A pair of Nanaimo short film productions are getting underway thanks to two $10,000 grants.
On May 3 it was announced that writer/directors Raymond Knight’s and Michael Chen’s production teams were among the 47 to receive the grants from Storyhive, an entity affiliated with Telus that provides funding and support to filmmakers in B.C. and Alberta. There were 296 entries and the winners were determined by public vote.
Knight’s project, Living With, is a documentary that follows artistic people living with cancer, inspired by his father, a wood carver.
“It’s kind of about healing through passion and art and how different families do that as a group,” he said.
“And also just profiling people who you think that they would be negative because they were ill, but you just seem to find that there’s the most positive energy around these people and that’s just something we really want to capture in the film.”
Knight said he “almost puked” when he heard he got the grant. He almost didn’t apply for it in the first place, having been soured on public vote contests after two unsuccessful pitches to Storyhive’s music video category.
“I hated it,” he said. “I was never wanting to do it again until this one came up and it was a good cause and we had a lot of support for it.”
This is the first grant and the largest budget Knight and his producer and production manager Zachary Tannar have ever worked with. The announcement came on Tannar’s birthday and he said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present.”
“Just to put it in perspective, the videos can’t be over 10 minutes, so you have a thousand dollars a minute for production,” Knight said.
“So for a documentary that’s awesome because all our expenses get paid for.”
He said the funding will cover the cost of travel, post-production services and equipment rentals. He said hopes to hire a drone operator for the film’s “super cinematic” climax. Knight and Tannar said it will be a challenge to fit everything into 10 minutes and they are thinking of developing Living With into a bigger project to submit to film festivals.
This is the second Storyhive grant or Chen and his project lead, producer and editor Nicola McTaggart, after securing funding for a web series in 2016. The duo submitted a pitch for their short film, The Wrestler. Chen said a lot of plans were ready and “in a holding pattern” just in case he won. Now it’s time to get moving.
“For me it really does feel like we’re like five per cent finished. OK, great. Why are we celebrating this five per cent? There’s so much more to go,” he said.
“This is our sixth project and aside from our web series we have never had funding so we’ve kind of just scrounged and asked for donations and volunteers and done it all on our own,” McTaggart said.
“So to actually have $10,000 to be able to secure proper locations and equipment, it makes it so much easier to make films here.”
Chen said the film would not be possible without the grant because of the cost of venue rental, ring rental, sets and wardrobe. They’ve never worked with stunts before, so they’re bringing in Vancouver Island Pro Wrestling for instruction and authenticity.
Despite appearances, Chen insisted The Wrestler is “not a wrestling film, it’s a film about a wrestler.” In fact, in his original conception of the story the main character was an insurance adjuster.
“He would do bad things at work because he had to, that was his job, and he really, really toiled with that in terms of who he was,” Chen said.
“But then that kind of manifested into this other idea and then I cut off the whole insurance adjuster idea and moved on towards the wrestler idea because—”
“—It’s more entertaining,” offered McTaggart.
“It’s more romantic,” Chen said. “The wrestler versus the insurance adjuster.”
The filmmakers are to submit their finished work on Aug. 7. The films will appear on Telus Optik TV On Demand in the fall.