A ‘reel’ challenge

Frank Gale
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Students go back to the future shooting with real film

The College of North Atlantic’s Film and Video Production program is one the very few colleges in Canada to go "back to the future" in teaching students how to shoot a movie on real film rather than digital.

Students spent time last week at the Dhoon Lodge in Black Duck Siding shooting their film in one of the cabin units. The décor fit in with the time period — the students wanted something that hadn’t been redecorated since The Gulf War.

David Downton, one of the students of the program, is the writer and director of the short film, entitled “Unfit.”

He said it’s about a traumatized war veteran who turns on western society and feels the need to get revenge on the Canadian government and the military.

“This man has a misanthropic take on modern society,” said Downton of his main character.

“He’s a soldier that feels he’s been made obsolete by all this new technology, including drones.”

Downton feels the sacrifices he made were not appreciated by the new generation of “spoiled kids.”

The five-minute film had a crew of 24 and features two actors — Esther Oosterbaan, playing the wife, and Ace Flynn who plays the captain. In the film, the wife is the voice of reason to the injured captain’s cynical nature.

Downton said the film would be screened as part of the finale for this group, which will be graduating this year from the program. The screening is expected to take place in the last week of April, along with all the best works done by the students during their time in the program.

Downton’s been writing this since July and said he was proud of the work his peers are doing on the film.

“We’re here working on 16 mm film, which is completely new to us since we’re used to digital,” he said. “Everything has to be rehearsed 10 times more as with film you have to get it just right.”

He said every shot and every bit of light has to be strictly controlled.

“This is a step out of everyone’s comfort zone, but it’s a wicked learning experience.”

Downton had concerns with what’s happening with the closure of Veteran’s Affairs offices, and while the story he wrote is more of a historical perspective than a social commentary, he still wanted to create discussions about veterans and services to them.

Peter Buckle, the program’s instructor, said shooting on film is quite a deviation from high-definition video.

“It’s a real learning curve for the students to have this experience of working with real film before they leave the program,” he said.

The film workshops are now done once a year, so Buckle said the first year students will experience two before they finish the program. He said the students get real hands-on experience since they take on all the roles in the making of a film.

Now the challenge is out to see how well the students do using real film.

“Basically, it’s the artwork of film, painting the picture through motion,” Buckle said.

He said it’s important the students get to know how films were traditionally shot and, perhaps more importantly, it’s preparing them for the rise of another "golden age" of television, which is also rediscovering film.



Organizations: College of North Atlantic

Geographic location: Canada

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