Director Interview: Mina Shum

DIRECTOR MINA SHUM CHATS WITH VWIFF’S ALLISON EVAN


AE:
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as a director?

MS: I always wanted to tell stories. Ever since I was a little girl, I would copy people’s conversations on the bus, in my journal. I wanted people to plug into my brain, and see what I see and feel what I feel.

AE: What are the most exciting projects for you to work on and why?

MS: There are a couple of factors. One: putting myself in a situation I’ve never been in before. For me, the most important pieces of work are ones in which I can actually help people. If I can capture something so specific, and human… if I can do that, that’s the most exciting work.

 AE: What is it you like better about short films than features?

MS: I think every story, every question every theme that I am interested in, has the perfect expression. Hip Hop Mom is a small idea, meant for people to see on the internet. The brilliance of a short, even though it’s as much work as doing a feature film, is that you can concentrate on the skills that you are honing. It’s tapping into what I’m feeling right now.

The validation of something like the Women in Film Festival accepting the film is: Oh! I’m on the right track. It’s kind of like snacking in between meals.

Watch the full interview video on Youtube.

Director Interview: Lulu Keating

Portrait of Lulu KeatingVWIFF CHATS WITH WISE + WILD CURATOR LULU KEATING

by M. A. Clarke Scott

MACS: I notice from your website profile that you began film studies pretty early at Ryerson Polytechnic. How did you discover, as a young woman in 1976, that this was what you wanted to do, and did it occur to you then that it might be challenging for a woman in the film industry? Have you found it to be especially challenging as a woman to do the projects you want and to get recognition for your work?

LK: I always knew I was an artist – that was my vocation, and perhaps because of having 10 siblings I wanted attention.

I never asked my self if I’d chosen something challenging – I didn’t feel I had a choice other than to follow my destiny and work in film.

It has been more difficult as the years progress. Definitely males are rewarded and green lit more than females. It’s easier for us to make short films, but when there’s a lot of money involved, the doors are harder to pry open and the stats prove that few women’s voices are heard.

MACS: You’ve studied, lived and worked in very diverse parts of Canada, from Quebec and Ontario, to the Maritimes and BC, to the Yukon. How does this cross-continental experience influence your vision, and your work?

Film still from The Moody BroodLK: I was born and raised in Nova Scotia and lived there many years. At one point I thought that I had to be there for my whole life because it was where I drew inspiration from, where my stories were. But the move west, and then to the Yukon have been part of my creative development. I needed to challenge myself. I needed change. Living in the Yukon has been exceptional for me creatively.

MACS: Was your residency at the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, in Dawson City, Yukon, April, 2003 what took you to the Yukon or were you already there? If not, how did you find yourself in the Yukon and why did you decide to stay?

Still from Ladies In Waiting Short film by Lulu KeatingLK: Before the Residency I’d been to the Yukon on a film shoot in 2001. That was the year one of my films played in the Dawson City International Short Film Festival. After the Residency, I was so entranced by the people and the land that I stayed on for a few months. The next year I was awarded a Canada Council Research Grant for a film and I returned to Dawson City. I continued to come until I moved here permanently 8 winters ago.

MACS: The films and filmmakers that make up the Wise + Wild program are incredibly talented and diverse. What criteria did you use to select the films for this program?

LK: I looked at a lot of films and selected the program for those various reasons: talent and diversity. I wanted some that showed the Yukon and the issues here, the lifestyle. Others are personal expressions.

MACS: What do you see being distinctive about the Yukon filmmakers voice, if anything? Does the landscape, history, culture or lifestyle, or something else, have a significant bearing on the work that is produced there?

LK: The Yukon, in my experience, rewards strength of character. This place is demanding and challenging on all levels. The women who live here are incredibly strong and self-sufficient. And these qualities are reflected in their films.

MACS: Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I imagine the film industry is small and intimate in Dawson City. How well do northern filmmakers know each other and how much collaboration and cross-fertilization of creativity is there in such a place?

LK: The Yukon has a population of only about 30,000. The film community is small but quite well-knit. We all know each other and there is a lot of support, especially among the women. Many of us have taken workshops together, or been in the 48-Hour Film Competition or the 1-Minute Film Challenge.

Klondike Kalahari imageMACS: Tell us something about the two feature films you currently have in development: Based on a True Fantasy and Klondike Kalahari. What about these projects is unique or close to your heart? Your filmography is so diverse. Do you find yourself leaning more towards drama these days or does it depend upon the moment/project opportunities?

Image still from Midday Sun filmLK: I have always wanted to make feature films. I wrote and directed The Midday Sun in 1989, and I’ve been writing script since. Finally I’m close to shooting another – True Fantasy will go before camera this spring. Every year I try to make a film, even if it is short, and I like to work in every genre. The subject dictates whether it is experimental, dramatic, animated or documentary.

MACS: Lulu, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for our members, fans and readers. We look forward to meeting you at the festival on March 9th, and to seeing the great lineup of Yukon short films awaiting us there.

Pitch Session Venue: Milano Espresso Lounge

Milano Espresso Lounge

Exterior Milano Espresso Lounge
Exterior Milano Espresso Lounge

I had an opportunity this week to check out the venue for the Festival Pitch Sessions scheduled for Friday, March 9th from 2 to 4pm. For details see this post. Milano Espresso Lounge, 36 Powell Street in Gastown, has generously offered their stylish space to the festival to host these pitch sessions. Sign up now to reserve your pitch sessions. WIFTV Members $10 + hst | Regular Rate $15 + hst.

As a fan of a traditional Roman espresso roast, I can report that the Americano and apple pastry I enjoyed while there were top notch.
VWIFF Pitch Sessions venue
VWIFF Pitch Sessions venue
Whether your taste runs to espresso, drip or French press, you will find a brew to suit you, along with a delicious assortment of pastries and snacks both decadent and healthful, or a to-order fresh charcuterie plate that will remind you of your last (or next) trip to the continent.

Go to the Milano website for a full description of the unique approach to roasting, blending and serving coffee that owner Brian Turko believes sets his coffee apart from, and above, the norm.

The following is excerpted from their website.

The Milano Difference

Milano Espresso Lounge

“The Milano taste was developed from a century of artisanship in the Italian coffee tradition. This distinguished taste comes from the skill of the torrefazzioni – a secret method roasting and blending, closely guarded, personally taught, and handed down generation to generation. Our lineage of Musetti, Curatolo, and now Turko brings the family owned and operated Casa Torrefazione (house roaster and blender) into the twenty-first century.

Coffee cup and Pitching bookThe miscela, or blend, is at the heart of our taste. While many attempt it, there are very few outside of Italy that can masterfully balance and harmonize 100% Arabica coffee into 9-10-11 (or even 12) bean blends. This is extremely rare in the coffee industry and we offer this to the coffee lover as an experience that sets Milano Coffee apart.”