Halifax filmmaker on a roll at TIFF earns accolades for new short film

Heather Young, a 35-year-old NSCAD University grad, is returning to TIFF for a third time with her latest film, MILK.

Heather Young's MILK will screen at Canada's Top Ten Film Festival in January

Heather Young's latest short film, MILK, will screen at a Toronto International Film Festival event for homegrown talent in January. (Submitted by Heather Young)

Halifax-based filmmaker Heather Young is booking herself another ticket to Toronto as her success at one of the world's largest international film festivals continues. 

The 35-year-old NSCAD University grad will screen her short film MILK in the new year at an event organized by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Canada's Top Ten Film Festival runs from Jan. 12-21 and features short and full-length films, as well as work by students.

While Young is the only Nova Scotian filmmaker selected this time around, the province has been well represented at TIFF thanks to filmmakers like Corey Bowles, who directed Black Cop, and Cape Breton's Ashley McKenzie, who directed Werewolf.

The 14-minute film MILK stars Babette Hayward, a musician who's a member of Halifax's Vogue Dots. (Submitted by Heather Young)

"It kind of feels like a special time, I guess, for Nova Scotia filmmakers," said Young, whose latest film MILK already debuted at TIFF's main event in September.

"And [it] kind of helps you keep going and feel energized and feel inspired when you have people around you that are making great work."

Young, a native of Saint John, N.B., graduated from art school in 2009 and has made six films. Many of them are about the complicated realities of motherhood, specifically what it's like to be a single mom.

That topic has always been an obsession, she said, because she's an only child who never met her father. 

Another of Young's films, Fish, tells the story of a single mom struggling to raise her three kids as their father ignores her calls. It was one of Canada's top ten shorts of 2016 as selected by TIFF. (Submitted by Heather Young)

"My mother was committed to raising me, but I always think I don't know how I would have handled it if I was in her position, you know, of not having any support," said Young.

MILK is about a dairy farmhand dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, who's constantly reminded of her impending responsibilities while working with pregnant cows and newborn calves. 

Young was inspired after visiting a dairy farm near Truro, N.S., where she eventually returned to shoot the film. 

The 14-minute film stars Babette Hayward, a Halifax musician with little acting experience, and like many of Young's characters, she moves through the world with few words.

"She just kind of struck me when I met her as someone who has an interesting face, and I'm always looking for people who have interesting faces or people who I feel can convey emotion with their face," said Young.

Another one of her short films, Fish, which is about a single mom raising three kids, was selected for Canada's Top Ten Festival this past January. 

Young was also recently named one of two emerging artists of the year by Creative Nova Scotia.

She said the recognition is especially helpful given she's prone, like many artists, to wondering if she's come up with her last good idea.

"It was nice to kind of have that encouragement to keep going," she said. 

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Emma Smith


Emma Smith is a web writer and radio producer from B.C. who fell in love with the East Coast. She's interested in reporting on rural communities and Indigenous issues.