Martine Blue’s ‘Me2′ competing in the CBC’s Short Film Face Off

    Posted on: Friday, July 17th, 2015

Short films.

Before moving to Newfoundland I had seen a number of short films, but not nearly as many as I have seen since I landed on the rock three years ago. I made a few, mostly awful, short films for high school projects, and studied a few, mostly awful, short films in a few of my undergraduate courses. My first real look at Canadian short film came out of a philosophy of cinema course, where my professor was deeply disappointed that none of us had seen Neighbours by Norman McLaren, especially since it is available for free on the NFB website, as are many other really amazing Canadian films. Even after the twenty minute talking to I got as a nineteen year old on why it is important to care about Canadian short films, it didn’t really stick until Newfoundland showed me how necessary they are.

Here in town, festivals like the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF), The Nickel Independent Film Festival and the Granite Planet International Film Festival all program short films made by local, national and international filmmakers. Not only did coming here allow me to see local short films in theatres, it gave me access to the filmmakers making them. My haphazard, dumb luck landed me exactly where I needed to be, working with the SJIWFF assisting a film education program. I was making short films with real filmmakers. I very quickly saw how this province, particularly its film community, cultivates creativity.

I watched every film in the 2013 SJIWFF program. Some of them twice. A few three or four times. Over the course of a few months short films were my life. I had favourites. I had criteria for those favourites.

I knew more Newfoundland filmmakers’ names than I did actual Newfoundlanders. The first Nickel screening I ever attended I felt the way you do when you recognize people from your friends’ Facebook photos, except I recognized these people’s stories. That person made that, and they are sitting right there, I would think to myself, I’d love to talk to that person about their film. Then I would.

One of the first local short films I was lucky to see at the SJIWFF in 2013 was Martine Blue’s Me2. Since then this NIFCO Picture Start film has had a very successful life. Me2 has screened at all of the local festivals, as well as the Atlantic Film Festival, the LA Comedy Festival, and the Williamsburg International Film Festival, just to name a few.

Now Canadians, many like myself who have never really watched short films, will be able to see Me2 from the comfort of their own homes. This short comedy has been selected as part of the 2015 CBC Short Film Face Off! The SJIWFF said, “We’d love for you to talk to Martine about her film.” So I did.

Martine CBC

SJIWFF: Your film, Me2, has been an official selection at a number of film festivals, including the 24th SJIWFF. For anyone who has yet to see Me2, can you please sum up the film in your own words.

MB: A novelist gets herself cloned so that she can spend more time with her family.  The problem is that the fun loving clone is a better writer and the family likes her better!

SJIWFF: What was your inspiration for writing this story?

MB: I don’t have any kids so I wondered what it would be like if I did have kids and resented them.  Then I thought of a solution – get a clone!

Me2 Martine Blue

Phil Churchill, Susan Kent and another Susan Kent in Martine Blue’s ‘Me2′

SJIWFF: Your website describes your early career as a ‘do-it-yourself’ filmmaker. Me2 was made with NIFCO’s Picture Start Program, stars big names like Sue Kent, Phil Churchill and Cathy Jones, and uses some cool special effects. Did working with such a large team and budget change the way you thought about making films? If so, how?

MB: Yes it has totally changed my approach.  I now put a lot of time and thought into the art direction, the sound design and the film’s tone, what I want the film to look like, sound like, how I want the audience to feel after watching it.  I have also discovered the huge importance of a story editor.  What is my film actually saying to people?  A great story editor adds depth and layers to a script and asks hard questions that make the writer dig deeper.  Also now as a director I break a script down and do a thorough a detailed script analysis on characters intentions, their spines, their subtext, etc before I go into auditions, rehearsals and the shoot.

As a DIY filmmaker, I was basically a one woman crew, so I was more concerned with getting all the technical aspects right, the sound, lighting, camera work etc.  I also fed all the actors myself, so I would be running around sticking a frozen lasagna into the oven between takes.  My approach back then was to write a cool script, shoot and edit it, funded out of pocket, within a few months.  I’m super glad I started out that way though, as it gave me a technical awareness that is really helpful now.

SJIWFF: Me2 is competing against eight other films in the CBC Short Film Face Off this fall. How did you get involved with this competition, how does it work, and how do people vote?

