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Producer to director: Lori Lozinski

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a weekend watching the Food Network’s hit TV series Eat St. So you can understand my excitement when I caught up with former Eat St. producer, Lori Lozinski, who was here at The Banff Centre last week for the Women in the Director’s Chair workshop.

Director Lori Lozinski (right) on the set during Women in the Director's Chair. Photo: Kim Williams.

Lozinski, who refers to herself as a creative producer has been working in the film industry for the past 10 years, and recently was the Producer for the Genie Award-winning film Savage, directed by Lisa Jackson.

As someone who’s worked closely with film directors throughout her career, she’s contributed creatively to the style and concept of each project, which is why she’s become more attracted to directing over the past few years.  “I want to focus on having control of the creative vision,” she says. As she was finishing two intensive weeks on set, I asked her to tell me about one thing that stands out about the WIDC experience.

“WIDC has given me a greater appreciation for working with actors,” she told me. “I didn’t know how intense and hard it was going to be to watch the actors then watch the frame, and then adjust the performance. In WIDC, how I work with actors as a director is more creative and collaborative than anything I’ve ever done.”

Women in the Director’s Chair is an intensive, hands-on, annual workshop created by producer Carol Whiteman and run by the Creative Women Workshops Association. Its focus is on casting, rehearsing, blocking, on-set and post, and working with professional actors, cinematographers, designers, editors, and crews.

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Guest post: Actor Glen Matthews

 

Toronto-based actor Glen Matthews, who's in the acting company for the 2012 Women in the Director's Chair workshop.

It’s now more than a week since I travelled to The Banff Centre and I’m still incapable of catching my breath. You could probably blame the 4,800 foot altitude in Banff (or perhaps my extended absence from the treadmill), but after two weeks of breathlessness, only one explanation remains: I think I’m in love…

It was a month ago when I received word that I had been selected to join the 2012 Women in the Director’s Chair Acting Ensemble. Talking to many of my peers in Halifax who, in the past, had participated in various programs at The Banff Centre, it didn’t take me long to get excited about my inclusion in the ensemble.

Since starting the workshop two Sundays ago (on the 15th), there wasn’t much time to stop and smell the proverbial roses; every day was jam-packed with exhilarating, exhausting challenges that kept us on our toes.

Early in week one, we had a day of auditioning (I literally mean a full day: I auditioned six times), after which the ensemble was assigned to work with their directors on the Main Scenes where the majority of our collective efforts were to be placed. I was chosen by directors Celia McBride and Sara McIntyre  to help bring their fantastic scripts to life.

We also worked on Guerilla Scenes. We were given scripts that intentionally had very little to no set-up and back story, in an attempt throw us off our game and get our filmmaking-feet wet before launching into the Main Scenes.

Glen Matthews in director Sara McIntyre's scene, called Sixy Fingers. Photo: Don Lee.

The night before shooting the guerillas, WIDC Producer Carol Whiteman gave a speech about protecting the filmmaker’s “freedom to fail” which really stuck with me. The next day, during the Guerilla Shoot I felt inspired to attempt things that I ordinarily wouldn’t try. Small things, but things nonetheless; immeasurable to the naked eye, but [personally] groundbreaking .

After we wrapped up the Main Scenes (which went phenomenally), it seemed as though things were finally slowing down…a bit more bitter than sweet. 

A phrase that’s been said again and again around here has been “It’s about the process not the product”, and you truly feel that. It’s something I’ll certainly try to hold onto as I try to acclimate (see what I did there?) back into the soul-crushing “real world” of show-business.

Thank you everyone in Banff. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with all of you.

Glen Matthews (www.GlenMatthews.ca) is a professional actor, currently based out of Toronto, with roles in HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, THE CORRIDOR, MOBY DICK, ROLLER TOWN and HAVEN. He was recently voted Halifax’s BEST FILM/TV ACTOR by the readers of The Coast Halifax’s Weekly, and nominee for a Robert Merritt Award (Theatre NS) for BEST MALE LEAD PERFORMANCE for his work in 2010′s LOGAN AND I. Watch his demo reel here.

