This camp is giving young people in Northern Newfoundland a voice through filmmaking
'We wanted to encourage them to look at film as a new way to express themselves'
Children and young adults growing up in rural Newfoundland don't often get a chance to explore their artistic side. Limited resources and small classroom sizes (sometimes with just a handful of students) makes for a lack of access to music, art, theatre and filmmaking.
In a rural school system that tends to largely favour the sciences and maths, there's just no room for creativity.
Recognizing this need, the St. John's International Women's Film Festival launched the FRAMED filmmaking camp back in 2001. Now in its 16th year, the camp has reached young would-be filmmakers from rural and remote places all over the province — capturing the unique stories of locals from places as far-flung as Nain and Hopedale in Northern Labrador.
This year, the festival worked with students on Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, with support from the Arts NL ArtsSmarts program. Filmmaker Latonia Hartery and editor Victoria Wells provided the mentorship, but the 16 eighth grade students at Canon Richards Memorial Academy in Flower's Cove made the project all their own.
The topic of the film? What it's like growing up on Newfoundland's rugged and isolated Northern Peninsula — nearly 950 kilometres from St. John's.
Hartery and Wells spent a week in Flower's Cove with the students, exploring their community and the local history and heritage. Hartery has been conducting archaeological research on the peninsula for nearly 20 years. "It's one of the most special places in the world for me," she says. "I jump at the chance to get up there and connect with the people."
Spring hasn't been kind to Newfoundland, though, and the shoot wasn't without its own set of challenges.
"Right now on the Northern Peninsula there is still snow, pack ice and icebergs," Hartery says. "It made for cold filming days, but the environment added a lot to our story about the unique nature of life in northern Newfoundland."
Unique is an understatement. Hartery recalls one student, Shayden Eddison, telling her about how he had gotten up at 4:30am to go hunting before school started at 8:30.
"It was a moment of pride to know that a 14-year-old kid had connected to the land in such a way," she says. "They were excited about the camp, and I think the class bonded in ways they hadn't previously. All the students were very charming and knowledgeable about life on the Great Northern Peninsula."
Eddison was one of the students interviewed for the film. He talked about how much he loves the freedom that comes with growing up on the peninsula — he's an avid hunter, especially when moose hunting season rolls around. Stories like his are at the heart of what the camps aim to highlight.
Jenn Brown, executive director at the St. John's International Women's Film Festival, said that the FRAMED camps are meant to foster the next generation of filmmakers and arts lovers.
"We wanted to offer a unique, fun opportunity for young people to be exposed to filmmaking, and to encourage them to look at film as a new way to express themselves," she explains.
While the film festival makes great efforts to support both women and men filmmakers in the province, reaching outlying communities can be difficult. And, often, some of the best stories are found beyond the capital city. "[The students] end up learning a lot about themselves, through working together as a team and sharing who they are and their culture," says Brown. "We're always blown away by the quality of what our participants create, and what a difference fostering creativity does to their confidence."
Sometimes young filmmakers even end up striking out on their own. Stephen Dunn, whose feature film Closet Monster won big at TIFF, is a FRAMED alumnus.
This year's FRAMED Canon Richards Memorial Academy film will debut at the 28th annual St. John's International Women's Film Festival in October. For participants, the experience is something that will stay with them forever. And most importantly, the camp offers a way to give youth in rural Newfoundland something crucial: a voice.
St. John's International Women's Film Festival. October 18-22, 2017. St. John's Newfoundland. womensfilmfestival.com