by Ashley Gauvin
Filmmaking is considered one of the most dynamic forms of artistic expression. Through the medium of film, artists are given the chance to visualize and personalize their own world. It lends a voice to new perspectives, giving artists the chance to comment and reflect upon the culture around them. However, many aspiring filmmakers are often faced with limitations when they seek to create their first films, with financial constraints making it difficult to access the necessary equipment and technical training.
In 1987, SAW Video recognized that many Ottawa-based filmmakers were faced with these types of struggles, which led to the launch of JumpstART: a granting program that provides financial and technical assistance every year to aspiring Ottawa-based filmmakers and artists. The program started as a way to give local artists the chance to become actively involved in the dynamic world of film and video, supporting the production of narrative, documentary and experimental genres. Thirty years later and still in existence, the grant has become a staple in fostering talent in Ottawa. The program has assisted over eighty artists in the creation and production of their first films, and has led many of them to successful careers in film production and media art.
One of the first Ottawa-based artists to participate in the program was Angèle Gagnon, who in 1987 used the program to develop her experimental film Femme d’intérieur. She says that the program allowed her to “explore a new mode of expression” and speaks about the humble beginnings at SAW Video, which was then just a Co-op consisting of one secluded editing room: “In that tiny room, I learned the rudiments of editing; bit by bit, in fervor and delight, Femme d’intérieur took its form. At each step of the project, SAW Video unreservedly lent its support. At the premiere, in front of a full room, Victor Dyke (the only staff member of SAW Video at the time) introduced the film with genuine warmth.”
Angèle’s experience with the JumpstART launched her career as a media artist and shaped the rest of her life. After she created her first film, she became Director of SAW Video Co-op, and later worked in the three-year production of Accent in the Arts, a monthly program on community television that featured monthly French and English coverage of Arts Court. Angèle continued to work on independent productions throughout her life, directing and editing documentaries and PSAs for an organization committed to improving the quality of life for children amputees. Now retired, Angèle Gagnon is an example of how truly life-changing the JumpstART program can be for its participants.
The JumpstART program has not only afforded aspiring filmmakers the chance to launch their career, but has also given established artists the opportunity to work with a medium that they otherwise would not have had access to. Such was the case in 1999, when photographer Lyndon Goveas was awarded a JumpstART grant. Prior to this, Goveas had only worked as a photographer and had no tenable experience in producing films. The JumpstART program gave him his first opportunity with the medium, which led to the production of burger-walla. The short film gives voice to immigrants in Canada, providing great insight on the challenges they face by highlighting issues of acceptance, economical struggles and isolation. Now working as a producer and photographer in the National Capital Region, Lyndon sees his art and photography as a mission to shed light on social injustice and discrimination. Seventeen years ago, the JumpstART program allowed Lyndon to begin pursuing this mission through the moving image.
Throughout its history, JumpstART has made a point of supporting youth filmmakers. In 2014, Morgana McKenzie was only fifteen years old when she was given the JumpstART grant, and created her short Kurayami No Wa (Circle of Darkness). Although the film has been very successful at film festivals, she claims that she can only watch it and see “the flaws and disappointments.” Since the grant, Morgana has made a number of other films, and has won over thirty awards, including “Best Director Under 25” at the 2015 Ottawa Independent Video Awards, and has had her films screened at over one hundred festivals. Although critical of the film that she developed through the JumpstART grant, she is able to reflect on the experience as one that was crucial to her development as an artist, stating “I know that my more recently successful films were only possible because of what I learned from the JumpstART experience.”
This year is the 35th anniversary for SAW Video Media Art Center and its Director, Penny McCann (a JumpstART alumnus herself), felt that one of the best ways to commemorate this milestone was to have a celebration of the ongoing JumpstART grant and the various films and videos that it has helped to produce. A retrospective screening is taking place at 7:30PM on Friday, November 11th at the Arts Court Theatre, and will feature works produced as far back as 1987 and as recent as this year.
Morgana, Angèle and Lyndon are just three examples of the many filmmakers and artists of the JumpstART Alumnae. In the 90-minute screening there will be fifteen works by Angèle Gagnon, Lynne Nicolson, Allen Deleary, Lyndon Goveas, k.g. Guttman, Philip Rose, James Greatrex, Ben Walker, Christopher Rohde, Morgana McKenzie, Megan Turnbull, Matt Miwa, Riley Rempel, Sergio Guerra, Gillian Kirkland and Andrew Letourneau. This event is a proud moment for SAW Video Media Art Centre, who could never have imagined almost thirty years ago that the JumpstART grants would become such an integral contributor in fostering the ambitions of Ottawa’s artistic community.
Angele Gagnon – Femme d’interieur
Philip Rose – Landscape of here and there
Riley Rempel – Lately
1) Still from Femme d’intérieur - Angèle Gagnon
2) Still from burger walla - Lyndon Goveas
3) Still from Kurayami No Wa (Circle of Darkness) – Morgana McKenzie