Alumni Filmmakers Show Off Their Most Memorable Work at Off the Grid

The extracurricular film school project celebrated 10 years last month

Christine Beyleveldt // Editor-in-Chief

During the summer months, the state of the art film equipment used by Capilano University Motion Picture Arts (MOPA) students goes in for servicing and the Nat and Flora Bosa Centre stands dormant. Wishing to make use of the idle days and available equipment, Chair of the MOPA program, Michael Thoma, began an extracurricular activity that would turn into Off the Grid.

Off the Grid is a summer project, and as alumni filmmaker Pat Suveg can attest, for many students their first taste of pitching. Students are required to sell their scripts, and Thoma only chooses the best. The lucky students receive access to the equipment for eight days, and have the rest of the summer to edit and produce their short film, which shows in the Fall semester.

2018 marks 10 years of Off the Grid, and to celebrate the success of this decade-long venture, Thoma invited back alumni filmmakers to share some of their more popular short projects. Among the alumni who aired their films at the Oct. 16 screening in the Bosa Theatre were Chris Beaubien and Pat Suveg.

Beaubien, a recent graduate of the program, showed his short film Socket, which has screened at a dozen film festivals since its premiere at Off the Grid in 2016. At the GenreBlast Film Festival in Virginia, it was nominated for the Best Overall Short award, and it was also shown at the Sick ‘n’ Wrong Film Festival in Florida.

“I take very awkward or very painful periods in my life and try to give it some meaning by turning it into art,” said Beaubien. Socket is a psychological horror film about a doctor who takes revenge on a patient who blithely dismisses her attempts at photography as amateurish.

Currently, Beaubien is wrapping up production on his fourth-year project, a short film called Siren, which he has submitted to Sundance and the Seattle International Film Festival. “A modern-day Grimm fairytale” in his own words, Siren bounced around inside his head for four years until he finally had the opportunity to produce it. “The idea occurred to me when I got pulled over for speeding by a cop one winter night,” he said of the film, which was also inspired partly by Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. “That movie made a real impression on me. I was thinking about making something along that vein, and I began to imagine this nightmare scenario where two women get pulled over by a cop and essentially their whole world evaporates around them,” he said.

Suveg, who graduated from MOPA in 2016, is currently working “normal hours” at his alma mater. After graduating, he did a camera trainee program and took up work on rotating film sets, including a stint on the set of The Descendants, a spinoff series about the descendants of famous Disney villains. “A lot of people don’t understand or realize until they’re in the industry how much of its own lifestyle it is,” he said. On set he’d work up to 15 hours a day. At the beginning of the Fall semester, he began as a studio technician preparing equipment for MOPA students. “It’s a very welcome change of pace,” he said.

Suveg’s Off the Grid film Red Danube aired on Oct. 16. He made the film three years ago and considers it the best of the three short films he made for Off the Grid while he was a student.

Red Danube follows a young woman in Budapest in 1944 that wakes to find her neighbours’ apartment ransacked. Their children are hiding in the upturned flat and their parents are missing. In an attempt to help the children, she gets caught up in the tide of deportations and executions.

“My parents were immigrants and I just have a love for history,” Suveg said. Those two factors keep him returning to Hungary in his films time after time. “When you think of things like World War Two everyone knows what happened in the west, but the east is more muddled.”

“One of the most successful [filmmakers] coming back is Gigi Saul Guerrero, who was responsible for El Gigante,” said Beaubien. “She scored a deal with Warner Brothers. That gives me as well as a number of our peers some incentive,” he laughed. El Gigante is a short film adapted from Shane McKenzie’s novel, Muerte Con Carne about a Mexican wrestler.  Also shown on Oct. 16 were films The Bus Stop by Kama Sood, Ennui by Cole Beaulne and Return To Sender by Malibu Taetz.

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