Issue: June 2015 - Behind the Scenes

Cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson on the impact of technology in film

Musician-turned-cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson began his film career at the cusp of the digital revolution. Davidson has a long career in film, with his latest credits being from the Canadian indie feature Berkshire County and the short film The Last Halloween. Having trained at the Detroit Film Center, the Canadian Screen Training Centre in Ottawa, and Sheridan College in Okaville, in 2004 Davidson found himself working in an industry that was beginning to fully embrace digital technology. Advances in camera systems and increased image resolution quickly made digital video a viable medium for professionals, but also gave rise to the film vs. digital debate that remains a heated topic to this day. Davidson well understands the divide between the two disciplines, but recognizes the pros and cons and importance of having both film and digital technologies in moviemaking. His work on feature films and series have given him exposure to both mediums, and while he has a great love for 35mm film, he has shot the bulk of his recent projects on industry standard digital cameras. The last film Davidson shot on film was in 2010, the winner of the Best Film at the 2010 TIFF Student Showcase, entitled Teen Getaway. “Film is tried and true, with predictable results based on your chosen film stock and method in which you process it,” Davidson explains. “Discussions between director, cinematographer and...

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The 2015 Screenwriter Mentor Experience: interview with Geneviève Appleton and Navin Ramaswaran

Conceived by Geneviève Appleton, a director, editor, and producer with White Wave Productions, and sponsored by the founder of Aspiring Canadian Writers Contests (ACWC) Heidi Stock, the 2015 Screenwriter Mentor Experience takes submissions of short film screenplays of up to 10 pages from across Canada. Appleton, who is also the contest’s main judge, will create a short list from the entries from which the top three will be selected by a panel of judges which currently include Appleton along with Maureen Dorey, a freelance story editor and screenwriting professor and Elise Cousineau, the Head of Development and Production Executive at Sienna Films. The grand prize winner will receive online script editing sessions with Appleton as well as a mentoring session on how to take a script from the page to the screen with Navin Ramaswaran, an independent director/editor. “There aren’t a lot of opportunities out there really for novice or unproduced screenwriters to submit their works. It’s very rare at all that a producer or any other agency will read unsolicited scripts, especially in Canada. Everybody is just so busy trying to get the work in their own portfolios made that they don’t really have time to be wading through piles of scripts that may or may not be professional. I’m hoping to bridge that gap and introduce screenwriters to the types of incubator programs that exist and make sure that...

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Media Impact: Lindsay Ragone on process and importance of editing

Of all the artists who come together to create a film, an editor is arguably the most important. Screenwriters and directors create the feel and tone of the film, set decorators and costume departments create the look, and cinematographers capture all of it; but an editor, an editor is responsible for crafting the final product. They sift through hours of footage, find the best takes, the tiny perfect moments in performance that make a film truly memorable. To some this might be the most boring job in all of film, but to others it is their passion and their life’s work. One such person is local freelance editor Lindsay Ragone. Ragone began her career around 2000 as a production manager, post supervisor, and assistant editor for a number of documentaries (including biographies of Robert Munsch, Lesley Gore and the Barenaked Ladies). By 2003, Ragone had gone out on her own as a freelance editor, with much of her work focusing on lifestyle TV programs such as Holmes on Homes, documentary series such as Sex & Religion, and reality series such as Dinner Party Wars. According to Ragone, she wanted to be a film editor before she even knew what an editor was. “Movies have always been my passion, and once I outgrew my adolescent dreams of being a broadway musical star, filmmaking was really the only career I ever considered. As a child/teenager,...

