MOPA grads compete in filmmaking challenge
Three days to film and five days to edit. That’s the challenge that this year’s Crazy8s film contestants had to face.
Crazy8s is one of the most beloved filmmaking competitions in Vancouver. The program supplies up-and-coming filmmakers with the funding and support needed for the production of a short film. There are some caveats, though: your script has to be selected from hundreds of applicants and you only have so much time to translate it to screen.
For Joel Ashton McCarthy, Nach Dudsdeemaytha and Ryan Silva, three graduates of Capilano University’s Motion Picture Arts program (MOPA), the challenge was welcomed with open arms.
The CapU alumni are just a few of the filmmakers part of the six finalist films, with McCarthy and Dudsdeemaytha working on the same movie, I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them (ILYSMIKT), a film that tells the story of an office romance from the perspective of dark and twisted female serial killer, and Silva producing Grocery Store Action Movie, a flick that Silva describes as a cross between 24 and Key and Peele.
Crazy8s provides the opportunity for emerging filmmakers to write, workshop, direct and produce a film with access to a wide range of camera, lighting and grip equipment. The non-profit organization began in 1999 and has produced films that have been screened in over 280 international film festivals.
“We decided to do Crazy 8s because a lot of the stuff we were making was extremely low budget, low stakes stuff that we would shoot in our living rooms, our backyard,” McCarthy explained.
For this challenge however, the stakes were much higher, as each crew was faced with the confines of time.
Each crew was given 12-hour filming sessions per day, within the the three filming days. Unfortunately for the Grocery Store Action Movie crew, one of their days was cut short due to the restrictions at Stong’s Market, one of their filming locations. “We only had full control from 11 pm to 7 am,” Silva said, “But we made it work. The people at Stong’s were absolutely fantastic and we got what we needed.”
The filmmakers’ distinctive styles were also challenged by the format and process they went through while filming. Dudsdeemaytha attested that both he and McCarthy come from an indie background and being able to fit in the scene they wrote within the 12-hour work-day was a test. “We wrote this film and there’s a lot of production value in it and we also had to realize that everything that we do takes time, and you know, time was a luxury on the shoot that we didn’t have much of,” he said.
According to McCarthy, without the support of the Crazy8s platform, production of ILYSMIKT would have cost about $50,000. Furthermore, the cast and crew were able to film inside the Westin Bayshore’s International Suite for free, which would’ve cost $20,000 per day without Crazy8s.
As director and co-writer, McCarthy is involved with much of the heavy lifting for ILYSMIKT. The film is very much a comedy, one that may even push boundaries and create a clear divide among the members of the audience. “Comedy is about a number of things,” he began. “One is about building a certain expectation for the audience and going somewhere completely different.” McCarthy was a part of the first group of students to graduate after the MOPA program was expanded with a bachelor’s degree, and since leaving CapU in 2012, he has made a name for himself in North America’s indie movie scene with acclaimed micro budget films such as Talking Myself to Burning Man and Shooting the Musical, both of which he directed. He cites his style as a kind of dark, dude comedy, one that can either elicit laughter from an audience, or sometimes even shock them. His philosophy very much calls for this division. “You can make audience laugh, cry, you can make them pissed off or offend them… The worst thing you can ever do is bore them,” he said.
Dudsdeemaytha handled the production aspect of I Love You.., but not the budgetary and logistical factors. His co-producers, Keli A. Moore and Marena Dix had those under control while he worked closer with McCarthy. “I work with Joel the most, I kinda know how he works, I know what he needs, what he wants,” Dudsdeemaytha said. The two, along with Charles Chen, are the trio that composes This Is A Spoon Studios, a production company based in New Westminster. “What we do here is a mixture of very different things,” Dudseemaytha said. “We do everything from corporate videos, documentary work, to music videos. Most of the time it’s just the three of us — we keep everything small.”
Although the three are now making a name for themselves in the film industry, they’re not forgetful of the lessons they learned while studying in CapU’s MOPA program. Silva is quick to mention that MOPA’s focus on collaborative work across all departments of a film production resonates with his current work. “I think that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “Every department works with each other, trusting the departments to come together. Without one the whole thing kind of falls all over the place.”
Dudsdeemaytha cites MOPA’s attention to proper industry practices as an essential lesson he learned during his time at CapU, “I’ve done a lot of very bare bones and very guerrilla [style of film making]” he said. “This is a call back to what I learned in school: following a lot of protocol, the proper paper process, the industry way to make a film, which totally took me a lot of time to get used to again.”
As for McCarthy, MOPA offered a space where mistakes are welcome, “I got to practice a lot, making films where I had a whole bunch of resources and not much consequences if the film turned out to be total shit,” he shared. “It’s kinda like being in that bubble of not quite the real world and having all these people that just want to make film and put this together – it’s a pretty magical feeling.”
Crazy8s is considered one of the best platforms for emerging filmmakers in Vancouver. The program offers tools and techniques that any young and innovative mind can use to bring their ideas to fruition. Most importantly, it’s a space where filmmakers not only get to challenge themselves, but also their audience. McCarthy expressed his dismay about how with the current landscape of Canadian cinema, often, “safer” films tend to get the most budget while the more thought-provoking and boundary-pushing ideas are often relegated to the indie genre. “If I’m doing this with a full volunteer crew and we’re doing this where no one’s getting paid and I’m not getting paid then the most insulting thing we can do is to not take any big risks,” he said.
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