TOP 15 PEOPLE TO WATCH FROM THE WHISTLER FILM FESTIVAL 2015 - By Joel Ashton McCarthy
Last year was my first year attending the whole Whistler Film Festival. It was an absolute blast but because it was the world premiere of my first narrative feature film “Shooting The Musical” (originally titled “After Film School), it didn’t leave me with much time to actually watch movies. This year I decided to come back as a cheerleader. I saw as many films as I physically could, both features & shorts. I didn’t see all the films I wanted to see but out of those I saw, I decided to make a list of the people who managed to blow me away. I decided not to add producers onto this list, but know in my heart if you are a producer on any of these projects you are a part of this list. Whistler only hands out a small number of awards and I feel more people deserve to be recognized so if you didn’t win anything, this is your shitty consolation prize.
LIST IS IN ORDER OF FILMS SCREENED
It’s a scary thing going to a film by someone you like as a person. For me I’m a terrible liar so if a friend makes a shitty film it causes major social anxiety for me when I talk to them after the film… Luckily, I didn’t have to deal with that because Jeremy Lalonde’s new film just knocked it out of the park. I haven’t seen many sex comedies come out of Canada but for Jeremy this was his follow up film to “Sex After Kids” and it was even better. This film was funny, sexy and a huge crowd pleaser. If this film plays at a theatre near you, go see it! I’m sure it’s a fun film to watch on your own but it is a great film to see with an audience. Congrats Jeremy, you’ve raised the bar, no pressure on your next film.
I know most of the people on this list are up and coming, but every time I ever see Ennis Esmer in anything I fall in love all over again. Plain and simple, he is always funny, sympathetic and filled with charisma. The first time I saw him was his role in Young People Fucking, and now it is great to see him go back to sex comedy. Also I'm sucking up because he is one of the Canadian actors I've always wanted to work with.
FSM is the film that took me off guard. I walked into what I felt was going to be a cliché low budget film about dating by a writer/director I have never heard of. I will be honest, I was there because I love the actor Chris Walters (who plays a small but crucial role in the film). BUT HOLY FUCKING SHIT did this film blow my expectations out of the water. The best word to describe this film is “cool”––I know it sounds like a terrible descriptive word but the film is a perfect storm of interestingly directed scenes, beautifully shot cinematography and badass editing with the coolest soundtrack in the world. I had to turn to the guy next to me and say “This movie is so fucking cool,” at least 20 times times throughout the film. Seriously if you get the chance to watch it, do so. Most notably, this film has the best female masturbation scene I have ever seen depicted on screen. Not because it was oversexualized but because it beautifully juxtaposed the images in the character's head with a very tasteful but sensually shot scene of the lead character masturbating. Perfectly directed scene.
As soon as FSM ended myself and the filmmakers I was with were all dying to find out who edited this film. It’s rare that an editor gets credit for a film, it generally only happens if they do something brilliant, something unique or they fuck up terribly. Paolo did everything but fuck up, the editing was one of the biggest stars of FSM and is surprising that this was Paolo’s first feature film. If he doesn’t win the Leo for best editing or at least get nominated I will publicly denounce the Leo awards and make my own awards ceremony. A job like that deserves recognition. I can’t begin to describe his editing style, it's just mesmerizing. But if you get the pleasure of seeing FSM you will agree.
I had seen a few things that Shawn Seifert has DP’d before: Suspension, The Magic Ferret, Riverdale and a bunch of others pieces. But from what I’ve seen I’d say this is his best work yet. FSM was a beautifully shot film that looks like it was made for at least a million bucks and a lot of that credit goes to Shawn. The party scenes were beautiful, the sex scenes were beautiful, even scenes where the star is sitting on the couch eating pizza are beautiful. FSM had the best cinematography out of all the features I saw at the festival, and Shaun Seifert deserves to be recognized.
Vanessa is the star of FSM. Plain and simple, it is impossible not to fall in love with the Australian born actor. She was the perfect sympathetic hero of the film and stole the show. So many of the scenes dealt with very tough subject matter for an actor to depict but she did it beautifully in a way that made you want to root for her. Most actors aren’t brave enough to do the scenes she did but the film gave such a wonderful insight into female sexuality because of these brave scenes. The Vancouver film establishment generally doesn’t give film awards or nominations to non-union actors, so something tells me Vanessa won't get the acknowledgement that she deserves. I’m tired of this union vs. nonunion “us vs. them” mentality. The Vancouver film industry needs to work on supporting and acknowledging all up and coming actors. So the good ones stop leaving… Bruce Novakowski is the perfect case study of this, future movie star (non-union) scooped up by Toronto. Don’t let Vanessa Crouch be the next to do the jump.
