We would like to take the opportunity to thank some of the small businesses who have supported us in our recent film projects. It truly takes a village to create a film, and we feel so blessed to have the one we have in the Cowichan Valley and beyond.
a special thanks to all the small businesses who have supported us
Last week we showed you some of our recent video production projects, and how we’ve helped our clients tell their stories. Today, we’ll tell you a bit more about the three main stages of video production process and what you can expect when you work with our team.
This is the critical planning stage, where we consider strategy, budget, scheduling, and create a plan to maximize your investment. Depending on the project, it might also entail anything from a simple treatment and shotlist to a detailed script and full storyboard.
We will need to work with you to figure out key details by asking questions such as:
What are the subject matter, purpose and objective(s) for the video?
Who is the intended audience of the video, and how will we ensure we reach them?
What is the core message of the video, and what are the expected results or “call-to-action”? What do you want viewers to do or know after they watch your video? Let’s consider your unique selling point, and what helps your brand stand apart from the competition.
How long will the video be? There are suggestions for specific platforms, so we will need to think about where and how the video will be distributed.
What will a strategic launch look like? Is there a budget for advertising? Even the most compelling videos sometimes need an extra boost to gain traction.
What resources will we need (presenters, actors, locations, props, etc.) to ensure the video is able to fulfill its purpose? What are you able to provide, and what will we need to source independently?
Are there any brand guidelines we should follow to make sure this video looks and feels like it has been created uniquely for and by your company? This can include set design that embraces brand colours, and elements we add in post-production.
The Project Plan and Brief:
Once we have some preliminary questions answered about the scope of the project, we begin to build a plan. This plan usually includes a simple budget and a timeline for each step, as well as a description of the intended final product. This framework is critical; however, it is likely that the strategy will evolve as the project progresses, and we always expect to make some adjustments as we go.
Your video may or may not require a script, and you might want us to write it for you! It can be very valuable to have an outsider’s view. We usually start with a competitive analysis, to make sure the dialogue and visuals in your video will help you stand out from the crowd. You will have several opportunities to look this over and ensure it reflects your brand.
Even if there are no speaking roles or voice over, we will usually need to write a basic treatment that maps out key participants and messages, locations, actions, and other elements, to make sure that everyone is on the same page on set. This ensures that our shooting schedule is as efficient as possible.
Some projects rely on storyboards to ensure a smooth production process. This usually includes more ambitious, larger-scale projects, or concepts that rely on unique visual transitions or special effects. Storyboards are simple sketches of each intended shot in sequence; like a comic book without speech bubbles. The more details we can plan in advance the better, so that we are not concerned with questions like where actors should be positioned or how to light a set for the intended effect. This also paints a clear picture for post-production, and eliminates any potential confusion between production crew members and editors.
Amazing, we made it to the production day; this is the point in the process that everyone envisions when they think about creating videos. Obviously, we live for this! All the careful planning, writing, drawing, scouting, casting, and scheduling tasks of pre-production culminate into making this day go perfectly, so that we can capture the best footage possible.
Here’s a look at a production day for us at Empress Avenue Media.
Basic Setup: Loading in gear, setting up staging areas for cast, hair and makeup stations, charging areas for electronics, computers for DIT (to back up and review footage), etc.
Blocking: This a physical rehearsal that focuses on the positioning of the cast, and not the lines or context of the script. It’s helpful for envisioning where cameras will go, what set dec(oration) will be seen, and how lighting might be set up.
Preparing set decoration and props: Now that we know where the actors will be, we can start to anticipate what will be captured on camera and build an aesthetically appropriate environment and prepare the elements that the cast might need to interact with.
Lighting: The lighting team works under the direction of the Director of Photography to paint the set in light that reflects the appropriate tone and context for the scene.
Technical Rehearsal: The cast may have been rehearsing during the rest of the setup process, but now the director has a chance to work with the talent or interview subjects on set, and see how everything looks on camera.
Last Looks: Each department reviews the monitors to make sure every detail is just perfect.
Shoot! The Assistant Director makes sure everyone on set is ready to go, sound is speeding and cameras are rolling, before the talent brings the scene to life.
Rinse and Repeat: These steps are repeated for every new scene and location.
Once the cast or interviewees are released, we usually want to focus on capturing B-roll (for factual shoots) and inserts (for narrative projects). B-roll is basically silent footage to be intercut with interviews or narration to help visualise the concepts that are introduced through dialogue; it often includes candid shots of the interview subjects working or interacting, shots of other people or locations that they’ve talked about, or abstract shots that reflect the emotions they’ve shared.
Inserts are simple shots that can be captured without a full cast crew and usually without audio, but are critical to the storytelling process. For example, in a wide shot we might see our actor pick up a book and read a passage. Once the actor is on break, we can capture a close-up of the text in the book as an insert.
We usually want to take the time to capture various general shots that could be used to help smooth out the editing process, even if we don’t know exactly how they might fit into the final product. The same goes for behind-the-scenes footage that might be useful in future promotion, like posts on social media.
So it turned out to be a beautiful day and we’ve captured all this wonderful footage. What now? We’re proud of our unique ability to take projects through the entire post-production pipeline to final delivery for on-demand web content, broadcast and theatrical releases. This includes editing, conforming, motion graphics, colour correction, ADR, foley, audio mixing, closed captioning, and visual effects.
This part of the process requires careful review of the best takes and shots, cutting and stitching everything together into a smooth and coherent story. Finally, we will add sound effects, music, and any visual effects or motion graphics we require.
Usually, when the clips are ingested, they don’t follow the story’s natural order, because it may be more efficient to film things out of sequence. Before they begin, the video editor has to label and organise all the footage. Then, they synchronise the different cameras and audio sources, and sort the different takes for each scene. After this, they can begin going into each individual scene and selecting the best shots, labelling anything that is unusable, and generally becoming familiar with the recorded content. Finally, they will begin their first edit of each scene, the rough assemblies.
Once the picture is locked using rough sound, the audio mixing can start, along with special effects and motion graphics.
The sound connected to the video footage is often not the sound used in the edit or the final film. The clean audio is recorded externally by the sound mixer on set, using a combination of shotgun (‘boom’) and lavalier (‘lav’) microphones to minimise background noise. These are later synchronised with the footage in post-production. Depending on the project, we might also need to record a voice over, or have actors re-record their lines (ADR). Sound effects are often recorded during the post production process by a dedicated foley artist; these folks are masters at creating common sounds and unusual, exaggerated effects alike, using a wide variety of everyday objects. If the project has a dedicated music composer, they will also start working as soon as the picture is locked.
Good music that matches the vibe of your story, company, and/or product, is more important than you might think! Music completely changes the tone of the scene, and is crucial for setting the right mood and keeping your viewers engaged. And it can give the viewer information about the emotions the actor(s) may be experiencing.
In the final steps, an audio engineer will combine all the new sound elements, while a colour artist will grade the footage to make sure the colour and lighting looks as consistent as possible between all the shots in each scene, and to enhance the overall look and feel of the finished product.
after all’s said and done
After all the work that was done to create this masterpiece, here are some ways to ensure that the video reaches success out in the real world: Measuring watch times and click through rates, and budgeting for some ads can help ensure the video gets the audience it deserves.
