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Video Solidarité

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Issue: 10 Section: Canadian News

November 10, 2003

Video Solidarité

Resist, Reuse, Recycle

by Daron Letts

plastic_man_01.jpg
Bush gets the boot in Plasticman and the Justice League, by Jonathan Culp.
Two Canadian independent filmmakers embarked on separate cross country tours this fall. Sheryle Carlson is an independent filmmaker from Edmonton and Jonathan Culp is cofounder of Satan Macnuggit Popular Arts in Toronto and a cofounder of the Toronto Video Activist Collective. Their road shows overlapped in Fredericton.

The War for Oil and Drug Money

Reaching audiences in eight cities across five provinces, Carlson's tour featured screenings of her first major production, The War For Oil and Drug Money-a sixty minute documentary shot on Digital Hi 8 and peppered with bursts of recycled-video collage. The documentary showcases lectures by Michael Rupert (former LA cop turned investigative journalist) and Michel Chossudovsky (editor of Global Outlook and economics professor at the University of Ottawa).

Diverse audiences in community centres, campus theatres and in a Saint John park responded positively to the medium and the message.

At the end of the month-long tour, The Dominion spoke with Carlson by cell phone, somewhere on the Trans Canada Highway between Thunder Bay and Edmonton.

A self-labeled media activist, Carlson developed her "extroverted" blend of activism and independent video journalism in earnest following September 11, 2001.

In recent years, she covered scrums at the Alberta legislature, documented local anti-war protests and prepared video shorts on global warming for posting on independent news websites-her response to the "huge need for viable information by real journalists and real news providers."

Footage used in the War for Oil and Drug Money was recorded during a press conference at the G6B People's Summit in Calgary (the counter conference to the 2002 G8 Summit).

"We had all this footage that we really didn't know what to do with-so we focused on one particular press conference and worked with it," she said, referring to her collaborators, Barb Allard and Rick Gustavsen.

In addition to raising awareness about deeper analyses of September 11 and its preamble and aftermath, Carlson used the self-funded tour to develop a network of independent media contacts across the country.

Her next documentary will research alternative economic models in Canada. Currently, she is working on a short on urban sprawl and a TV series on envirofitting the home. She plans to fine tune her first documentary before distributing public copies in November.

Recycled Cinema

The 3rd Satan Macnuggit Video Road Show, titled Recycled Cinema, is approaching the end of a 40-city Canadian tour that reached from the Yukon to Newfoundland (4 screenings remain on the schedule).

Assisted by a dissemination grant from the Canada Council, Recycled Cinema features shorts by 18 filmmakers, including Allyson Mitchell and Lex Vaughn, Will Munro, Marc Adornato and Meesoo Lee. Culp and his partner at Satan Macnuggit Popular Arts, Siue Moffat, also contributed works to the program.

The tour is a means to circumvent the limits of conventional distribution, such as film festival screenings and the occasional windows into the corporate media system. Although the current tour received grant funding, Culp and his colleagues funded the first two tours through admission fees.

The Dominion reached Culp by phone in St. John's.

He said that challenging media conventions requires an interpretation and understanding of the social context that film has, including the rituals of movie going.

"If we're interested in making different kinds of movies, not just on different subjects but in different forms, then we also have to be conscious and creative about where and how we get that stuff seen," he said. "Rather than working in our little world until we get some sort of recognition from the broader film industry and somehow get our foot in the door and work within the rules, it would be much nicer if we could create a space for people to do this sort of work autonomously with more support and on a more permanent basis. It's just applying the usual activist values to this particular realm of work."

Audience response indicates to Culp that there is a solid interest in do-it-yourself video production across the country.

"There is a real desire for this sort of programming, especially in smaller communities with smaller or non-existent arts scenes locally," he said. "The smaller towns have been the places where people have really picked up on it."

The content is accessible to a broad audience with most shorts being narrative based and with no experimental abstract content. Many of the selections are recorded on Super 8 film with old and found equipment. A majority address activist themes. The average budget for the 18 shorts was $100.

Like Carlson, Culp is gathering contacts throughout the country, in hopes that increased communication among communities of independent film makers will help to develop a decentralized infrastructure through which to produce, distribute and expand independent film.

Following the tour, which wraps on November 22, Culp will work on an upcoming feature. That project will likely form the basis for Satan Macnuggit's fourth Video Road Show, he said. ***

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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