By Posted on: Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Rhonda Buckley on Making “Terranova Matadora”

Rhonda Buckley’s documentary, “Terranova Matadora” will screen as part of SJIWFF’s Late Shorts on Friday, October 23rd from 9-11pm at the LSPU Hall. 

“Terranova Matadora”  investigates the life of Carolyn Hayward, a woman who moved from Newfoundland to Spain in the Sixties and became a world famous bullfighter. We talked to Rhonda about tracking down her subject, how she worked around Carolyn’s refusal to go on camera and Rhonda’s own feminist desire to leave a mark on the world.

Rhonda cropped

SJIWFF: Can you tell me a bit about your film?

R: My film is called “TerraNova Matadora”, it’s about a female bullfighter from Newfoundland, named Carolyn Hayward. She went to Bishop Spencer School, here in St. John’s in the Fifties. Upon graduating she went to Spain to teach English. While she was there she became interested in amateur bullfighting and learned to fight smaller bulls. She went on to become a major bullfighter, she fought 900 pound bulls in Mexico. There are many posters that say she was one of the highest paid bullfighters in the world.

Ultimately, I’m interested in feminism and Carolyn is a woman who decided to do something different. She was one of fourteen female bullfighters in the Fifties and the number of female bullfighters hasn’t increased since then.



SJIWFF: Is Carolyn Hayward still alive?

R: She’s alive, she’s just over eighty. Bravo Canada funded me to make this documentary and they were brilliant to work with. When I found out I had the funding I started my search for Carolyn. I thought she was in Lima, Peru but it turned out she and her daughter had moved to Ontario. It took me a month and a half to track her down. I used the media to try and find her, for example I posted an ad in The Telegram and did CBC Radio interviews looking for anyone who had information about Carolyn’s whereabouts.

A man in Corner Brook who is from Lima got on board and tried to find out where she was through his crowd in Peru.We had someone go up and knock on what we thought was her door in Lima. We eventually found her in Ontario.

Oddly and challengingly for me as a documentary filmmaker, Carolyn wouldn’t go on camera. There was nothing that I did not try. She’s elderly, she has some confusion and she’s just not comfortable being on camera. There was a sound production house a kilometre away from  where she lived but she didn’t even want  her voice recorded.

What ends up happening in the documentary is that I tell the story through her granddaughter,Valerie, who was living with her in Oakville. Valerie was able to ask Carolyn lots of questions about her bullfighting years for me.

SJIWFF: It adds an interesting layer, having the story told by her granddaughter.

R: Yes and Valerie is very contemporary, she has a nose ring. She wants to be a filmmaker.

SJIWFF: Approaching this film you knew Carolyn Hayward was a wild, unpredictable force was there anything you learned about her that surprised you?

R: Someone wrote me anonymously and said you shouldn’t push this person to go on camera or give an interview because a bullfighter has a sacred relationship with the bull. Their articulation about their relationship with the bull is what happens in the ring. Carolyn is a very closed person. I understand that because my mother is eighty-eight and my aunts are in their nineties. They’re all very spry but they don’t talk about their personal lives. Older people are more reluctant to divulge things about their personal lives. I didn’t find out if Carolyn went to Mexico because she was in love. I didn’t find out if she stayed in Spain because she was in love.

A lot of the shocking things I learned about Carolyn I learned through archival images. I found a picture of her kneeling in front of a nine hundred pound bull. I went to see some bull fights and kneeling is a very courageous move, not all bullfighters do that.

I found a picture of her where it’s obvious that she enjoys the lifestyle, there’s a guitar player in the corner and she’s at a dinner party, surrounded by people from Mexico. In that way Carolyn and I are similar, we both enjoy that kind of lifestyle.

I did get to talk to some of her colleagues from her time at Bishop Spencer. Her family was in Gander so she stayed in a beautiful dormitory on Circular Road. Apparently she was a bit of a wild card, she used to sneak out at night and go on dates at the Blue Putee, which was a bar. She did that in a very strict environment, where you’re not allowed to have your skirt a millimetre above your knee. So she was certainly defiant.



SJIWFF: Do you see anything of Carolyn in yourself?

R: My immediate answer is no.

SJIWFF: No desire to fight a bull?

R: Definitely not. Valerie said she has no desire to be a bullfighter but she does wish that she had something she felt equally passionate about and that she would receive notoriety for it. I admire that Carolyn chose to be a bullfighter at a time when the career options presented to her as a woman would have been secretary, teacher or nurse. Those options would be really ambitious, most women were home taking care of kids, which is also difficult.
She left for Spain as a teenager with her cousin. That was very courageous –  to leave Newfoundland for Spain at that time as a young woman. So I don’t think of myself as being like Carolyn but like Valerie, I do have an aspiration to do something that’s remembered. I want to put a flair on the world.

SJIWFF: Can you tell me about your next project?

R: I’ve started work on a project called “Avon Ladies of Rural Newfoundland”, it has a CBC broadcast license. If you’re an Avon lady in a larger city, you can just walk along the sidewalk going from house to house but in rural Newfoundland you’re going up over cliffs and through fields, around wells and around fish plants. The geography of Newfoundland makes it bizarre to be an Avon lady. In Newfoundland some Avon ladies go on all terrain vehicles, in Labrador some Avon ladies take skidoos. I’ve always been interested in stories about rural Newfoundland women and their robust nature. I’m fascinated by their ability to handle everything from finances to childcare, to chopping wood. They’ll just cook up a big feed for everyone in their community. All that imagery will be in the film but it’s also about selling beauty products in an environment that doesn’t always prioritize aesthetics.

