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A Slice of Life From the Local Heroes Festival

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire March 25, 1998 at 2:0AM

A Slice of Life From the Local Heroes Festival
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A Slice of Life From the Local Heroes Festival

by Katherine Baulu




The International Local Heroes Festival took place in Edmonton, Alberta from
March 8 -14, 1998. Described as "Sundance... in the beginning", this
distinctly independent festival premieres the six short films it has
supported every year in its Drama Prize Program (an initiative which
allows six filmmaking teams from across Canada to make a short film
financed by the National Screen Institute (NSI)* and supported by industry
patrons). The Drama Prize films notwithstanding, Local Heroes is geared towards
short films, and those selected show in programs called "The Declaration of
Independents" (D of I) in the afternoons. The evenings are reserved for
Global Heroes, screenings dedicated to international independent feature
films of special interest, preceded by a NSI Drama Prize short film.
This year, "Junk Mail" directed by Pal Sletaune, (Norway '97) and
"Kitchen Party" directed by Gary Burns, (Canada '97), were audience
favorites.


For both D of I and Global Heroes, there are always Q&A sessions with
the filmmakers after the pictures have been shown, moderated this year
by Jan Miller (previously Executive Director of the NSI, now producer
for Features First, a script development program) and John Pozer
(director of "The Grocer's Wife", "The Michelle Apartments" and
executive producer & co-picture editor of "Kissed"). Those who have
witnessed how misguided these Q&A sessions can be at times, can
appreciate how fantastic it is to have true filmmakers/aficionados host
them. Ms. Miller and Mr. Pozer had impeccable timing and great questions
to provoke a demure (if not blase) audience.


The mornings were devoted to industry seminars, this year with a
decidedly Canadian edge, with themes ranging from creative financing to
discussing relationships between directors and actors.
During a conversation with Bruce McDonald, hosted by film columnist
Geoff Pevere, co-author of Mondo Canuck: A Canadian Pop Culture Odyssey,
the director of "Highway 61", "Roadkill", and the upcoming Miramax
release "Hard Core Logo", reflected on a successful career and the state
of Canadian independent filmmaking. When asked what it was like
starting out in film in in the 80's, McDonald responded, "I worked at
lots of dumb jobs but my first real film job was working on Lorne
Green's New Wilderness as an assistant editor." But he continued, "At
night we would use all the editing machines and splicing tape to make
our own weird subversion. . .that was a time in Toronto when Lorne Green
was appearing in all these experimental shorts, with stuff shooting out
of his eyes. There were more glamorous jobs but being an assistant
editor was practical because of the couch; I had a place to stay if
things didn't work out at the party or whatever."


Louise Clark, a seasoned freelance film and television producer and two
of Canada's most celebrated independent filmmakers, Bruce Sweeney ("Live
Bait
") and Don McKellar explored the delicate relationship between
director and actors in a panel called "Direct Results". Bruce Sweeney
developed his directorial method, consisting of improvisational rehearsal
processes, with help from a 1991 master class with British director Mike
Leigh. (his new picture is entitled "Dirty"). Don McKellar is one of
Canada's most well-known actors due to roles in such films as "Highway
61" and "Roadkill". He recently created a six-part TV series entitled
"Twich City". When asked how a director can give useful feedback to the
actors between takes, Sweeney answered, "When you're directing a film,
there's the technological aspect of it, there's the camera, movement
etc. When you're actually shooting a film, you don't want to worry
about that. I rehearse in the exact space I am shooting in," he
continued, explaining his technique, "So I already know exactly where
the camera is going to go and I know exactly how I'm going to shoot it,
which is derived from how the actor did it, as opposed to imposing that
technology on the actor." Sweeney said, "I watch what they do, give
them the task, don't tell them how to do it, I tell them their
objective. That's the most important thing, as long as they are on that
objective, then I'm fine."


Festival participants with the most stamina hung out at Expose Your
Shorts, a chat room with beer where veteran Canadian short film producer
and director Gary Yates invited guests to discuss all aspects of
producing shorts. Gill Holland, producer and creator of Cineblast video
compilations offered interesting advice, particularly to keep
shorts short. "If you are aiming to be in competition at Cannes, what
works best are shorts around 1 minute in length," Holland explained.
Amid the groans from the audience he announced that he was currently
producing a 1 minute short, (I guess the doctor takes his own
medicine).


Overall, the festival is vibrant because there is nothing to do in
Edmonton besides visit its celebrated Mall. It is absolutely freezing
outside (-30 c.) and bars close at 2.00 a.m. so festival participants
stay at the festival, congregate, and mingle the entire week.
With about 400 people in attendance for the events, social activities are
casual and the parties are well-attended.


[For more information about the National Screen Institute's programs or
Local Heroes Festival, call 1.800.480.4084.]


[Katherine Baulu is Development Coordinator for Productions La Fete.
She has produced a documentary entitled "Havana Kids" and a short
Drama Prize film called "The Rogers' Cable". Katherine's fund raising
technique for her feature film project is selling transcripts of seminars
-- For more information, call/514.938.3038.]