Film on the Fly

Beware of shooters in Whitehorse this weekend.

It won’t be outlaw gangs roaming the territory’s capital, but camera crews taking part in the Cold Snap filmmaking event.

Teams of varying degrees of experience will be attempting to shoot, edit and produce projects that could range from simple 30-second short-shorts to more complex genre pieces of up to 10 minutes in length.

All in just 48 hours.

The mini-festival, the brainchild of the Northern Film and Video Industry Association (NFVIA)and the Yukon Film and Sound Commission, is the second of its kind in the Yukon in the past two months.

The Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture (KIAC) in Dawson City recently sponsored a 48-hour film competition, as it has for the past six years.

“A 48-hour film competition is not a unique or original idea, by any means,” acknowledges NFVIA’s executive director, Neil Macdonald.

“I participated in quite a few in Vancouver while I was going to school, and always had a lot of fun. I think that was the main draw for us.”

Macdonald’s own interest in filmmaking goes back to his early teens, when he and some friends started making short films instead of writing reports for school projects.

“We were big on Monty Python, big on horror movies and action and sci-fi. We kind of did a little bit of everything, mostly in French, because we were in French immersion,” he says.

“We’d make some little action flick about people running around doing espionage and assassinations and stuff like that. Our influences weren’t too deep at that point in our career.”

Macdonald was also involved in community theatre, starting with his first acting stint at age seven, in a Guild Theatre production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But his interests eventually turned to the technical aspects of theatre, especially lighting.

It was during his time in the Music Arts and Drama (MAD) program in 1999 that he realized he might be able to make a living in the film industry. After graduating from F.H. Collins High School the next year, he studied film production at the University of British Columbia.

After nearly a decade as a cinematographer in the thriving Vancouver film industry, Macdonald returned to Whitehorse this June to work on a feature film with a partner, David Hamelin.

The Cold Snap event actually began last weekend with a crash course in filmmaking, offered by Macdonald and three other industry professionals, scriptwriter Daegan Fryklind, director David Winning and editor Aynsley Baldwin.

“Making a movie in such a short time frame can be a difficult thing, so we thought it would be nice to add some instruction and some support,” Macdonald explains.

“So it’s not as daunting as ‘there’s a camera, go make a movie.’ We targeted the bare bones areas of filmmaking that you need to put a movie together in a short amount of time.”

As its name implies, NFVIA represents people who are actively involved in various aspects of film and video production in the territory. The idea behind Cold Snap was to attract new blood to the local film community.

“We were trying to come up with ways to engage youth in the local community and help bring in another generation of people,” Macdonald says.

“I’m probably one of the younger people who’s actively involved in the film community, and I’m 29, I’m not exactly a young whipper-snapper,” he adds. “We’re trying to show kids that it can be a fun industry. It can be something that can be a career for them.”

So, what advice does he have for a would-be George Lucas who dreams of creating a new Star Wars in 48 hours?

“It’s great to swing for the fences, but it’s definitely good to have a realistic grasp of what your means can achieve for you,” he says.

“Definitely, do anything and everything to make the best, most creative, entertaining film you can, but embrace the fact that you have limitations, embrace the fact that you’re under the gun and need to get things done. Really, just kind of roll with it and have fun with it.”

The Cold Snap festival will conclude with a screening of entries and presentation of awards on Friday, March 11.

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