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Creative collaboration: Sarah Goodman, Maya Bankovic, Laura Barrett and Jose Miguel Contreras of Porch Stories

Sarah Goodman was looking for a project to break into the feature film industry from documentary. She “wanted to get the transition underway as quickly as possible, so [she] picked a project that was small in scale.” Walking on her street one day, Goodman came across a photograph “plastered to a telephone pole on Argile St.” from around 1912. “The street looked virtually the same except there was a horse drawn carriage, but the houses looked the same. It was uncanny how similar the street looked. And I just thought: how many stories have happened on these porches over all these years?” This thought led to the creation of Porch Stories, a film that weaves together three main stories with little interstitial moments of the passersby on the street. Many of these “little snippets of conversations as people walk by are almost verbatim things” that Goodman heard from her porch and other public places like parks and cafes. The rest “are improvised with friends [she] had come and walk by.” Balancing multiple coherent narratives with all these little moments proved to be quite challenging. “There’s defiantly a lot of acrobatic editing work to make the [interstitial moments] fit. It’s not like it’s a fast paced film, but you still do need to keep up a pace. There was always sort of a fear of things getting too slowed down...

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Food for thought: filmmaker Erik Anjou discusses Deli Man

A recurring theme that Erik Anjou uses in his documentaries is the exploration of what it means to be Jewish in the contemporary world. The directors previous films include The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground (2010), 8:Ivy League Football and America (2008) and A Cantor’s Tale (2005). With his latest documentary, Deli Man, hitting theatres on Friday, June 19, 2015, Anjou sat down to speak about the film, and it’s no surprise that Caplansky’s Delicatessen was the location for our interview. The genesis for Deli Man began when Anjou met David “Ziggy” Gruber, who is the central subject in the documentary. “He is trying to do with food what I was trying to do with culture,” says Anjou about Ziggy. “Trying to find an answer for himself and also trying to run a successful business.” Another element that inspired Anjou to make the film was a staggering statistic by writer David Sax in his book “Save the Deli,” which states how there used to be thousands of kosher Jewish delicatessens in New York City alone and now there are only about 150 in all of North America. “What happened to this tradition?  What happened to this food group?  Why is it disappearing? What does that mean about Jewish culture?  All of these things kind of lead to me to making the film.” About 30 to 35 individuals were interviewed for Deli Man, ranging from deli owner/operators, restaurant brokers,...

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Drawing from emotion: Pixar story artist Domee Shi on Inside Out

If you don’t already have your tickets for the latest Pixar film, Inside Out, you better get in line right away. The film is their best offering, and one of the most creative as well, and is sure to be a huge hit when it releases on June 19, 2015. The process from concept to finished product is a long one, and it features the work of a very talented group of individuals, many of whom we won’t realize played such a large role in production. Domee Shi is one of those unsung heroes. A graduate of Sheridan College in Oakville in 2011, Shi quickly moved on to working with Pixar. She took part in a three month internship and was hired on just after that, moving to Oakland and beginning work as a story artist. She’s currently working on Toy Story 4, but we’ll be able to see some of her work – sort of – when Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur are released this year. Shi explained her work as a story artist when I spoke to her over the phone, and the reasons why we don’t necessarily see a lot of her work in the finished product. “I basically take the script and I draw out a rough version of what you would see on screen with the characters, the acting, the dialogue, the camera staging....

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Home movies: interview with The Wolfpack director Crystal Moselle

As film fans, we tend to spend a good portion of our free time sitting down in a theatre, or in front of our televisions, to watch the latest releases or our favourite films. The Angulo family takes this to the extreme though. Living in New York City, the six Angulo brothers have spent most of their lives watching, memorizing, and recreating the films they love. In fact, it’s almost the only thing they had for their young lives. The brothers were homeschooled by their mother, and weren’t encouraged to go outside at all, sometimes only leaving the house once a year. Without any sort of social interaction outside of their own family, and with no access to any outdoor activities, the brothers began obsessively consuming film. They weren’t just watching casually though. After watching the films again and again, the brothers began to recreate the films in their home, recording their own versions of famous films like Reservoir Dogs or Halloween. With minimal supplies like duct tape and cardboard, they also create their own costumes and props that would rival the big budget versions. Director Crystal Moselle explored the story of the Angulo brothers in her film The Wolfpack, and it’s a story that even she wasn’t fully aware of first. Toronto Film Scene had a chance to speak with Moselle about her documentary and her relationship with...

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