Ironically, the one thing I don't have much time for these days is watching movies.
—Deco Dawson, filmmaker
If Winnipeg filmmaker Deco Dawson keeps all his awards in a cabinet, he's probably shopping for a bigger one.
Dawson recently won the Manitoba Film Hothouse Award, a prize designed to recognize local directing talent. In addition to a cash award, part of the prize includes a public screening of the filmmaker's work.
Dawson will be on hand at Cinematheque on May 31 for the screening of a newly remastered version of Dumb Angel in HD, a variety of early films and a trailer for a feature documentary he's currently shooting about Manitoba Hydro Place.
Still from Keep a Modest Head (Deco Dawson)
This comes shortly after Dawson took the award for Best Short Film at the Toronto International Film Festival, for Keep a Modest Head
. An award he also won in 2001 for Film(dzama)
decided it was high time we had a little chat with this very busy filmmaker.You've won a lot of awards in your career, are they helpful?
What a well timed question, I just found out yesterday that Keep a Modest Head
won the Best Documentary Short Film Award at the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival, the largest film festival in the U.S.
As a result, the film is now eligible for submission to the Academy Awards. So, if we put that into perspective, yes, winning awards does indeed help one's career!
But more specifically, winning awards helps with momentum, it helps garner attention to a particular project, and creates a bit more of a buzz. People tend to want to see what the hype is about and go out of their way to do so.
In the long run, building up a resume with awards helps to fund future projects, and can help put challenging work into a more accessible context, people tend to be excited by the outlandish and impossible, instead of being skeptical and critical. What are you working on right now?
The main project I am working on right now is called Double Façade
, it is a feature length documentary on sustainable architecture and focuses primarily on the development process behind Manitoba Hydro Place.
Images from Double Façade (Deco Dawson)
In many respects it is a departure for me, as it is rather linear and story based, and could be considered a "straight" documentary, without any surrealistic sensibilities. I joke that it will be my most successful movie as a result.
The backstory behind the building, and the incredible awards the building has since garnered is a story that needs to be told, and most amazingly the building, one of the greatest, sustainably designed towers in the world, is right here in Winnipeg, a city that, for lack of a better term, simply does not have a "green culture" at all!What inspired it?
I first toured Manitoba Hydro Place back in 2010 and was astounded by how the design team had approached thinking about building a building. The things they did make complete, logical sense, and it really blew my mind how, paradoxically thinking logically was "fresh and new", I asked myself "why don't we think about building buildings like this?"
Deco Dawson and crew on location at Manitoba Hydro Place. (courtesy Deco Dawson)
And right then I knew that was a premise for an introspective documentary. Every single thing the team did in designing that building was to better the employees, the environment, and the surrounding urban area.
When merely thinking things through can be so effective, one wonders why city hall has failed to redevelop our downtown in a meaningful, significant way, and it is no wonder why so many shortsighted "mega-projects" have continually failed in this city. Whose films do you look to for inspiration/admire?
I adore a whole host of films, different genres, different directors, different time periods. Ironically, the one thing I don't have much time for these days is watching movies. When I start writing I really delve into a genre and start to use films as research and inspiration, but lately, for pure cinematic pleasure, I can't deny the impact Ulrich Siedl has had on my view of contemporary films. Who do you show your work to first?
That is a great question. I find I generally work in isolation on my projects. I will have friends view the work, but it's hard to enter into a critical discourse when they have seen the work develop, and have heard you talk about your motivation behind the film.
With the Hydro Place film I have already picked out my first audience, it will be Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky the co-directors of Indie Game: The Movie
, we've recently become good friends and also Brad Crawford the director of 100 Yen
, both super successful documentaries.
Already they have given me invaluable advice, it is great to have a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, especially when delving into a new medium like documentary.
If you weren't working as a filmmaker what do you think you'd be doing?
I expect I would most likely pursue my first passion and work in theatre full time. I work part time in theatre, which I feel to perhaps be less visual than film, but as dependent on an integrated design and performance team as film.
I have my degree in theatre from the University of Manitoba and it was my full intention to work in theatre as a director, and while I can't commit fully as a theatre director these days, I work as a projection designer on at least two shows a year.
You'll be at the screening on May 31st, how do you feel about discussing your work with the audience?
Still from Sins of the Father (Deco Dawson)
I really enjoy the question and answer session following a screening. So often films get screened around the world without the creator ever hearing the comments of the audience, or being available to give answers and insight into the process.
A lot of filmmaking, especially when visual tricks are employed, goes on without anyone knowing about how complicated the process really is, it's fun to describe in detail the endless hours that went into such a small fleeting scene. Deco Dawson: Fantastic Worlds screens May 31 at Cinematheque at 7 p.m.