Read More
By Posted on: Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Lisa Vatcher on “Long Term Care”

Lisa Vatcher’s short film “Long Term Care” will be screening as part of SJIWFF’s Late Shorts on October 23rd from 9 -11pm at The LSPU HALL.

We talked to her about the inspiration for her film, collaborating with her partner and the challenges of re-creating the past on the screen.



SJIWFF: Can you tell me a little bit about your film?

L: I wrote and produced “Long Term Care”, it’s a story about a father and son who are coming to terms with the fact that the father has dementia and needs to be admitted to a care facility. While it’s a heavy topic, there’s a lot of Newfoundland humor peppered throughout because that’s how Newfoundlanders deal with things.

SJIWFF: How important is place to the story in “Long Term Care”?

L: It’s really important, one of the biggest challenges we faced in pre-production was location. My grandmother was admitted to a long-term care facility in St. John’s. I wanted to find a location that could capture the way that place looked and the visceral feeling you get when you enter one of those spaces. The Centre for Nursing Studies eventually came on board and they were incredibly supportive. We were able to use one of their study floors and turn it into a long-term care facility.  

Setting the film in Newfoundland was also really important to me. I wanted to show the way that Newfoundland families deal with this stuff. We tend to turn to dark humor, there was a lot of that when my grandmother was admitted to a home. I wanted Charlie, the father character, to have that dark sense of humor.

SJIWFF: Charlie is willing to joke about his dementia but sometimes it feels like a way of hiding his insecurity about the loss of control he’s experiencing.    

L: I’ve noticed my relatives aging with a sense of humor. I think that humor partly comes from a desire to make it easier on everyone else. They’re not thinking about themselves, they’re trying to lighten the mood and elevate everybody else.

SJIWFF: What made you want to tell this story as a film?

L: I mentioned earlier how visceral it is to walk into a long-term care facility. The sights and smells are completely different than anything else you’ve ever experienced. Those places are trying so hard to cultivate a sense of home and failing at it. The visual nature of a short film really captures that.

My partner Ian Vatcher directed the film and did the cinematography. We’ve been together for a long time and we work very collaboratively.

He was around when my grandmother went into the home. We had just graduated from university and gone backpacking across Europe. I was more of an audience member in that situation. I watched my mother and my grandmother going through that experience together. I wrote about a father and son but that was partly because I was thinking about Ian directing it.

We were really lucky to find John Pike who played Charlie, this was kind of his acting debut. He had done some work on Republic of Doyle as a stand-in and a few years ago he was in a play of Death of a Salesman. It was also me and Ian’s first time making a short film.

We would all sit down together and talk about the character. John was really interested in the backstory; what regiment Charlie would have been in, what kind of relationship he would have had with his family. He showed up on the day and did a great job.



SJIWFF: Can you talk a bit about filming the scene set in the past?

L: Our art director, Debbie Vatcher (who also happens to be my mother in law), worked on Republic of Doyle for years and lots of other films. Period pieces are her passion. She did a lot of research on wartime hospitals. She was able to find out exactly what regiment Charlie would have been in. She found out what hospital in Britain he would have ended up in and how it would have looked. The flashback is short but I think it’s very effective.

SJIWFF: What are some things that were done to make the set look authentic?

L: The set designers and painters did a great job.

One thing that helped make it look authentic was the medical equipment. The Centre for Nursing Studies was great for flimming the present day stuff but they also have a museum of medical equipment in the school that  we were able to avail of. One thing that stands out to me is the I.V. stand and glass that hangs from it. There are all these little details that you add in as a writer without thinking about how props are going to be sourced. We just screened “Long Term Care” at the Atlantic Film Festival and it was really nice to see people’s reactions when the narrative switches into the past. It’s a big moment in the film.

SJIWFF: Who are some of your influences?

L: Jonathan Tropper, he wrote This is Where I Leave You . He writes a lot about family, the sadness and humor that you can pull out of family dysfunction. I thought a lot about his work when I was writing this.

This film came from a really personal place, I let it percolate for a long time. My grandmother unfortunately passed away in 2010. It wasn’t until I started working in production that I realized I had the tenacity to actually write something about it. I let it sit in my head for a really long time before I actually wrote anything down.

SJIWFF: What’s next for you?  

L: I just saw Rhonda Buckley’s “TerraNova Matadora” at the Atlantic Film Festival, it’s a short form documentary about a Matadora from Newfoundland. I found that film really inspiring. There’s a lot of funding out there for digital and interactive projects so I’m thinking about doing something like a webseries or a short form documentary.  

Rhonda Buckley’s “TerraNova Matadora” will also be screened during SJIWFF’s Late Shorts on October 23rd from 9-11pm at the LSPU Hall. Stayed tuned for an interview with Rhonda on the making of her film.

Read More
By Posted on: Friday, September 25th, 2015

Melanie Oates on Making “Bait”

Melanie Oates’ short film “Bait”, starring Rhiannon Morgan and Joel Thomas Hynes, will show at SJIWFF’s  Late Shorts screening on Wednesday October 21st, from 9:30-11:00pm at the LSPU Hall. We talked to her about the real life inspiration behind her film, the magic of having a great editor and her advice for aspiring female filmmakers.



SJIWFF: Can you tell me a bit about your film?

M: My film is called “Bait” and it’s about a ‘bait’ boyfriend which is a fake boyfriend who’s put in place to lure in a real boyfriend who’s only interested in girls who are unavailable. It’s a set up that kind of lends itself to a romantic comedy but I didn’t have it in me to make a romantic comedy.

SJIWFF: Do you draw on your own experiences to make art?