We can render the video in appropriate formats for distribution on as many platforms as desired – the bigger the audience, the better the potential return on investment! It definitely pays to utilise all the social platforms you can: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and wherever else you have an audience for your brand (don’t forget about your email subscribers!). Also consider reaching out to online news platforms to embed the video in new articles, or ask followers, bloggers and influencers to share about it. All of these strategies will go a long way in optimising the success of your video.
tell your story
We hope you’ve found this series of posts helpful in terms of what you can expect when working with us, and what goes on behind the scenes when we produce a video. Have a video project in mind? Get in touch, we can help you tell your story.
There’s no better time to talk about film and video production. We’re proud to offer a huge range of services, but film is the medium that originally brought our team together so it holds a special place in our company’s heart. Our origin story is that of working on the set of television programs here in the Cowichan Valley. That experience is how we became experts at video production. And now, we are honoured to use this expertise to help you tell your story.
Film is the medium that continues to combine all our creative team’s diverse talents, from camera operation to music production to graphic design and animation. Creating stories that engage and inspire is our calling, whether on computer screens (such as the recent looping video for the Khowutzun Development Corporation’s new website), TVs (like our 2019 documentary Penny Girl on Telus Optik), or projected in movie theatres around the world (like our work on the feature documentary Tzouhalem that’s currently touring global festivals).
Creating diverse media projects throughout the rural communities of Vancouver Island has taught us to be resourceful and creative in our approach. Our humble headquarters in Cobble Hill boasts a full-service audio suite, green screen, an extensive wardrobe and prop collection, 4K cinema cameras, an LED lighting package and a RAW-capable drone.
Whether commercials, shorts or entire feature films, the filmmaking process is roughly broken up into four or five key stages: development, pre-production, production, post-production, and finally distribution and marketing. We’ve supported full-scale film productions through every stage of this process. That diverse experience is carried into every project, whether it’s a short YouTube video for a small business or a feature-length documentary.
The process may seem long and laborious in the beginning, but we promise that the payoff is more than worth it. Video is the most engaging and influential type of content that people consume today, and it’s everywhere. Taking the proper amount of time for each stage in the process ensures your video will stand out!
We’re here to make things go as smoothly as possible. It’s our team that really sets us apart, with decades of experience working on everything from viral internet videos to the latest TV movies. Our speciality is using innovation and creativity to overcome budget and timeline limitations. You might be surprised at just how much we can help you accomplish.
We don’t underestimate the importance of the planning stage. Having the entire process mapped out reduces any overwhelm you may experience, so you can rest assured that your project is in good hands. Video production is a huge project to undertake, and our passion for the process is what drives us to create the best end product.
All the steps to this process are in place to ensure that the best possible video is produced in the end. Stay tuned for next week’s blog for a bit more about what you can expect when working with us on a video project. Have a video project in mind? Get in touch, we can help you tell your story.
From PSA-style videos that help foster awareness and educate the public, to full-length college courses for credit, no project is too big or too small for our team! We have created all sorts of comprehensive online programs to suit each of our client’s unique needs.
Accessibility, collaboration, flexibility – what positive attributes come to mind when you think about online learning? Online learning has seen a lot of growth over the last decade, even without the global health crisis accelerating our need for it. Since the very beginning, the internet has been a tool for learning. There have been websites where we can ask questions (Ask Jeeves, anyone?) and learn by observing others. The internet and education have always been combining and evolving to gift us all the opportunity to learn and gain skills. And now it is more elegant than ever, with HD videos, new conference platforms such as Zoom, and of course, responsive websites and apps for learning. We’re excited and looking forward to what the future holds for online learning.
Do you have an idea for an online program to boost engagement and elevate the learning experience for your clients, but are unsure how to bring that vision to life? From branded graphics to engaging video, cohesive copy and effective marketing strategies, let us develop and launch your online program.
We’re here to help you stand apart from the crowd.
Together, they’re a great representation of just how varied our output is, and the ever-expanding skillset of our diverse team. But, like all our work, they share one important thing in common: the potential to challenge you, provide joy, and foster transformation. So no matter what your New Years resolutions are for 2022, we have a project for you!
To transform your home and garden
Veridis Plumbing & Heating
Our friends at Veridis Plumbing & Heating have not only revamped their sprawling showroom of beautiful home heating, bathroom and outdoor living options, but they’ve also started selling their vast lineup of quality products online. We’re happy to have helped by creating their online storefront, and supplying some of the photos and videos for their entirely new website that will be launching in the New Year! If you have any big renovations planned for 2022, you’ll want to check it out.
You would never know from her modest introductions, but Jen Segger is a big deal in the world of competitive trail running and adventure racing. Besides a number of high-profile podium finishes – not to mention participating in the Amazon Prime exclusive series World’s Toughest Race: Eco Challenge Fiji – Jen is a well known coach for up-and-coming athletes at all stages of competition. Through a growing offering of web courses, we’ve helped Jen bring her years of experience to an online audience, allowing anyone in the world to benefit from her insights as they learn and train at their own pace. And in 2022, we couldn’t be more excited to help Jen launch her first online adventure racing program, creating guidebooks, video content, and interactive web materials. This innovative sprint program will cover strength building, nutrition, injury prevention, mental preparation, gear acquisition, lifestyle tips, and of course a complete, in-depth training calendar. It will also be Jen’s first online course to feature professional training videos to cover key trail running techniques. Sign up for email updates and get started here JenSegger.com. Early sign-ups will get a huge discount, but hurry, that’s only until February 28, 2022!
To edit and colour the film, we had to completely overhaul our post studio to handle the magnificent 6K raw digital footage. Beyond the technical challenges, the film underwent some major creative shifts and revisions under C.R.’s careful direction, and we ended up creating entirely new sequences from scratch using found footage and original motion graphics and animation. We also created all the stylistic chapter headings and title sequences in the film, including its iconic title card.
Through a series of biting, bizarre, hilarious and heartfelt musical vignettes, Victory on East Hastings reflects the changing landscape of Vancouver’s eastside and the alternative communities crushed by gentrification. Check out the official trailer over on our YouTube channel, and book tickets at the Rio while you still can!
To learn more about where you live…
Mount Tzouhalem might just be the single most iconic mountain on Vancouver Island, and it’s certainly a defining landmark of the Cowichan Valley. But how much do you actually know about its namesake, Chief Tzouhalem? For the first time, the fascinating history of this larger-than-life figure has been captured on film, in a feature length documentary from Orca Cove Media. The film weaves together oral history from local Elders with academic reflections and creative re-enactments, as directors Harold C. Joe and Leslie D. Bland dive deep into the many interpretations of Tzouhalem’s legacy.
