What are film festivals like for, well, the filmmakers?
Their short doc premiered at TIFF. The team behind This Ink Runs Deep reflect on their festival journey so far
Every movie needs an audience, and around this time of year, plenty of films are hunting for theirs at festivals all over the country. Take the case of This Ink Runs Deep, a new short doc about the Indigenous tattoo renaissance that's happening here in Canada. The film had its world premiere at TIFF Sept. 6, and since then, it's screened at festivals in Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary — where it claimed the prize for best documentary short last week.
Today, the film arrives on CBC Gem, but even after its big streaming debut, This Ink Runs Deep will continue its festival journey. So CBC Arts contacted the folks who are scrambling their day-job schedules to take it on the proverbial road: director Asia Youngman and writers/producers Mack Stannard and Kent Donguines.
What's their experience been like — and why risk credit debt and/or total exhaustion to make it all happen? They shared their thoughts on how it's gone so far.
Why was it important to take the film to a bunch of festivals, starting with TIFF?
Mack Stannard: For me, it was about meeting people, really. There's so many people that come from around the world to TIFF to celebrate their films and to show them off.
Asia Youngman: To be totally honest, I didn't really have too many objectives [for TIFF]. I think I was just really looking forward to having a film at the festival for the first time, meeting people, taking it all in.
MS: If you have a feature in the festival, I don't want to put words in people's mouths, but I feel like you're probably busier trying to sell it, whereas with shorts, it's more about enjoying the experience of being there.
So, what was on your to-do list?
Kent Donguines: For me, one thing on my to-do list was to watch the films that attracted me the most in the lineup. And [to] attend as many parties as possible, because it's not just about the booze, but it's also about the people you'll be meeting at the parties.
MS: I guess the priorities of going were to learn as much as I could and to learn from having conversations with other people. It's an industry that's really built off your connections with people.
MS: Everybody who is at TIFF, mostly, has had some level of success. So it's really nice to have that calibre of people to bump into at an event and be able to ask some questions of, "Oh! What was it like to go through that program?"
How do you make the trip work?
MS: It's just one of those things — especially for something like TIFF. It's a big deal. If your film is in TIFF, you just drop everything and make it work.
KD: Yeah, I agree. It was the world premiere, right? Even before finding out about TIFF, we already talked about wherever the world premiere would be, we would have to be there.
AY: I'd just come off a shoot … Like, I got home the afternoon before I flew out to Toronto.
MS: Financially, it's not easy, that's for sure — to be taking time off work and be living in a different city for a while.
AY: TIFF is great. They did give me an honorarium to travel out there, which is great, because a lot of festivals don't always do that for short filmmakers. … But I also just have really supportive parents (laughs). They've helped out with a few of my flights.
MS: Our entire team split an Airbnb and lived very, very cheaply, which was very, very fun.
AY: We were kind of stuffed into this small two-bedroom basement suite. I think there were five of us at one time, so you just have to make it work (laughs) Yeah, it's not glamorous at all.
What happened at the world premiere?
KD: This was going to be our first time watching our film on the big screen. … So it was actually nerve-wracking, especially when we were minutes away from the screening.
MS: Like Kent said, I had this level of anxiety before the premiere that I couldn't really explain. There's nothing we can do. I'd seen the film so many times, but I was still nervous.
AY: It sold out, our first screening, which was really exciting. You never know with short programs who's going to show up because they tend to be so late. I think our screening was at 9:45 (laughs), which is quite late, but yeah. It was awesome.
AY: One of our subjects, Jana Angulalik, she's from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. She was in Ottawa, and she drove down with her boyfriend to attend the screening.
KD: If you play in the shorts block, you kind of start overthinking everything. ... Sometimes you're concerned, like — is my short the best, is my short like the worst?
MS: It's very true. It creates a sense of competition almost.
MS: I would say as soon as our film started playing I felt better.
AY: Having the Q&A's are a great opportunity as well, just to talk more about the film. And also meeting with people. It was really great after our second screening at TIFF, having people come up. … I think that's the most rewarding part of being a filmmaker: seeing how films have an effect on people and how people can relate to those stories.
AY: There's this one younger woman who approached me after the second screening. She gave me a hug and she was crying and she told me that it made her think of her grandma.
What's stood out about the different festivals?
AY: TIFF, although it's on this grand scale, I don't think it's as accessible to people in terms of the cost of the ticket or just being centred specifically in Toronto. Vancouver is our local premiere, so we're able to have a lot more of our team members come out and share it with friends and family as well.
AY: I think it's important to share it with international audiences. I think when we bring it to Hawaii that's going to be really special because they have a really strong tattoo culture there. (Note: This Ink Runs Deep plays the Hawaii International Film Festival in November.)
What have been some of the highlights of the last few weeks? What's made it all worthwhile?
AY: Oh! I met Taika Waititi. That was awesome (laughs). He's my hero, completely my hero. A friend of mine is good friends with his wife so she invited us to the Jojo Rabbit after-party [at TIFF].
MS: I would say that being at TIFF was incredibly inspirational. [I] walked away from that experience remembering why I want to do this, and it's to tell great stories. Being in a film screening that really connects with audiences, where the audience stands up and applauds — like, that hit home.
KD: Just seeing these films, like bigger films, inspired me even more, especially when we watched Honey Boy together with Asia. … It was life changing. I was like, 'I could do this' — maybe in, like, five years! (laughs)
Watch This Ink Runs Deep on CBC Gem.