M: The idea for “Bait” came from a real life situation. Me and a friend were working on a film and all these new crew members came to town. So we were sitting there at lunch like gawking at all the new guys. My friend asked me, ‘Do you have one picked out yet?’ and I said, ‘Yeah’ and he was like, ‘How tall is he?’ Because there was one guy who was significantly taller than everyone else. So my friend suggested that he flirt with me to get the new guy’s attention. It worked. Ask my boyfriend.

My boyfriend saw “Bait” at the Atlantic Film Festival. I disassociate myself from my work so much that it didn’t even occur to me to mention to him that it was kind of based on me and him. When he heard the line ‘How tall is he?’ he cracked up. He thought it was cool but now he’s terrified of what else I might turn into a movie.

SJIWFF: The music really informs the atmosphere in your film can you talk a little bit about how you chose the music?

M: That was all Matt Thompson, he’s done the music for all my films so far. I picked out some of his songs and he picked out the final one. I love how his songs are upbeat but they have a grittiness to them.

SJIWFF: Were there any moments where you were forced to improvise or do things differently than you planned?

M: Well, with Joel you always have to do things differently than you planned. He added the line ‘four-fingers Christa’ which at first I wasn’t that into but I ended up going with it. He improvised a bunch and in the end I was glad he did because it let me take ownership of things that he came up with, so it worked out for me.

SJIWFF: I loved all the costumes in the “Bait”.

M: Me and Heather Power, the costume designer picked them out. It was a mix of my clothes, Heather’s clothes and Rhiannon’s clothes.

SJIWFF: What were you trying to convey with the costuming?

M: Not quite crust punk, more like glam punk. Rhiannon is such a beautiful, tall glass of water that she can wear anything and I ended up being kind of rotted at how good she looked in my clothes. But the leather jacket we got at the costume bank, I kept. I’m totally bringing it back, I just emancipated it for a little while.

SJIWFF: Rhiannon and Joel’s characters end up having matching leather jackets at the end.

M:  We tried to dress Joel but he likes to have creative freedom over what he wears. So he brought a bunch of different options and let us pick.  We wanted them to look similar at the end, like they’re heading out on a mission together.  

SJIWFF: I think when they leave together at the end of the film you’re wondering who actually baited who? Who do you think got baited?

M: I think he got baited, even though he’s more aware of his feelings for her than she is of her feelings for him. It’s a hard question.They both have feelings for each other but they’re so scared to admit it that they’re almost playing chicken. Like, ‘I don’t like you so much that I’m willing to help you get another boyfriend’ or ‘Tell me who you slept with that’s how much I don’t care’. What do you think?

SJIWFF: I think the genius of the film is that we don’t really know who was the bait. Or maybe they both are?



Rhiannon; Bait

Rhiannon Morgan in “Bait”

SJIWFF: There’s a lot of erotic tension in the film but the characters almost never touch. What kind of direction did you give or writing choices did you make to create that tension with such little physical contact?

M: They touch once in each act. The first time is when he pulls her fake lashes off, the second time he touches her hair. We played with that moment, we had him reach out to touch her hair but not actually touch it. We ended up going with having him touch it really gently. The last time they touch is when he grabs her wrist as they’re leaving. I wanted to show how afraid they are of losing their connection. Touching would be too revealing but they almost can’t resist it. So they look for little excuses, like helping her take off her eyelashes. When they touch the final time it’s very deliberate, that’s the risk, being so purposeful about touching.

The editing really helped develop their relationship. Brad Gover edited it and he really slowed the pace down. He added a lot of close ups of them looking at each other, that helped build tension.

SJIWFF: Was it surprising to see the film once it was edited?

M: Yeah, I didn’t envision it being that slow. Then I watched it and I loved it. Brad put in these almost relentless, slow close-ups. I kind of imagined we’d end up with more medium shots but all the close-ups intensified the relationship. It was interesting for me, having a good editor is so great.

SJIWFF: It’s interesting that you describe it as slow because I found it so tight and concise. It didn’t feel drawn out to me because it’s so tense. What advice do you have for first-time, female filmmakers?

M: Don’t try to figure out everything at once. Figure things out as you need to know them. You can become overwhelmed by the intricacies of filmmaking. At first I felt stupid when I didn’t know the name of a certain type of light or camera terminology or what the sound equipment was called. Don’t worry about that, worry about the story and your vision and getting what you want.

SJIWFF: What’s next?

M: I’m finishing up a webseries called “The Manor”. We have four episodes shot and three left to shoot. It’s about three roommates who live in a weird and whimsical house downtown. It’s about their relationships with each other. They develop their style and their own language. They end up shutting out the world and retreating into this weird house. You can find “The Manor” on Facebook and Twitter.

And I’m developing a feature script called Scattered and Small. It’s really new but it’s a coming-of-age story about a girl who grows up in foster care and the complicated relationship she develops with her brother.

SJIWFF: Anything else you want to add?   

M: Just that I’m really excited to be in the Women’s Film Festival. It was the first film festival I ever went to. I went when I first moved to St. John’s about ten years ago before I had any aspirations of being a filmmaker. Alison White, Jordan Canning and Stephen Dunn were there and I thought they were all so interesting and talented. Sherry White was there, she had a film called “Diamonds in a Bucket”, which blew me away. After that I always wanted to have a film in the Festival, so I’m very excited.


Check out the full schedule of short films screening at this year’s Festival.

Read More
By Posted on: Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

National Day of Action on Gender Equality #WomenVote


There has been a glaring lack of discussion about gender equality in the lead up to the Canadian federal election. A group of women in the film and television industry are responding with a “National Day of Action” on social media on September 20, 2015 and they want you to get involved.

