Sunday, March 30, 2008

Deco Dawson's Influence

"Coda in G Minor" began as a spark of an idea during a Director's Eye Talk when I saw Deco Dawson's "Knout" for the first time. The high contrast black and white imagery and the surreal subject matter captivated me. I knew I had to make a film in that style.

In case you aren't familiar with the 29-year-old surrealist Winnipeg filmmaker Deco Dawson, he's "the Enfant Possible of Canadian Cinema" (FFWD Magazine). From 2000-2003 Deco collaborated with fellow Winnipeg cult-filmmaker Guy Maddin, acting as Editor and Co-Cinematographer of such projects as "The Heart of the World" and the feature film "Dracula: pages from a virgin’s diary," on which Deco also served as Associate Co-Director. Selected for the prestigious 2005 Berlin Talent Campus, the 2004 Talent Lab at the Toronto International Film Festival, named one of the top 25 young independent filmmakers in North America by New York's Filmmaker and one of the top 10 Canadian Industry Trailblazers by The Reel World Film Festival, Deco Dawson has been achieving international acclaim for his film work for many years. Deco Dawson is currently completing post-production on two new full-length projects and a feature film script. (I don't know about you, but I'm pretty impressed by all that!)

In the fall of 2007, Deco was the artist-in-residence at the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers. Being in the process of completing a short film inspired by one of his films made it especially exciting for me. I participated in Deco's editing workshop and even had an opportunity to sit down with Deco one-on-one in an editing suite and have him offer feedback and suggestions on the editing of "Coda."

It very satisfying to come full circle on this project, starting with the films of Deco Dawson and finishing with Deco Dawson himself. The cherry on top for me was Deco's passing comment that "Coda" reminded him of the work of Maya Deren. The appropriateness of that comment will come clear when I blog about the development of the narrative in this film.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Premiere Screening

"Coda" had its premiere screening at the $100 Film Festival this past weekend. The screening went well, even though I realized after the fact that it had run at 24 frames per second rather than the intended 18 frames per second. But the only way I knew for certain was from the 30 seconds of music left over at the end, so it didn't seem to affect the viewing experience. Although many people did say that it felt shorter than 2.5 minutes, but we all attributed that to the fact that it followed a 20 minute experimental film that was completely silent and somewhat repetitive (although technically brilliant). So to all those people who said it felt shorter… you were right! (1 minute and 55 seconds to be exact… I did the sums as I lay awake in bed after the screening.)

Having said that, I liked the way it looked at that speed (my skip printed sequence actually looked skip printed rather than simply sped up). So I'm toying with idea of going back to the editing suite and speeding it up a bit but inserting a couple of my flashback scenes to take the film back up to the 2.5 minute mark. Must mull…

P.S. Alas, no awards for this film at this festival. But I really liked the film "Grass" by Scott Amos, which ended up winning for Best Super 8, so I don't mind. Plus I got really good feedback from other filmmakers, which means more to me at this point than any award. (I know that sounds cheesy but it's true.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

FFWD Magazine

We had the press pre-screening of a few of the $100 Film Festival selections last Saturday. "Coda in G Minor" was one of the dozen or so films shown, so I was quite excited to see my first "review" when FFWD came out this week. Alas, I realize that a "preview" doesn't necessarily mean a "review," i.e. no opinions necessary. Here's the blurb:
Coda in G Minor explores the concept of finality, borrowing from a classical music term, and writer-cum-filmmaker Cara Mumford says she was inspired by the work of Deco Dawson, the Winnipeg filmmaker who was CSIF’s director-in-residence last fall.

So I have no idea whether the journalist liked my film, was bored to tears by my film, didn't understand my film, or any of the many other scenarios I could think up. But press is still press, right? Here's the link for those of you who want to read the full article: Low Budget, High Returns... $100 Film Festival marks its 16th year of shoestring filmmaking.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


"Coda in G Minor" is now listed on B-Side Entertainment courtesy of the $100 Film Festival. So follow this link to catch Coda on the B-Side.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

James Reckseidler's Influence

"Coda in G Minor" began in the fall of 2006 as a spark of an idea during a Director's Eye talk by local Calgary filmmaker James Reckseidler. As part of his talk, James showed clips from films that inspire and inform his own award-winning work, which focuses on using silent-era filmmaking techniques to create new modernist works. So the clips that he showed included original silent-era films as well as other modern filmmakers using similar techniques, such as Guy Maddin and Deco Dawson. I was captivated by Deco Dawson's film "Knout" and decided that I had to make a film in that style. (I'll be writing about Deco Dawson's influence on "Coda" in a later post.)

Shortly after that talk, I worked on James Reckseidler's "Ice Climber's Waltz" and got to watch Super 8 filmmaking in action. It looked like a blast. So at the end of the shoot, I asked James whether I might be able to borrow one of his Super 8 cameras so that I could try my hand at a Super 8 film for the $100 Film Festival. He said yes.

Armed with a story idea and two minutes of instruction on how to use a Super 8 camera (I was late to pick it up and James was on his way out the door), I contacted my actress and my 19-year-old cousin—who had both worked on my 16mm Film School workshop film—and we gathered in my 5' x 7' bathroom to film "Coda in G Minor."

At that time, I had been hoping to complete the film in time for the 2007 $100 Film Festival, the deadline for which was only two weeks away. Unfortunately, my Pepper's Ghost shot didn't work, so I either had to try re-filming it (which I didn't really have time for) or edit it digitally (which wouldn't give me enough time to transfer it back to film for the deadline). Shortly thereafter, I started Herland's IN:Camera Film Production Workshop, so "Coda" was temporarily shelved.

In the spring of 2007, I took the Handmade Film workshop at the CSIF taught by James Reckseidler. As part of the introduction to the course, James showed us a variety of experimental films, from the Surreal to the Mythopoetic. That was when I discovered and fell in love with the work of Maya Deren. (I'll be writing about Maya Deren's influence in a later post.)

During the workshop, I re-shot the footage for "Coda" that hadn't worked the first time and hand processed it, giving the new footage a very cool look but also leaving behind some artifacts and bits of gunk that I hated initially. But James has since convinced me to see the beauty in the accidents and I've actually come to really like that bit of gunk that floats across the screen near the end of the film. Hopefully you will, too.