A group of movie lovers gathers on a frigid Sunday in Whitehorse. In an apartment living room, they watch movies and eat popcorn. They laugh with a good comedy and are swept away with a gripping drama. But the home of Yukon Film Society president Michael Vernon is not being used just for a good time.
“We’re actually previewing films for the Available Light Film Festival,” the bearded, amiable, bespectacled Vernon says between handfuls of popcorn. “It is tough work, but somebody has got to do it.”
Vernon (popcorn: extra butter) is serious about bringing a selection of the year’s best Canadian and international feature films and documentaries to the Yukon Beringia Centre and Qwanlin Cinema for the festival that runs March 1 to 6.
A recent addition to the Yukon, Vernon knows his film. By day, he works as an editor at a local broadcaster. He has also edited award-winning documentaries and a Canadian feature film, Love That Boy, directed by Andrea Dorfman.
“I love watching films and filmmaking,” he says. “And I hope the Film Society’s activities will encourage more Yukoners to get their hands on a camera and start shooting.”
The profile of the Film Society has increased steadily since the fall of 2002, when YFS contracted its first part-time manager in its 20 year history — Whitehorse filmmaker Andy Connors.
Connors (popcorn: butter) is a prime example of a young, struggling Canadian filmmaker.
Between administering and organizing Film Society activities, Connors has produced two films in the Yukon in the past five years. He’s currently finishing a third, The Keno City Project, a collaboration with musician Kim Barlow. It is about the history of the Keno City mining district in central Yukon.
“I’ve been able to make films in the Yukon because filmmakers here are building a community. We call on each other for advice and assistance.
Connors says that another crucial ingredient in fostering the Yukon’s emerging media arts community is exhibiting film and video work by local film and video makers.
This year, the Film Society has hired Celia McBride to produce this year’s Available Light Film Festival. McBride is a seasoned producer of live theatre and is currently the Artist-In -Residence at Yukon’s Nakai Theatre. Producing a film festival, however, is a new role for her: “The biggest difference I’m finding is that as an artist I’m used to being the one with the big dreams and being told by the producer that I’m not going to get my wish. Now I find myself in the position of telling the artistic director of the festival to be more realistic and to stay within the budget.”
McBride (popcorn: home-made with olive oil and she likes to sneak it into theatres) says she’s hoping this position will give her important lessons in the financial side of the artistic production: “I think it’s important for me, as a creative person, to get in the money seat and learn about how things work,” she says. “At the same time I can bring my artistic abilities to the job and shake things up a little. It’s a great learning experience.”