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Powell River Digital Film School students ready for screening

Members honed their craft in original production called Jorogomo, which will be screened tonight at Max Cameron Theatre

Powell River Digital Film School’s main production this year will be a departure from the kinds of film fare that has been offered in the past.

“This year’s production will be called Jorogumo and it is derived from a Japanese myth where women can be transformed into spiders,” said film school instructor and the film’s executive producer Tony Papa. “It’s a concept that one my students, Max Backs, came up with, and the whole class has worked with him.”

Papa described the production as a kind of psychological horror, which his past film students haven’t tried before.

While principal photography for Jorogumo was taking place in a local residence, Papa took the time to outline the production. He said the script produced by the students was nine pages long, so the expectation is that it will be a nine-minute film. Papa said Jorogumo involves the conversion of a character.

“That’s sort of our twist, with stuff that has happened to this guy’s girlfriend,” said Papa. “I don’t want to give too much away.”

Papa said this year’s production was a four-day shoot. A lot of times the filming is wrapped in three days, but Papa said there were some complexities in this year’s production.

“Max [Backs] wanted to direct it using a bunch of different rooms, so it took more time,” he added. “Through this filming process, the students have really come together as a team, backing each other up. All our departments are working really great and it’s getting better every day.”

Papa said this year’s students had some great preparatory work, travelling to Vancouver recently to be on the set of a production, a series called Alert: Missing Persons.

“They welcomed us on the set so my students could focus in on what jobs were being done and how they were being done,” said Papa. “After learning about production during the school term, the students were able to see it being done firsthand. It really helped a lot.

“The production team was very kind. They took time to talk with the students and I was really surprised and pleased with that.”

While in Vancouver, the students went to the BC Student Film Festival, where they were up for a few awards. Papa said the local students didn’t win awards, but had the opportunity to participate in workshops, furthering their learning.

Papa said this year’s cohort of digital film school students is very diverse.

“They all have individual talents that are different from each other and that really plays well in separating them for the jobs they wanted to do in this production,” said Papa. “We operate like they do on a real film set and this production is an opportunity to bring it all together and make it work.”

Papa said the students would be in a hurry once principal photography was over to get the film edited and ready for screening.

“The students are up for it,” said Papa. “I serve as the executive producer on the production, but I try to let the students do all the things from what they have learned. I mostly just watch what they do. If something’s missing, I might chime in a little bit, but it’s really up to the students.”

Papa said this is the 18th year for the digital film school, and typically, 30 to 35 per cent of the students leave the program and go onto post-secondary training or into the film business.

“That’s a pretty high percentage. They come back and tell me what they are doing. They are proud to let me know what they are up to. I have hired some of them and brought them back to town to work on productions, or I’ll refer them to other producers that I know.”

Papa said he is proud of the accomplishments of his students, who have won many awards along the way.

Future focus

Jorogumo director of photography Leif Race said his role is to make sure the lighting and camera work is excellent and as professional as can be. He said his hope, after film school, is to go to Vancouver and work as a production assistant and then try to work his way through the system in the filming aspect of production.

“I want to save up some money through production assistant work and make my own short film,” said Race. “That would be practice for making a feature length film.”

Race said the digital film school has been a great learning experience for him and has taught him more than he ever expected.

Papa’s mentorship has been very helpful, according to Race, and he has enjoyed using the knowledge he has acquired to set up creative shots for the Jorogumo.

“There’s a lot of attention to detail,” said Race. “Knowing what is going on is really important when you are doing this kind of stuff.”

Expansive experience

Justine Mieure, who was serving as a gaffer and clapper loader for Jorogumo, is an exchange student from France. She said she had previously been in a film class two years ago in France, which helped her develop a skill set, but her experiences in the Powell River Digital Film School have been more detailed and expansive than her previous educational experience.

“What we are doing here is more professional,” said Mieure. “It’s more complicated, and yeah, I like it. I’ve been learning a lot and I’m proud of it.

“I’m really, really excited about this production. There’s a lot of people here and everyone wants to work on it. Everyone is motivated, so I love being a part of it.”

Mieure said she would like to work in the film industry, so spending a semester in the digital film school was an important educational experience.

“Tony knows a lot of people in the film industry so I’m hoping I can use that later,” added Mieure.

She said postsecondary film school in Canada is an expensive proposition, so she is hoping to find a film school in France, then possibly return to North America to try and find work in the industry here.

Jorogumo will be screening at Max Cameron Theatre on Thursday, June 20, with a reception at 5 pm and the show beginning at 6 pm. Admission is by donation. Papa said it is a great opportunity for the film school students to see the production through the audience’s eyes and to receive immediate feedback on what the audience thought of the film.

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