We had the profound honour of directing cinematography for the reenactments, and working on the visual effects needed to bring them to life. By combining original Green Screen footage with manipulated shots of present-day locations, we were able to bring to life various vignettes of Chief Tzouhalem’s life on the actual landscapes where they occurred. We also had the pleasure of creating the original poster art for the movie, featuring Harold Joe as Chief Tzouhalem. (As a fun aside, you can also catch Harold Joe in his other capacity as an Archaeological Monitor in our short documentaries on Cowichan Tribes’ remediation work). Tzouhalem has already played at a number of prestigious film festivals including Whistler. Keep watching Orca Cove’s website and social media for future screenings.
…And the challenges in your community
Tug of War
We’re also still hard at work on two upcoming documentaries exploring the issue of youth exploitation in BC. From gang recruitment, the opioid crisis, sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, our films demonstrate that this issue is tragically alive and thriving in Island communities and across the Lower Mainland. We wrapped principal photography in 2021 that will support both projects: a youth-friendly short film called Tied to a Lie, which will tour middle and secondary schools across the province; and Tug of War, a challenging feature documentary for broadcast. Despite delays due to COVID-19, we’re excited for both films to make their respective debuts in 2022.
Follow our social media channels for the latest information on both releases, as well as insightful clips and comments from counselors, resource providers, police officers, experts and youth who are fighting to break – or break free from – the cycle of exploitation and violence.
From gang recruitment, the opioid crisis, sexual exploitation and sex trafficking our film highlights that this issue is very much alive and thriving in our communities.
This is just the beginning
These are just a handful of the projects that are helping us kick off 2022.
We asked our team what their priorities were for the upcoming year, and identified some favourite ‘focus words’. Amongst them: Story, Energy, Alignment, Relationship and Growth. (Also Mantis, because bugs are cool). We’re excited to see these qualities weave into our upcoming films and videos, interactive courses and multimedia art projects as we slowly regroup and regain capacity in the wake of COVID-19.
Thank you again to our amazing team, our clients and all our supporters, without whom we wouldn’t exist. And thanks to you for reading, connecting and following our journey!
We’re looking forward to another amazing year at our little studio in Cobble Hill. But before we ring in the New Year, here are some of our favourite projects we had the pleasure of working on in 2021. Stay tuned for next week when we review even more accomplishments from the past twelve months that we’re excited to finally share in 2022!
In 2021, we wrapped up post production on our first ever narrative feature film! It’s been a labour of love, but we couldn’t be happier with the results. The dramatic thriller follows Ryann Temple, a therapist working with sex offenders, who uncovers haunting secrets in her family’s past through the disturbed men she counsels every day. Mia Golden, our development coordinator, played the starring role, and also wrote the script and co-produced the film with Emrey Wright, Joseph Boutilier and Ana-Maria Butcura. The world premiere took place at the Hamilton Film Festival in November, where it sold out in its original venue in less than a day! But if you missed it, make sure you follow us on Facebook and Instagram for lots of exciting news on additional screenings in 2022. You can also check out the film’s official teaser trailer here.
Pacific Rim College Online
Filming with our friends at Pacific Rim College Online is always such a wonderful experience! It was great to be back in the gardens and kitchen of the beautiful Ravenhill Herb Farm to film an entirely new online program for the acclaimed school of holistic practices (have you heard about this historical Saanichton farm? If not, definitely have a read about their interesting history!) We’re excited to be working on the post-production for over 50 hours of new content through the first half of 2022. We may be a little biased, but if you’re looking at learning something new this year, we highly recommend having a look at the herbal medicine, health, holistic nutrition, and sustainability courses that Pacific Rim College Online has to offer. And if you haven’t already, check out the teaser we previously created for their incredible Community Herbalist Program.
Khowutzun Development Corporation
You might have noticed a special little sign behind the Duncan Village mall in the heart of the Cowichan Valley. That logo was designed by our graphic design team around the incredible work of local artist, Stuart Pagaduan, who illustrated the iconic “O” within the word Khowutzun. It’s been amazing to work on the branding for Khowutzun Development Corporation, along with their freshly revamped website and tons of new photo and video content. We love using our media skills to support local businesses and initiatives, and working with KDC has been a special honour.
Growing Hope Documentary
Another local project, Growing Hope started out as a Storyhive pitch. The documentary centers around Tracy Parow, the executive director of Providence Farm, a therapeutic farm community for people living with diverse mental abilities, age-related illnesses, brain injuries and developmental challenges. With the help of a diverse care team, Tracy has been coping with her own PTSD while preparing Providence Farm for a second wave of COVID-19 with half the usual staff. Every day is a new struggle, but the community is resilient, and hope grows right alongside the farm’s garlic, squash and apples. Our second short documentary with Telus Optik and Storyhive, Growing Hope will be released in the summer of 2022.
North Vancouver Island Aboriginal Training Society
Our web development team has been hard at work this year. With COVID-19 and other community challenges, NVIATS recognized the need to bring its skills training programming online. Now, more people can access these services for free, in more ways, from more communities, while learning at their own pace. With the website and branding redesign, we made sure to honour the existing material, while raising the bar in accessibility, functionality and aesthetic design. Now the website includes interactive, online course content for the first time, and a clean, streamlined new appearance inspired by original First Nations design elements. Its dynamic layout is optimized to support all screen sizes, devices and internet speeds. Welcome to the new NVIATS.com.
A financial advisor with The Hilberry Group on Vancouver Island, Anna has kept us informed on financial matters throughout the pandemic via her growing YouTube channel. We edit Anna’s videos and make sure everything looks consistent with her brand and that of her parent company, National Bank Financial (NBF). In 2021 we had the unique privilege of meeting Jonathan Durocher, President of NBF, and other colleagues of Anna while filming a retrospective of her collaborative work with the company. Subscribe to Anna’s channel today – we promise you’ll learn some valuable insights that will help you grow your own financial security in 2022!
Esquimalt Fire Department
Our film production and editing teams also worked on a smoke alarm safety video for Esquimalt Fire Department this year. We worked closely with the department to develop clear, accurate messaging using a combination of candid interviews with experts, an original script and storyboard. Then we filmed live action video, which was combined with original motion graphics in post-production. The video reaches a broader audience, with a memorable, accessible campaign to address some of the most common issues in preventative safety: smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
And So Much More…
In our next post, we’ll be sharing some emerging details on several new films and interactive projects that have kept us busy throughout 2021 and we’ll finally be able to share in 2022.
In the meantime, we owe a huge thank you to our amazing team, our clients and all our supporters this year. Can’t wait for another year full of exciting opportunities and projects. Happy New Year!
Welcome to this exclusive look behind the scenes of Fragile Seeds. It’s been such an amazing experience to work on this feature length film here in Cobble Hill, BC. We are excited to introduce the cast of Fragile Seeds, and couldn’t ask for a better combination of talented, passionate people (with such a strong work ethic!), to breathe life into the script.
Here’s a short video introducing several key people who worked on the film. Read on below for biographies of the cast and crew.
Meet the Cast of Fragile Seeds
As a woman of many talents, she wears many hats: MIA GOLDEN is the writer and producer of Fragile Seeds. She plays the role of Ryann Temple in the film. You can find her on instagram @goldenjamaican.
