Well, it's been some time since the Saving My Family Farm film was completed. After the demolition, I was planning on updating the film a bit but thought perhaps it's about time I released it publicly. Please share the film around! If you have any comments, please leave below or feel free to contact me via my website. https://vimeo.com/19006208
In March 2012, I participated in the International Doc Challenge with the Squire Entertainment team and a few others to make a documentary in 5 days. The idea to do a doc about Captain John's Seafood Restaurant, which is located on Queen's Quay in Toronto, came up and it seemed like the perfect idea.
Unsinkable was completed, we became one of 12 finalists in the competition and had our screening at the 2012 Hot Docs, receiving a POV Special Mention.
We were incredibly proud of the documentary especially because it revealed a short glimpse into the life of the man behind Captain John's, John Letnik, who started the restaurant in 1975. With all businesses, there are ups and downs which we focused on with the doc's theme "cycles". I was always curious about the restaurant and who owned it, and was excited to finally enter the space. When I finally went aboard to do sound for the doc and met Mr. Letnik, my heart fell. Here was a man who had invested his entire life into this business, still preparing dishes everyday, devoting his time to charity meals. I sat on the holding the mic for his interview as he spoke about his life and the restaurant. I left the shoot deflated and sad, with the knowledge of the unspoken reality--likely no one will buy this ship, which at that point had a "for sale" sign on the bow, and the road to retirement is going to be very difficult I imagine.
Sure, the food quality has decreased and the restaurant decor is a time warp back to the 70s-80s. And yes, the restaurant business is tough and if you can't take the heat, well, you know. We must still present honest opinions, and I'm not saying one should lie about the food or the state of Captain John's boat, but this situation reminds me of why we made Unsinkable. The film reminds us of the human side of this business, this ship, this person.
This eviction comes at a terrible time for Captain John's, especially when just days ago a charity dinner event was announced and planned to take place on July 25. I was excited. It seemed like one last hurrah before the ship perhaps was eventually sold or the restaurant was closed. I guess that won't be true (although Chef Soto has stated on his Twitter feed that the show will go on but at a different venue).
I think why this event really hits home for me is because it seems very similar to the family farm--the fact of seeing one side of a business coming to an end and watching it happen before your eyes. The exact same week we shot Unsinkable was the demolition of the farm in Whitby. The difference was that in March I saw a business end and also a business in decline. I would never imagine that only 4 months after making Unsinkable, when Captain John's has sat there for so many years, that I would see its eviction so soon.
View the Unsinkable doc: http://www.docchallenge.org/2012-Finalists/unsinkable.html
News Articles on closure:
BlogTO - A Fond Farewell to Captain John's Seafood Restaurant (link) TheStar.com - Captain John's Restaurant Ordered to Shut Down (link) CBC - Captain John's Floating Restaurant Shut Down (link) National Post - Floating Restaurant Left High and Dry as City Cuts Off Water Supply (link) Grid TO - That Sinking Feeling (link)
Past Articles: The Grid - I Spent New Year's Eve Alone at Captain John's (January 3, 2012) (link)
Wikipedia page - Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant (link)
Betting the Farm is a film about a group of milk producers from rural Maine who suddenly get dropped from their milk company. In the midst of losing their farms, they start up their own company, which isn't without its problems.
I wish I was at Silverdocs to see this film, but for now I'll hope for a Toronto screening or a DVD. Nevertheless, it's great to see films coming out about farmers and farms...but especially the "reality" of farming, as it's not an easy thing to do day to day, physically and mentally, never mind the economic woes.
Not to mention it doesn't help to have the "green trend" and recent advertising at some times painting a arguably false romantic wash over everything and ignoring the serious issues surrounding the agricultural industry in Canada. Sure, these ads present the "faces" of the industry, but these faces aren't always happy ones which can lull a consumer into a false sense about what they're buying and who they're buying it from. I'm included in this.
I like how Betting the Farm features the people on the front lines of a huge industry facing the real challenges related to farming and more specifically the dairy industry, and I think it will touch on themes that I hoped to express more explicitly in my own film on my family's farm.
Last night I caught my first Nightvision film--in fact it was the first film in the Nightvision program for Hot Docs, and what a film to jumpstart the kooky, funny, strange, out-there films that comprise the series.
GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was a fantastic, funny, touching and kick-ass story about the women wrestlers on the 80's TV show GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling). The box office schedule limits what films I can see and I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to this film, but my goal was to get out to all the Nightvision films and so I decided to go. I'm so glad I did. That's always a highlight for me at this documentary festival, to go see a film I wouldn't normally be interested in seeing based on the description, title, etc.. (book, cover...), and then get blown away by it, either in the sheer awesomeness of the film or how it will influence me as a filmmaker. Well, GLOW was awesome and I'm glad I got to see it.
