author: alexa lawlor | staff writer
The event showcased student talent from around the world.
The Living Skies Student Film Festival ran from March 2-4, and showcased student films from the University of Regina and all around the world. This year’s festival also featured a few special presentations, including those from Stephen Surjik, and from Layton Burton. For more information, I talked to event coordinator Zach Almond, and second-year film production student Morgan Jones, whose film, Home Sewn, was screened at the festival. See their comments below.
Zach Almond, Living Skies Event Coordinator
The Living Skies Student Film Festival has been running for 29 years and is the longest-running student film festival in the world. The purpose of the festival has always been to promote the work of our students locally, but also that of filmmakers around the world.
There are more names than I can count [of U of R film graduates] that have gone on to have good careers in film. Some recent ones are Lowell Dean (Wolfcop), Janine Windolph and Daniel Redenbach (The Land of Rock and Gold), and Lucas Frison and Elise Beaudry Ferland (Talent).
In terms of coming into the festival this year, we mostly wanted to keep the momentum from last year going. I was the only one of the six organizers from last year who returned this year, so there was a lot of responsibility there in terms of trying to keep what we had last year. I personally wanted to make this year’s edition better than the previous years. Not an easy task by any means, but I think if anything we’ve definitely matched last year’s festival.
A big change we did, though, from last year was bring in a special guest. This year we were fortunate to have Stephen Surjik, initially from Regina, come in and give a talk on our opening night. Stephen’s worked on many big name projects from Wayne’s World 2 to the Marvel Netflix shows. I think that’ll be something that definitely piques people’s interests, both film majors and non-film majors. With this year’s festival, we also decided to run the entire thing out of the Shubox Theatre. It’s a nice space and we figured that in the long run, it makes our jobs a little easier.
As for what people can expect as a whole for the festival, it’s going to be a really awesome three days packed with talks, screenings, workshops, awards, food and (of course) drinks.
This year, we had over 1,500 films submitted and, unfortunately, we can’t show all of them. After careful consideration, we ended up selecting 29 films. This selection contained a good mix of fiction, experimental, documentary, animation, and U of R films. The overall number didn’t surprise me too much, considering the previous year we had over 1,700 submissions. The drop here comes from tweaking the submission window, but it is still a lot of films. To decide on what makes it in, we, the organizers, sift through the submissions to create a short list for the judges, which entails finding the films that are actual student work. After this is done, we send the lists to the judges, who have a couple weeks to watch these films, rate them, and then send the results back to us. From there, we tally up the results and depending on what the schedule for the festival looks like, select accordingly. The farthest place a film came from was New Zealand, but there were also films from South Africa, Chile, Russia, etc. The list goes on and on.
Putting something like this together is definitely a challenging process, but at the same time, can be fun. For me, planning started not too long after the 2016 festival ended, which isn’t much for turnaround time. Typically though, the official planning for the festival begins at the start of the fall semester with weekly meetings and continues through the winter semester until the end of April usually. After the festival, we still meet to handle any administrative things and ensure our finances are in good standing.
Morgan Jones, Filmmaker, Second Year Film Production Student
The film I made is an experimental documentary of sorts. It is a portrait of my mother and her thoughts on where we live. It also features a large amount of her embroidery projects, including her swear word embroidery.
I first got the idea from my instructor, Mike Rollo. I met with him to try and find an idea for my final project, and he was asking me about some hobbies I had. Once I mentioned embroidery, I remembered the swear word embroidery that my mom had been doing. Mike’s immediate reaction was, “She does what?!” From there, the film grew from my mother’s love of embroidery and vintage things and incorporated those with the way my mom feels about our home. I spent a lot of weekends hauling equipment back home to Estevan, and then putting together large sequences of still photographs to achieve the stop motion effect. I did this with spools of thread, embroidery hoops, and even a record player. I also incorporated some video footage of my mother actually transferring her design onto fabric, as well as embroidering it. The film also features her voiceover.
This is the first time I’ve submitted a film to the festival. It really means a lot to me to have my film featured in such a way that a lot of people have the opportunity to see it. It’s also really cool to have it alongside both U of R films, as well as films from a number of different countries around the world.
I have only attended the festival as long as I have been at the university, so last year’s festival was the first one for me. There were a lot of great films last year, and I’m excited to see what this year has to offer. I got the chance to see Stephen speak on the first night of the festival, and I’m looking forward to what Layton will be talking about. It gives a great insight into the film industry for someone just starting out. What I enjoy most about the festival, and about film festivals in general, is just getting to see so many different styles and creative treatments from all over the world. It’s always really exciting to see short films at festivals because they require a huge amount of work that is packed in a small amount of time.
The Living Skies Film Festival showed a wider local community the talent in our film department alongside some of the world’s best. Follow Living Skies Film Festival on Facebook for photos from the event and updates leading up to the 30th festival.