Halifax filmmaker Ben Proudfoot often reaches deeply into his Nova Scotian heritage when he chooses his projects.
That paid off for him Sunday night at the prestigious Raindance Film Festival in London where he won best director for his short films on Nova Scotia artists and craftspeople.
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His entry Life's Work: Six Conversations with Makers tells the stories of a stone mason, blacksmith, woodturner and others who practise their art in communities throughout the province.
The short films reveal the passion, deep roots and tenaciousness of the artists. "They're our history, our culture, who we are," the 24-year-old said in an interview Monday from Bath, England.
Raindance is one of the largest, most influential independent film festivals in the world, operating in major cities including London, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and Berlin.
Proudfoot, who founded Breakwater Studios Ltd. in Los Angeles in 2012, is a graduate of Citadel High School and an accomplished sleight-of-hand magician, winning Canadian and International championships.
He turned his talents to filmmaking and attended the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles.
Influenced by Nova Scotia roots
In 2011, Proudfoot wrote and directed the short film Dinner with Fred which won festival awards worldwide and as well as two best director awards and a qualification for the 2012 Academy Awards for best live action short film.
Other works include a short documentary entitled ink&paper viewed by a million people on Vimeo and optioned by Sony Pictures Television and a feature film — a documentary about a Shakespeare scholar mounting Romeo & Juliet in Rwanda with local high school kids 20 years after the genocide.
Right now he is at work on a large-scale, feature film about the Halifax Explosion which will be released on the 100th anniversary of the epic tragedy which nearly destroyed the city in 1917.
Proudfoot's future projects continue to be influenced by his Nova Scotia roots.
"My effort right now is to bring more work back, and to do more stuff in the province."
Film financing always a challenge
He isn't daunted by cuts to the Nova Scotia Tax Credit, although he acknowledges the negative effect on film production in the province, particularly "in its execution which was so damaging. It took place so quickly."
He said it is always hard to get financing for film work, but effort, timing and finding the right people have paid off for him in the past.
"Living in Los Angeles, there is no tax credit. No government support for the arts. Zero," Proudfoot said.
Proudfoot's homeward focus includes opening an office in Halifax, not only for documentaries and feature film work but also for corporate projects.
He doesn't see himself doing commercial advertising, but to create "a visual, narrative" about companies and the people behind them … to tell their story."
He said Nova Scotia has tradition of being resilient and creative.
"To make dinner from what's in the fridge. That is one of our great strengths."