People of all genders from across Canada who support gender equality are being asked to tweet and/or to post on Facebook on Sunday, September 20, especially between the hours of 1 PM and 4 PM EST (10 AM to 1 PM PST). The organizers will supply some sample tweets but they urge people come up with their own tweets, focusing on the issues around gender inequality that are most important to them. Twitter users are asked to include at least the hashtag #WomenVote in their tweets, but also the hashtags #elxn42 and #cdnpoli, when possible.

“We’ve been tracking and documenting the huge gender disparity in our own industry for several years and the statistics are staggering,” says Sharon McGowan, a Vancouver filmmaker and Associate Professor of Film Production at UBC. “But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Women in Canada made advances towards overall gender equality in the 1970s and 1980s but now progress has stalled. In fact some problems, like gender-based violence, seem to be getting worse.”

Organizers of the National Day of Action feel it is imperative that women’s equality be addressed during the election campaign. “We’re not a special interest group; women represent 50% of the population”, says Barbara Janes, a former National Film Board executive who now serves on the Board of Directors of the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. “It’s unimaginable that in 2015 it’s still considered acceptable in Canada that women occupy only 25% of the seats in Parliament, that the income gap between men and women still remains at 20%, and we have no comprehensive national strategy to address violence against women. What’s even more shocking is that these issues are not even on the political agenda anymore.”

We have a responsibility to speak out about the failure to address gender inequality in the lead up to this election.

Article about the National Day of Action on Gender Equality in the Vancouver Observer

Read More
By Posted on: Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Dialogue on Knowledge and Democracy Short Film Contest

The Atlantic Royal Society of Canada, Memorial University (Faculty of Arts, Public Engagement and Vice President Research)
and CBC Ideas are co-sponsoring an upcoming series of events entitled Dialogue on Knowledge and Democracy.

As part of the event series, working in partnership with the Newfoundland Independent Film Co-operative (NIFCO) and the St. John’s International
Women’s Film Festival, they are launching an exciting new film contest, The Dialogue on Knowledge and Democracy Short Film Contest.

Newfoundland and Labrador film makers, including those that have little or no experience in film production, are
invited to create and submit short films (less than 5 minutes in length).

Entries must be submitted no later than midnight September 24th 2015 to this Dropbox.

Films can be produced in different formats but must be delivered as a Quicktime movie.

All submissions must:

1. Include appropriate credits (the names of those involved in making the film, those appearing in the film and
appropriate acknowledgements)

2. Speak to the broad theme of knowledge and democracy. Some suggested topics are:

– Threats to access to knowledge and free expression in education, the media, politics, community, wider
society in Canada/NL

– The place of knowledge(s) in a healthy democracy

– Knowledge and our contribution to global democracy

– Stories about individuals/groups/institutions/organizations who have/are playing a key role in creating/
mobilizing the knowledge we need for a healthy democracy

– Reflections on what it takes to support active engagement/to protect our future democracy.

A jury of 3 people (see below) will select the winners of the competition. The top 2 films will be eligible for prizes of
$500 and $250 respectively and will be screened as part of the Dialogue on Knowledge and Democracy events,
October 6-9, 2015.

Jury Members:

Anna Petras: Anna is the producer of many award-winning short films and the acclaimed 2008 feature film, Down to
the Dirt. In addition to her production work, Anna has worked for years as a mentor with the Picture Start Program at
NIFCO (Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Cooperative). She currently oversees the co-op’s various film training
and outreach initiatives in the position of Program Director. Anna serves on the Board of the Producer’s Association of
Newfoundland & Labrador (PAN), NIFCO and the St. John’s International Women’s FilmFestival.

Bojan Furst: Bojan Fürst is a photographer based in St. John’s. Originally from Croatia, he studies Journalism in Calgary
and Geography at Memorial. He worked as a staff and freelance photographer, writer and broadcaster in Alberta, New
Brunswick, Croatia, Bosnia and a few places in between. He currently works at Memorial University as a manager of
knowledge mobilization with the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development.


Read More
By Posted on: Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Carmella Gray-Cosgrove and Jess Barry on SPAAT and HERbourage

SPAAT, Smash Patriarchy: an Action Team, is a new feminist organization in St.John’s. We talked to members, Carmella Gray-Cosgrove and Jess Barry, about the feminist house show they put off this weekend.


Ritual Frames at HERbourage, photo by Jonathan Kennedy

SJIWFF: What is SPAAT and what motivated you to start it?

C: Kerri Claire approached me at a party and asked if I wanted to do feminist street art, like putting the word “rape” below the “STOP” on a stop sign. We met with other people to come up with ideas for feminist street art. There were so many people at the meeting with different ideas that it evolved into a much bigger thing and became SPAAT.

J: I got involved with SPAAT because I knew Kerri was interested in the representation of women at festivals and I had been thinking about how great it would be to have a series of feminist house shows. Other people had been talking about how male dominated Harbourage was this year and idea of having HERbourage as a response. I realized there was interest and now would be a great time to start the series of house shows.

C: Johanna Barker needs to be credited with coming up with the name “HERbourage”. Kerri wrote an article about the representation of women in music festivals in Newfoundland for Secret East. I posted Kerri’s article on the Facebook group for Harbourage because I noticed that the line up was very, heavily male-dominated. They responded by saying they reached out to a few female dominated bands but the scheduling didn’t work out.

SJIWFF: Why do you think that scheduling being a problem is an unsatisfying answer?

J: Nicole Collins was on the CBC Morning Show today talking about HERbourage. She made a really good point, she explained that in a couple of days SPAAT was able to arrange a line up that was almost all women fronted bands, every band had at least one woman in it. There were tons more women who wanted to play that we weren’t even able to include. That was just at the local level, there’s so much talent, it’s not difficult to find.