MB: I submitted Me2 to the regional jury, then it went on to a national CBC jury.  The show is taped in 4 episodes.  For the first 3 episodes, the show’s jury discuss and rate 3 films each show.  Then the top 3 films from the 3 shows go on to compete in the last show.  The whole country can then vote on those films to choose a winner when the show airs in September.

SJIWFF: Did you get to be involved in the taping of the episode your film will appear on? What was that experience like?

MB: The way the show operates is that the judges tell you what works and what doesn’t work for them about your film, while cameras tape your reactions.  The audience also gets to share their thoughts on your film.  I never mind criticism of my work and really appreciate all feedback, positive and negative, as my goal as a filmmaker is to constantly improve.  It’s a whole new level to get this kind of feedback in such a public way, in front of an audience, with cameras rolling.   That part was a bit daunting, especially as I am just now starting to get over a fear of public speaking.  I embraced the challenge though because I am now entering the world of making a feature, and I realize that feedback is part of the process.  I might as well get comfortable with hearing folks’ real opinions about my work, and start working on learning how to not take it personally. You can tune it to see how well I handle it when the show airs in September.

The whole experience of being on the show, working with all the terrific folks who put the show together and getting to hang out with incredible filmmakers from all over the country, as well as the wise judges, was really, really incredible and many thanks to CBC for choosing Me2 to be a part of it!

SJIWFF: What projects are next for you, Martine?

MB: I am in preproduction with a short fantasy drama called The Perfect Family as well as a feature film, a gritty drama titled Hunting Pignut (generously supported by Telefilm and the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation)Both go into production this fall and I will edit both over the fall and winter.  It’s a busy and very exciting year!

SJIWFF: Thank you so much, Martine! Good luck in the competition.


Last year, Newfoundland’s Ruth Lawrence entered the competition with her short film Talus and Scree. To get a taste of how the CBC Short Film Face Off works, you can watch the episode Ruth appeared on last year.

Tune into the CBC this Fall to see Me2 and don’t forget to vote!

Matthew Stenback can make an app for that

    Posted on: Friday, March 13th, 2015

One of the perks of being a Canadian millennial is that I don’t have to work too hard to understand coding. The language translates fairly easily when you grow up digital, and I have been able to build on the small amount of html I taught myself when I was in elementary school. This was an absolute necessity, as I needed a way to best express my specially cultivated pre-teen, punk-rock, suburban angst. Where I am from the go-to online journaling sites were Livejournal, Xanga and Asian Avenue (please see “About the Author” photo to understand just how hilarious that profile was… I’m fairly certain my user name was BubbleHoneyPuff or something just as ridiculous). I am not sure what young Newfoundlanders used in the mid-nineties, but I am fairly certain there were versions of this type of basic coding being written in online diaries across Canada.

Now, I can parse out a WordPress problem, but I am always floored by people who can envision great things and build them from scratch. Matthew Stenback (MS), the founder of Brownie Points, is a self-taught programmer who uses these tools to creatively improve the world around him.

Matthew is giving his first workshop this weekend as part of the Scene and Heard Film Industry Conference. He’ll be at NIFCO tomorrow morning at 10am to teach us all about the basics of mobile app development. Matthew took the time to answer a few questions for us about his career, mobile apps and the workshop tomorrow.

Matthew Stenbeck

SJIWFF: Tell us a bit about yourself.

MS: I’m a self-taught programmer and designer. I founded Brownie Points and co-founded Common Ground coworking. I love all things entrepreneurship and product development. I’d rather be the guy in the background making stuff, than the one in the front talking about it.

SJIWFF: Where did you get the idea for Brownie Points?

MS: I got the idea in University when I was shopping downtown one weekend. The downtown area just felt like it’s own community and I thought there might be an interesting way to tie all the stores together. I also noticed that hardly any of the stores had a points system or any sort of modern marketing tools. The way my mind works, I’m always puzzling out how things could be better, so naturally I started to dig into that problem. Brownie Points was my way of connecting independent businesses, and modernizing their marketing tools at the same time.

SJIWFF: How did you develop the skill set to bring the vision for Brownie Points to life?

MS: I got really interested in video game development during University so I started programming in my spare time. The skills I learned while developing my game translated pretty easily over to other platforms and programming languages. I’m self taught, but I don’t really feel at a disadvantage because of that. In fact I’d say that most CS students probably learn more outside the classroom with their side projects anyway :)

SJIWFF: In your own words, why is app development important for artists/organizations/businesses?

