Video Virgins: First Time's A Charm May 27, 7 pm, and The TAIS Queer Cartoon Show Wednesday (May 26), 7:30 pm, both at the Cumberland 2 as part of the Inside Out festival. See Indie & Rep Film listings
You live in the land of a thousand festivals. Your potential audience has already been inundated by Images, stuffed with Hot Docs, and TIFF looms on the horizon like a vast planet sucking everything around it into its mighty orbit. What's a queer festival to do? Here's what: you go to the festival's core audience and you commission work. Not from seasoned veterans who've probably already contributed, but from first-timers, people who've only dreamed of being filmmakers before. Virgins. You pair them up with someone who knows the ropes, give them a two-month deadline and free use of equipment, and voilà - a whole new generation of filmmakers is born! Your festival features a raft of new work from local artists. Everybody's happy.
The idea's not completely new. Inside Out runs an invitational program every year, and it's been running the Queer Youth Digital Video Project, which facilitates mentoring of people under 25 through the video-making process, for seven years now. But this year, two new programs have been introduced, the TAIS Queer Cartoon Show and Video Virgins, with no limits on age or content.
"We knew most of the mentors," says Michael Vokins, who co-curated Video Virgins with Celina Virani and Patrick Borjal, "and we wanted a really diverse program, so we went for a mixed bag."
The Cartoon Show consists of 10 pieces ranging in content from camping dykes to animated Gumbies with giant porno penises, and in form from cute, scratchy drawings to dreamy stop-motion photography. There was only one restriction: no digital.
"It's all traditional animation, cut-out and plasticine stop-motion or drawings on paper, all shot under the camera, so the whole thing has a really nice, hands-on feel." says Martha Newbigging, who curated the program with Almerinda Travassos.
Acceptance into the program was based on relevant visual arts experience, particularly in film and video. "We didn't want complete novices," she says. Established artists like Richard Fung and Leslie Peters got involved.
The Video Virgins program takes a different tack, pairing first-timers, found mainly through e-mail call-outs and ads on the Internet, with established artists.
"It was kind of like a dating service, putting people together to see what happens," explains Borjal. "Like when you set your friends up on a blind date - you never know how it's going to turn out."
Add to the mix the fact that the video virgins had no idea what to expect from the process. By the time novice Kate Moore had hired the crew, rented the equipment and dressed the set, she thought she was halfway there. Mentor Alex Butler set her straight.
"Being a virgin and all, I had no idea what I was getting into," she says. "I asked if the video was nearly done, and the crew just smiled."