Celebrating five years of (picture) starting careers

The Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Co-operative is celebrating the fifth anniversary of its Picture Start program, which helps would-be filmmakers enter the industry.

For burgeoning filmmakers, lack of access to expensive filming and editing equipment and knowledge of the business side of the industry can be major roadblocks. The Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Co-operative (NIFCO) has developed a decidedly successful program, Picture Start, to help would-be producers get a leg up. The program is celebrating it’s fifth anniversary at Empire Theatres (on Kenmount Road in St. John’s) on Monday, with a special film compilation screening and interviews with writers, directors and editors who’ve done their time with Picture Start.

Each year, the program’s jury selects three scripts from an open competition and provides the winners with the resources they need – including workshops, equipment, and assistance applying for grants and festivals – to produce their first film. Picture Start participants have had resounding success in the film-industry both on and off the Island. In its short history, the program has launched the careers of notable Newfoundland filmmakers including Joel Hynes, Sherry White, and Jordan Canning (whose short film, Seconds, was featured in the Indy last year). We asked a couple former participants to share their experience with us, and this is what they had to say:

Darcy Fitzpatrick (Mickey’s Farm, Meters, Tiger Tom)

Making movies is hard. It takes a wild variety of people with boat loads of experience all working together with a common and clearly defined objective to make a movie happen. And there’s usually a fair bit of scratch involved, too. You think you know that, but then you work on a fully funded short film and it really strikes you on so many levels just how true all that is.

As a Picture Start Program alumni, not only did I get to put a short film I’m proud of under my belt and learn buckets about how to turn the things in my brain into things on a screen that other people can see and hear, but I gained a major appreciation for just how movies get made – the guts of movies, the stuff you can’t really know until you’ve gotten your hands dirty with the stuff.

This kind of knowledge is crucial for anyone who wants to keep making movies, which is the whole idea behind the Picture Start Program. Now that I’m out there on my own and no longer wrapped in the warm and protective Picture Start embrace, it’s up to me to take the invaluable things I’ve learned and figure out how to navigate the path towards my next film. And my next film. And the one after that.

The Picture Start Program has given me the knowledge and the confidence to continue down that path, to keep making movies.

Who’da thunk that if you wanted to get a head start in making movies you’d want to live in St. John’s, Newfoundland? But here we are and here I am. I’m eternally grateful to the Picture Start Program for giving me an opportunity that so many well-deserving potential filmmakers might never know. I promise to keep making the most of it.

Emily Bridger (Epilogue, Brad, Kathy)

I think one of the greatest aspects of the Picture Start program is that it provides the opportunity to work with a real-life, true-blue film crew. Advances in technology (I’ve never sounded more like a men’s razor commercial!) have made it much easier to become a filmmaker (or a photographer, or a model, or a pornographer…), which can be great. I’ve learned a lot on barebones sets, crewed up with only those friends who are too nice to say no. Picture Start, however, gave us access to people who actually worked in film, and the funds to hire them. Shooting “Kathy” felt different than anything I’d ever worked on before – having all these people on set who knew what they were doing, intricately and artistically collaborating on what would eventually be “the film”. It felt great. It felt like we were making a real movie.

I believe it was our second day of shooting; we were outside, and it was a beautiful day (now, this weather was really something, because it was that same year as That Horrible Summer of Which We Dare Not Speak. You know the one, right before The Greatest Summer Ever). We were about to get the shot where the title character, Kathy, is driving with her brother. They pulled up in the car as we were ready to roll, so to speak. Mark yelled action. Nothing happened. Chrysler’s time of death: the exact moment we needed it in the film. Without missing a beat, about half of the crew members rolled up their sleeves and started to push that cursed vehicle, making sure to coupy down so as to stay out of the shot. Movie magic. That’s the moment I always think of when someone asks me about the Picture Start program. I wonder if there’s any other film crew in the world like a Newfoundland film crew. I hope so, but I doubt it.

NIFCO’s Picture Start fifth anniversary industry event will take place Monday, 7 p.m., at Empire Theatres on Kenmount Road in St. John’s. For those interested in launching their film careers, there will also be a call-out for the next round of submissions later this summer – keep your eyes peeled for details on NIFCO’s web site.

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