Get your film on

    Posted on: Tuesday, February 4th, 2014


St. John’s seems to be exploding with excellent film-related opportunities right now. Here’s Jenn Brown, the mastermind behind the kickass SJIWFF24 Industry Film Forum, and she’s back in the office plotting our Scene & Heard workshops. Stay tuned for big news about those. In the meantime, here’s a quick round-up of what’s on the go right now.


“So Right, So Smart” is an award-winning doc profiling eco-smart companies like Patagonia and Seventh Generation. The film looks at how environmentally sustainable business practices can yield social and financial rewards. David Suzuki makes an appearance. The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival is co-presenting this film on February 5th (tomorrow) at the Hall with the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industries Association, and Cox & Palmer is sponsoring the event. All proceeds will be donated to the St. John’s Farmers’ Market. Show starts at 8pm and tickets are $10 for regular admission and $8 for students and seniors.

On Valentine’s Day, swoon with “Gabrielle,” a film about a young singer who has fallen in love with her choir director. Gabrielle has Williams Syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by intellectual disability, and director Louise Archambault masterfully uses a non-professional cast, many of them with Williams Syndrome, to explore Gabrielle’s relationship with her teacher, as well as her own sense of independence, self and sexuality. The film was Canada’s nod for the Best Foreign Feature Oscar, for which it was shortlisted. The screening starts at 8pm, and tickets are $12 for regular admission or $10 for students and seniors.

This Thursday, February 6th, MUN Cinema is showing Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year. The Cannes Jury gave the award to the director and the two lead actresses, making them the second and third women to ever receive a Palme D’Or (Jane Campion was the first). We’re also looking forward to Wadjda (March 6th), the first film ever made by a Saudi woman. Go, MUN Cinema!


If you’re a member of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, you can vote for the Canadian Screen Awards. To name a few favourites, The Grand Seduction is up for Best Film, and Sherry White is up for Best Writing for her work on Saving Hope. The Telegram lists all of the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians up for CSAs here.

The NLAC has also just announced that they’re extending their nomination deadline for the NLAC Arts Awards. You’ve got until Valentine’s Day to show your favourite NL artist some love.


Colette Johnson-Vosberg, veteran of Global TV, Telefilm Canada, the Canada Media Fund, ZoomerMedia Television, and Vision TV, is heading to NIFCO for a two-day workshop in Business Affairs on March 8th and 9th. She’ll be talking about pitching to broadcasters and distributors; creating budgets and finance plans; rights management; and the fine details of government funds and private funds from sources like Telefilm, Bell Fund, Rogers Fund Group and Shaw. This killer workshop will be co-presented by the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation and St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival for Scene & Heard, our annual celebration of International Women’s Day. For more information or to register, give Laura Churchill ( a shout.

Ladies Learning Code have set up a St. John’s chapter. They’re a women-led non-profit based out of Toronto that offers free or cheap workshops to women, men and children who want to learn stuff like HTML and C++. You can keep up with their workshop news by following them on Facebook.

Other cool stuff

It’s February and the RPM Challenge is on. Normally people record an album of music for the RPM, but you could record an audio doc, too. If it’s 35 minutes long, or if you record 10 short docs, it totally counts. If you’ve got a doc idea that you want to test out, make an RPM radio doc!

And, psst, here’s a little Scene & Heard hint:

Budget boil-down: here’s where the City’s spending its arts dollars in 2014

    Posted on: Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Way back in early December, the City of St. John’s released their 2014 budget and the arts community got some potentially good news: the City seemed to be increasing its arts funding to $8 per capita.

That’d be awesome.

There was a fair bit of confusion in the arts community about the announcement. So Patrick Foran, Artistic Fraud’s General Manager, investigated. He’s the person who put together this petition asking the City to increase its grants to artists and arts organizations from $2 per capita to $4 by 2017.

First, here’s the full quote from the City’s Budget 2014 Steady The Course:

“Council will also honour its prior commitment to increase direct funding to individual artists and arts organizations by a further $25,000 to a total of $203,000. This, combined with investments in the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, Anna Templeton Centre, LSPU Hall, financial assistance to cultural festivals and events and the acquisition of art for the civic art collection, among other programming, increases our total annual support to approximately $800,000 or $8 per capita.”