Mia Golden is a Jamaican-born actor, writer, producer, and director whose background as a counsellor and understanding of human behaviour allows her to delve deep into her subjects. Golden wrote Fragile Seeds based on her novel of the same name. She is a producer on a variety of productions ranging from the award-winning feature comedy Jackhammer (E One Films 2014) to factual series, shorts, and the short documentary Penny Girl (Empress Avenue Media 2019). She has acted in a number of films and television projects over the last few years, including the award-winning comedy feature Open For Submissions (2019) and the upcoming feature thriller Dashcam: Dead Air (2022). She is currently directing her upcoming documentary, Tug of War.
SEAN BAKER plays the role of Gavin Hartstrum in the movie Fragile Seeds. You can follow Sean @coops_tanked.
Born and raised on Vancouver Island, Sean Baker has been engaged with theatre/performing his whole life. Sean has performed on many stages throughout Western Canada as both an actor and musician. As a professional musician, Sean performed with his band Celebrity Traffic as well as his own solo project under the name Sean J.E. Baker. Some of his most recent live theatre credits include the Victoria Operatic Society’s production of RENT and Bluebridge Reparatory Theatre’s production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Sean is currently writing and recording a new solo album as well as writing his first screenplay.
DARREN ADAMS is Jordy in Fragile Seeds. It’s been a pleasure to work with Darren. His social handle is @thederwood.
Born in Cranbrook B.C., Darren has been based out of Vancouver since graduating from the Acting for Stage and Screen program at Capilano University in 2016. He has since made appearances on Supernatural (CW), The Arrangement (E!), and When We Rise (ABC).
We feel very fortunate to have been able to work with none other than STEFANIE DOLAN in the role of Violet Temple. Check her out @stefanie.dolan.
Stefanie Dolan is a Canadian born Actor best known for HomeStay (Telus Web Series-2020), All-In Madonna (Feature-2020), Open For Submissions (Feature-2019), Pile of Corpses (Short Film- 2021), Revel (Short Film-2020), Curse (Short Film-2018). She graduated (2016) from The Victoria Academy of Dramatic Arts with a diploma in Film and Television and has since performed in a wide range of lead and supporting roles. When not in front of the camera, Stefanie is the Calian lead supervisor/role play actor contracted by the Canadian Arm Forces.
The very fun, very talented KATE BOUTILIER plays Poppy Temple. You can connect with Kate @kate.boutilier.
When Kate Boutilier was 10 years old, she played a caterpillar in a community theatre production, and she’s been hooked on acting ever since. She grew up on the unceded territory of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ people (AKA Victoria, BC). Kate moved to Vancouver to pursue her diploma in Acting for Stage and Screen from Capilano University. Since graduating the program in 2017, some of Kate’s highlights have been performing in films The Baker’s Son, V.C. Andrews’ All That Glitters, A Timeless Christmas, Love In Store, and in the CW show DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. She’s also recently voice acted in the short film The Butterfly Affect and Coyote’s Crazy Smart Science Show and has been on stage in both The Vancouver Fringe Festival and the About Love Festival.
In the role of Buddy, we are excited to be re-introducing actor JOEY CRAMER. You can follow Joey @thejoeycramer.
Joey is known for various film and TV from the 80’s including the starring role in Disney’s Flight of the Navigator. Fragile Seeds is Joey’s first return to acting since leaving the business as a child actor. Now living on Vancouver Island, he is reigniting his acting career as an adult. He’s recently released a feature documentary Life After the Navigator (2021) and just wrapped another Canadian indie feature Twelve Step Strangler with an upcoming role in a film in South Africa.
In the part of Hazel, we are happy to have SUSAN KO. She can be found @susanko2116.
Susan is an actor from Victoria. She studied at the University College Drama Program in Toronto. She has acted in local community theatre in Victoria, as well as in local independent films. She has recently moved into producing, writing, and directing. Her short film, In The End, has been selected for international festivals, and has won a few awards. She is currently directing the short film, Coming Home, here in Victoria.
It has been a joy working with actor AMOS MITCHELL, who plays Derek Fuller in the film Fragile Seeds. Visit Amos @amosandmitch.
Amos has been a working actor for the past 10 years in Vancouver. In that time, he has performed in numerous plays such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Blind Date and Film & TV My Mom Robs Banks, Recipe for Love, and Motive, as well as many commercials. Amos’ passion lies in telling powerful stories, and that’s exactly why he signed on to do Fragile Seeds.
The well-rounded CLAYTON NEUWIRTH joins our cast in the role of Carlos. His social handle is @usernameclayton if you’d like to check out his demo reel and give him a follow.
Clayton has performed in various television, commercial, and film projects over the last few years. He openly expresses his love for acting and feels it’s the biggest privilege to be given the opportunity to bring someone’s vision to life. Clayton tackled a character with many layers in Fragile Seeds. He feels thankful for the people he’s met and the roles he’s had. Recent films include All-In Madonna as well as McManus and Sons.
We are honoured to work with CHRISTAPOR YAACOUBIAN, who played the role of Howie in Fragile Seeds. Christapor’s DMs are open @afunnythingcalledlife.
Christapor is an award-winning actor who hails from Sydney, Australia where he honed his craft through numerous appearances in theatrical productions and short films, often returning to work with former collaborators. Christapor made his feature film debut in 2019 with Maybe Tomorrow, directing duo Caitlin Farrugia and Michael Jones. Maybe Tomorrow was the 2020 Gold Coast Film Festival Blackmagic Design winner of Best Australian Independent Feature Film.
Through his appearance in Maybe Tomorrow, he was cast in Help:The Series, by series creator Fabiana Weiner. Following these appearances, Christapor relocated briefly to Vancouver, where he developed relationships with Bream Productions, having worked with them on multiple projects. Christapor is currently writing his debut play in Mexico and researching for a short film that will act as his directorial debut.
The very talented JONATHAN MASON fills the role of Anthony in Fragile Seeds. He can be found at @jon_c_mason.
Jonathan Mason is an actor at the Stratford Festival, Birmingham Conservatory alumni a Masters with Distinction graduate from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. While being based on both sides of the country in Vancouver and Toronto, he has also worked professionally in Canada and abroad in the UK. While specializing in classical theatre, Jonathan’s work in television, voice acting, directing and dance gives him a unique and varied perspective on Vancouver’s performing arts scene. Jonathan uses a mix of his classical training along with more modern Michael Chekhov and Laban techniques, giving his students a mix of the old and new worlds of acting traditions
TOR THOMAS has been a vital member of the Fragile Seeds cast team, playing Justin.
Tor makes his on-screen debut with Fragile Seeds. He is grateful to have had the opportunity to bring this conflicted, sympathetic character to film. He is honoured to have met and worked with the brilliant and beautiful cast and crew. Presently, he is further educating himself on the many techniques of acting.
Jonesy is played by WARREN SHERMAN.
Warren began acting as a regular supporting actor in Jamaica’s most popular soap opera, Royal Palm Estate. He went on to appear in local commercials and being a guest host on a popular travel magazine program, before emigrating to Canada in 2009. Once here, Warren appeared in two short films, grasping the leading role in Motionless (2010), before taking an acting hiatus. Fragile Seeds reignited Warren’s acting passion where he took pleasure in bringing “Jonesy” to life.
