Finessing Filmmaking Skills

There are many excellent training opportunities available to aspiring Yukon filmmakers of all levels, through several different organizations. The Screen Production Yukon Association (SPYA) is one such organization; this winter, it’s launching a new series of two to six  hour workshops, called micro-workshops, offering specialization in select areas of the field.

“A lot of filmmakers in the Yukon… wear multiple hats: they’re recording sound, they’re editing – (they’re doing a bit of) everything,” says SPYA executive director Naomi Mark. “Then there are a lot of people looking to specialize, or get out of that pigeonhole of doing everything, so the workshops cater to both those worlds, allowing people who have no experience in film to get the training they need to be able to do things themselves, and then people at (a higher) level who haven’t had experience in lighting or calibrating to see what those worlds are really about.”

The workshop series has been launched to meet the results of surveys of the association’s members conducted last year; it will cover very specific topics in several different aspects of the filmmaking process.

“We decided to really specialize the workshops, because they are short workshops that are meant to help give people new skills. So it’s simple topics, one topic at a time,” Mark says. All workshops will take place on evenings and weekends, so that people with day jobs can still attend, and Mark encourages filmmakers of all levels to participate.

“(This program) is for someone who’s been playing around with a camera at home and starting to explore editing software, maybe they want to learn how to colour grade their stuff, or move to the next level to start looking at what it is like to do more professional work,” she says. “At the same time, it’s also for current professionals who are looking to expand their skill-set, or improve it.”

The first workshop took place in late October, and was about lighting. For six hours participates learned about interview lighting, from low-cost field work all the way to professional-level cinema lights. The next workshop takes place Nov. 15; it is a two-hour workshop called “Festival Prep,” which will be taught by Andrew Connors, who is the artistic director of the Yukon Film Society.  

“It will be an introduction for what to do when you’re attending your very first festival and trying to get something out of it,” Mark says. “So that one is for more established filmmakers, but at the same time, if anyone is trying to lift a project, a good place to start is a festival where there are tons of media professionals and you can gauge the interest in your project.”

Future workshops will take place in the new year, with two already on the roster, though the dates are not set, yet. The next two workshops will be “Post Production” with professional editor David Hamelin and “CAVCO,” which stands for Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office and deals with the tax credit application process, taught by John Bolton.

As long as the demand is there, Mark hopes to continue the workshop program into 2017, along with some other, more large-scale opportunities.

“As always, we will be assessing the needs of the community and our membership to figure out where our interests lie, where people’s skill-set lie, to be able to best serve everyone,” Mark explains. “Right now we’re in the middle of a training research project funded by the Yukon Film and Sound Commission, allowing us to assess the needs of the industry and the territory and see where we can offer a large-scale training program to help people with larger training projects.”

The larger training initiatives will contribute to SYPA’s goal of encouraging more scripted production in the territory.

“We do have a very healthy documentary community… but we have seen a lack of scripted films coming to town, and that’s sort of one of the goals in lifting a larger training program, is to help encourage the development of scripted film in the territory because it will help us to create a more sustainable industry,” Mark says. “The industry now is sustainable, but there is so much more potential with the kind of funding that is accessible to the North, we just need to help our filmmakers get to that next level.”

The “Festival Prep” workshops takes place Tuesday, Nov. 15 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at The Creative Lab, located at 204D Strickland St.

To register or for more information on the workshops and other programs offered through SPYA, go to

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