It's playing two more times so check out Hot Docs' website for more info.
GLOW (official website)
I can't believe a year has gone by since last year's amazing Hot Docs festival. Back as a box office intern (you may catch me at TIFF Bell Lightbox and one day at the Bloor), I have arranged my schedule to stuff in as many documentary films and conference events that I can muster enough energy for. But I know by Wednesday I'll likely choose sleep over one of the amazing Nightvision screenings (my loss). Last night, day one, was the opening night party which was great! Saw many people from a few doc circles and it was a good time overall. I'm writing this, keeping an eye on the time as I know I have to bike over to TBLB for my first shift (let's hope it goes well! TBLB is busy, busy, busy!), but so far I've only seen one film today, but it was a fabulous one at that.
This morning I saw THE LIFER AND THE LADY (1984) follows a convicted criminal serving a life sentence, and his relationship a prison volunteer. Directed by John Kastner, whose film is part of a Hot Docs Retrospective series this year (so go out and see more of his films!), the film also highlights important issues surrounding correctional facilities and certain theories applied in them, many of which are relevant today with the recent goings on at Parliament (I'm not well-versed on these issues unfortunately, but here's a great article from TheStar the retrospective and a bit on this film).
More films, more events, in anticipation of a wonderful Hot Docs!
THE LIFER AND THE LADY (Hot Docs website)
Occasional Hot Docs tweetings: @kathleen_mackey
I got a call around noon on March 5 from my mom. She said that dad visited the farm that morning and that the demolition had already begun. Unprepared, as we all thought it was happening the next day, I grabbed my camera, and other equipment, racing from work in Toronto to Whitby to capture the demo of my family's farm. The time had finally come, and while thankfully the developers had given us some warning as to the demo, I guess some of the work had started a bit earlier. And luckily, when I got to the farm, the barn was still standing. One shed had disappeared, separated into piles of wood, brick, and sheet metal. An orange vehicle with a claw traveled towards another shed, and I saw it reduce this building to the same piles, so quickly. Dramatic, perhaps. But watching this unfold has really been something else. Putting the "doco" hat on makes it more surreal as it's not until later, when faced with the photos of before, and after, that it really hits me.
The next day, March 6th, the main barn was torn down.
I would like to thank my family who, while I wonder sometimes if they support my filmmaking tendencies, really proved it this week (at least I think so). My mom racing from her own workplace with the Hi-8 video camera so I would't miss anything. To my dad, informing the residential developer of my documentary and asking if it was okay that I film the demo. My sister Laura who was there that day, and Rachel, who wasn't, but helped me take photos days before--a portrait of me standing in front of the then-standing barn. And thank you to John who captured, on the DSLR, the little things I would have missed. His photos are below. And thank you to all my friends who supported me in one way or another.
Watching the event unfold through a lens sometimes made me forget what was happening. Thanks to those around me, I was able to capture this event and will reflect on it for many years to come.
Additional photos: John Rathiganthan (Twitter)
In my thesis paper, a complement to my documentary film on the sale of my family's farm in Whitby, Ontario, I wrote that I would continue the project with a website documenting the changes to the farm and surrounding area as the developers shape and build on the land. There hasn't been much to note since the end of the MFA program (October 2010), but sudden developments have sprung up.
While I'm excited at the prospect of getting back to production (re-editing the film, posting content online), the realization of what's to come certainly sets a gloomy and depressing tone. However, as I also note in my thesis paper, recording these events will preserve the farm, essentially saving it.
My good friend Hilary Dean directed a film entitled, "So You're Going Crazy...", an amazing film that looks at mental illness and in the end provides a message of hope for those going through difficult times. I was lucky to be a part of this film, and am excited for it's premiere broadcast on CBC's documentary channel.
December 2, 2011 - 7pm - documentary
So You're Going Crazy... is a personal documentary combining interviews, animation, and reflexive narrative ruptures in order to convey the experience of madness and shifting reality, as well as offer messages of hope to those currently in crisis.
Ah, documentary is in the air. TIFF '11 just announced that for the very first time a documentary will open up their show.
At the same time, my film was rejected from TIFF's selection. Oh well, now this means I can apply to festivals that don't require premieres and, soon, post the film online for the interwebs to see!
But there is some happy news.
A few friends of mine, who reached their Kickstarter goal I mentioned in a previous post, for the film The Sugar Bowl have just finished a teaser trailer for the film! They traveled to the Philippines in April and have been editing up a storm. Beautiful work you guys.
Another friend, a fellow Documentary Media (MFA) '10 grad, Jeff Winch is screening his film Bending the Rails on August 30th at the Revue Cinema. It focuses on the railways that border an area in Toronto called the Junction Triangle, and how the continued approval of diesel trains rather than cleaner alternatives (electrical, for example) have negatively affected the tight-knit community. The film also looks closely at the relationship of the government and city councillors to the GO lines. Check it out! There's a Q&A afterwards so don't miss it.
