Some people were so desperate to be part of the Hart House Film Board Gala last Thursday night, they were crashing the party to make a final plea to the audience. One disgruntled filmmaker managed to get behind the mic and rant about “foul play” by the judges until he was finally pried from the podium. The organizers seemed so unruffled by the spectacle that the audience was left guessing whether it was some sort of scripted humour.
In the judges’ defence, the panel (James G. DesRoches, Daniel Hill, and Daniel Yoon, all established filmmakers) was forced to narrow over four hours of shorts down to a more audience-friendly two and a half. At the end, awards were handed out in such categories as Best Documentary, Best Experimental Film, Best Narrative Film, Best Actor and Best Director.
Christopher Jodoin’s experimental short Untitled #3 won Best Music/Sound. Jodoin was surprised by the judges’ decision, since, he said, “I had no idea what I wanted to do except that I wanted to torture the audience.” He paired an orchestra of unpleasant noises with assorted uncomfortable images, including found footage of an atomic bomb’s mushroom cloud and scenes in super-Technicolor of airplane flyovers in canyons, reminiscent of the stargate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Most filmmakers, on the other hand, were there to gauge what they hoped would be a positive reaction. Mare Sheppard won Best First Film last year for her Robots don’t wear hats: Episode 1. Instead of the expected sequel, this year she chose to submit a four-minute experimental short called Office Donuts. With a hidden camera, she documented the lower halves of her co-workers as they took advantage of free donuts at work. Sheppard admitted last year’s victory didn’t get rid of this year’s butterflies. Her nerves stay on edge until she sees how the audience responds. “Because I do comedy, I look to see if [the audience] laughs.”
As a fourth-year visual arts student at U of T, Sheppard thinks she will continue making films, even if her dream of becoming a videogame programmer comes first.
One of the problems aspiring filmmakers face at U of T is a lack of programs to prepare them for their careers of choice. Although there are courses and programs on film theory, there are no academic opportunities on the production side of the industry. The Hart House Film Board attempts to make up for this gap by providing equipment and training for its members, as well as bringing them in contact with others who share the same passion.
Many in attendance appeared to know one another through the web of connections established in the U of T filmmakers’ community. Chris Mutton, a curator on the board who also had his film Sa screened on Thursday, agreed. “There is a lot of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ here, and the real benefit is that you get these great indie films that come out of everyone’s spare time.”
The Gala was part of the Second Annual U of T Film Festival, which showcased films from students and other local artists.