That first part — the direct funding to individual artists and arts organizations — is their annual grants to artists and arts organizations program. When Sheilagh O’Leary was a councillor at large, she got the City to increase those grants from $1 per capita to $2 over a two-year period. Engine Productions logged that announcement on their website here.

Thanks for that, Sheilagh O’Leary! Again, Patrick’s petition asked for that $2 per capita to go up to $4 in the next four years. There are good arguments for why that should happen (it’d put us on par with other Canadian cities our size, for example) on the petition site.

That leaves $597,000. This is the breakdown the City sent, quoted directly from their email:

$203,000 Grants to Artists and Art Organizations
$20,000 Annual Art Procurement
$50,000 City programmed arts initiatives (i.e. concerts, public art, etc)
$53,500 Community grants (of which historically ~$50, 000 were arts and cultural focused)
$50,000 Support events for 100th anniversary of WWI
$233,000 Support to arts and cultural facilities and institutions (i.e. Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, LSPU Hall, etc.)
$150,000 Events and festivals

That makes $759,500 in total budgeted in 2014 for the arts and cultural sector.

The 2011 census puts the population of St. John’s at 106,172. So, with a $759,500 total, that works out to be $7.15 per capita.

You can compare that number with Canada’s 5 largest cities via this report. Toronto, for example, invests $19 per capita, and they’re way behind Montreal’s $55 per capita.

What do you think? Should the City spend more on the arts? Less? Let your councillor know. You can find his email address right here.

Jenina McGillivray and the benefit of little miracles

    Posted on: Friday, January 10th, 2014

jeninaLocal filmmaker Jenina McGillivray, painted here by John McDonald, could use your help. And hey, couldn’t we all use a good night of dancing?

On January 18th, some of St. John’s finest musicians — Joel Thomas Hynes, Mark Bragg, Pilot to Bombardier, Green and Gold, and the Pathological Lovers with Tim Baker, to name a few — will hit the Rockhouse stage for Jenefit, a fundraiser for Jenina McGillivray. The Facebook event is here.

According to the event description, Jenina was admitted to the hospital just after Christmas with severe abdominal pains and dangerously low blood pressure. By morning, she was in critical condition and rushed to surgery where doctors figured out what was wrong and fixed her up. She’s out of the hospital, but will be out of both work and commission for the next few months as she recovers.

Jenefit organizers have also set up a silent auction and donation site here. Prizes include a private concert by The Once in your own home.

If you’re curious about just how brilliant and kind and generally awesome Jenina is, I caught up with her before Christmas to interview her about her short film “Boarding,” which she was just gearing up to shoot through NIFCO’s First Time Filmmakers program (a program you should really check out if you’re interesting in making a film). Here she is:

Tell me about the film that you’re heading off to shoot.
It’s a film that’s based on a true story that happened to my sister. It’s about a girl who is going through a bit of a breakdown and she’s at an airport and she’s trying to get home. She encounters some difficulties with that, and a random act of kindness from a stranger helps her get through that time.

You’re making this through First Time Filmmakers. What’s the process for that program?
Well, through NIFCO, you do a course where you learn basic filmmaking skills and you’re mentored by people in the community. You get support from NIFCO after you complete the filmmaking course to then go out and make your own film. They offer you the equipment that you need, and a mentor to help you along. My mentor for this film has been Mark Hoffe and I’ve had a lot of great crew members come on board and volunteer their time to do this. I think it’s a mark that independent filmmaking is really alive in Newfoundland and in St. John’s. People really want to come together to try to help you realize your little dream of making your first film.

So you haven’t made any films before?
Nope, this is my first one. I have a few other scripts, too, but this is my first. For me, this is a learning experience. I want the film to be the best that it can be, but for me the most important thing is not that it’s the best film I’ll ever make, but that it’s the first one.

So you just walked into this totally green.
Yep! I mean, I’ve worked on crews. I started off in makeup and wardrobe and I did some production work and took a lot of different workshops and I’ve always been around the film industry in some way.

Were you nervous when you applied? Do they scrutinize your script and accept you and all that?
Yeah. I think if you have a pretty solid idea, they will help you through it. But yeah, I was glad I got a good response on the script, that made me happy; people seemed to like it and to want to support it.