MS: In my opinion, learning the process of app development is useful for almost anyone. Without the knowing what’s involved in making an app, it might seem too complex, too expensive, or unrealistic for a given organization or project. But the reality is, most mobile apps are fairly simple to make. Once you understand the process, you can make much more informed decisions about whether or not it’s right for your business, project, or event.

SJIWFF: What is your favourite mobile app?

MS: Instapaper. It’s focused, useful, well designed, and it’s not trying to be all things to all people. It does one thing, and does it really well.

SJIWFF: What are you most excited to cover in your workshop this Saturday?

MS: Well it’s my first time delivering a talk/session/workshop, so I’m pretty excited just to be doing it! But in terms of a topic that I’m most excited about covering, I always love talking about managing the scope of a project, keeping the purpose focused, avoiding feature creep, that type of thing!

Tickets are still available at the LSPU Hall Box Office for Matthew’s workshop.
See you all there!

Telling Interactive Stories with Jen Moss

    Posted on: Wednesday, March 11th, 2015


I had the pleasure of meeting Jen Moss (JM), Interactive Producer, in October when she joined us here in St. John’s for the [Interactive] Film Industry Forum. At the time she was still working with the NFB/Interactive, a platform for Canadian digital projects (documentary, experimental, narrative), and gave a presentation alongside Kat Baulu, one of the NFB’s creative producers.

Since her last visit, which was filled with laughter, excellent twitter exchanges and much dancing, Jen is now working as an independent producer, working on projects with Al Jazeera and Simon Fraser University. We had to bring her back!

Jen will be here on Saturday March 14 at 2PM for a workshop at NIFCO on Interactive Storytelling, part of Scene and Heard 2015. Jen took the time to answer a few questions about her career and her recent projects. I can’t wait to hear more about what she has been up to and about Al Jazeera’s Life On Hold, which launches the day after her presentation!

SJIWFF: How did you get involved in interactive producing? Is this always what you wanted to do?

JM: Ha! That’s funny. I did not even really know what ‘interactive producing’ was, nor that I wanted to do it, until I was well into my 30’s. I was not one of those goal-oriented people who I admire so much. I studied playwrighting and other forms of Creative Writing at the University of BC. That is where I developed my interest in storytelling. I was then hired at the CBC in Vancouver and sort of organically evolved into a radio producer there, working on some of their flagship national programs. When Loc Dao of the National Film Board’s Digital Studio was expanding his team, he hired me because he was looking for someone with experience producing for a national audience, who also had some concrete skills such as writing & audio editing. I had a great deal to learn on the fly about the interactive form when I went to work at the NFB. I’m still learning, and I still consider interactive producing to be something of a black art. But I have come to view interactive work as one of the most exciting frontiers of the creative sphere, and really enjoy the way it brings all manner of creative and technical people together.

SJIWFF: You are an Interactive Producer. In your own words, what is the difference between interactive media, transmedia and multi-media? Is there one?

JM: These terms are all related & overlapping. Multi-media is the umbrella term, and just means there are several forms of media involved in a project. It would not necessarily require those things to be related by theme or to be interactive. Transmedia is a bit of a trickier definition, but to me it’s when a multi-pronged or multi-media project is related by theme, and occurs over different platforms (e.g.: film, tv, web), but is not necessarily interactive. Interactive projects have a more pronounced role for the audience to play, and tend to be more immersive in aim. Audience (or user) choices determine the path they will follow through the story, and through the various platforms (web, tablet, phone, social media) that the story may pop up on. Some thought is given to the mechanism of interactivity, and how it relates to the actual theme of the story being told.

SJIWFF: Your work at with the NFB often explored documentary subjects through interactive platforms. What are the elements you need to consider when planning for an interactive doc? Are there benefits to using this platform over traditional documentary filmmaking?

JM: Who is your audience, and where is your audience? What platforms are they consuming media on, and when? What are the parts of the story that suggest action? Can that action be translated into a form of interactivity with the audience? Eg: in Bear 71 there is a theme of surveillance in the wilderness, so part of the interactive mechanism of this project is to have the user turn on their web cam, & become part of a “surveillance wall.” The benefits of the form are that you have a whole new creative role to consider, and its fun to do so. The audience becomes almost like another character in your story. Plus of course there are the general benefits of the internet – larger audience, accessibility, etc. So if you have a social justice doc that is hugely important: eyeballs on your material. Plus I think this form speaks to a generation who grew up playing videogames, and now expects their entertainment to be interactive.

