The 15th Annual Silver Wave Film Festival flooded Fredericton with filmmakers over the weekend. Filmmakers, sponsors and film fans from around the province and the Atlantic region congregated in Fredericton for the Festival’s 15th anniversary.
Head organizers Cat LeBlanc and Tony Merzetti, with the NB Film Co-operative, were very pleased with this year’s record-breaking turnout for many films and with the support they received for this year’s festival from volunteers, fans and sponsors.
New Brunswick filmmakers made more than half of the 105 films shown at this year’s venues. The festival was held over four days in various locations around the city including the Charlotte Street Arts Centre, Le Centre Communautaire Ste. Anne, UNB campus and Conserver House, home of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
The Awards ceremony, held Saturday night to a full house at the Centre Communautaire Ste. Anne (400 seats), recognized the tireless volunteer work of local technician and NB Film Co-op member, Rob Gemmell. The 2015 Professional Achievement Award went to Chris O’Neil, an N.B. native who has worked as a Costume & Production Designer in the film & television industry in Toronto for over 30 years.
Two feature length films bookended the weekend. On Thursday night, the opening film was “Owl River Runners,” directed by filmmaker Danny Thebeau and made in Rothesay, NB. The comedy follows a young person who is trying to get to university despite personal difficulties. Singer T Thomason, originally from Nova Scotia, beautifully plays this film’s protagonist. “Owl River Runners” also featured a role played by local Fredericton radio personality Ryan ‘Crash’ Barton, as well as another by Thebeau himself.
Sunday night’s closing film was a PEI feature film called “Kooperman,” by the award-winning multifaceted PEI artist Harmony Wagner, of Periscope Pictures. The comedy, which recounts a comic bookstore owner’s revenge on bullies, premiered in September at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax.
The entertaining short, “Marigolds,” directed and written by Jillian Acreman, a talented local young filmmaker, won best NB Short Drama. The short film tells the life of amateur horticulturalist Ryan O’Toole (and played by the real-life local actor and filmmaker Ryan O’Toole) and also won the 2015 Audience Choice Award. Acreman is a frequent collaborator to other filmmakers and appeared on many screen credits in various roles.
Winner of the Lex Gigeroff Screenwriting Award for the second year in a row, filmmaker R. W. Gray premiered two new short films he wrote and directed: “aidos” and “Choke Hold,” for which he won the screenwriting distinction. Gray’s previous award-winning films have been featured at SWFF and in other festivals around the world.
Saturday evening’s opening film, the short “aidos,” reexamines the protagonist’s poignant “I love you” moments from throughout his life. It was personally shot by the director on super 8 film over two years across Canada and premiered at the Atlantic Film Festival in 2015.
A film that tells the story of the uneasy friendship between two twenty something men, Gray’s “Choke Hold” had its world premiere at SWFF. Along with screenwriting, it won top honors in the following categories: Excellence in Picture Editing (Jon Dewar), in Cinematography (Matt Rogers & Lance Kenneth Blakney), Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Drama (Ian Goff, well-known to Fredericton’s theatre community) and came in second for the Audience Choice Awards.
Collaboration is essential in such a small film community. Gray also worked on several other projects featured in the festival; he wrote and produced “Ricochet,” a short nominated for Best Coast to Coast Short. Among his other roles, he produced, story-edited, and has small role as a motivational speaker in Matt Rogers’s “a list,” which was awarded with Best Sound Design and Best Music Composition.
Local filmmaker Britany Sparrow premiered an amusing new short comedy, “Co-ed,” she co-directed and wrote with Gordon Mihan. Her lead actress, Trish McNeill, won Best Actress. Sparrow is a prolific director of comedies, and more recently dramas, with her films “Chopsticks” (2013) and “Here Without You” (2014). She is also a major supporter of other filmmakers in N.B. who worked on three other films shown in the festival this year, “The Man Who Loved Flowers,” Frictive Pictures’ “a list,” and “Stonewalled.”
Cinematography award co-winner, Lance Kenneth Blakney, is a gifted photographer, lighting designer, film editor, and cinematographer who also won an award for cinematography at the 2015 Fredericton 48 Hour Film Competition.
Blakney collaborated on six films this year: lighting design for Gray’s “Choke Hold” and Rogers’s “a list,” set design for Acreman’s “Marigolds,” visual effects for Fonya Irvine’s “As the Crow Cries,” and editor for “Co-ed.” Blakney also co-directed and co-wrote (with Mihan), shot and edited the short film “Referent” which appeared in the prestigious New Brunswick Shorts Program.
UNB’s Renaissance College graduate Victoria Clowater worked on five films that were featured in the Festival. For local filmmakers Clowater’s leadership and incredible ability to remove obstacles to filmmaking make her an essential collaborator. She was production manager on Sparrow and Mihan’s “Co-Ed,” location manager on Rogers “a list” and Acreman’s “Marigolds,” and production manager, script supervisor, continuity, hair, and makeup on Mihan and Blakney’s “Referent.” In 2016, Clowater will launch her company White Heron Digital, and her new project, a comedy web series titled “Babes” (written by AJ Ripley), is currently in pre-production.
Along with fiction films, the festival featured a noteworthy selection of documentaries, including Moncton native Julien Cadieux’s “Guilda: Elle est bien dans ma peau,” which earned the Best French Film honor. Other notable documentaries were Alex Vietinghoff ‘s “Lebanese in New Brunswick,” winner of Best Low Budget Documentary, and “The Singing Lumberjack” by Rachel Bower, about singer Charlie Chamberlain, conferred Best Documentary.
One of the Festival’s objectives is to foment local talent through special awards to encourage the production of future films.
The Jane LeBlanc Filmmaker Award ($1880), for first or second time filmmakers, was given to Nancy Lynch for her script “Side Of The Road.” Lynch presented her first film in 2011, called “Hello Ladassia” about the unlikely camaraderie between a telemarketer and a senior.
An award that helps emerging filmmakers finish projects which reflect their own creative vision without compromise, the CBC/NB Joy Award recipient was Amy Bourgaize for her upcoming film “Chiaroscuro,” written by Gray. This award provides over $18,000 in financial and in-kind support for filmmakers.
The festival also included a day-long Industry Series that included a Women in Film Atlantic Panel with accomplished local women filmmakers such as Gia Milani, and a panel titled “Developing & Strengthening our Film Communities Through Education.” The Education panel featured Gray (who is also a screenwriting professor at UNB), Sophie Lavoie (co-organizer of Cinema Politica Fredericton), Fredericton High School teacher Bourgaize, Acadia University School of Education professor Matt Rogers, and Nova Scotia Community College educator, Chris Campbell.
Sophie M. Lavoie writes on arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op.