SJIWFF: How would you respond to people who say that female-fronted bands aren’t worth booking for a music festival because they don’t draw as much of an audience as bands fronted by men?

J: It’s a circular problem where male-dominated bands get more exposure so they get more popular, people get familiar with them and come to like them and then those bands get booked more because they’re liked. It’s a self-perpetuating problem. If you don’t make an intentional effort to break that cycle by showcasing female musicians, then the cycle will continue.

C: If organizers make a conscious choice to get women, non-binary people, non-conforming people and people of color on the stage then audiences will get familiar with those people and come to like them. Then those people will start to be represented more in the future.

J: Another reason women are under-represented in festivals is that they don’t have access to the same sort of spaces and resources as men. They don’t necessarily have a community that’s sharing gear and jam spaces and helping each other record albums. I want these feminist house shows to foster a community that shares skills and resources.

C: One of the great things about an event like HERbourage is that it gives women an opportunity to do things that are generally thought of as male skill sets like, setting up gear and doing sound.

Bad Plan

Nicole Squires in Bad Plan at HERbourage, photo by Jonathan Kennedy

SJIWFF: Can you talk a bit about the zine that you made to accompany HERbourage?

C: In addition to house shows and street art, SPAAT is planning to put out a series of zines that give marginalized people a space to express themselves. So we’ll choose a topic for a zine, invite people to submit to it and then put it together as a collective.

The first zine, coincided with HERbourage so we picked the topic ‘Women and Music”. A lot of people wrote about their experiences of being in bands and their experiences at shows. Zines are a great way to engage with the personal, you can include a lot of different voices. You can have very academic voices alongside very anecdotal ones.

J: The zine worked out really well in the context of HERbourage too because we were able to say, ‘it’s great that you’re all here, let’s talk, ALSO there’s thirty pages upstairs if you want to explore this issue further.

C: And we completely sold out, people were totally into it.

SJIWFF: It’s nice that you have a permanent reminder and reference too. The show was a great experience to have with other people in St. John’s but the zine is able to travel in a different way and have a lasting presence.


Illustration by Carmella Gray-Cosgrove in SPAAT! #1 Women and Music

SJIWFF: What is your response to people who say that we’ve achieved gender equality?

J: I think there are issues that are more pressing than the under-representation of women at festivals, for example violence against women. I think we can use music, where gender discrimination is a very real issue, to get people talking about those more pressing issues. It’s a good way to engage people who don’t think of themselves as feminists. If you throw an awesome female-focused show and get people to come out to it, then you generate conversations about feminism.

What’s next for SPAAT?

C: In one hour we have our first general meeting that will be open to the public. That’s going to be a jumping off point for what we’ll do next. The zine is something we’re going to keep doing, house shows are something we’re going to keep doing. We want to deal with lots of intersectional issues, not just women’s issues. We want to be a feminist group that’s involved in action that deals with race and gender on a broader scale.

J: I’m really excited about the music angle. One of the things we’re going to try is a model for getting people involved in music that’s been tried in other places, like Montreal. We’ll host a gathering for people who are interested in playing music and maybe don’t have a lot of experience. Everyone puts their name in a hat and are put into bands. The bands take two weeks to write two songs and a cover and then do a show all together. For someone like me who is interested in learning to play music in a band, that could be a great opportunity. We also want to start a Girl Rock Camp. So, just trying different ways of breaking down barriers that keep marginalized people from making music and art.


Sarah Blackmore playing in Punchtable at HERbourage, photo by Jonathan Kennedy

Read More
By Posted on: Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Jenina MacGillivary and Tamara Segura on the RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award

The RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award (RBC MJ Award) was founded in honour of St. John’s filmmaker and student mentor Michelle Jackson, who passed away suddenly in 2008.This annual peer-juried award is open to emerging female directors who reside in Newfoundland and Labrador and have not yet directed a feature film. The award provides services and cash towards the creation of a six-minute film.

The winner of this year’s RBC MJ Award will receive her award at the festival’s ExxonMobil Closing Night Gala.

We talked to past winners of the RBC MJ Award, Jenina MacGillivray and Tamara Segura about the films they made with the help of the money and services they won, their advice for emerging filmmakers and what’s next for each of them. Jenina’s film “The Tour” will screen at the festival’s ExxonMobil Closing Night Gala.

IMG_0974 (1)

On set of “The Tour”

SJIWFF: Could you tell me a bit about “Before the War” and “The Tour,” the films you made through the RBC MJ Award ?

T: “Before the War” was shot last year and screened at the festival last year. It’s about a war veteran who returns home with post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s the story of how his family cope with that situation. It was shot in about three days with a very small budget and a very efficient crew.

J: “The Tour” was shot this past June, I also had a small crew, about twenty-six people. The whole thing was shot on a bus which was a bit of a challenge but I was also lucky to have a very efficient crew. The film is about a tour bus guide named Alice who has a broken heart and is trying to give a tour of the city of St. John’s. She’s giving her tour to a group of world-weary tourists and as they bounce along there’s a twist that changes the nature of the tour. I won’t give away anymore, no spoilers, it’s going to screen at the closing night of the festival.

I’m really excited about that. My first film “Boarding” screened at the Atlantic film festival last year and I got to go there and watch it with my daughter, Alex. “Boarding” is about my sister and she came from P.E.I. to see the film. It was amazing to watch the film with them and I’m really looking forward to seeing my second short film screened to a big audience at the Women’s Film Festival this year.

SJIWFF: Could you tell me a bit about your experience of the mentorship aspect of the program?

T: We were both mentored by Anita Mcgee. Anita is such special figure in the festival and in this program in particular because she has so much passion for helping young, female filmmakers grow and find their voice. For me, she wasn’t just a mentor on this project, she became a role model and she’s become one of my closest friends.