Sol directed one of the most memorable documentary shorts I’ve ever seen about a 90 year old woman whose curiosity with the Internet has converted her from a kosher jew to an atheist. The short ends with her trying bacon for the first time and I can’t stop telling people how great this film is. I can’t wait for this short film to be public so I can start sharing it with people.
Alex was genuine and down to earth in Stake. Stake has a similar feel to “Before Midnight” as two old high school friends catch up while Alex’s character's daughter is at school. What made this short so effective was the acting that made the audience feel like a fly on the wall. Sure the story was simple, but the execution was beautiful and Alex really popped off the screen.
A star is born… And she is a british beekeeper living in Los Angeles. The Rehearsal is a story about a British theatre director who is forced to have a Hollywood action star in a Chekhov play. Rhian plays the main supporting female actor in the film and she is a star, plain and simple. Originally she auditioned to play a two liner role but director Carl Bessai could see her potential in the room and cast her as one of the main leads. She is someone I hope to see more of. You can be a part of her modest Instagram following if you follow @keepsbees. She also happens to be one of the most genuine human beings I’ve had to pleasure to briefly meet.
10. Sage Brocklebank - (Suspension) - When you watch Suspension there is one scene that is burnt into everyone's memory permanently and that is Deputy Jacobs (played by Sage) attempting to remove bullets from a man he just killed to cover up the murder. The scene is way too long, way too gory, but completely hilarious because of Sage’s performance. He isn’t the biggest character in the film, but that scene is just the best part of the movie. And as it turns out, I’m not alone in my views. He is going to be cast as the same character in an upcoming feature called “Puppet Killer” that is shooting this month.
11. Steven McCarthy -Writer/Director/Star (O Negative-Short Film) - O Negative is one of the most interesting short films I’ve ever seen. It probably has 2 lines of dialogue and it is a mysterious film that reveals information in a way that always leaves the audience hungry to find out more. This is Steven’s first directed/written film and I can’t wait wait to see what he does next. I really don’t want to spoil anything in this film so go watch it if you get the opportunity. It won't disappoint.
12. Lauren Donnelly (Vehicular Romanticide- Short Film) - I feel like an idiot for casting Lauren for such a small role in my last film. I wish I saw the full potential like director Andrew Rowe did. 95% of the movie is just Lauren talking to an unconscious body and she kills it. Everyone in the audience was blown away by the film, Lauren played a perfect psychopathic desperate girl who just wants love. If there was a god she should be cleaning up acting awards for this film, it’s one of the most complex characters I’ve seen in a short film and I really hope she is recognized for it. But alas, she is non-union and Vancouver rarely has the spine to promote non-union talent. Lauren is one of the best up and coming actors in Vancouver, she does a lot of film, a lot of theatre, and I really hope people see this film so she can break out.
13. Andrew Rowe- Director/Writer (Vehicular Romanticide) - This is the only film I’ve seen that Andrew has directed and it's freaking amazing. The film is 17 minutes long but it feels like 8. It was stylized as an 80s film and start to finish, it was mesmerizing. This film was the MPPIA short film pitch award winner last year and I feel sorry for the next recipients who have to to live up to this film. The bar has been set high.
This film is a short and sweet 3-minute YouTube style comedy but it was awesome and needs a shout out. The film just follows a guy attempting to go through the process of unsubscribing to junk email. Somehow it left the audience roaring and I can’t wait to see what other films Steve has up his sleeve.
This film rocks. Yes, it won the best student film at the festival but I still feel like it needs to be recognized more. The story is about a rebellious radio DJ who had the balls to play forbidden rock n’ roll in 1970’s Taiwan. It’s sort of like Pirate Radio but awesome for completely different reasons. This is the best film I’ve seen come out of Emily Carr and it has converted me to a big Lawrence Lam fan. In a culture where we tend to continuously draw attention to the lack of female representation in film it’s important to note that Asian representation in film is horribly underrepresented in North America. To know that some of my best friends didn’t have people on screen they could identify with saddens me, and I hope Lawrence will become one of the leaders in the next generation of Asian filmmakers. He is a perfectionist filmmaker that I am proud that I got to meet him before he makes it big.
Honorable mentions -
Jewel Staite - Actor (How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town)
Katharine Isabelle - Actor (How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town)
Ellen MacNevin - Actor (suspension)
Courtney Paige Theroux - Actor (Suspension)
Camille Sullivan - Actor (The Birdwatcher)
Gabrielle Rose - Actor (The Birdwatcher)
Matreya Fedor - Actor (The Birdwatcher)
Patrice Laliberte - Director (Overpass)
Thomas Baerten, Wim Geudens - (De Smet)
Christine Buijs - Director (The Divorce Photographer)
Alison Parker - Director (Dude, Where’s My Ferret?
Jenna Hambrook - Director (The Big O)
Peter MacRae - Actor (Jeremy Tanner is a Sicko)