Georgia Straight interview with Flick

icon1 flick harrison | icon4 May 3, 2006| icon3

Forgot to blog this Georgia Straight interview back when it came out - so here it is.

I discuss the Big New Vancouver International Film Centre (VIFC) and its lack of Canadian programming.

This article was sparked (I believe) by an anonymous email that included me in the CC line. Apparently I am the go-to guy for independent cinema rabble-rousing in this town, which isn't a bad thing. Pieta Wooley refused to interview the mystery person anonymously by email, but here's what she got out of me, on the record:

It's an interesting issue, this is the first time my attention's been drawn to it. I'm interested to know why this Sam Sam entity chose me as the kaka-disturber... But I'll take the bait!

Since the Blinding Light disappeared, it's a bit of a given that Vancouver screenings are few and far between for underground film folks like me. The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) has limited space and tastes, being only one venue, and happens only once a year. The VIFC is a year-round extension of that, but it comes from the exact same place: large-budget, corporate- (or giant non-profit-) sponsored Big Art.

I think Jen Cressey plugged my upcoming screening to you, Marie Tyrell; it's a film I finished over a year ago, won the Best narrative Film award at NWFVF, but hasn't screened in Vancouver yet (of course). It's finally showing as a Cineworks Cinematic Salon, I'd love it if you came and saw it:

http://www.cineworks.ca MARCH 1 - 7pm.

I waited so long to show Marie Tyrell because B.Y.O.Venue, fun as it is, means being a promoter, venue manager, liquor control board officer, and everything else all at once. Making films is hard enough; if you have to build a venue every time you finish a film, it's exhausting, not to mention the fact that one-off venues have none of the built-in audience nor half the credibility (in terms of grants, building of artistic momentum, etc).

Then again, I haven't approached VIFC myself - I guess it never occurred to me that such an institution, created by VIFF which hasn't particularly dug my work, would be interested in what I'm doing. There's nothing on VIFC website about submitting work to screen there, though there's plenty of rate tables for the expensive rentals. It's a vicious cycle; build a giant venue on prime real estate, you gotta pay the bills. Even the for-profit Hollywood cinemas downtown have collapsed under such pressure.

Walking into Vancity Cinema, it smacks of big-art / corporate sheen (it kind of feels like a Vancity branch, in fact); it's a great place to watch films, comfy and so on, good sound and projection. But I haven't encountered anyone from the programming committee beating the bushes for local filmmakers to screen there, that's for sure. And on the day it opened, no one bothered to spray paint 'The Avant-Garde spits in the face of institutional art’ as happened on opening day of the Pacific Cinematheque.

It's different times now, there's so much film being made in such spread-out conditions, the one thing we desperately need are solid venues with some kind of legitimacy; short of theatrical release, the only venue in town that qualifies a filmmaker for future telefilm funding is VIFF. I'm not sure if VIFC would count as part of that; if so, that would add pressure to their mandate, if you ask me, to show local stuff.

The Planet theatre was an interesting project, but its not incredibly active, from a look at their website.

I can see the dilemma of the VIFC programmers; the world is filled with crap cinema, even mainstream cinema is getting worse; the Ridge just faded out for god's sake. I'm sure they're doing Vancouver a favour by programming the things they choose. But I can't see their slate is really non-competitive with the Cinematheque as it stands; that was one of the pledges Alan Franey made, I believe, on launching the VIFC project. Surely, anything on that calendar could show down the block at 1131 Howe street.

You see they've finally put a Canadian film into their schedule, Whole New Thing. But the director is Amnon Buchbinder, who is, wait for it, a former Programming Director at the VIFF itself! There's nothing wrong with showing his film, which has two great local actors in it (Rebecca Jenkins and Callum Keith Rennie), even though it was produced elsewhere. The question is, how widely are they casting the net, if the only Canadian film they show is made by someone who previously held their job of deciding which films to show?!?

If you look at part 3 of their Program Mission, the VIFC's support for Vancouver film isn't really organized around screening local work; it's about subsidizing those who have enough money to rent the space (a worthy goal but cutting out those starving artists who are flat broke after post-production). For $300 an indie filmmaker can get a weekday daytime screening with projectionist - great for schmoozing but not an audience-grabber. Not sure whether one also needs insurance, after reading their website. (The cinematheque is available anytime it's free for $375 which includes projection, staff, and concession)

Part one of their P.M. says,

"To encourage understanding of other nations through the art of cinema, to foster the art of cinema, to facilitate the meeting in British Columbia of cinema professionals from around the world, and to stimulate the motion picture industry in British Columbia and Canada."

Not "understanding Canada through the art of cinema" or "stimulate the art of cinema in British Columbia and Canada."

I notice there's a survey on the VIFC site.

Everyone reading this should go and check "independent Canadian film."

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