTACT.

OAKALLA to get its first screening. Yeah!
I got word today that my documentary short OAKALLA was selected for the Black Box Film Series which is running at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby. Oakalla will get its first screening on Monday, October 19th at 7 PM, and I am grateful for the opportunity as it contributes to the momentum for the feature length version THE GHOSTS OF OAKALLA, which I am currently researching and writing, and which needs to secure financial backing.

The Black Box Film Series is run in partnership with the Film Circuit, a division of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). My ten minute DOC will precede the feature HEAVEN ON EARTH (2008) made by acclaimed director Deepa Mehta.

Post Screening : It was startling to view OAKALLA, which had been edited on a MAC, projected onto a full size theatre screen. Geraldine Parent gave the film a spirited introduction and I was gratified by the interest. I answered nearly a dozen questions from the audience before remembering to yield the floor to Mehta's feature film.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Ghosts of Oakalla and our Heroes in Kandahar

Gas masks for horses? Too surreal, and yet very real. The old OAKALLA PRISON was also HQ of the mounted troop of the B.C. Provincial Police between WW1 and WW2. The BCPP equestrian troop did practice for crowd and riot control, [I've hefted one of their 4 foot leather truncheons] but did not have teargas hoods for their mounts.

The ghosts of Oakalla are alive and still waiting to be caught on camera. When I began the OAKALLA Doc project I understood its potential, but could not guess so much worthwhile material would emerge or that scores of fascinating people would call me with great stories. After many consultations by phone, email or visits, I have chosen more than a dozen candidates for on-camera interviews. Script development is going well and I'm sure that most of what will appear on screen has never been seen or heard by the general public. Where my initial film, OAKALLA, was largely historical in content, the feature will delve into cases and issues which will make some uncomfortable. Several ex-staff who worked at Oakalla Prison have mentioned the "gag" provision of their employment contract, while others don't care. It is clear we have a common need to get these stories out.

OAKALLA : This is the DVD cover printed for distribution of a preview disc. Only a few copies are in circulation and a few were produced for legal deposit in B.C. and Ottawa. I have been offered a first screening at a Burnaby theatre.

Many unique photographs and artifacts have turned up, and generously offered for my use in the feature documentary. They will amaze even those who worked inside Oakalla, because it is a graphic record which is simply not supposed to exist. That it does exist is a credit to the foresight of a few individuals.

TF 3-09 KANDAHAR BOUND - One of the interests around the Jack household is following Canada's war in Afghanistan. Our daughter, Capt. Elizabeth Jack, left this week with the current rotation of troops which is designated TF 3-09. We are very proud of her and we fervently wish all of the brave men and women of the Task Force the best of luck and great success in their work.
To improvise or to modify? Student director Philip Jack has been spreading cash at TOYS R US, the HOME DEPOT and anywhere he can find bits and pieces needed to assemble props needed for his grad-film. He loves making props. (This bullpup is half completed, and will get a longer barrel and target designator.) The script for his Science Fiction story IMMINENT CONTACT is tweaked, the film is cast, and his crew at Simon Fraser University begin shooting later this month.