Bringing in a wealth of experience and passion, CHRISTOPHER BAUTISTA fits right in as the character Jazz. Follow Christopher @christopherbautistaa
Christopher is an American-born writer, actor, and producer with over 10 years professional acting experience under his belt. With roots that grew out of theatrical training from a very young age and landed him at The University of Southern California’s School of Dramatic Arts, Christopher has had a successful career with lead and supporting roles in theatre, film, tv, and commercials. Some of his most recent acting credits include Warner Bros.’Titans (2021), Theatre Passe Murraile’s Dora award-nominated The Negroes are Congregating (2020), as well as BlackLake’s upcoming short thriller Lonely (2021).
The multi-talented AMBER KENNEDY makes her acting debut in the role of June. Check out her Homelys @semicolonmiddlechild.
Born and raised in Prince George, BC, Amber recently moved to Vancouver Island to start fresh. Her natural comedic style, beautiful singing voice and imaginative hand stitched creations called “Homelys” popularized her, and she quickly became a Tik Tok influencer with a loyal following known as “Amber’s Army”. Fragile Seeds is Amber’s film acting debut, however, we are sure it won’t be her last.
The character of Dr. Andrew Stevens is played by the one-and-only TREVOR HINTON. Trevor can be found at @suretrev if you ask nicely.
Trevor has been a theatre actor working professionally in Canada and Europe since 2007, and relatively recently made the switch to film and tv in 2018. Since then he has worked in the independent film scene as well as with Disney, Hallmark, Hulu, National Geographic and HBO.
Long-time friend and actress PANTA MOSLEH plays the part of Carmen in Fragile Seeds. Find her online @pantamosleh.
Panta Mosleh is an LGBTQ2i+ BIPOC Director, Producer and Actor based out of Vancouver, BC. Made in Singapore, she is a test tube baby born and raised in Middle East/West Asia and Canada. Panta graduated from University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In addition to working on several bug-budget TV shows, MOWs and commercials as a Production Coordinator, Panta independently produced and shot award winning short films and music videos. Panta currently divides her time between producing, production coordinating and acting, bringing her unique flair to every project. Panta’s most recent projects include the Crazy8s film “BABA”, as well as developing a feature script that is an extension of the short film Pass the Salt. Panta has produced multiple award winning projects such as Pass the Salt and Dama Branca, which have aired on CBC, CBC Gem, Telus Optic TV VOD, Super Channel, Apply TV+ and Air Canada. She has also worked as an Associate Producer on Canada’s first Transgender sitcom, The Switch, airing on OutTV and Revry, LGBTQ+ streaming services.
“Mia told me about the script and novel she was writing 6 years ago. I had the pleasure of reading her first production draft back then and thought it was a powerful story and agreed to be in it then. Fast forward to 2020, Mia said to me, ‘Let’s go shoot a feature.’ I got to read the final production draft and realized that she had managed to make a great script into a PHENOMENAL script! I was so excited to work on this project. And the experience on set was like an absolute dream come true. The cast and Empress Avenue crew were so connected. I’ve worked with Ana-Maria, Joseph and Mia before so it felt like a reunion but better, and to see the words my friend had written come to life was so amazing. I have no doubt this film will resonate with many.”
We’re happy to introduce local actress, TRINA (SWEE-THULT) SXWITHUL’TXW for the role of Michelle. Give Trina some love @trinasweetheart.
Trina is from the Penelakut Tribe and was born and raised in the Cowichan Valley. She has a background in acting for film and TV with credits that include Unnatural and Accidental and a recurring role on DaVinci’s Inquest. Trina has also been involved behind the scenes as an Associate Producer on APTN’s show Warrior Games and was the Project Coordinator for APTN’s Tribal Police Files, both produced by Kwassen Productions Inc.
Trina lives on beautiful Vancouver Island and devotes much of her time to her two children, Mason and Wyatt. Trina’s day job is as the Director of Ocean Resources for the Beecher Bay First Nation, which includes managing many major projects in the marine space.
It’s been a pleasure to work with the amazing DUSTY SMITH, who plays the role of Brian in the film.
He shares, “A lifelong dream of being in a movie came true for me in 2020. A friend on Facebook messaged me saying “I forgot you were an actor. Want to audition for a movie we are making?”, and I said yes. I’d done a tiny bit of extra/background work, and been interviewed on TV, but this was different. And magical.
I have loved acting since I was a kid. In kindergarten, I played Doc in Snow White, and have loved the stage ever since. I was thrilled to get good reviews for my roles in The Laramie Project, The Boys in the Band, and The Normal Heart.
In the role of Jeremy, we are fortunate to have AMBROSE GARDENER lending his acting skills.
Ambrose Gardener is a classically trained actor with over five years of experience. He has co-starred on network television shows such as Project Blue Book, iZombie, Nancy Drew, and Twilight Zone. He is also known for his role as Clark Witchel in Alien Ore, written and directed by The Spear Sisters and presented by 20th Century Fox and the Alien franchise.
With a background in eurythmy and a unique mime influence from his father, Ambrose studied alongside Matthew Harrison focusing on text analysis, scene structure, body language and grounded emotional presence. Once he completed this training, he joined Jeb Beach’s Advanced On Screen Technique, as well as vocal lessons with Clare Durrant.
Ambrose’s first introductory role to acting was his character Aaron in the award winning indie short film with a great festival run, Kids Who Jump Off Bridges (2015), directed by Zoe Neary. You can find him in two upcoming feature films coming soon: Miles Away, written and directed by S.C. Wilson, and Fragile Seeds written and produced by Mia Golden.
Ambrose is currently working on scripting a miniseries of odd short stories and is in pre-production as the director of photography for a 25-minute short film.
JOSHUA KALEF plays the role of Brad. His IG is @kaleforniacation
Classically trained, Joshua has appeared in television and movies over the past two decades. His passion for performance and telling a story drives him in each production. Joshua lives in Victoria, BC with his young daughter Marilyn.
Meet the Awesome Kid Actors Behind Fragile Scenes
Some of the best times on set were working with these awesome kid actors, who truly showed us that talent does not always come with age. Without further ado, we’d like to introduce and thank the talented young actors in Fragile Seeds.
Thanks so much for lending your talent and presence, and for bringing the theme of the film to an undeniable reality.
Meet the Crew of Fragile Seeds
But what good is a talented cast, if not in good hands. Introducing the stellar crew of Fragile Seeds; they’ve each been a vital part of the telling of this story.
JOSEPH BOUTILIER has been an integral part of the film from day one, in the role of Director. More about Joseph @josephboutilier.
Joseph Boutilier has worked in the film and television industry in a wide variety of roles ranging from 1st Assistant Director to Director of Photography to Production Designer on various series and features including Runaway Christmas Bride (2017), New Year’s Kiss (2019) and Honeymoon in Paradise (2020). He recently directed the short documentary Penny Girl and just completed the feature film Dashcam: Dead Air (2022) which he wrote and directed. He is currently working on numerous projects including serving as Director of Photography on the upcoming documentary, Tug of War.
