Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Grand River Film Festival Short Shorts Night

I had the pleasure of attending the Grand River Film Festival Short Shorts Night in Waterloo last Wednesday. This night consisted of nine films that were previously narrowed down from 59 films submitted from Waterloo Region and Canada-wide. This must have been a very difficult task!

The night started with opening remarks from the MC Gayle O'Brien who is the morning host of 107.5 DaveFM and our very own Rebecca Carrigan who is on the Grand River Film Festival (GRFF) board and Co-Chair of the Short Shorts. They introduced the various films that would be screened that night and gave them certificates to recognize their work. Following this, it was now time to watch the Short Shorts.

The shorts were divided into two categories (Canada and Waterloo Region) from which a winner and runner-up were chosen. There were four films in the Canada category and five in the Waterloo Region category. The films in the Canada category were the following: The Salamander by Terrace Azzuolo, The Paintbrush by Troy Fullerton, Manfred and the Waiting Room by Joel Breitman, and finally, La T te Ailleurs by Paul Ruban. The Waterloo Region films were: The Post-Lifers by Greg Kovacs, Volition by Brandon Benoit, The Strange and Eerie Memoirs of Billy Wuthergloom by David Antoniuk, Taken by Tim Clemens and Hooligans by Graham Brunt.

To select the winners, Matt MacKinnon, Melissa Sky, and Ryan Wilson spent many hours collaborating and making the very difficult decision, using their various backgrounds to their advantage. Matt MacKinnon holds a B.A. in Film Studies from the University of Waterloo as well as an M.A. in Film Studies from Carleton University. He is currently working as a Senior Programming Coordinator at Film Circuit, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)'s outreach programming devoted to building cinema markets. Melissa Sky is an award-winning local filmmaker and was featured on OUT TV's reality television series, "Hot Pink Shorts". She currently teaches at OCAD University. Ryan Wilson is the owner of Authority FX, a boutique visual effects studio that began in 2007. He holds a Bachelor of Science and Honours in Biological Engineering from the University of Guelph.

The Kaleidoscope award for the top films at the festival was designed by Heidi Antonia Brannan, and Italian born Canadian sculptor who works with sculpting, stained glass, fabric art, silk printing, drawing and oils to create her projects. As an artist, she does not like restricting herself to the three dimensional world to make art. The Kaleidoscope award at the festival was a sculpture-like project containing stained glass. If one were to lift the award to their face, it would resemble a real Kaleidoscope that can be looked through.


The Salamander won the award for the best Canadian Film at the festival. The storyline was as follows: "Joseph's 8th birthday is on its way, and he found a Salamander to give to his father, that he never sees, in the hopes of building their relationship." This film was filmed very well and told a great story that the audience seemed to relate to. In addition to this, the film had a lot of great symbolism that helped tell the story. Terrance Azzuolo, the director, is currently in his final year of the Degree program in Film Production at the University of British Colombia. This film was written as a story of his life regarding the relationship he had with his father as a child and how his absence made him feel. On his website, he explains that: "having it be a personal story makes it all the more important to me. Not only to tell my story, but to have others connect to the story either as having lived similar things with their parents or not being aware of the importance of both parents in a child's life".

The Paintbrush, directed by Troy Fullerton, was runner-up for the Canadian Finalists. The film tells a story of "a preoccupied teen who engages in a life-changing conflict as he attempts to finish an abstract painting on his bedroom wall". This film also had a lot of symbolism and used an allegory throughout which proved effective. The Paintbrush is Fullerton's directional debut and according to his website is currently "writing his first feature film about a young woman who finds an unpublished memoir in her late mother's attic that recounts an unreported murder, and embarks on a journey to find out who authored it."

Manfred and the Waiting Room, directed by Joel Breitman takes place "in a doctor's waiting room where a frantic Manfred is thrown into a truly bizarre power struggle with a mysterious sociopath". I had a chance to speak with Leonard Mario Zgrabliregarding his role as Hector in the film. He explained that Breitman was a great director who planned many rehearsals, which is less common for a short film. He noted that it "felt freeing to be so comfortable with his character" and recalls that the best part of the shooting was when he got to play around with the role. Zgrabliis currently working on his first feature film that tells a story of crime and punishment. In addition to this, I spoke with Joel Breitman, the director, regarding his thoughts on this festival. He said this was his first time at the festival and found that "it is an awesome festival for the size of this community and the community support is incredible."

