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This Magazine Culture Issue Release Party

One of my favourite Canadian rags, This Magazine, had a little soiree Wednesday evening at the Social to celebrate the release of their special culture issue, which features their Great Canadian Literary Hunt winners as well as coverage of the Canadian film industry.

In addition to drinks and mingling, This' ambitious interns organized a panel of independent Canadian filmmakers to chat a bit about the process of making a flick here (and the issues they have competing with American studio fare, trying to get funding, and getting the word out about their work). This is the first time they've had a panel at one of their dos.

If I had my 'druthers, I would have stayed long into the night, chatting up the hip and idealistic young things that appeared for the event. Sadly, I had to work at both my jobs today; being the trooper I am, I talked with editor Emily Schultz and intern Karen Darricades about the mag, the event, and the panel while DJ Sasha (yes, that one) provided the appropriate background noise for arty political chitchat. And I stayed for the panel, which ended up being a bit of a telling off for me, but I'll get to that.

I heart This, so I had high hopes for the sort of peeps who would show up for a film/culture issue event, and was not disappointed. Editor Emily told me that it was actually a much younger (20s, 30s) crowd who appeared for the release parties (which occur every couple of issues, so join their mailing list) than the majority of their readership (who lean more toward 40-80). And here I was assuming all the gung-ho political, culturally-savvy idealists were young. How ageist of me.

Intern Karen, who says she "will edit This one day," is heavily involved in the production of the magazine and was key in getting all the film peeps together for the panel. She clearly feels passionately about the current state of Canadian film and gets me wondering if I'll finally hear an answer to that question everyone always asks at film panels - Where's the money?

The panel consists of directors Katerina Cizek, Andrea Dorfman, Ruba Nadda, and Clement Virgo. The discussion was moderated by Terence Dick.

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First, we were treated to clips (or in Dorfman's case, an entire short) of the directors' work - the doc Seeing is Believing, the short and sweet There's a Flower in my Pedal, cheekily funny Sabah, and the hot as hell Lie with Me.

Given that I haven't seen any of these (and after the clips, I'm seriously going to hunt them down), and these directors are successful, viable and talented Canadian filmmakers, I was curious to hear how they'd talk about the industry in Hollywood North.

I'll admit, as an aspiring filmmaker myself I was hoping to hear something uplifting/heartening/inspiring or the secret password to the director's club - that magic place where funding isn't impossible to come by and people pay you for your work and you don't have to work two jobs to pay the bills and only dream of the day you can afford to make something...

There was much discussion of the "crowded marketplace," as Virgo put it - how the American Hollywood machine simply has more money to invest in churning out movies and marketing them to Canadians, and how in trying to compete filmmakers start writing with a specific audience in mind, rather than simply finding a great story that they just have to tell.

Quèbec came up - the directors wondered if we had something to learn from the success QB filmmakers have in their own province; is it a function of language, or is there a specific cultural identity that's being created/examined? And then there's the issue of international success, as Nadda noted "You spend time on a film (...) you want the world to see;" while la Belle Province can fiscally maintain and support their directors, is it enough for a Canadian filmmaker to want and have success only in Canada?

After some debate about the very difficult processes involved in getting cash from Telefilm and various other sources (investors, parents, credit cards), Dorfman said "I want to believe good films will push to the front (...) - there's a huge weeding-out process". Cizek agreed, though she did say it'd be a help if the whole process could be streamlined.

Ultimately, what had my ears going pink (invisible in the dim bar light, I'm sure) was Virgo's assessment of what it means to be a filmmaker: you "find a way to manifest [your] idea on film - do whatever it takes. The system forces you to be inventive (...) it will be frustrating under any circumstances. [You] have to have a do-anything mentality - there's no, like, secret - you've gotta work your ass off." Dorfman agreed, noting that there's no one way, no right way, to be a filmmaker - you just "do it any way you can."

Which totally blows my "no money/experience/connections" excuse out of the water. It's humbling to sit in front of these people who care so much about their work, who bust their proverbial balls to get their films done and out there. You can't kid yourself with that right in front of you. (Of course, looking at clips of their work, I'm also forced to ask myself if I'm just not in the same league, even potentially, as these guys).

So I'll be spending some sleepless nights trying to psych myself up (or out). Probably reading my new issue of This to remind me not just about the filmmakers that are out there demanding an audience, but also all the other issues I get all passionate about (which, incidentally, is practically everything). That's where the stories come from, n'est pas? Something effects you so much you have to respond.

Because everything is political.


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