"At age six, Jan was miraculously revived after her body was retrieved from the frozen river that consumed her parents. Now, after a lifetime of experiencing visions of others' pain and suffering, thirteen year old Jan hopes to intervene on fate and prevent a murder." -- synopsis for the short film GIFTS.
Official Selection 2014 NFFTY (National Film Festival for Talented Youth)

News

CBC Ottawa Morning Interview

CBC Ottawa Morning Radio Show - Morgana McKenzie and host Hallie Cotnam

CBC Ottawa Morning Radio Show – Morgana McKenzie and host Hallie Cotnam

This morning, I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Hallie Cotnam on CBC Ottawa Morning radio about GIFTS and the upcoming NFFTY festival. It was a wonderful experience, and everyone was extremely nice, especially Jessa the producer.

Before the interview, Hallie told me that she watched GIFTS earlier in the morning, and was feeling uneasy because she isn’t a huge fan of scary movies. The idea of her nervously watching GIFTS at 4:30am made me laugh.

Press the play button below to listen to a recording of the five-minute interview:

Shots as a form of Art, and Moo!

Moo Cards

My Moo Mini Cards

My Moo Mini Cards

NFFTY 2014 is coming up fast, and it’s very difficult for me to contain my excitement. Another reason that I’m excited, is my Moo mini-cards (several boxes) came in the mail the other day! Moo is a service for creating business cards that you can style and change to fit your business and personality. I styled mine so that each mini-card had a different frame from one of my films on the back, and of course all my important info on the front.

Moving Pictures

My family and I watch movies often, and we usually take turns on weekends picking which film we’re going to watch next. A couple weeks ago, my Mom picked “American Beauty” by Sam Mendes (brief note, if you haven’t already seen American Beauty, stop reading and go watch it). I had never seen it before, and wasn’t really sure what to expect.

As we watched the film, I slowly began to realize the beauty, framing, and symbolism in each of the shots. I already had a wide knowledge on the beauty of shots, but after watching American Beauty, I truly understood how individual shots can be a form of visual art in themselves.

When I say “a form of art”, I mean that its more than adding in an indulgent filler shot, or just framing it in a certain way to fit the overall scenery in. I mean that each shot is almost like a painting; each composed differently and meticulously, and different colour palettes used to symbolize different things. Films were originally called “moving pictures”, and especially with American Beauty I feel that each shot is like a different painting, or picture, in itself.

Here are some of my recent favourite examples of shots when it comes to specific colour selections, and the framing. By the way, some of these are “cinemagraphs“.

American Beauty

American Beauty

American Beauty

American Beauty

The Shining

The Shining

Kill Bill Vol. 1

Kill Bill Vol. 1

In Gifts, I did have the knowledge of using specific colour palettes to provide different feels. So I made all the scenes with the character “Jan” more blue than anything else, whereas her visions were colourful. This shows the sort of feeling that Jan experiences all the time in her world: a blue, sad, and gloomy colour. In her visions she doesn’t feel or see that blue colour because she is seeing someone else’s much happier life (even in a murder situation).

The reason for blabbering on and on about this, is that for my next two films I am really going to focus on story boarding shots, selecting colour palettes, framing and composition, wardrobe and makeup. I really want to better achieve that feel something that isn’t just a film — but a series of moving pictures, or paintings.

This is going to be fun!

March Break, a Kessler Crane, and My Next Film

My March break has come to an end.

I didn’t go anywhere sunny over the March break, because my family was hoping we’d be travelling in April to the NFFTY film festival in Seattle – a wish that came true!

So, what did I do over my March break in freezing and snowy Ottawa?

I attended a two-day workshop at the local “SAW Video” centre, which is a not-for-profit organization that offers courses, equipment, and facilities for artists. I wanted to take the ”Advanced Production Tools” workshop because it focused on learning to use professional-grade equipment like an eight-foot Kessler Crane, a Matthews Doorway Dolly, and dolly track. These are tools that I look forward to renting from SAW, and using in my upcoming productions.

