Nanaimo filmmakers are finalists in the Telus StoryHive documentary pitch contest. Five Acres, Penny Girl, Salish Orca and Beyond Bandaids are looking for votes, with the top 15 vote-getters to receive $50,000 each toward their projects. IMAGES SUBMITTED

Nanaimo filmmakers need votes to win StoryHive documentary pitch contest

At least five Nanaimo entries are finalists

A documentary contest could be a way for Nanaimo filmmakers to tell the stories the way they want.

At least five groups of Nanaimo filmmakers are entered into this year’s Telus StoryHive contest and collecting votes to try to win funding so they can realize their visions on screen.

Penny Girl, made in co-operation with Frankie Edroff, is a biography of the child fundraiser whose efforts built Jeneece Place in Victoria, and who recently came out as transgender.

Beyond Bandaids will try to look at solutions to homelessness and drug addiction rather than the associated problems, with filmmakers examining the benefits of therapeutic communities.

A documentary called Five Acres looks at the history of Nanaimo’s five-acre farms, the modern relevance of the working five-acre farm on Harewood’s Park Avenue, and agriculture on Vancouver Island.

Salish Orca: Guardian of the Sea is about researchers’ efforts to protect the Salish Sea’s southern resident killer whales.

Another local documentary project is The Last Men Centre Standing, about Nanaimo’s Men’s Centre and its potential closure due to lack of funding.

Every project that has made it this far is a finalist; from here, the top 15 vote-getters will receive $50,000 apiece and then judges will select another 15 documentaries to fund, as well.

“This is the first time they’ve done documentaries. They’ve done humour, they’ve done drama, they’ve done this, [that], all that stuff,” said Jeff Patton, producer with Cinnabar Vista Productions and Beyond Bandaids.

Paul Manly, part of the team making Five Acres, said he’s been making documentaries for years and has seen the funding models change.

“It’s gotten a lot more difficult to find funding for a documentary film, so these sort of things end up being the way that filmmakers have to go in order to try to find funding for the films that they’re passionate about,” he said.

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The concept for Penny Girl came together quickly and recently. Co-producer Joseph Boutilier is a Nanaimo resident but grew up in Victoria and said since the news of Edroff coming out as trans broke, “it felt like there was more of a story there and I wanted to see a film about it.”

So he and a “ragtag” group of people from around the mid and south Island decided to try to make that film.

“I’ve been, like most of the Island, I think, following [Edroff’s] progress from back in the day when he was the ‘penny girl’ and was just sort of getting started and really exceeded everyone’s expectations, I think, in terms of the fundraising power that he clearly possesses,” Boutilier said.

The co-operation of Edroff is key, because Boutilier said the filmmakers really want it to be more autobiography than biopic.

“We’re just there to support Frankie who’s already an extremely creative and articulate person and has a personality that really comes through well on camera and shines on his own,” Boutilier said. “So for us it’s more facilitating that than creating something from scratch.”

Boutilier said Edroff has said that transitioning is the most challenging thing he’s done, which is saying something coming from “someone who’s basically combated cancer for his entire life and raised over $1 million in pennies and done all kinds of other things that most of us wouldn’t dream of doing in a lifetime.”

Beyond Bandaids filmmakers plan to talk to experts about solutions to homelessness and the opioid crisis. Harm reduction alone isn’t working, said Patton.

“Our society has tried a variety of things. We’re calling them Band-Aids,” he said. “Whether you’re talking about clean needles or feeding the people on the street or finding temporary shelters so they don’t freeze … all these things are good. Just like you’d use a Band-Aid, they’re helpful, but they don’t solve the underlying causes.”

The Cinnabar Vista team is working on the Beyond Bandaids project with Richard Leblanc, founder of Woodwynn Farms in Saanichton, known for its ‘homefulness’ program.

“Therapeutic communities work best when you have the opportunities to develop the right and proper habits of how you’re going to live,” Patton said. “You become integrated, you become connected with other people. Because a lot of people who are homeless and who are drug addicted, they’re disconnected from their families, they’re disconnected from longtime friends.”

For Manly, the Five Acres project stems from all the time he’s spent in recent years at the Harewood farm through his work on other projects.

“We’re down to the last three five-acre parcels in this community and a number of them have just been carved up for development and this five-acre plot that’s being farmed is the last one that’s producing food, and five acres used to be the breadbasket of the mid-Island region,” he said.

He wants to delve into some of the history, back to the days of coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and mine manager Samuel Robins and their contributions to the area, and juxtapose that with present day and the work of Nanaimo Foodshare and Growing Opportunities Farm Community Co-op. Manly said he’s seen first-hand how an introduction to farming has changed people’s lives.

“This is one of those ways that we help people find their way and that is through employment skills training and learning about growing food. If you can grow your own food, it’s empowerment,” he said.

A Nanaimo independent film producer Stephanie Watkins and her team, working on the Salish Orca project, were profiled yesterday. Read the article here.

The Last Men Centre Standing, according to its StoryHive page, looks at the Nanaimo Men’s Centre and the programs and support it provides to clients. The documentary will focus on men who have benefited from the centre’s services, and the centre’s efforts to try to stay open.

StoryHive voting continues only until Thursday, Aug. 2, at noon. To see all the entries in the documentary pitch contest, click here.

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