Another essential member of our team is producer ANA-MARIA BUTCURA. We appreciate you, @ambutcura!
Born in Romania, Ana-Maria fled with her family to Canada as a young child. Her experience living in Communist Eastern Europe is the backdrop to her drive to realize her dreams. Butcura is a talented producer, director and actor who also has a diverse background in corporate management in the restaurant industry. Her business savvy, drive and creativity guide her work. Ana-Maria has produced a variety of short films including the recently produced, Betsy and is in pre-production on her next feature film, as well as a series she co-created based on her Romanian culture.
We couldn’t have made Fragile Seeds without talented producer EMREY WRIGHT of Empress Avenue Media on the site. More about Emrey, @emreywright.
Emrey co-founded Empress Avenue Media, building on over twelve years of experience in the entertainment industry. He has worked on a variety of films in various capacities including Production Manager, Assistant Director, and Producer for theatrical, broadcast and VOD feature films. Fun fact about Emrey, he grew up on a sailboat.
JOSH TERRY-BRAND has been instrumental in getting this film through post-production as the Lead Editor. We feel so fortunate to have his amazing editing skills at work on Fragile Seeds. You can find him @joshterrybrand
Josh is a 21-year-old full-time video editor, born and raised on Vancouver Island. He has spent the majority of his life working on video projects. As a young sailor, Josh entered the industry by using the connections within his maritime family to create dozens of video projects for the Coast Guard and Navy. As Lead Editor of Empress Avenue Media, he has worked on documentaries such as Penny Girl and the upcoming Tug of War, features such as Victory on East Hastings, as well as countless educational and promotional videos. In 2021, Josh completed his debut short film Cool Affections, as well as the feature edit of Fragile Seeds.Outside of work, Josh spends his time with friends, family and dogs, biking and creating within a variety of art forms.
Not only are we lucky enough to have talented composer and musician ADRIAN BENT score our film, but he’s also a such genuinely nice guy to work with and be around. We appreciate you, @abentimus!
Adrian Bent, a well-respected musician and producer, is a multitalented, multi-instrumental musician who has become the go-to talent for live and studio projects for the world’s most relevant musicians. Playing drums, bass, guitar, and piano, he is best known as the drummer for hip hop artist Drake, performing on his live tours and select studio productions. He’s also played for world-renown artists such as Jay Z, Eminem, Nicki Minaj, TLC, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, J. Cole, Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Usher, H.E.R., Florence and the Machine, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Daniel Caesar, Chris Brown, Meek Mill, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Jhené Aiko, and DVSN. Adrian has also served as composer on many tv and film productions, which include Mariah’s World (2017), Steve Harvey’s Funderdome (2017), Making It (2018), and Tournament of Laughs (2020).
Fragile Seeds – The Trailer
We can’t wait to share this film with you. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates and to learn more about future screenings.
Two Years of Creating, Sharing & Celebrating Amazing Stories on Vancouver Island
Earlier this month, we celebrated our second birthday as Empress Avenue Media. We want to take this opportunity to reflect on some of our favourite projects and accomplishments to date, and express our immense gratitude for the support of our community.
When Empress Avenue Media was founded in 2018, we were a small team of two. Just a couple of passionate creatives eager to express our love for film and digital media, seizing every opportunity that came our way. From service production for TV movies, we pivoted to become a full-service digital agency offering web design, graphic arts, social media management, and much more. We couldn’t be more grateful to our amazing community in the Cowichan Valley and across Vancouver Island for letting us live out that dream of storytelling. Since then, our team has grown to over 10 full time and part-time collaborators, and our diversity of work has as well. As we cross this milestone, here’s a flashback to some of our highlights.
We filmed and edited hundreds of hours of stunning educational content
It was amazing to film and edit course content for one of our favourite accredited academic institutions on the Island. Pacific Rim College in Victoria BC is a veritable hub for world-leading holistic medicine and sustainable living ideas.
“It is an amazing feeling to know that these students are receiving the best education possible, with quality content that highlights the world’s beauty and promotes community healing in such a challenging time.” – Joseph Boutilier
Onset in our beautiful community shooting Pacific Rim Colleges captivating online content.
In helping to create their online learning material, our aim was to create training videos that capture the aesthetic beauty and immediacy of their campus and in-person learning opportunities, as well as the depth of insight and inspiration that their instructors provide in-person. We had a blast filming and editing both the Community Herbalist and Home Herbalist program under the excellent direction of staff and instructors at Pacific Rim College Online, and we’re grateful that we completed videography before COVID-19 created substantial complications for both post-secondary learning and filmmaking alike. The timing, for once, was just right: Pacific Rim College Online has allowed more students to continue to learn flexibility and socially-distant. It is an amazing feeling to know that these students are receiving the best education possible, with quality content that highlights the world’s beauty and promotes community healing in such a challenging time.
We also had the chance to build some beautiful websites
Including a complete redevelopment of Pacific Rim College’s own website. Having the opportunity to create web and video for the same clients is fantastic because it allows us to foster cohesive brands and stories. With COVID-19, everyone is online. It is more important than ever for businesses to have a strong web presence, and we love making sure that’s possible for them. Making a strong first impression online is beneficial to any company, and will continuously draw new customers to your site. Technical creativity and problem-solving is as much an art as the visuals and design.
Always aiming to capture the perfect shot, it helps when our backdrop is beautiful Vancouver Island!
We helped up-and-coming influencers reach their goals online
Anna Hilberry is just getting started on YouTube, but she says it has already completely transformed her career as an investment advisor. “Creating videos to help share my financial knowledge with the world has been absolutely life-changing,” she says. “The exposure, recognition, and traction that I’ve gained has been substantial, with new clients, my company, and my online community.” It all comes down to connecting with an audience, authentically and energetically, in any way you can.
“Creating videos to help share my financial knowledge with the world has been absolutely life-changing” -Anna Hilberry
In Anna’s case, we let her do the filming. Our expertise comes in with the editing, branding, SEO and strategy that helps her maximize her reach. And Anna is just one of many examples of personal brands that have vastly expanded their reach online by adding value and intention to the work that they already do. Whether it’s a financial planner, a tree faller, a nutritional coach, local politician, dare-devil stunt driver or a record-breaking athlete, we’re delighted to help share a diversity of experiences and stories with the world. Creating this engaging online content lets our customers find new clients, build credibility in their field, foster a rapport within an online network, and increase the value of their brands, regionally and worldwide.
We shared stories that need to be heard.
