Run by School of Motion Picture Arts Chair Michael Thoma, Off The Grid gives students and alumni an opportunity to develop films outside of the regular curriculum.
Maria Penaranda // Arts & Culture Editor
Filmmakers from Capilano’s Off The Grid program will present the projects they’ve spent their summer working on this October 3rd at the Bosa theater. Officially called the ‘Advanced Film Projects,’ the program enables students and alumni from any School of Motion Picture Arts (MOPA) program to work closely with professor Michael Thoma in producing and developing a short film.
Off The Grid was started by Thoma after he realized there was a window of time between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of the fall semester where camera and lighting equipment, editing labs, and studio space were being unused. “Many students had ‘passion’ projects that they hoped to make outside the school curriculum,” Thoma recalled. “I also recognized that many worthy student projects did not get made in the spring semester when we do our student film projects.” The program is now in its 11th year.
While there is no set number of projects that get approved, Thoma said typically 3-5 projects get the green light for the program. This year, he received about 15 proposals, approving Isaiah Berra’s “Harry, This is Nora” and Kama Sood’s “Glory Days” for production. The third film, “Sirens”, is a fourth-year project from last year, written and directed by Christopher Beaubien, that was recut and rescored with the help of Off The Grid.
“One of the real things that attracted both Kama and I to Off The Grid was developing a film with Michael Thoma,” Berra said. “Michael collaborates with and mentors you in developing a project’s story, as well as everything else with it— just [the] entire film development.”
“For me, I went through 13 drafts of my script [with Michael],” added Sood. “In my opinion, that’s one of the most rewarding parts of Off The Grid— working with him and getting your script to a higher level.”
Each filmmaker is in charge of producing their own film, which includes sourcing the budget and crew. They have only four days to shoot, using the rest of the summer to edit. CapU provides Off The Grid filmmakers with a rich ground for creative collaborations; crew and cast members are usually sourced from Cap’s MOPA, Costuming, and Performing Arts programs. The Courier got a sneak peak of the films before the screening:
Written & Directed by Kama Sood
“Glory Days” centers on washed-up musician Tommy Young, who, despite wanting to put his rockstar days behind him, must now reconcile with his past upon meeting a mysterious young fan. Kama Sood said he was intrigued by the stories of once-great rockstars who take their power and fame for granted, listing the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line and Bohemian Rhapsody as inspirations. Sood’s uncle, Ashwin Sood (who also served as the executive producer), helped compose the film’s soundtrack. Sood gave his uncle a title for the song, “The Devil’s Got Nothing On Me,” leaving the rest up to him. “I really wanted [the soundtrack] to reflect the nostalgic feel of what it was like back then, where you feel like you have absolutely everything in life, and just think that it could never end,” Sood recalled. The film is expertly shot, with stunning cinematography from MOPA student Emma Djwa, and features phenomenal performances from veteran actor Benjamin Ratner and CapU Performing Arts student Laura Lyall.
Harry, This is Nora
Written & Directed by Isaiah Berra
A film about a couple falling out of love, “Harry, This is Nora” is quaintly bizarre with a slow-burning humour. Harry, a melancholic loner that communicates through his twin-like puppet, finds his relationship with his girlfriend Blue compromised by the space mission he’s supposed to go on at midnight. Isaiah Berra said the film was inspired by the “beautiful lies” of Nora Ephron movies. “Movies like Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally— they’re just too perfect, and those are actually the movies that inspired me an unromantic comedy,” Berra revealed. “I wanted to make a film about, you know, instead of two charming people falling in love, a loner who’s breaking his girlfriend’s heart.” Complete with sock-puppet-sex and a wisecracking, anthropomorphic talking dog, you don’t want to miss this one.
Written & Directed by Christopher Beaubien
Christopher Beaubien’s “Siren” is a visually-gripping art film that centers around an interaction between two women and the police that pull them over. Their identities are absorbed, blurred, and distorted under flashing blue and red lights. The film’s disorienting nature is marked by the ingenious, layered sound design of MOPA alumni Noah Meyer.
The Off The Grid 2019 screening will take place on October 3rd at 6:30pm at the Nat and Flora Bosa Centre for Film and Animation. Tickets are free and can be acquired here.