Chris Payne, the workshop instructor, made sure there was lots of time to learn how to assemble, disassemble, and work with the equipment. He was really knowledgable, and I was happy to have had him as the instructor. Below are some photos of me from the workshop, along with Chris (wearing the beanie hat).

The other thing I did over my March break was begin to write the screenplay for my upcoming short film. Each of my previous films were challenging in their own ways, and this upcoming film will definitely have its own unique challenges. In particular, some of the scenes will need to be shot outdoors, in a winter setting. Shooting will start in October, and then take a break until the snow arrives.

I don’t want to give anything away about the film yet other than it’s set in winter. But I will tease you with the working title of the film:

“Kurayami no wa”

 

GIFTS Screening and Film Festival Update

There has been A LOT of stuff going on with “GIFTS” lately, and I’ll start off with the friends and family screening we had a couple of weeks ago at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum theatre.

GIFTS Screening - Cast members of the film and trailer

GIFTS Screening – Cast members of the film and trailer

It was a huge success. Thank you to everyone who came and supported! It was really a blast seeing everyone and being able to answer any questions that people had.

Charlene Burnside (a professional photographer, family friend, and the Mom of two cast members in GIFTS) brought her camera to take “a couple of photos”, which turned out to be a bunch of beautiful photos! I’m so happy to have them, because they’re so much better than the ones that my Dad and I took. Thank you Charlene!

Another exciting event was the acceptance of GIFTS into NFFTY (National Film Festival for Talented Youth), the largest youth film festival in the world, based in Seattle. Some of you may remember me entering my previous film “Mirror” into NFFTY last year. It wasn’t accepted, and although I was a little disappointed I still made the best of things by taking everything that NFFTY said was a problem, and applying that to GIFTS. I made it shorter, a little more tightly edited, and added some things that I wanted to improve in as well by using a different camera, lenses, etc. After much hard work, blood, sweat and tears (maybe not the second one), GIFTS was accepted, and I’m very proud to say that I’ll be going to Seattle in April.

I’d also like to address anyone that didn’t get in this year. Please keep trying. If you love to make films, don’t let a rejection letter discourage you. If you do, you’re depriving yourself of the success that has yet to come. Read the email/letter from NFFTY, and look for reasons why they may not have accepted not just yours, but other films as well. Take all those reasons, and apply them to your next film. Keep doing that until something great happens. Even if you never get accepted into the festival after ages of trying, now you’re a pro at everything that you’ve been refining and applying. It was a major learning experience for me. Just don’t give up.

And to all the friends, family, teachers, and complete strangers who have supported me, I can’t thank you enough!

The following pics are just a few photos from the screening. To see all of the photos, visit the GIFTS Photos page.

Fav Film Friday #12: Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

“Life Doesn’t Frighten Me”

A short film by Stephen Dunn.

“Life doesn’t frighten me is a coming-of-age comedy about a young woman’s exploration of ugliness and beauty” – Stephen Dunn

I first saw this film on CBC’s “Short Film Face-Off”, and after watching it once, I saved the episode and watched it about three more times. I was hooked.

It has an excellent use of J-cuts, it is well written, and also GORDON PINSENT! The part about it that I loved the most is the art. It’s in the opening sequence of the classroom, in the costumes, and the ending credits (never thought I’d say that about ending credits). Being a visual artist myself I have a very strong appreciation for this, knowing that making a film is hard enough, but preparing all the art involved in it, is a whole other level of skill.

The editing is extremely well done, and normally I would talk about it for another paragraph, but I’ll leave it for you to watch instead.

Thank you Stephen Dunn for creating a beautiful piece of art, and also adding to the world a film describing how sometimes you just have to suck it up.

Fav Film Friday #11: From 1994

“From 1994″

A short film by Casey Warren & Danielle Krieger.