Sometimes we forget that we make films because we want to say something. The core of this program, what Anita helps you dig out is your motivation. Also, how to handle a crew while you’re on set because we’re emerging filmmakers we don’t have a ton of experience, having her there definitely boosts your confidence. Anita always tries to protect your voice as a director.

J: I totally agree with Tamara, Anita has been the mentor for every RBC MJ Award film and she was an excellent mentor on all levels. She really made sure that what you wanted to say was coming across. Ruth Lawrence was the producer on both our films and she was an excellent person to work with, very supportive. She’s an amazing producer, she really cares about your vision for the film.

T: Ruth is really supportive and creative. She also won the RBC MJ Award so she’s very familiar with the process.

J: The festival, in general, is supportive every step of the way.

Tamara Segura Directing

Tamara directing “Before the war”

SJIWFF: What made you want to tell these stories as films?

T: In my case, it’s the only medium where I know how to express ideas and emotions. I’ve never explored any other form of narrative art. My official training comes from film school. Anytime I want to express something that’s the avenue I choose, it’s the most familiar and it’s the dearest to my heart. That doesn’t mean this story couldn’t have been told as a short story or a poem but for me film brings all art forms together.

J: I like to tell stories in different mediums, I’m a songwriter so I like to tell some stories in that tighter form. Songs let you transfer large ideas with impact and immediacy. Writing lets you do different things, you can say exactly what a character is thinking, you can delve into the past. Also, with prose and song writing you can do it by yourself, you can write alone in a room and edit it for a long time.

If you want to tell a story through film you have to be sure that film is the medium it’s best suited to because it’s such a hard thing to do. You have to get a lot of people together, it takes a lot of money and it takes a long time.But there are some stories that are best told as a collection of images.This story really felt like it should be told with images, I could just picture the bus moving along.

There’s also something really powerful about an audience coming together to experience a story together in one room. I love that, that kind of experience still exists. We usually watch movies alone on our computers and I love the experience of everyone coming to physically be in a room and share a story together.

SJIWFF: It sounds like “Boarding” is partly about that collective experience of coming together to view something, the tourists are a kind of audience.

J: I was totally going to say that next. No, but there does seem to be some reflection between those two things.

SJIWFF: Did you draw on anything you learned from songwriting to make this film?

J: There’s a rhythm and pacing to a film and it’s the same with a song. A song is such a short form that it needs to be just right. Even if one word is wrong the listener gets knocked out of the song and I think it’s the same with a film. They both have to have seamless rhythm.

SJIWFF: Were there any moments where you were forced to improvise or do things differently than you planned while making your film?

T: Unexpected things always happen when you’re making a film. The movie didn’t end up being exactly what I had in mind when I wrote the script but it’s satisfying when that happens because it shows that you’re flexible and able to get what you want no matter what challenges arise.

J: I think what Tamara is saying about being flexible and having the long game in mind is important. You start with an idea, then it becomes a script, then you have the footage in the editing room, then there’s the finished film – they’re all different things. The idea and the finished film have the connection of being the same story but they’re also very different.

There were a lot of challenges making this film, even setting up the camera in the small walkway between the seats on the bus was tricky. We didn’t foresee how hard it would be to get the angles we wanted, even just moving around in the space was difficult. Having twenty-six people on a bus trying to shoot with the light changing every five seconds, as it does in Newfoundland, was a challenge for continuity.Also, we didn’t realize there wouldn’t be any power on the bus, we had to run all the equipment off generators.

SJIWFF: How did you get the bus?

J: There’s a guy who works at Holy Heart High School where I’m a substitute teacher. I was talking about how I need a bus in the staff room and he was like, ‘Hey, my uncle has a bus company’. So I called the uncle up and he gave us a great deal on the bus. Chris Duke, the bus driver was a dream, he ended up acting in the film. He was so professional and a great actor too.


Jenina on set of “The Tour”

SJIWFF: What advice do you have for female, first-time filmmakers?

T: You have to make sure that you know why you want to tell your story. You are involving so many people and using so many resources – it’s a big responsibility. You’re taking responsibility for a community. If you don’t know why you want to tell a story – wait. But once you’re sure just go for it. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Don’t complain that there aren’t enough resources, there will always be challenges. If you want to tell a story you tell it with whatever you have. The technology available today means that you can be very independent, definitely more so than five or ten years ago.

For female filmmakers my most important piece of advice is be confident. I’ve found that the most challenging part of being a filmmaker hasn’t been finding funding, getting people involved or getting people interested in my projects. The most challenging thing has been finding confidence, that’s the one thing you can’t lack.

J: It’s true confidence is so valuable. Tamara’s right, the technology is there. Beg, borrow, steal a camera. Write a script, ask your friend with a camera to shoot it, see if you like the feel of that. Get your friends involved, it doesn’t take any money to see if film is the medium you want to tell your stories in. Practice, take a camera everywhere with you.
Definitely tap into the resources in your community, like the Women’s Film Festival. They have training workshops for women during the festival. They do Scene & Heard every year. The Women’s Film Festival is an amazing resource it’s helped so many female filmmakers in St.John’s and beyond. FRAMED just went to Nain to make films with youth in Inuit communities.


Tamara filming “Before the War”

SJIWFF: What’s next for both of you?

T: I’m developing my first feature film, it was my thesis at the film school that I attended in Cuba. I’m adapting what was initially a Cuban story to the Canadian context. So this summer I was chosen by the Atlantic Film Festival Script Program to develop the story and I’m about to finish the first draft. Very briefly, it’s a story about an older couple who own a farm. They have someone come to work for them and eventually the woman realizes that the employee is someone from her husband’s past.