What did you guys do in the filmmaking course?
You learn the basics of scriptwriting, camera, editing, some post production stuff, sound. Everybody in the course gets a chance to try the different elements. And then we write a script together and make a film together.

So for someone who just wants to make a movie and has no experience, this program would work for them?
If you have the passion and the desire to tell a story, and you think film is the medium you want to use, that’s enough. This program will teach you the skills you need, and we have a supportive, mentoring community here. What you get out of the program will be dependent on how much passion you have for the idea of making your own film. Because it’s not an easy thing to do. I think Paul Pope said at the Women’s Film Festival one year that it’s a miracle that any film ever gets made. That’s true: it takes a lot of energy and it takes a lot of dedication. So, I would say that if you have that and you really feel that film is the best way to tell your story, then you need to have that drive.

A film needs a lot of people coming together, it’s a lot of organization — it really is a little miracle.

A happy coincidence and a happy filmmmaker: meet Tamara Segura

    Posted on: Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Tamara SeguraThis past July, the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival put out a call for submissions for the 2014 RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award.

This past July also happened to be filmmaker Tamara Segura’s twelfth month living in Newfoundland.

Tamara grew up in Cuba and came to Canada in 2010 on an exchange. During that time, she decided to become a permanent resident, which meant applying for political asylum. It’s a complicated and agonizing process. For a while, she wasn’t a resident of any country at all, and she was unable to apply for funding to make films or even legally have a job.

So her one-year anniversary in Newfoundland was a big deal — it qualified her to apply for the RBC MJ Award. She applied with a script for a short film called “Before The War.”

We were SO excited to tell her she’d won.

I caught up with Tamara to get her whole story and to talk to her about “Before The War.” There is a salsa dance party fundraiser for her film this Saturday, at Turkey Joe’s, beginning at 7pm.

How did you get into making movies?
I got into the film industry by accident.

When I was 17, I was in high school, and it was a science high school. I’m from a province in Cuba where there isn’t much cultural life, so I never knew anything about film, or arts in general, but I used to read a lot, and I always knew that I wanted to be involved with the arts. I thought that I would be a journalist. But when the time came, I didn’t pass that exam.

A few months later, they opened a new career option, and they called it Audio-Visual Media. I didn’t know what it was about, but I knew it was related to the arts. I did the test, I passed, and all of a sudden I was studying film, but I didn’t know anything about film. I had been in the cinema there maybe three or four times in my life. But I realized that I loved it.

So you’re in Cuba, doing this program, and what happened?
I started at the university for radio, television and film. I started to do my work in the school and tried to do things on my own. It’s very hard because we didn’t have the resources: you can have a lot of ideas and write scripts but you find yourself stuck because we don’t have the ways to produce movies, so it’s very hard. It’s very controlled by the authorities, they make sure that you talk about things that are politically correct.

But in Cuba, we also have the International School of Film and Television, which was created by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1986. It’s amazing, it’s totally incredible — in Cuban society it’s totally different.

And it’s not controlled by the government?
No. It’s a private school, but since it’s in the Cuban territory, Cuban students are allowed to study there without paying.

Did you go there?

So you got to do your own thing, for real.
Yes, when I was in the fourth year of university, I passed the exams for the international school and I went there for three years.

Wow, was that amazing?
Yes, it was, it was very important, it was a turning point in my life.

It must have felt so different to have all that freedom.
It was so different. And the most exciting thing was knowing people from all over the world out of a political context. We were filmmakers. From Guatemala, Spain, all over the world. That was very inspiring.

Tell me about some of the projects you worked on there.
In that school, I was studying screenwriting. I wasn’t being a director at the time, which was a very good thing because it gave me a good complement. I wrote screenplays for my classmates, that’s the way we worked, and also two documentaries.

So, you’re at this school, and then what happened, did you come here?
This school had a program with an exchange with different schools around the world and one of them is Concordia University and I got that scholarship — I was like, wow, this can’t be happening — and that’s how I came here. My school applied on my behalf to the government, so I got permission to get out of the island. And I never went back.

I imagine you had family in Cuba, and you had to decide to leave all of them. That must have been awful.
It was terrible. When I left them, I was just leaving for six months and they were expecting me to go back. My family is also very engaged in the revolution. Just my mom knows my situation, the rest of my family thinks that I am studying.

