A Newbie Filmmaker at the Yorkton Film Festival

“. . . and the nominees are . . .”

These are four little words that big dreams are made of and I actually got to live it in real life.

Like many film festivals the world over, the Yorkton Film Festival is virtual this year due to the pandemic. Kicking off the festival which is being held from May 27th to 30th was the award ceremony which was streamed live on opening night. My documentary Meet and Eat at Lee’s Garden was nominated in three categories: Research, Multicultural over 30 minutes, and Documentary History and Biography.  

This documentary is my first. Six years ago I had a story idea and I just knew that it had to be a documentary even though I had no experience making one. So just how did it get to be nominated for three of Yorkton Film Festival’s Golden Sheaf Awards?

I think my training and experience as an author had a lot to do with it. For the past two decades, I have been writing and publishing fiction and non-fiction. I’ve attended workshops and conferences on almost every aspect of the business of writing: how to craft stories, do research, how to pitch a story, how to write a synopsis, copyright and more. With a degree in journalism, I already knew how to interview people. Most importantly, I love documentaries. It’s been one of my favorite genres since I was a teenager. And just like the recommendation that anyone who wants to be a writer should read as much as they can, anyone who wants to make documentaries should watch as many as they can.

I figured that the skills I learned as an author would be transferable to film. After all, they are both about storytelling. So I approached filmmaking the same way I write. I found the heart of the story, and then set about to create a beginning, middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.

It was a ton of work. Maybe even two tons. There were a lot of ups and downs, moaning about who would even watch it (I do the same with my writing “Who would want to read/publish it!?”), evenings spent researching digital libraries for photographs and video footage, checking facts, finding people to interview, transcribing interviews, agonizing over which scenes to keep or cut and figuring out how to change scenes and introduce new characters. I was producer, director and writer and I loved wearing all those hats.

It premiered on the CBC on November 14, 2020, and just like I do at a book launch, I nervously hoped people would like my baby. They did.

So that is how I found myself sitting at my dining table watching the Yorkton Film Festival award ceremony on my laptop anxiously waiting to hear whether my film would win in any of its categories.

It wasn’t a Zoom conference so winners would not give an acceptance speech. The presenters did a nice job of introducing and announcing the awards. To me, it felt like the Academy Awards. Each time they announced one of my categories, I held my breath. The poster flashed across the screen and I was tense with excitement. They announced the other nominees.

And then . . . the winner was someone else.

Of course I was disappointed. The end of that dream is winning the award, but it still feels really good just to have been nominated. This is so much more than I expected for my first documentary.

My congratulations to Captive produced by Antica Productions for winning the award for Research, The Artics produced by Midnight Light Media for winning Multicultural 30 Minutes and Over, and to Mr. Emancipation: The Walter Perry Story produced by The Walter Perry Freedom Foundation for winning Documentary History and Biography. I’m looking forward to watching these films.

It ain’t over folks. Meet and Eat at Lee’s Garden was selected by the Austin Asian American Film Festival which runs from June 4-20, 2021. It was rejected by a handful of other film festivals but I’m expecting a response from 17 others throughout the year.

I’ll keep you posted.

If you’re in Canada, you can watch Meet and Eat at Lee’s Garden on CBC through their GEM app.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canada

With Canada celebrating 150 years, my friends, Jean, May, Celia and Wanda and I 20170701_112346decided to brave the rain forecast, and  see the parade and the festivities at the Old Port. With a rain jacket and an umbrella tucked into my backpack, I met them at the corner of Peel and St. Catherine where the parade would turn down on the homestretch. Continue reading

The Giants are in Montreal

There are some huge celebrities here to celebrate Montreal’s 375th birthday, and I really mean huge.

The Giants are in town for the weekend. Not the football team. The Giants of the Royal De Luxe company are marionettes from France. There are three of them: The Sea Diver which is the largest, a Little Girl, which is the diver’s niece, and her dog. This is their first appearance in Canada.

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It takes a lot of people to manipulate them and watching them work is as fascinating as the marionettes themselves.  Continue reading

Montreal Celebrates the Year of the Rooster

I dropped by Chinatown this afternoon where the celebrations for the New Year were taking place. The Montreal Chinese Lion Dance Club was performing the ritual dance in front of various stores in Chinatown to wish them luck and good fortune for the new year. Here’s a short clip.

I wish you all good fortune for the Year of the Rooster!

Bye Bye 2016

To celebrate the arrival of 2017, my friends and I checked out the free festivities at the Old Port. I’ve spent many New Year’s Eves on a sofa with the remote control watching the ball drop in Times Square and fireworks around the world. This time, I decided it would be a good start to the New Year to get off the sofa, put on the long underwear, and brave the cold and the crowds.  Continue reading

A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

T20161210_170937.jpghere has been so much ridicule surrounding Montreal`s challenger to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree that I went downtown and had a look for myself. Yes, it is a Charlie Brown tree. It’s skinny and not as full and pretty as the one in New York (which I heard is actually made up of 3 trees wired together), but when lit up at night, I think it’s beautiful and does its job well, which is to bring people together to celebrate the holiday season.

Speaking of Charlie Brown, my absolute favorite Christmas album is A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. You can listen to it below. Continue reading

It’s a Barbie World

One of the most famous names in the world now has a permanent home in Montreal. Barbie Expo is the largest permanent exhibit of Barbie dolls in the world and is open to the public for free at Les Cours Mont Royal. I had a Barbie doll when I was a kid and it was one of my favorite toys. I loved the dresses my mom made for her out of scrap material. They weren’t as fancy as Mattel couture, but I thought they were beautiful. The Barbies in this exhibit wear outfits designed by top designers such as Vera Wang, Bob Mackie, Christian Dior, Calvin Klein and Versace. With dolls that resemble Beyonce, Barbara Streisand, Jennifer Lawrence, Lucille Ball and more, the exhibit is a fascinating commentary on fashion and pop culture.

Continue reading