I’m also in the early stages of developing an animation project.

J: I’m working on a short film called “Skip” that I’m hoping to make through the PictureStart program. It’s about about a man who lives around the bay and is trying to get an expert rock skipping team together to go to the Michigan Rock Skipping Tournament while also caring for his aging grandfather.

I’m also in the early stages of writing a feature length film. Tamara and I both went to the P.E.I. Screenwriters’ Bootcamp this summer with the help of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation. The film I was working on is about a woman named Marion, who works at a Halfway house. The protagonist is based on my mother who worked with young offenders when we were growing up. It’s story that’s very close to my heart.

Read More
By Posted on: Monday, August 31st, 2015

Jenina MacGillivary and Tamara Segura on their Adventure Canada Wildlife Cruise

We talked to RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmakers Award winners, Jenina MacGillivary and Tamara Segura about filming on the Adventure Canada Wildlife cruise this July. The cruise travelled from St.John’s to St.Pierre and along the coast of Labrador.

This year Adventure Canada has donated a ticket to The Film Lover’s Lottery (winners also have the of option buying a second ticket at a 50% discount). The Film Lover’s Lottery is a fundraiser that supports the St.John’s International Women’s Film Festival and the RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmakers Award.
Lottery prizes will be drawn at the ExxonMobil Closing Night Gala and there are still some tickets available!!

For a chance to win a place on an upcoming cruise and several other exciting prizes buy a ticket online here.


Photograph by Dan Bailey

SJIWFF: Can you tell us a bit about the filmmaking you were doing on the Adventure Canada Wildlife Cruise?


J: Adventure Canada is donating a ticket to the Film Lover’s Lottery, so some lucky person will win an Adventure Canada cruise. It really is more of an adventure than your typical cruise.

We were making promotional videos about the cruise for Adventure Canada. The scenery was spectacular so at first I was focusing on capturing that. As we travelled further north and spent more time on the ship, I started to realize that although the scenery was totally mind blowing the people on the cruise and the reasons they were there were also fascinating; maybe someone just lost a spouse or maybe it was someone’s dream since they were a little kid to see icebergs.The people started to become the focus of our little movies. We met three women who were in their nineties and had met in a meditation class ten years ago. They walked up the Tourngat Mountains together with their canes.

I met a cameraman who shot the last fifteen minutes of David Cronenberg’s “The Fly”. There were points where I was kind of struggling with the camera and he would sit down with me for a couple of hours and advise me. He was a great mentor. We met a lot of really interesting people. Margaret Atwood was on the cruise.


Photograph by Dan Bailey

SJIWFF: Did you (Jenina and Tamara) know each other before you went on the Adventure Canada cruise?

T: We’ve been friends for a while, we actually met through the Women’s Film Festival. The first time I saw her was at a Scene & Heard workshop.

J: I think it was at the LSPU Hall, it was a Women’s Film Festival screening, you were volunteering and you came to wrong place and I sent you to the Arts and Culture Center. I was like ‘who is that girl, I need to get to know her’. Just kidding, sort of.


T: The second time I saw her we sat together, it was two years ago and my english wasn’t as good. I kept whispering, ‘Jenina, what are they saying? Jenina, translate for me’. So yeah, we had a relationship before we went on the cruise, actually Jenina is my best friend in town.


J: On the cruise we lived together for two weeks in a really small room. We shot everyday, we took a camera up the Tourngat Mountains for example. We were shooting the landscape and doing interviews. We had to agree at the last second on what we were going to shoot and who we were going to interview. It was a very guerilla style filmmaking experience. We really had to be on the same page and be patient with each other.


T: I’m so proud we made it through that experience together. It’s very intense when you’re taken out of your comfort zone. We were getting up at six in the morning, I normally don’t have that kind of life, I’m not really a morning person. There was a lot of physical activity, we were in a completely new place where it was impossible to leave. I think it was great training for future projects.


Photograph by Dan Bailey


SJIWFF: What was the most interesting thing you learned on the cruise?


J: I learned a lot about Inuit culture.I met a very interesting and inspiring Inuit woman. She told her story of being relocated from Hebron in fifty-nine. She explained the effect that had on her and her family. She felt isolated in her own community in Nain, like an outsider.She and many people in her family turned to substance abuse. She went down a dark, difficult road and came out the other end.She opened my eyes to the challenges that many Inuit people are facing in Canada. Hebron felt like a sacred place to me, I felt very strong emotions there.


T: It felt like a huge privilege to get to see these very isolated places. After coming from Cuba those places felt like a different planet to me. What I enjoyed the most was what I resisted the most at first which was being part of a group. The first few days I was having a difficult time adapting because I’m not used to being in big groups of strangers but that ended up being the part I cherished the most. This very clear arc happened in just ten days, I learned about myself.


J: I think Adventure Canada is very unique, it doesn’t feel like a business. It’s a family run company, Cedar Swan and Jason Edmonds who run it are married and Cedar’s father owns the company. They really reach out to the communities they visit.It really feels like you’re part of a group that’s trying to have an authentic experience of these places.

See More of Dan Bailey’s Photographs of the Adventure Canada Wildlife Cruise here.

Read More
By Posted on: Saturday, March 7th, 2015

Meet Lindsay MacKay, writer/director of WET BUM

Tonight is the night! WET BUM is playing at the LSPU Hall in just under and hour!!! If you don’t have tickets yet, you are going to want to rush down there and get them, especially after you learn a bit more about this up-and-coming director. Lindsay MacKay took the time to answer some of our questions about the film. She’ll be joining us after the screening this evening to answer more of your filmmaking questions. See you there!