When it rains, it pours. Aside from the downpours we've received this week in Toronto, many projects (business/personal) that have been on the back-burner for awhile now seems to be picking up steam. And this always happens in the days leading up to Hot Docs, one of the busiest 10 days of the year for me it seems. Last year I was part of Doc U, Hot Doc's program that serves as an introduction for graduating/graduated film students on the documentary festival and market. I remember also taking on so many little projects that week, and even having to turn down some opportunities, and getting sick in the process. It was such a fantastic experience though, and I was happy to accept a position as a box office intern this year which will allow me that close-up-and-personal experience of Hot Docs that I was afraid I'd miss again this year.
Well, sure enough, my head is starting to spin with the many new projects that are starting this week. But not fast enough to stop me from going through all 199 documentary films at this year's festival and choosing my [very] short list of docs. Not that I'll be able to see them all, but below are some of the ones I'm planning to see at some point. Then there's the long list of course...okay, I admit, I just want to be able to see all 199 films.
Kathleen's Hot Docs 2011 Short List
-5 Pictures of a Father -Abendland -Advocate for Fagdom -A Candid Eye - Early Shorts of Terence Macartney-Filgate -Being Elmo -The Bully Project -Cheonggyecheon -The Chocolate Farmer -Conan O'Brien Can't Stop -Chance Encounters -The Good Life -A Hard Name -Hell and Back Again -The Hollywood Complex -Hot Coffee -How to Make a Book with Steidl -Incident By a Bank -Limelight -The National Parks Project -POM Wonderful Presents... -Pinter People -Position Among Stars -Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of Toynbee Tiles -Superheroes -Three Walls -Timothy Findley -We Were Here -Uprooted and any and all films by Alan Zweig
As I see films, I'll be posting my thoughts on them. Be sure to visit the Hot Docs website for full descriptions of the films and information on where to buy tickets. Go Docs!
A little while ago I blogged about some friends of mine from Wilma's Wish Productions [blog here] who were making a film entitled Blueberry Soup. They're back on Kickstarter with an awesome documentary teaser and are so close to their fundraising goal. They're in the last phases of production and are fundraising for the last bit of financing needed to complete the film.
Iceland has decided to re-write their constitution through the needs and demands of the people. We are going back to Iceland for all of May to document this historical moment. We see this as an imperative time to document as it could be used as a global example of a nation turning to its people for change.
They have some wonderful donor incentives as well, including handmade Icelandic wool gloves. Click here to support the film!
It's not what you think. Well. Maybe it's exactly what you think. Well, just watch the trailer for the upcoming film "Sex on Wheels" and you be the judge. This film has been a long time coming, documenting Amanda Feder's personal journey of learning to balance on two wheels, and she is now fundraising on IndieGoGo to get an editor to finish the film. Help fund the film and get some perks from doing so! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxjJG76O1z8&feature=player_embedded
Aside from the personal aspect of the doc, which I love, it also focuses on the vibrant cycling community in Toronto. "This film is ultimately an ode to the vibrant Toronto bicycle community, allowing us to see this vivacious group of cyclists from the perspective that has been under-represented in bike films- the total outsider."
I just went on my first bike ride of 2011 two days ago and it was awesome. There's just something about riding around the city on a bike. Good luck Amanda! I hope to see the film soon.
A couple friends of mine, Shasha Nakhai & Rich Williamson, are fundraising for their documentary film called "The Sugar Bowl". They are planning to travel this Spring to shoot the film. The film synopsis from the site:
This film will be a poetic portrayal of the island of Negros, also known as the "sugar bowl" of the Philippines. Through a chorus of voices we will hear the tragic story of its sugar cane industry through eras of Spanish and American colonization. We will craft an eerie story of people living in the past and struggling to keep things as they once were. The film at its core is a story about resilience in the face of hardships.
My good friend Nicole Rogers is acting as the freelance journalist on the film, which is very exciting. The entire production has received some wonderful funding through their win at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival in its Pitching competition, as well as a recent grant from the Toronto Arts Council (way to go!). But they still need some funders to make this project happen.
So many of my friends from Film Studies are out in the world making amazing projects. One of these projects is called Blueberry Soup, a documentary that follows the challenges facing Icelanders in their quest to create solutions, systems, and devices that change the way the Iceland participates in the global economy.
This inspirational path of discovery begins in October, kicking off with by attending the You Are in Control Conference in Reykjavik.
They are within reaching their goal on Kickstarter but need about 8% more to make it! Visit their Kickstarter page [ http://kck.st/c8c5tl ] to donate! One of the perks as a donator (depending on your level) is a DVD of the film and a jar of blueberry jam!!! Mmmmm. Please do let me be without my jam. Donate now!
