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Just a Minute!- by Akshaya Chinapa

The One Minute Film and Video Festival has stepped out of its baby shoes and fallen into line with Toronto's Film Festival Circuit as a respected and a must see festival. Opening their doors to emerging and established filmmakers, the One Minute Film and Video Festival is a revelation that you don't need a lot of money, or a lot of time to make a film and get it screened. It allows seasoned and unseasoned filmmakers to work towards creating a unique piece of work while adhering to the same time restriction and theme guideline.

I sat down with the Festival's Director, Meredith Dault, and Managing Director, Amy Rouillard, to get an in depth view of how the festival works and contributes to Toronto's Film and Video community.

Blog TO- How did the One Minute Film and Video Festival begin in Toronto?

Meredith- The story of the festival: it's become a myth in certain circles. I'm a lapse film school student and did my undergrad at York. I got out of school and I got really busy and so did a lot of my friends and we weren't really making films as often as we thought we should or wanted to. So I had an idea for a film that I decided I wanted to make - a one minute film - and I wanted to do it about one of my dad's neighbors. So, I go to this party and I jokingly say to my friends, "What if we all make a one minute film about a neighbor?" and everybody said, "Yeah okay, that'll be good". So I made up these contracts and everybody signed them and we agreed that we would have a screening in someone's living room. And then somebody said, "Why don't you post it on a website?" and I swear to god, within a few days we started getting e-mails from India and stuff saying - "We heard about your festival!" I never set out to create a festival; honestly, it created itself.

Blog TO- How has the festival grown since it's first year in 2003?

Meredith- It's grown quite significantly actually. We're getting a lot more films now, the most ever this year. We received around 170 submissions this year, and we're screening 64 films from 12 countries this year. We used to have photocopied programs, but this year we have glossy programs - we're aiming high! We're starting to receive grants now - the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council - small ones, but they count. And we've got more sponsors to support the festival.

Blog TO- How would you describe your role at the festival?

Meredith- I am the founder of the festival. The first year I basically ran the festival myself with technical help from a friend. This is a funny year because I'm at school, so I'm running it all remotely. It's not just me anymore; a few of us are involved in it now.

Blog TO- How would you say that the One Minute Film and Video Festival contributes to the film community in Toronto?

Meredith- I think the role that we play is different from the role that a lot of other film festivals play. The bulk of the people who contribute to our festival are emerging filmmakers, and a lot of them are making films and videos for the first time. But we're also getting more established filmmakers contributing. My goal is to get a real mix of establishing and emerging filmmakers screening work together.
The festival's original title was going to be the "Get Off Your Ass Film and Video Festival". I wanted it to be a venue where anyone who ever thought they wanted to make a film would be able to apply to us because we weren't going to discriminate against who you were or what your background was. It basically comes down to "this is the time restriction, this is the theme, now go and make a film". With technology today, there's no reason that anybody can't make a film if they want to. I wanted this festival to inspire people to make something and it would give them the chance to have their film screened at the Bloor Cinema. I think it's working.

Blog TO- How would you describe the caliber of filmmaking at this year's festival compared to its first year?

Meredith- Because now we have so many more films to choose from, I think the quality of filmmaking is better that it ever has been. We've always shown quite a range of stuff - there have been some really slick films and also some really cheap and whacky films. But if a film is really interesting or has a really surprising punch line, we'll consider it regardless of the quality of the filmmaking.

Blog TO- Do you think that a lot of filmmakers tend to stick to your theme very closely or interpret it on a broader level?

Meredith- The theme is meant to be a jumping-off point. We always have a theme because it takes away that condemned-to-freedom feeling, that feeling of "What am I going to make a film about?". So we say to people, "Make a film about Intersections". Last year it was 'firsts', and the year before that the theme was 'neighbors'. It's easier to come up with something if you've got somewhere to start. It's meant to inspire the filmmaker more than anything.

Blog TO- And Intersections can be percieved on a social or psychological level as opposed to just the literal intersection.

Meredith- Intersections is a great theme; it's a totally broad theme. It's not only about the literal intersection of roads - a lot of people have taken that literal interpretation - but also about the collision of concepts, or any kind of mashing up of two things.

At this point in the interview, the One Minute Film and Video Festival's Managing Director, Amy Rouillard joined us.

Blog TO- So, Amy, describe your role at the One Minute Film and Video Festival.

Amy- My experience is in theatre venue management, and that's how I got involved with the festival. I make sure everything flows smoothly on the night of the festival. I also take care of a lot of the organizational stuff before hand like getting print materials ready, t-shirts, posters, sourcing sponsors for our awards, getting party venues. Meredith is the face and the schmoozer for the big bucks, but I get the little stuff done.

Blog TO-What and how do you award films and filmmakers at the festival?

Meredith- Our awards jury this year is Cameron Bailey (film critic), Vera Frenkel (film and video artist) and Alan Zweig (documentary filmmaker). They got together and watched the program and they have chosen six winners, who will be announced at the festival.
Amy- They pick the categories that they want to award and the films that win in those categories. Some of the categories we're awarding are Best Canadian Film and Best Adherence to the Theme.
Meredith- The reason we have an awards jury is to recognize people. That is something that's especially important when emerging filmmakers are contributing to the festival. We don't have a lot of money to give people, but I think there's something important in saying that these people, who are industry people, think that your film is good, and that the whole point of this festival is to encourage and get people involved.

Blog TO- Have you picked next year's theme yet?

Amy- Each year the audience gets an opportunity to fill out a ballot suggesting next year's theme. After the festival we gather the ballots and we announce next year's theme based on suggestions from the audience. Once the screening is over, everyone walks away wanting to go and make a film the next day, but they'll have to wait until we announce next year's theme.

Blog TO- What can we expect to see from this year's festival?

Amy- It's very good! It's really high caliber work compared to the last two years, even the work from the emerging filmmakers.
Meredith- I think that people are really getting good with technology. I think that even in the last two years there's been a change. People are using technology better, faster, and we also had a longer turnaround time this year. We announced our deadline a lot sooner, which I think has made a big difference.
Amy- We also had two deadlines this year, one of which was a free deadline. That opened it up to filmmakers who might not have been able to contribute before. This year we have submissions on 16mm and 35mm, which is very exciting. We have arty films, moody black and white films, and documentaries - yes it's possible to make a one-minute documentary and learn something from it!
Meredith- It's a good show!

Check out the One Minute Film and Video Festival on Thursday, November 24th at the Bloor Cinema. The show starts at 7p.m.; get your tickets early at Queen Video on Bloor Street for $8 or at the door for $10. Be there and you may be inspired to make a film for next year's festival!

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