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Adventures in filmmaking: New technology breeds creativity

Keith Partridge

Keith Partridge on location. Photo supplied.

Filmmaker Allie Bombach came to Banff with a trailer about trailers. Her film, 23 Feet, is about people who live in trailers, school buses, and station wagons, adventurous people living on the road in the name of freedom. Bombach drove to Banff in early November from Portland, Oregon, in a converted school bus with some footage of the film. First, though, she needed a plan. 23 Feet needed to find its place in a world where it seems just about anybody can become an adventure filmmaker.

In Banff, Bombach joined 27 others for the 2010 Banff Adventure Filmmakers’ Workshop, held in conjunction with the Centre’s Banff Mountain Festival last November. Under the guidance of renowned adventure filmmakers Keith Partridge and Michael Brown, the group studied the factors that make an adventure film successful, and came to some clear conclusions.

Each participant arrived with a film ready to develop — some with more experience and more footage in the can than others — and focused on mapping out a path from conception, through production, to getting the film to audiences. They discovered that making an adventure film isn’t that hard. The challenge is in making a great film.

Workshop sessions ranged from pitching and editing to narration and funding. Guest speakers covered topics like story-telling and audio postproduction, and participants learned about everything from the right equipment for foul-weather filming to the state of the current market for adventure films.

Partridge says the faculty’s goal was to refine each filmmaker’s idea and to hone unique individual vision, giving them tools for transitioning into professional careers. These days, that means breaking out of the crowded Vimeo and YouTube crowd — and that demands creativity.

“Over the past few years filmmaking has been democratized through technological change,” Partridge says. “On one level, filmmaking is open to all. On another, an enormous ‘can of paint’ has exploded all over the creative masses.”

It wasn’t long ago that creating an adventure film required a team of highly trained specialists, a van or helicopter loaded with very expensive equipment, and months of sacrifice, often-horrendous weather, potential injury, and unpredictable expedition logistics. Those days are mostly gone now.

Now, high-definition cameras fit in the palm of the hand, and laptops have enough power to quickly edit hours of footage on budget-friendly professional-quality software, and because of it, more and more adventurers are filming as they go. They’re plugging into solar power and dialling up satellite modems, posting dispatches to multiple platforms in near-real time.

But the core skills required to make excellent adventure films haven’t changed, Partridge says. And the key is still great storytelling. “The power to communicate through sophisticated imagery and sound can place all that creativity in a minefield of jargon,” he says. Filmmakers need to fight to not become slaves to the “unfathomable menus and fiddly buttons with strange consequences.”

Partridge advises filmmakers to focus on bigger concepts. “It’s all just a case of seeing the ‘big picture’ in your mind before daubing away at the canvas,” he says.

The Banff Centre workshop is timed to coincide with the Banff Mountain Festival to allow participants to not only attend festival screenings, but also to harness the cross-platform talents of the Centre’s Film & Media team, including video editing experts and audio postproduction engineers.

“What you get at Banff is world-class faculty, access to our top-notch production team, and, thanks to the festival, the opportunity to rub shoulders with adventure filmmakers at the top of their game,” says Film & Media executive director Kerry Stauffer. “Similar to our Women in the Director’s Chair program, this workshop offers a full immersion into the filmmaking process.”

Bombach says she found her stride in Banff, in “inspiration so thick you could cut it with a knife.” She gained the confidence to let her creative instincts take her in the right direction for her film. “This made me a lot more comfortable with my style of filming,” she adds.

Now she’s back in Portland, putting the final touches on 23 Feet. The workshop, she says, launched her “on the path of thinking that anything is possible.”

Scholarship support for the Banff Adventure Filmmaker Program is provided by The North Face, Redwood Creek Wines, Big Rock Brewery, Icebreaker Merino Clothing, and Mammut.

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