O Canada!

“We’re the only full-time underground screening space in North America,” says Blinding Light founder, Alex MacKenzie. This 110-seat microcinema that screens alternative, underground, and obscure film / video works was founded in 1998. “I was personally frustrated by the lack of venues for the kind of work I and others were making, and so decided to do something about it,” explains MacKenzie.

Blinding Light’s six nights a week schedule is diverse. “A lot of the shows combine oddball industrial and educational films with experimental work, the idea being to pull the audience in with the oddball factor and then pleasantly surprise them with artists’ work they would not normally have sought out,” says MacKenzie.

With screenings of works from well known filmmakers such as Miranda July, Bruce LaBruce, and Greta Snider, Blinding Light is definitely a hot spot in the underground film world, but perhaps more importantly, it provides a haven for filmmakers who are not as established. Blinding Light’s open submission policy states: “We are always looking for new works to screen, and you don’t have to be an indie hero to make it happen!” Their monthly “Bring Your Own Film Night” screening provides the filmic equivalent of an open mike for emerging talent. MacKenzie says, “We have many folks who come religiously and make work specifically for these nights. In a matter of twelve months they have a dozen short works to their credit!”

“Only through regular and constant programming of this kind of work will the public gain an awareness and understanding of the importance, significance, and breadth of work being made in this area of artistic production,” he concludes.

For more info about the venue and how to submit your own underground masterpiece, see www.blindinglight.com.

Praxis & Cineworks

Offering helping hands to Vancouver filmmakers

Vancouver filmmakers don’t have to look far for help on everything from workshopping their screenplay to renting inexpensive equipment for their documentary shoot.

Praxis Centre for Screenwriters is a screenwriter’s dream, offering a screenplay library with original scripts and screenwriting books, as well as screenwriting courses. Their biggest draw is the Praxis Screenplay Competition, a biannual lab which offers the opportunity to receive detailed feedback from industry professionals and help with the next step towards production. Some well-known films whose scripts went through the lab are Mina Shum’s Double Happiness, Scott Smith’s Rollercoaster, and Thom Fitzgerald’s The Hanging Garden.

To make the competition even more valuable to the first-time indie screenwriter, the scripts remain anonymous until the last stages of the competition. As Praxis literature explains, “It doesn’t matter whether you’re an experienced pro or a construction worker writing on weekends—the quality of your script and your potential as a writer are all that count.”

“Twenty feature films have been made from scripts workshopped at Praxis,” says Director Patricia Gruben. “We’ve done a lot to get local screenwriters out from their garrets and into a forum where they are able to meet each other and connect with producers.”

Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society is another valuable local resource that offers a wide array of services, ranging from low cost production equipment and editing suites to nuts-and-bolts workshops on topics such as “Budgeting for Short Films” and “Production Design for Low Budget Films.” They also offer programs on the creative aspects of filmmaking such as making personal, point-of-view documentaries.

To further facilitate independent visions, the annual Cineworks Production Fund (deadline in June) offers a $20,000 grant in goods and services each year to local independent film productions. Productions receive $12,500 for eligible expenses and $7,500 for Cineworks in-house equipment and/or facility rentals. And to top it off, they have a monthly discussion forum, “The Cinematic Salon,” where filmmakers or craftspeople shares film clips and discuss telling their stories and getting their films made. Cineworks also helps get films seen. They recently had screenings at Blinding Light Cinema and DOXA—the Documentary Film & Video Festival.

“Cineworks success stories are numerous,” says Executive Director Meg Thornton. “Asghar Massombagi’s Khaled was included in the Toronto International Film Festival Group’s ‘Top Ten of the year,’ and Bruce Spangler’s Protection did well at the box office, as well as receiving critical acclaim. Look out for Ileana Pietrobruno’s Girl King, which will be released soon and has been accepted into film festivals in Toronto, New York, and San Francisco.“

For more information on Praxis and Cineworks, visit www.praxisfilm.com and www.cineworks.ca.

Out on Screen

Vancouver Queer Film and Video Festival returns

The Vancouver Queer Film and Video Festival celebrates its 14th year this August with close to 200 films by, for, and about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people of British Columbia.

“Last year we opened with Paragraph 175, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s powerful examination of the Nazis use of a 19th century penal law to persecute homosexuals. The year before, the original Queer As Folk was featured—well ahead of the hype,” noted Jeremy Hainsworth, the festival’s publicity and communications coordinator.

The festival is run by Out On Screen, a non-profit society that “exists to celebrate the media arts as a powerful tool of communication and co-operation among diverse communities, by promoting the production and exhibition of films and videos.”

For information on this year’s festival, visit www.outonscreen.com.

“Vancouver has a large and varied independent film community and many film organizations flourish here,” says Cineworks Executive Director Meg Thornton. Here is a sampling:

Pacific Cinematheque is Vancouver’s premiere arthouse cinema. They also host the Jewish Film Festival and DOXA (Documentary Film and Video Festival), have a film reference library (with emphasis on Canadian cinema) and a 16mm print archive, offer media education for elementary school teachers and students, and run the Travelling Picture Show, which circulates independent films to communities throughout British Columbia.

Video In is an artist-run access center operated by and for independent video makers, experimental video artists, and media/community activists. They offer educational workshops, screenings, and production equipment.


he Documentary Media Society is devoted to presenting independent and innovative documentaries from Canada and around the world to Vancouver audiences, both to broaden the audience for documentary film and video, and to broaden the definitions of documentary. DOXA is a biannual international documentary that will next be presented in May 2004.

Women in Film and Video Vancouver: Non-profit society of professional women founded to support women involved in the British Columbia film, video, and television industries. They provide networking opportunities, educational workshops, and mentorships with film industry professionals

Vancouver Film Office: For questions about and assistance in shooting within Vancouver’s busy, billion (Canadian) dollar a year film industry.

Vancouver International Film Festival (September 26 to October 11, 2002)

One of North America’s larger international film festivals and Vancouver’s largest fest for independent films from all over the world. www.viff.org

Vancouver Underground Film Festival (November 21-24, 2002, submission deadline September 6, 2002)

Vancouver’s alternative festival for all works cutting edge, underground, and obscure. www.blindinglight.com/vuff.htm

About :

James Israel is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker. He also provided information services for AIVF, and edited AIVF’s newsletter, SPLICE!