Also, visit their Kickstarter page for a beautiful trailer for the film.
The week is almost over, and it's hard to believe that the DOC NOW film premieres and Opening Galas have come and gone!
The films premiered at the John Spotton Theatre (NFB, 150 John Street) over three nights (June 7-9). It went so well, and I was happy that everyone enjoyed the work, and that people liked my film! Woohoo!
The Opening Galas for the photo and new media exhibitions were on June 10th starting at Beaver Hall (29 McCaul Street), and then at the 80 Spadina Avenue base camp (Toronto Image Works, Studio Two, and Ryerson Gallery), with four galleries total opening their doors to the public, showcasing the awesome works of the Documentary Media (MFA) graduates. Congratulations everyone!
The festival isn't over yet though! The exhibitions run until the end of June, with some going until early July. There are more film screenings starting TODAY (June 11), and then on June 12th and June 15th.
Visit the DOC NOW website for more information! Check out the exhibitions---they're AMAZING!
If you're interested in attending tonight, or screenings on June 8th and 9th, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP. All other screenings are general admission and do not require an RSVP.
There are screenings on June 11th, 12th, and 15th as well at Ryerson University.
ALL SCREENINGS AND EXHIBITIONS ARE FREE!!!
The films and exhibitions are all amazing, and I encourage anyone reading this to go check them out. Visit the DOC NOW website for all the details!
Last Thursday evening I took part in the DOC NOW panel, presenting aspects of my thesis film on the family farm in relation to the panel's theme: preservation/transformation. I presented alongside two other classmates, Tara Ernst and Marc Losier, who are also both exhibiting work at the DOC NOW festival.
The panel was a great way for me to practice talking about my film and the ideas that surround it. My film is not just about my family farm and its sale but also about the ways the farm is being preserved whether it be through photographs, home videos, a Mackey Family History book, street signs memorials (see image below), or objects taken from the farm and used again (like the beautiful peonies and delicious rhubarb that can be found in various relatives' gardens).
In fact, last weekend I transplanted a rhubarb root from my parents' garden to my backyard in Toronto. The root originally came from the farm, and my Dad estimates that it's at least 50 years old. Now, if only it would survive in Toronto...we'll see! The squirrels have already chewed what was left of it aboveground, but here's hoping the root is resilient!
That realization hit me today like a ton of bricks. The film's due date has been pushed up by two days and now I'm feeling the crunch.
Press releases have been, well, released, the printing is underway, the events have been scheduled...and I'm still editing. Despite any confidence in myself to deliver the film on time for its screenings at DOC NOW, nothing can quell the rising anxiety I'm experiencing. So it's nose the grindstone time.
In other news, I'm heading to the annual Mackey Family Picnic this year at the end of June! I'm pretty excited as I've never gone before, and I'll have a chance to meet and interview George DeKay, relative and author of The Mackey Family History book. It'll definitely put the whole preservation aspect of my film into a larger context, and I'm curious as to what the event will be like.
If you're on Facebook, be sure to join my film's page or whatever Facebook is calling them nowadays.
It has information on all the film screenings and related events, including the DOC NOW Panel on May 20th, running in conjunction with the CONTACT festival. I'm going to be presenting some ideas on documentary and preservation, alongside Marc Losier and Tara Ernst. It's at the Ryerson Gallery and starts at 7pm, so come by if you're in the area! Oh, and it's free!
Be sure to visit the DOC NOW website for information on all the screenings and exhibitions. I'm so excited for all the work being showcased this year. DOC NOW runs from June 7 to 26, 2010.
Well! This blog post is coming a few days after the end of Hot Docs (for me at least) as I needed about two days to recover from all the activity, and seemingly getting sick twice (what was THAT all about anyway?). Day 9 started off with the DOC U group gathering together at our base camp, with Robin Smith from KinoSmith joining us! It was very beneficial to have a local distributer come talk to us, as he was very honest about the industry and his experiences but also gave some great advice in terms of the filmmaker's rights (protecting them!) and what generally happens in distribution.
Then we had about an hour to discuss the Hot Docs experience and suggest any solutions for any issues we may have had with anything that went on. In all honesty there wasn't much I would change, and I feel like my actual experience in DOC U soared past my expectations. I feel very confident about heading into the documentary industry, and that I can lean more on the "artistic" side, that it doesn't have to be all about the industry or business. At least for personal projects that may be more festival focused. Now, whether or not I can make a living....that's another story. :D No, just kidding. Kind of.
I biked home to beat the thunderstorm and then took a cab due to the downpour to The Windsor Arms Hotel for the Hot Docs Party! It was pretty fun, although I think more dancing would have been awesome.
I have to start reminding myself that I need to pay for my coffee and alcohol from this point forward. :D Thank you Hot Docs!!!