Empress Avenue Media isn’t just a marketing agency on Vancouver Island, it’s also a globe-trotting production company for original films. Creating our debut short documentary, Penny Girl, started with a trip to Vancouver and wrapped up with a short trip to Lakeland, Florida, as we followed our subject, Frankie Edroff. Edroff is a legend of Victoria BC – a fundraising phenomenon and an inspiring young trans man living with a rare genetic disorder. Penny Girl chronicles Frankie’s journey to embrace his identity and reconcile with a past as challenging as it was rewarding. Discrimination has no place in love. We are so proud to have helped share Frankie’s wisdom and insights with the world, and we still can’t quite fathom the incredible bravery and resilience he demonstrated through the creation of our film. Penny Girl debuted on Telus OPTIK in July 2019, toured events like The Sante Fe Film Festival and has garnered over 40,000 organic views on Facebook and YouTube.
Frankie Edroff, a legend of Victoria BC and an inspiring young trans man living with a rare genetic disorder.
We also had the true honour of working with the Cowichan Tribes to document their work restoring the Cowichan River and remediating industrial lands in the Cowichan Valley, and learned how they’re embracing the teachings of past generations to rebuild salmon stocks and prevent the runaway spread of invasive species.
We can’t wait to tackle our own narrative feature film, but in the meantime, we’ve been able to help a number of other filmmakers complete their own movies. None has been quite as challenging, ambitious, or rewarding as C.R. Avery’s Victory on East Hastings; an art-house musical that dives frantically and bravely into Vancouver’s downtown eastside to debate – in its own playful way – the gentrification of a creative Mecca. Empress worked closely with Avery on all aspects of post production, handling the entire post process from transcoding to editing to mixing to motion graphics and colour grading. Despite the complications of COVID-19, this striking black and white motion picture will soon be making its international film festival debut.
We are proud and honoured to be able to acknowledge incredible work that otherwise goes unnoticed
We hope that Penny Girl was just the beginning; we aim to continue in this tradition with new, innovative documentaries that shed light on fascinating people and important ideas. We love to encourage the community to reflect on important issues and movements, and to respond thoughtfully and intentionally. We continue this work with Tug of War, a powerful point-of-view (‘POV’) documentary written and produced by our very own Development Coordinator, Mia Golden. Mia has spent years protecting vulnerable young people from predators and gang recruiters as a counsellor based in the West Shore. Tug of War follows Mia and her work partner as they walk the streets of Victoria BC, supporting young people who have been targeted for sexual exploitation and gang involvement. Tug of War is an emotional story about the tussles between parents, predators, police, youth, and community stakeholders. We originally pitched Tug of War last year, during another Storyhive competition, but are grateful to now have the opportunity to bring it to life with the support of the Government of British Columbia through their Community Safety and Crime Prevention Branch.
Tug of War follows our very own Mia Golden as she works to protect vulnerable teens from predators and gang recruiters.
We kept learning, exploring and discovering, together
COVID-19 has required us all to reinvent how we work and communicate. We are thankful that we have been able to keep working during such uncertain times, and had the ability to find new ways to engage and connect with the community. The past year has led us to explore a huge range of new and future projects and initiatives, including original web series, feature films, original interactive projects, and much more. What an unbelievable couple of years! We are so excited to see what our next year will hold, as we continue to create content that we are proud of, with the help of our amazing team. Be sure to follow us on our social channels to stay in the loop; one of our many, lofty goals is to produce a lot more original content to share our own story with the world. And if you’re looking to collaborate with an inventive digital media agency to introduce yourself to the world, maybe that story starts with you.
Press Release: Local Documentary Tackles Youth Sex Trafficking on Vancouver Island
Tug of War follows Mia Golden as she works to protect vulnerable teens from sex trafficking and gang recruitment.
We are honoured to be able to acknowledge incredible work that otherwise goes unnoticed in our communities through innovative documentaries that shed light on fascinating people and important ideas. We love to encourage the community to reflect on important issues and movements, and to respond thoughtfully and intentionally.
“Tug of War will pull the curtain back on growing issues affecting young people in our communities.”
Local counselor and filmmaker Mia Golden conducts interviews during the production of new documentary, Tug of War.
We continue this work with Tug of War, a powerful point-of-view (‘POV’) documentary written and produced by our very own Development Coordinator, Mia Golden. Before her work at Empress even started, Mia spent years protecting vulnerable young people from predators and gang recruiters as a youth counsellor.
“Exploitation is taking place in every community and every neighborhood and isn’t limited by class or background.”
Empress Avenue Media is starting principal photography this week on this new independent documentary.
Tug of War follows Mia and her work partner as they walk the streets of Victoria BC, supporting young people being targeted for sexual exploitation and gang involvement. Tug of War is an emotional story about the tussles between parents, predators, police, youth, and community stakeholders.
“No one is immune, and everyone is a potential target.”
We are proud to finally announce this incredible project, that will hopefully initiate new dialogue and inspire the action needed to protect vulnerable teens in our communities. Our full press release is below.
Media Release – Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020
Local Documentary Tackles Youth Sex Trafficking on Vancouver Island
Empress Avenue Media Inc. is starting principal photography this week on a new independent documentary about sex trafficking and gang recruitment of youth on southern Vancouver Island. Told through the eyes of local counselor and filmmaker, Mia Golden, Tug of War will pull the curtain back on growing issues affecting young people in our communities.
Empress Avenue Media – based in Cobble Hill in the Cowichan Valley – will follow Mia Golden and other members of a specialized team called MYST (mobile youth services team), comprised of 2 counselors and a police officer. MYST’s mandate is exploitation-prevention in all 13 municipalities of the Greater Victoria Region.
MYST reports steady increases in their caseload over the past few years. Of note is the impact of both social media and the opioid crisis playing significant roles in this disturbing trend. Police officers, counselors, street nurses, social workers, and policymakers are struggling to keep up with the demand to support those in need. Well over 1000 people die every year in BC from Fentanyl, and Victoria has the 3rd highest illicit drug overdoses of all BC communities.
Predators have quickly come to realize that being online allows for easy access to youth. The explosion of social media, easy accessibility to the internet and pornography, and the normalization of highly sexualized and often violent content are issues that contribute to the exploitation of young people. Exploitation is taking place in every community and every neighborhood and isn’t limited by class or background. No one is immune, and everyone is a potential target.
Through interviews with past survivors, front line workers fighting to support vulnerable youth, and parents fighting to get their children out of harm’s way, Tug of War will provide insight into the realities of what is taking place in young peoples’ lives, and what we can do to reduce the risks and protect our children from these predators.
Funding for Tug of War made possible through the Province of British Columbia’s Community Safety and Crime Prevention Branch.
About Empress Avenue Media Inc.
Empress Avenue Media Inc. is a film production and digital media startup based in Cobble Hill, BC. The company provides commercial film, interactive and graphic design services, as well as producing independent features and coumentaries. The company’s debut documentary. Penny Girl (2019), is a profile of Victoria philanthropist and Jeneece Place co-founder Frankie Edroff. Learn more at empressave.com
For more information contact:
Mia Golden, director
Joseph Boutilier. producer
Download the PDF version of this press release here.
How the Coronavirus is Changing the Film Industry Forever, in Canada and Beyond
Vancouver BC is often referred to as ‘Hollywood North’ for its prolific film production. When California was still struggling with some of the highest COVID-19 rates in North America, BC was being recognized worldwide for its exceptional mitigation of the Coronavirus threat. While film production became possible again in this province at the end of June, it did so with a slew of new restrictions, both political and practical. Earlier this month, the creative filmmakers on the Empress Avenue Media team sat down to discuss how it’s affected their own work, the industry at large, and what they predict for the future of film.
