by Roberta McDonald – West Coast Editor
(February 3, 2017 – Vancouver, BC) Since it’s inception in 1999, the Crazy 8’s filmmaking competition has been bringing diverse teams together to shoot, edit, and premiere a short film in 8 days with a micro budget of $1000. From fast paced crowd pleasers to eloquent character studies, it has become an iconic creative tradition with the gala screening slated for February 25th this year. The event consistently draws large audiences for short films that move on to show at esteemed film festivals including Cannes.
Executive Director Paul Armstrong notes the 2016 submissions were more weighty and political than previous years. “It’s really the way the world is going,” he says. “It’s keeping Crazy 8’s relevant.” He also notes the stories being pitched have substance and merit. “It’s about artistic expression and telling a good story. None of these films are preachy.”
Armstrong also explains the micro budget and production schedule drives teams to be focused, resilient and resourceful, which are key skills for emerging filmmakers. In addition, many of the teams bring real world experience in other areas of production
Conversing with producer Ben Mallin and writer/director Trevor Carroll (pictured) at Platform studios, the duo was laid back as we chatted across the casting table. As Carroll explained his vision, Mallin stopped to snap a few photos for social media.
Their project, titled No Reservations is a satirical look at what would happen if an oil company began ramming through a pipeline under a small community without permission. The subject matter has renewed urgency. The Dakota Access Pipeline was recently given another approval by the new American administration after former US President Barack Obama signed a stop work order pending environmental reviews. It’s a chilling reminder how much power oil companies wield. Here in Vancouver, the Kinder Morgan pipeline has been given approval after broken promises at both the provincial and federal level and the resistance is growing.
Carroll wants to present the topic in a fresh way, and while the plot twists are under wraps until the premiere, it promises to be a unique perspective on a topic that’s polarizing. As an award winning First Nations multimedia artist, he brings substance and a unique voice to all his efforts, which include APTN’s The Mix, CTV’s First Story, running his own casting agency and overseeing his Mixed Martial Arts organization Battlefield Fight League. He also documented behind the scenes of Crazy 8’s productions 10 years ago, and was inspired by what he saw.
“I think people that are really familiar with the Dakota Access Pipeline may have seen the pipeline was diverted from a white town to a reserve. I want people to get a different perspective and also to create a dialogue,” he explains. What is actually happening? People see it, but they don’t feel it from being put in that position. So I want to give people an interesting perspective,” he says.
Even with this exemplary CV and experience addressing large groups of actors as a casting director, Carroll notes he was a bit daunted by the pitching process: “I’m inside the studio consistently working on casting and commercials. I haven’t had the opportunity for my own personal projects, to go out and explore writing and directing. This is really my first opportunity to do that in a big venue. I’ve never written a script before, I’ve never pitched before which was a big experience for me.”
Mallin has carved out a robust career collaborating on a variety of content, including Chesapeake Shores, documentaries, and several music videos and short films. He attributes much of the creative team’s ease to the support of Production Designer Janessa Hitsman and Production Coordinator Willa-Lee Reid. While the rest of the team is busy prepping the myriad details that make a film shoot run smoothly, he has more time to think of the big picture.
The pair has been finessing the script, dipping into online conversations that volley back and forth the pros and cons of pipelines. It’s become a rich source for dialogue, Mallin says: “There’s obviously a lot of people in both categories. One of them in the pro category tends to be ‘here are the reasons why it’s actually a benefit’ so we wanted to incorporate that real world dialogue into the mouth of our lead antagonist.”
Complexity, humor, relevance and satisfying plot twists. The 2017 Crazy 8’s promises to be a stimulating and enriching experience. Click here for the full list of films.
Based in Vancouver, Roberta McDonald is West Coast Editor for Northernstars.ca. She is a best selling writer, arts journalist and photographer. She has profiled extraordinary filmmakers, including Ang Lee and Sturla Gunnerson. Her short film The Spiral was released in 2014 and she is currently writing her first feature screenplay.