Film in Cape Breton takes centre stage

The desire to bring together like-minded individuals who share a love of filmmaking has resulted in a new collective called Film Cape Breton.

Filmmakers are showcasing their short films this weekend

Kenn Crawford, behind the camera, is shown with actors Jill Hickey, Michael ​MacDonald and Joe Menchefski. (Margie Marr)

From The Bay Boy in 1984 to Margaret's Museum in 1995 to 2016's Werewolf, film has never disappeared from Cape Breton's creative landscape.

Now a resurgence of interest has prompted the formation of a new film collective. 

On Saturday, the collective will hold a free screening of several films from 2-4 p.m. at the Verschuren Centre at Cape Breton University. Those attending are invited to stay after the screening to share ideas on future projects.

Kenn Crawford, the founder of Film Cape Breton, said he met two filmmakers at a premiere in February for a short film called The Rose. While both were from Glace Bay, he had never met either of them.

"We have filmmakers everywhere and none of us know each other," said Crawford, who is from Glace Bay. "It's time to change that."

It was at that point he decided to put a group together. Now there are six members, some with their own production companies.

The Rose is one of the short films to be shown on Saturday. Dan Yakimchuk, left, and Aidan Lee-Dadswell appear in this scene. (Kenn Crawford)

Crawford wrote a novel about zombies a few years ago. He said he wanted to write a screenplay, but didn't know how.

He wrote the novel, but the original intent to pursue a screenplay stayed with him.

"This was always meant to be a movie," he said. "I'm going to make a movie."

Without any previous experience, he ventured forth. 

"Make it up as you go along," Crawford said with a laugh. "Find a group of friends who are passionate about filmmaking and learn as you go."

Barbara Beaton is no stranger to the stage or the screen. Heavily involved in the Cape Breton theatre scene, Beaton also acted in The Book of Negroes CBC miniseries and the TV show Frontier

She said she too had an urge to write a screenplay, so she wrote 8/04, a short comedy based on a cellphone outage in Atlantic Canada in 2017.

"The main character is a little neurotic," said Beaton. "She discovers that the cell phones went down and thinks that the world is coming to an end, and chaos ensues."

Diana MacKinnon-Furlong, Donnie Antle and Barbara Beaton appear in a scene from 8/04. (Fritz Bishop)

Beaton appears in the film along with local actors Diana MacKinnon-Furlong and Donnie Antle. 

Mike MacDonald, a professor at Cape Breton University, acted in The Legend of the Psychotic Forest Ranger in 2008. He'll be in several of the shorts on Saturday. 

He said Film Cape Breton allows people to connect. 

"Able to swap ideas — say who's got equipment for this, who's got equipment for that — and it's really about networking and finding talent, finding equipment, people who are willing to act, produce, direct," he said.

Film Cape Breton just formed this winter to bring together those interested in any aspect of the art of film. (Submitted by Film Cape Breton)

The films being screened on Saturday are:

  • One Week -  Highland Films, written by Stephen MacGillivary, directed by Malik Headley
  • The Rose - written by Dan Yakimchuk, directed by Kenn Crawford
  • Turned - Tar Pond Productions, written and directed by Brett Holmes
  • Seaweed & Gold - written and directed by Julian Storm 
  • 8/04  - Tar City Productions, written and directed by Barbara Beaton
  • Membertou Ghosts & Hauntings - written and directed by Dawn Wells
  • There's Something About George - Broken Road Pictures, written and directed by Kenn Crawford

Crawford acknowledged the biggest challenge to making films is money. But passion is the motivation.

"You don't need money to make films," he said. "You just need a really good idea and friends who are passionate about it, and someone to see it."

With files from Cape Breton's Information Morning