“In terms of writing, my mind has shifted a bit, how we write certain scenes, and how we film certain scenes, and how to film more intimate scenes.” – Mia Golden
Mia Golden is a Development Coordinator and film producer with Empress. This month she’s doing pre-production on a documentary about sex trafficking in BC, as well as her first feature with the company as both writer and producer. Due to COVID-19, the trajectory of these projects are anything but certain. But the biggest impact to Mia’s work is on the core concepts of the projects she’s pursuing.
creative constraints in the age of covid-19
“In terms of writing, my mind has shifted a bit, how we write certain scenes, and how we film certain scenes, and how to film more intimate scenes,” says Golden. “Do we self isolate together?” It’s hard to capture a romantic moment with two people who can’t get within six feet, let alone can’t take off gloves or masks.
Of course, it’s impossible to say how long COVID-19 will continue to hold such a firm grasp on our daily lives. Gavin Andrews – another documentary filmmaker and editor with Empress who is shifting towards narrative storytelling – is already thinking to the future. “If we’re writing scripts now, a year or a year and a half from now, can we expect to be shooting a normal movie?”
“What broadcasters and distributors are going to be accepting now…I think that’s going to change…” – Gavin Andrews
Maybe so. But Joseph Boutilier – a film director, and co-founder of Empress – isn’t betting on it. “If you’re smart enough to write a script so it’s just as compelling, just as good, and you can shoot it with 4 people and 2 locations, instead of 20 people and 50 locations…there’s always going to be…a bigger potential for getting it sold and made, and that never hurts.” But, he acknowledges, small stories also come with their own challenges compared to high-flying fantasy films where the action is largely digital. “It could go the other way,” he ponders, “‘cause everyone is using greenscreens it might be on a grander scale. Less expensive, less actual interaction.”
quality vs. quantity vs. covid-19
Another change the team has noticed is the shift in QC (Quality Control) standards set by broadcasters. With journalists and interview subjects forced to film themselves remotely, there’s a lot more room for blurry visuals, echoey audio and unflattering lighting. Or even unfortunate wardrobe malfunctions, like news anchors appearing in their boxer shorts. “With everything going on, people filming so much on their iPhones, etc… it will shake up what is considered acceptable for broadcast,” Andrews points out. “What broadcasters and distributors are going to be accepting now…I think that’s going to change moving forward for sure.”
…Audience members and Hollywood elite alike are open to reviewing lower-budget streaming content now that many ‘theatrical’ releases are indefinitely on hold…
The lack of aesthetic control over factual content can be a major frustration for filmmakers who take pride in their cinematography. On the flip side, documentarians no you no longer need to travel across the country for interview, nor actors for auditions. In theory, filmmaking is more affordable and accessible than ever. But these new techniques still leave something to be desired. “Obviously it’s always preferable to have someone in front of you,” says Golden, about casting future projects, “because you can see some of the subtle things like eye contact and chemistry.”
“It’s going to be interesting to see how long that sustains basically, and whether or not everyone is digging through their archives for old material.”
COVID-19 hasn’t only forced a kind of ‘democratization’ of video technology, but also of the entertainment industry itself. “It’s a forced pilot project for all of us,” Golden reflects. “In regards to using zoom and other platforms to stay connected…Even my parents [now use it].” And audience members and Hollywood elite alike are open to reviewing lower-budget streaming content now that many ‘theatrical’ releases are indefinitely on hold. The next Academy Awards won’t have any choice but to consider ‘home entertainment’ projects for the first time in Oscar history.
“It’s going to be interesting to see…whether or not everyone is digging through their archives for old material.” – Joseph Boutilier
“As a company we’ve had shoots cancelled, and we’ve been able to pick up the slack in editing.” Boutilier explains. Empress has begun editing two feature films that were stuck in post production-limbo for years. “It’s going to be interesting to see how long that sustains basically, and whether or not everyone is digging through their archives for old material.”
But perhaps nothing will have a bigger impact on any studio’s success or failure than where they’re based. Gavin contemplates: “With B.C. opening up the film industry…Is it going to be a boom for us in this immediate 2 – 3 months where it seems like we are okay compared to the rest of the filming world? Or whether it’s going to throw cold water on the whole industry, will that reflect here as well?” Adds Boutilier, “Its not just Hollywood vs. Hollywood north…It’s like, can you film in China right now, or India?”
a new frontier
All of this begs the question, if Empress – or any other studio – knew what COVID-19 would look like when it was first confirmed in December, what would they do?
“If I knew COVID was coming…I would set up sets in people’s houses. Give them a couple lights and a good camera.” – Peter Olivastri
Boutilier would have pivoted to more animated content. “Obviously there’s hurdles as well, to bring animation teams together, but it’s something you can do remotely,” he says. “I think over the next 6 months we’re probably going to see a massive spike in animated content for older audiences and adults. Using tools like Adobe Character Animator that automates a lot of that process to do animated talk shows, or…opinion pieces, current affairs shows, things that we haven’t really seen in the animated form before.”
Peter Olivastri is a cinematographer at Empress, and leads their technical operations on-set. He’s all too familiar with how brands and celebrities are struggling present themselves professionally without access to professional videographers. “If I knew COVID was coming,” he says, “I think I would set up a business where I would set up sets in people’s houses. Give them a couple lights and a good camera, so when they’re on whatever call on the platform they choose, it looks a lot better than their back-lit webcam.”
the creative antidote for pandemic overload
Throughout history, challenging times have been reflected in the on-screen stories that resonate and prosper. During the Great Depression, the Marx Brothers became comedic allies for the populist movement, giving cash-strapped audiences some much-needed laughs at the expense of high society. In the aftermath of WWII, Godzilla gave a giant, reptilian face to the destructive power of atomic weapons. So what stories and themes will define the ‘COVID Era’?
“Personally, when things feel stressful…I want a romantic comedy,” reflects Golden. “And what I’ve realized, [is] there’s not a lot, not like in the 1990’s and early 2000’s where there were tons of rom-coms.” She’s working on one now, although she admits that “COVID-wise that would be a challenge to film, you know because of the kissing scenes.”
Studios like Empress are built on big dreams, perseverance, and relentless creativity.
But the impacts of a the pandemic on narrative inspiration will likely outlive the threat itself. “In 20 year of 30-40 years,” muses Olivastri, “I’d really like to see a zombie thriller, about COVID, where its just blown way out of proportion…all these kids would be like, ‘aww look how bad COVID was!’”
If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that even a global pandemic won’t be able to crush the film industry in BC. After all, studios like Empress are built on big dreams, perseverance and relentless creativity. “If we were in it just for the money,” says Boutilier, “we wouldn’t be in it at all.”
“The really enterprising, entrepreneurial filmmakers will still find a way to make content…and reach markets one way or another. That agility is paramount right now, and anyone who can figure that out will thrive.”