SJIWFF: Tell us a bit about why you made the film. What was it like to write a story that weaves together multiple generations? Why was this important to you?

LM: Sam’s journey throughout the film is loosely based on my own experiences at her age. I grew up in a small town, where my parents ran and owned a nursing home. One summer, when I was a teenager, my parents suggested I take a job at the nursing home as a cleaning woman. I reluctantly agreed. Working there meant I had to slowly get to know many of the residents on a personal level.

As the summer passed, I began to understand that this moment in these people’s lives wasn’t as peaceful as I had always imagined. As I struggled through the summer managing feelings of guilt, anger, and confusion, I discovered that many of the residents were struggling, too. They were angry that they were expected to gracefully step aside for a younger generation that didn’t understand or appreciate them. They felt the guilt of having lived a long life and not having accomplished all they set out to, and they shared in my confusion and fear of the uncertain.

As I was entering an exciting period in my life — holding a boy’s hand and having my first kiss — a man lost his wife. As I fought with my parents about responsibility and freedom, a woman was admitted to the nursing home because her family could no longer take care of her. As I was growing up, they were growing old.

I have come to discover that most of themes in my work stem from my childhood and my experiences in the nursing home. Dealing with the idea of mortality and aging in my youth caused me to become hyper-aware of how we as a society force this very individual experience into a very archetypal idea. We see old people as grandpas and grandmas, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, but, most frequently, as people who have lived their lives and have come to terms with the fact that world keeps going after they are gone. Through Wet Bum, I hope to breakdown some of those stagnant models and shed light on the confusion and uncertainty we all face no matter our age.

We’re all attempting to give our life worth, and we place that worth in the things we collect, the people we love, and the people that love us. But what happens when the things we collect vanish, the people we love die or move on, and people who love us forget?

I was compelled to write this story because I wanted to create a conversation around these ideas and explore how different generations can find common ground through recognizing each other as individuals. Sam is a young girl, who, like me, felt like she was in a state of in-between, being young and wanting to be reckless but not fitting in with her peers because she was a late bloomer and a bit of an old soul.

Through that summer, I learned a lot about myself and what I value in other human beings. The residents at the nursing home reminded me of the value of connecting with people, as well as recognizing that we all have flaws and face a lot of uncertainty, but by being there for one another, we somehow manage to get through it all.

SJIWFF: Were there any films that influenced you? If so, how?

LM: There are many films and filmmakers and artists that influence my work. For Wet Bum kept coming up were:

Thematically the film aligns itself with an outsider – a young and confused girl who’s trying to find a place to belong, which is very similar to our main character Sam. I also admire the way the film deals with themes of sexuality, it gracefully toes the line between what’s right and wrong

RATCATCHER – DIRECTED BY LYNNE RAMSAY (One of my all time favourite films)
What I love about Ramsay’s work is how her narrative is lingering and poetic; a story that beings with the accidental death of a neighborhood boy expands to tell the complicated story of how one boy is struggling with this family, his friends and his place in life. Her shot choice and patient pacing help add to the meditative feel of the film. The small details transcend the familiar; they capture the dream-like innocence of childhood like no other film and juxtapose that with the pending pressure to grow up.

Also when I watch Wet Bum now I can see traces of how Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In has influenced my work. That films also focus on the two outsiders and an unlikely friendship.

SJIWFF: Did you face any challenges making this film?

LM: We faced many challenges making this film… Almost to many to list… but the one that was the most difficult for me was time. I always wanted more hours in the day, and days in the schedule. Moving at the fast pace that film sets do (particularly indie films), I was always fearful that I was missing something, or that I didn’t have time to think of the best option for the scene.

SJIWFF: What projects do you have in the works now?

LM: I’m currently developing a short I made CLEAR BLUE into a feature. I’ve actually being thinking about setting it in an ocean side town in Newfoundland!

Here’s the synopsis:
Clear Blue tells the haunting story of Simon, a young lifeguard on his first days on the job at a community pool. The mundane quickly becomes mysterious, when Simon notices Flova, an alluring older woman with an exceptional capacity to stay submerged under water. As Simon follows Flova into the pool he makes a startling discovery. What follows is a story of temptation and pursuit, a fable of impossible love and ultimately, its harrowing consequences.

Tickets available at the LSPU Hall Box Office

Read More
By Posted on: Friday, October 31st, 2014

Congratulations to our 2014 Film Lover’s Lottery Winners!

Congratulations to our 2014 Film Lover’s Lottery Winners!
Thank you immensely to all who supported the Festival and RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmakers fund this year.

The 2014 Lotto prizes and winners were:

Director’s Prize: Jenifer Soper

A MAXXIM Vacations trip for two to the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival including airfare, hotel for five nights, and tickets to the TIFF Closing Night Gala, provided by the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.

Prize value: $3,000

Writer’s Prize: Kerry Gamberg

A 32GB white iPad tablet with Smart Cover, provided by Optimized Risk and Insurance Ltd.

Prize value: $600

Producer’s Prize: Trudy Wilson

A one night stay, including dinner and breakfast, at Fisher’s Loft in Port Rexton, Trinity Bay.

Prize value: $300

Actor’s Prize: Elaine Hann

A dinner for two at Raymonds restaurant, provided by the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.

Prize value: $300

Film Buff’s Prize: Melissa Carrera

Two full passes to the 26th annual St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and the 2014 – 2015 MUN Cinema Series.

Prize value: $340

Ticket Seller’s Prize (awarded to the person who sells the most tickets): Philomena Brown, who sold 64 tickets!

A $100 NLAC gift card, and a silver St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival 25th
anniversary pendant, hand-crafted by master goldsmith Jan Peterknecht.

Read More