La T te Ailleurs by Paul Ruban was the final film in the Canadian category. This short tells a story of "a lonely widow who keeps the spirit of her husband alive by recreating him in the snow of her front yard". Although this film did not have any words spoken, except for a couple in the end, the storyline was still communicated properly and even emitted some chuckles from the audience. This film told a touching story of losing the one you love and are meant to be with for life.


The Post-Lifers by Greg Kovacs won the award for the best Waterloo Short Film of the night. This film was a "hard-hitting mockumentary that chronicles a group of zombies during a worldwide infestation." The audience trembled with laughter as they watched a new light being shed on the world of zombies. During an interview on Vimeo, Darren Hutchings, a producer for the short, explains that the making of this short took over a year. Making the face casts for the actors, and the planning took the most time. This paid off in the end as the shoot went very smoothly. They ended up having to edit out ten minutes worth of footage because the film was too long.

Volition by Brandon Benoit was runner-up for the Waterloo Finalists. During the film, "a terrorist boards a train with the intent to commit an act of violence against the recently established totalitarian state. While on board, he experiences the world through a different perspective-a young boy named Jacob." When speaking with Benoit, he explained that while writing the film, he was unsure how to end it and after much pondering, decided ending it with suspense would be most effective. This proved true, as the audience was able to imagine, everyone having their own ideas, as to what would have happened if the camera kept rolling.

The Strange and Eerie Memoirs of Billy Wuthergloom by David Antoniuk won the people's choice award for the night. The audience was charmed with its storyline. It "is a humorous coming of age story chronicling a boy's journey through adolescence. Tortured by childhood monsters, Billy enlists the help of outcast Hirskill Fishmascher. Billy's attempts at a normal childhood are constantly interrupted by supernatural forces. Billy Wuthergloom is a spooky and heartwarming take of what happens when you turn out the lights." After the showing, I had the opportunity of speaking with Antoniuk regarding his opinion on the festival. He said that "[he] was very proud to be among some excellent films coming out of the Waterloo Region."

Taken by Tim Clemens tells a story of "Jason, a working class man, who is devastated by the news his wife, a successful model, has just given him. A humble and gentle man, he is pushed to the breaking point. With no laws to protect the one he loves, he must now take matters into his own hands and avenge the innocent. A twist of fate ultimately leads us to ask the question, 'who has the right to take a life?'" This moving film made the audience think about their personal response to that question.

Hooligans by Graham Brunt told a story of "two mischievous lunatics who are out on a nighttime stroll when they come across a quaint old house and decide to make it their new home. Letting themselves in through the back door, the young men help themselves to household amenities and begin to settle down. However, their fun comes to an abrupt end when the owner of the house is made aware of their presence." This fun film reminded me of an older-style film with quirky characters and a funny storyline. The audience laughed as the film rolled on, ending too soon.

After the films, guest speaker: Magali Simard, a Film Programs Manager at TIFF Bell Lightbox, spoke regarding the film industry. She gave us great information on the industry, what one can expect upon entering the industry as well as a look into her career with TIFF. She explained that "[She] watches films for a living", a job many people would probably enjoy. She finished by congratulating all on their spectacular films and wishing them good luck in their future endeavours.

During the networking party, I was able to get Rebecca Carrigan's thoughts on the night. Rebecca said that she thinks the night was fantastic and that everything went very well and smoothly. She explained that everyone seemed pleased and impressed with the talent coming out of Waterloo region. Her personal favourite was The Post-Lifers by Greg Kovacs.

Overall, the Short Shorts Night of the Grand River Film Festival was a great night full of amazing films and talent. If this year you were unable to attend the festival, it is definitely a must-see next year. This was my first year at the festival and I thoroughly enjoyed the films, as well as meeting with various individuals in the industry. Thanks Rebecca for inviting me. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening.
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