It was all over by 6 p.m. on February 15, when six wired and exhausted filmmakers delivered their finished product to the offices of the Crazy8s filmmaking competition.
Now in its 14th year, Crazy8s has been fertile ground for the local film community. For Kaare Andrews, a winner in 2005 for his short “Unwritten...”, it was a gateway to the international market. For others, like 65_RedRoses director Nimisha Mukerji—one of this year’s finalists with “In the Deep”—Crazy8s offers an irresistible challenge to a filmmaker already well on her way: to pitch, develop, and then make a short film, with only eight days for the actual production.
Roughly three hours before deadline, writer-director Matt Leaf—a working cinematographer by day—briefed the Straight on his project, a Phil Dickian sci-fi effort called “Braindamage”.
“We did three 22-hour edit days in a row, starting on Monday [February 11],” he said, emitting a maniacal giggle and adding that he had “probably 10 hours sleep” in the previous week. Mercifully, it also turns out that the blazing eight days of production that went into “Braindamage” were light on problems, mishaps, or compromises—even though Leaf was determined to open his film with something he described as “the hardest shot you could possibly do in this business”. It took two-and-a-half hours to capture the ambitious camera move, which begins with a close-up of an eye and then pulls quickly upward. Chump change in the real world, but enough, in this case, to push Leaf’s assistant director, Gagan Brar, “into a frenzy”. But they did it. Leaf said his mentor on the project, the aforementioned Andrews, told him: “You’re the director. Don’t let anybody else fuck with your vision; don’t let anybody else call the shots.”
“He gave me the permission to be authoritative, and for me that made the biggest difference,” the filmmaker said. Leaf also saved himself a considerable amount of time by setting his film in a single location, one of the tricks he picked up at the Crazy8s pitching seminar back in December.
“With the way I designed my shots, it actually made it look like we were on the set of Alien,” he continued. “Because we never mastered out and showed the whole world. If we’d done that, you’d see that we’re actually in the ‘mill’ at North Shore Studios.”
A few days later, Crazy8s executive director Erik Paulsson told the Straight that Leaf created an “amazing” world. “He’s got a beautiful eye and he worked with a really fantastic design team. I mean, it looks like a huge-budget film,” he said, adding that this year’s finalists, in his view, are the strongest in Crazy8’s history.
Perhaps more importantly, the competition is a vital bulwark against the tender fortunes of the business itself. “Virtually everyone in the Vancouver film industry puts in something to make it happen,” Paulsson said, noting the donated camera, lighting, and insurance each production receives on top of a $1,000 budget. “I think it’s really important to remember, especially as we’re trying to lure foreign productions into Vancouver, that what we need to do right now is build and foster our domestic film industry.”
You can judge for yourself when Crazy8s presents its gala screening of all six films at the Centre for Performing Arts on Saturday (February 23), followed by an after-party at the VAG that has grown legendary over the years.