Local film gets experimental
by Jessica Melnychuk & Kaila Sept
The Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) has made its way into town, and one local filmmaker has proven that someone entering the industry doesn’t need a huge budget to make a splash. Benjamin Hayden’s Pick is based on a night of violence among veteran soldiers in the basement of Calgary’s Riverside Hotel in 1916. Rather than having soldiers depict the struggles of that night in the boudoir, Hayden chose to have ghostly spirits embody the energy and violence of that night. The film uses a distinctive editing technique to transition between shots, with the black and white flashes of the exposed film providing the cuts. Hayden discovered the technique after filming had finished.
“Those ‘no good’ frames turned out to be really visually interesting, and I couldn’t turn my back on them,” he said. Though Hayden has worked on productions before, both independently and commercially, Pick is the first film that he considers to be truly his own. He wore several different hats in the creation of the project, from writer to director to producer to animator to editor to publicist. The process began this past spring, and continued into July when he began submitting the piece to various film festivals.
Like many new filmmakers, Hayden faced a range of challenges on the path to film festival success. Since the film’s storyline is tied specifically to a certain location in the city, Hayden was determined to film in that location. The City of Calgary initially did not support that idea, but Hayden eventually won them over.
“As far as indie goes, no one is going to have a budget that is going to be able to pay off the City of Calgary, who were not as supportive as I would have liked them to have been, especially about a film that regards the history of Calgary,” Hayden said. “But regardless of that, it does speak a lot about where the film industry is in Calgary and where indie filmmakers would like it to be.”
CIFF’s director of programming Trevor Smith recognizes that although there are setbacks in Alberta’s film industry, such as tax credit issues and the influx of American versus Canadian productions, it is vital for local filmmakers not to be discouraged.
“I’m proud of the talent and work there is to offer in Alberta,” he said. “Alberta has had some Oscar-winning productions created here. People who are passionate and have thick skin — regardless of where the industry is — are the ones who will succeed.”
In response to Alberta Culture and Community Spirit minister Lindsay Blackett’s recent comments about funding “so much shit,” Hayden said it is important for those in the industry not to simply get mad about it. “Let (Blackett) prove by example that we are an industry that has what it takes.”
Hayden shows what the Alberta film industry is capable of with Pick. He hopes to continue on with his festival success with his next project, interpretively titled Sciophobia, which will be a bookend for Pick. Pick will be showing at CIFF as part of the closing gala on October 3, as well as at the Fragments Multi-Arts Gala on Oct. 7 at the Plaza Theatre. For more information, visit calgaryfilm.com.