Allow me to introduce you to three experimental filmmakers who aren’t pretentious: Aaron Manczyk, Efehan Elbi, and Zak Tatham are the modest founding and current members of Family Contact, a film collective based in Toronto. All graduates of OCAD’s Integrated Media program, they possess a perfect combination of creativity, and talent in all aspects of design, animation and editing.
At a deep-frying party hosted at the home of two of the members, I attempted to interview them for this very article. Perhaps I should have picked a different day or venue, because trying to interview these boys was like trying to get single tickets to a TIFF screening”“ nearly impossible. But something tells me that holding the interview on another day would not have made a difference.
Hanging out with these guys is a non-stop barrel of laughs emanating from a series of conversational tangents. It’s hard to imagine that they could ever be productive, but they are serious about their work and getting their names out there. After failing to get any information out of them to write this article with, the guys gave me permission to have free reign, telling me to write whatever I wanted. Unfortunately for them and for you readers, I am not as witty as they are.
One of their shorts”“an animation entitled, The Gunslingers , which follows animated versions of Zak and Aaron who dream of being heroes ““ was shown at the shown at The Beverly Hills Shorts Fest, and another (live-action) film, Close Encounters ““ where we watch Zak trying to give advice to himself”“ was screened at the Images Festival. They were recently commissioned to create a short film for the Toronto After Dark Film Festival’s fifth year anniversary. Their first feature film, My Awesome Movie , premiered at Cinecycle last summer.
While they all add something to the group, they don’t particularly like to quantify themselves, preferring to remain fluid in their roles. When asked to give one word to describe their collective, Elbi suggested, “together.” When asked why they work in Toronto, Elbi enthusiastically answered, “I like Toronto! Everyone I know is here. Let’s go to L.A.! I like Paris! I think as long as we’re together and have an Internet connection, we’ll always find a way to create awesome stuff that is barely seen.” See, they really are modest!
Whether you like their stuff or not, you can’t deny that it is cleverly quirky and effortless in its humour. It’s out there and random without being too bizarre, since they often make films about everyday events such as eating, cutting hair or just hanging out with friends. Frequently they don’t edit out all of the “bad” takes, and they use voice over to break the fourth wall, letting the audience go behind the scenes of their productions. Filmmaking isn’t their only talent; they also add their own soundtracks to their work. With craftily titled songs such as, “Number One Shorty” and ” Who Spilled That on My Shirt” ““ a side-splitting tune about having a drink spilled on oneself while out at a club wearing a Family Contact shirt, which results in a lack of attention from women”“ how could you not be entertained? The t-shirts made infamous by the song are available on their website along with compilation DVDs and their feature film. My personal favourite T-shirt is the one baring six holes, which emulate abs.
The site (familycontact.ca) has been up and running for over three years now, and they’ve been working together for at least four, although they weren’t even sure how long it had been when I asked. I guess it just feels like it’s been forever. And I’d believe it. They have the kind of chemistry with one another you would only see amongst super couples like Brad and Angelina. What makes them better than all the other filmmakers out there? Their originality and their willingness to stay up to date with the latest camera and editing trends (Zak just bought a nifty 3D camera for 20 bucks!) They all maintain stress free attitudes and don’t take themselves too seriously. When technical difficulties stalled a screening of their feature film last year, they handled it with ease and humour until they got the film up and running.
Their latest project, an online series entitled, Friends Living Together will contain “at least 12 episodes and have 4 premiere venues [TBA] near the end of September,” so keep frequenting their website for updates.
When asked about their future, Elbi joked, “We’ll have a sweet anthology of comics that no one will read until right before we die, giving us last minute vindication.” But I predict that they’ll get noticed way sooner than that.