It was very hard living here [in Canada, in Montreal], I was alone, and I didn’t speak any English or French. I met a classmate at Concordia, from Brazil, and she was my support through the process. I went through it, and for some reason I just blocked some periods of that because I think it was so hard.

How did you wind up in Newfoundland?
That’s another funny story. When I finished at Concordia and I had no more support from anybody, the money was gone, I wasn’t part of anything, I was on my own. I started volunteering and really pushing myself hard to not abandon filmmaking, but it was very very hard. It’s a hard world, there is a lot of ego, and when you are an immigrant and you don’t know many people, it’s very hard. So after a year and a half, I realized that it was almost impossible. In order to be a filmmaker there, I needed to learn two different languages, there was a lot of competition, there are four different film schools in Montreal, it was very, very hard. I would work wherever I could to make a little bit of money. I had a friend in Newfoundland who is from Cuba, and she wanted to produce a film. She asked me to come over and help her with the screenplay for two months. My husband and I, we talked and thought, well, there is nothing in Montreal to make me stay there, Montreal is kicking me out, so let’s try in a different place and see how it goes. So we came, initially it was for two months, but I found a job with the NFB. Then I moved to St. John’s because I was living in Mount Pearl, and I knew that I never wanted to go back to Montreal. So I moved to Newfoundland in June of 2012.

Tell me about your film, “Before The War.” It’s about a family torn apart when the father returns from war.
It’s one of those ideas that’s always in your mind, but you know it’s not the time to tell the story — you are not prepared emotionally so you postpone the idea. But after three years in Canada and after going through many hard moments, I felt I was mature enough to talk about these things. The story is not exactly autobiographical, but it has a lot of me in the story. My father went to war, and there are a lot of images and feeling from there in the story. I missed my family so much at that point, I wanted to talk about them, I wanted to talk about my family. And when I started learning how to drive, I used to go around the island and the landscape is so expressive. It gave me that idea of love and hate because it’s beautiful, but it’s cold and you can’t fully enjoy it — it’s very ambivalent what it provokes in you. But I knew that was a moment, that was a moment, even though it was hard to put all that out.

But you did, and it’s awesome! And you’re going to make this movie.
Yeah! It’s the right moment, I feel prepared and I feel like the environment is very supportive.

SJIWFF films at the Festival du Vent TONIGHT!

    Posted on: Friday, November 15th, 2013

Ouais, c’est vrai…the Women’s Film Festival is partnering avec le Festival du Vent et showing trois awesome short films TONIGHT, Nov. 15, 7 pm, FREE ADMISSION at the Centre Scolaire et Communautaire des Grands-Vents (65 Ridge Road).

The films are…

(Drama, France/Switzerland, 2012, 7 min)
Director, Writer, Producer: Kristina Wagenbauer
Moi, C'est Julien









You will admire the skilled naturalism of this short drama set on the murky waters of the Seine. A bunch of French friends are hanging out, talking and laughing and looking very cool in their inimitable French-casual way. Their obvious comfort level is suddenly displaced, however, through a sudden encounter with a stranger. What’s remarkable here is the way a good film can executive so much social complexity through a strong script and some pretty perfect acting. This amuse-bouche is sure to cleanse your palate. Il est parfait!

(Drama, Quebec, 2013, 14 min)
Director: Marie-Ève Beaumont
Writers: Marie-Laurence Lévesque, Guillaume Lambert
Producer: Marie-Laurence Lévesque
FM Shower_Still102241









As in shower, baby shower. Women meet and giggle and open presents and anticipate new life. Yet all might not be what it seems. Here we see the underbelly (sorry) of choice. Not everyone feels like celebrating and when you get right down to it, one sister’s happiness might be another sister’s nightmare.

(Drama, Canada, 2013, 9 min)
Director: Jonathan Watton
Writers: Mika Collins, Jonathan Watton
Producers: Mika Collins, Sonia Despars, Jonathan Watton, Marc Biron
FM ThePamplemousse1









Lovely lovely lovely short film about a girl from Paris (Ont) who encounters a gent from (new) France. Their random interaction has profound consequences. Filmmaker Watton mixes animation and live action to create an utterly wonderful landscape for the mind – and soul. La plume de ma tante, indeed.

Salut et see you ce soir!