“What do you say to a loved one if you only had one chance to say it all?”

“From 1994″, is a heartwarming film, capturing exactly that. It isn’t a film with plot twists and and surprises, but instead a slice of life. It shows a boy’s adventures, aspirations, and accomplishments, and a Mother’s loving farewell letter. That being said, the cinematography definitely helps along the overall film, with some awesome colour grading and steady cam shots (please excuse the amount of film geek in that sentence).

I would also like to thank “Film Riot” for mentioning this film on one of their videos. It was also a Staff Pick on Vimeo.

Overall, this film definitely gives you the feels. Nicely done.

GIFTS Trailer

I am pleased to present the trailer for my short film GIFTS!

As the film is very short (10 minutes), and because I wanted to introduce the main character Jan and her struggle, the trailer is actually a prologue. It provides a glimpse into Jan’s life and includes footage not present in the film. Here is the synopsis of the film:

At age six, Jan was miraculously revived after her body was retrieved from the frozen river that consumed her parents. Now, after a lifetime of experiencing visions of others’ pain and suffering, thirteen year old Jan hopes to intervene on fate and prevent a murder.

I hope you enjoy the trailer! If you’d like to come and see the film here in Ottawa (Sunday February 9th at 1pm) on a big screen, please contact me.

The screening of GIFTS will include:

  • The trailer
  • The film (10 minutes)
  • A short “behind the scenes” video (~10 minutes)
  • A brief Q&A session with Morgana McKenzie and the cast

Here is the trailer!

Fav Film Friday #10: Breezeblocks

“Breezeblocks”

A music video directed by Ellis Bahl, for the Alt-J (∆) song “Breezeblocks”.

Breezeblocks is both a wonderful song, and a dark music video. Although the song and video have different stories to be told, they complement each other perfectly.

The song, talks about loving something so much, that you’re willing to hurt both yourself and the person for it, hence the lyrics:

“She may contain the urge to runaway,
but hold her down with soggy clothes and breezeblocks”.

Very dark, yet extremely captivating. Another factor to the song, is that it references the “Where the Wild Things Are” story. In “Where the Wild Things Are”, the boy wants to leave “The Wild Things”, but gets a loving (and slightly cannibalistic) response of “we’ll eat you up”.

“Please don’t go, I’ll eat you whole. I love you so.
I love you so, I love you so”

However, the music video portrays something slightly different. How does this work you may ask? Well you will have to watch. I will have a section after the video marked “SPOILER” describing the video for those of you that may be confused (as was I when I first watched it). That being said, please watch the video first!

SPOILER SECTION: See how cinematic that was? I was astonished when I watched it. It really wasn’t something that I expected. The shots were great, opening up with the woman in the water.

So now for what happened. Basically the scene was played in reverse. The main character, the husband judging by the wedding ring, comes home to find his wife (note the ring on her bound hands) tied up in the closet. His ex-wife appears and tries to murder him, trying to stab him, chuck a bottle at him, when eventually the tables turn and he murders her with a “breeze block” (a.k.a cinder block).

Simple right? But it really isn’t. There has been a lot of discussion over whether or not the woman trying to murder the man, was his ex-wife, or mistress. I personally go by ex-wife, judging by the amount of fear (rather than anger) the woman in the closet has when he finds her. Almost as if she knew about this other woman, and was terrified for her and her husband’s safety. Personally I think if this were his mistress, then he wouldn’t really want to go so far as to murder her. But then again, she did try to kill him…

Overall, great music video! This is one of the songs/videos that I never get sick of.

So, who do you think the mystery woman is?

Updated Portfolio Artwork

I’ve updated my Portfolio Artwork page with photos of my recent works:

Notes:

  • “Infant and Puppy” works based on photos at Momma’s Gone City blog.
  • “Lady in Bubble” chalk pastel based on a photo from a National Geographic. I don’t have a specific reference.

 

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