SJIWFF: You’re working with Al Jazeera on a new interactive project that is soon to be launched. Can you tell us a bit about that project? Does working with a news broadcaster change the process for interactive projects?

JM: That is a great project – not quite launched yet – that deals with a the huge problem of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. 1/4 of that country’s population now consists of refugees from Syria. So how to humanize that issue and make people care, while still getting across the scale of the problem was the challenge of that piece. And yes – working with a news organization is different. Their online audiences tend to be less used to the interactive form, and are more used to reading than watching. So this is something you consider when you look at, say, the balance of copy & video in a project, and the complexity of the interactive approach.

SJIWFF: Do you see a wider application for interactive platforms in journalism?

JM: Absolutely. You can make people feel like they were there, and you can do this in a timely manner. You can bring in social media to incorporate real time evolution of a story. You can talk to your audience as a story is breaking. You can let people explore what might happen if one choice is made, versus another choice. You can help people see & feel the stories in a whole new way that is immersive. You can help people see their own role in a story, and the impact of their choices. In our media-engulfed world it is another tool to help make people care.

Meet Jen Moss this weekend at Scene and Heard. To purchase a ticket for Interactive Storytelling, visit the LSPU Hall Box Office.

Got an interactive story idea? Jen Moss is offering private consultations for interactive projects on Sunday March 15. To register for those, email before March 12, by 5pm.

    Posted on: Friday, October 17th, 2014

Hey all,

Very excited to share with you that the screening for Fed Up will be starting at 4:00pm today at the LSPU Hall! Real soon!

This documentary takes on the effects of the sugar industry on obesity levels across the United States. I, personally, am pumped! Find out more here, and hurry!

SJIWFF: Friday Lunch Time Documentary “Web Junkie”

    Posted on: Friday, October 17th, 2014

This is not The Fog of War. Collateral damage here is familial. No one is speaking, with decades of hindsight, straight into the camera. This is not a miniseries about The Civil War or Jazz. There are no talking heads. There is no historical footage. There is no presentation of statistical analysis. There is no precedent. There is no commentary at all.

I need a hug. I need to give a hug. I need everyone to hug everyone just for a minute, while I recover from watching Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam’s singular documentation of a few months inside one of China’s internet addiction camps. I say “documentation” because “documentary” has certain ingrained associations. In this film, the work these women have done is unimaginably large but also unseeable. They worked to gain complete access to an enclosed treatment facility in (what is to them) a foreign country. This is not about them.

The world they show is so foreign, on so many levels that any commentary would have been wrong or cheap, or too narrow. Instead we are given the space to watch intimate scenes between lost and angry teenage boys and their lost and angry parents. Space to sort through which of our reactions are reactionary prejudice to this culture and this treatment, to the very idea that Internet addiction requires treatment, or that bootcamp is a valid treatment. The same space that these families and their society are being afforded (though in stark, metallic, semi-crowded and peeling spaces) in these treatment centres as they also begin to question how they have always regarded and treated each other.

Like most addictions, the roots of suffering in these families is not the drug (or World of Warcraft in this case), it is depression, anxiety, physical and mental abuse, lack of communication, lack of connection. It is acute loneliness. Through the web of judgements and discomfort and hairy questions raised by the setting and the subject matter, the absolute honesty of the parents and their sons in a series of group therapy sessions burns, like lit cigarette ash on polyester, an expanding circle of painful empathy.

The fathers admit, in even tones, to the abuse and fear they have meted out. To the mistakes they have made and the mistaken beliefs they have blindly adhered to. Then they cry, in front of everyone, sometimes silently, sometimes with loud sobs wrenched from inside them as the other parents keep passive faces but put hands on shoulders and hand pass tissues.

The boys’ admissions are equally grave. One dares his father to kill him and threatens to beat his father to death in one breath. One explains simply that he is not connecting to a computer when he goes online, he is talking to another person, someone just as lonely as he is, sitting in front of their computer.

Just as there is no commentary or judgement offered by the filmmakers, there is no conclusion. This is happening right now. There is not yet an outcome on which to reflect. The closest to closure we are allowed is a scene where the parents and the sons are all urged to hug. The arms of boys and dads are shown squeezing each other in desperate, visceral love. We are left with a long shot of one of the boys we have followed leaving the centre with his father. We watch them argue as they walk away from the barracks over who will carry the heaviest piece of baggage.

This movie is why I come to this film festival.