Up all night with “Those Forgotten”
By insertnamehere -September 30, 2011
Breaking your film into the Atlantic Film Festival is hard. Hundreds of short films from Atlantic Canada are submitted every year, and the selection committee chooses about 40 of these to screen during the festival. After year of moving-making on King’s campus, alumna Alyssa Buchanan broke into the festival this year.
Buchanan, a King’s 2010 grad, made “Those Forgotten” with her friends back in April. The film is a six minute short about two elderly survivors, written by her boyfriend, Evan Jobb. Jobb, son of King’s prof Dean Jobb, wrote the short a year ago.
“I had read a newspaper article that said that indicated the second-last survivor of something had died,” says Jobb . “A shipwreck or something. That struck me as really odd, because you never hear about the second-last survivor of something. So I started to piece together this story about two survivors, and who would be the last survivor.”
Through the filmmaking process, Buchanan and Jobb stuck to that main idea. The script for “Those Forgotten” went through a number of changes, with a final draft completed in April for a weekend of shooting. The crew of the film was a tight-knit group of friends, family members and long-time collaborators.
That sense of ‘crew as surrogate family’ is there as we head out for a post-screening party. Jobb’s twin brother, Ben, is with us.
“I’m older,” says Jobb, “but only by four minutes.”
“It was a real fight to the finish,” says Ben. “I’m pretty sure I tried to choke you in the womb.”
The gang opts out of the festival gala at Niche bistro on Barrington and looks for somewhere a little less swanky. They decide on The Fickle Frog. We’re all on a couple of couches in the back of the bar, away from all the Friday night Spring Garden antics. Buchanan is chatting about her new gig at Picnicface with her girlfriends. She’s the script coordinator for their new show. Buchanan is keeping the script drafts in order, making sure everything gets filed and keeping tabs on the new sketches.
“Telling a good story is the most important thing,” says Buchanan. “Everything I work on, I want a reason to be a part of telling the story, and to make sure the story matters. I was talking to a friend the other day, and you know what, when I was a kid, all I wanted to do was tell stories. You don’t think you can do that as a kid. Reading and story time was my favourite thing to do at school as a kid, and I’m still doing that now. The whole film industry is just story telling.”
Buchanan and Jobb got their start with the Dalhousie/King’s Filmmaker’s Society. Jobb was an engineering student and wanted to shoot film in his free time. The now-defunct society made short films for a number of years, with a core group of members that spent hours in the editing bay underneath the Killam. The ghostly remains of the society exist in the basement of the King’s library, where all of their films have been archived and transferred from VHS to DVD. Last year, the society fell apart as the last of the core members graduated and little interest was generated at the first and only meeting.
Jobb says the society was a big time commitment for those involved. Every member wrote scripts, collaborated, edited, built sets. Every member had late nights, early mornings, cast brunches, late papers. Taking the time to learn the process things usually took one or two film shoots to get a feel for. One or two film shoots usually took up a couple of months. Students eventually left the society when classes took priority.
“It was sort of the exact opposite for Alyssa and I,” says Jobb. “Making movies became our priority. It didn’t matter if we had five hours of homework to do the next day. If we were filming something, telling that story was the biggest thing. And we’d come up with the silliest justifications for starting our school work later. We’d say, “Hell, we can start our homework at 4 in the morning. No big deal.”
The members of the Dal/King’s Filmmakers society dwindled, but those who stayed bonded and became a surrogate family. Everyone helped each other out, made coffee, did film colouring.
Buchanan and Jobb were able to bring their story idea for Those Forgotten to the Film 5 program, a Halifax-based initiative of the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative that makes short films. With the help of Film 5, Buchanan and Jobb were able to shoot with film, rather than digital video, giving their short a classic look. All aesthetics aside, Buchanan says it came down to telling a story that mattered.
Jobb is ordering a beer, debating the merits of Ghostbusters 2 with his brother, geeking out about Fritz Lang with their composer.
“Fritz Lang’s M is by far the best film ever made. It’s the dawn of sound and it’s just stunning. But I didn’t grow up watching five movies a day like Alyssa. I was studying engineering in school. There’s a lot of gaps in my knowledge. I just saw Contempt a while back, and that’s my first Goddard film, and I haven’t even seen Breathless. So I’ve still got a lot to watch.”
You get the sense that Jobb is discovering film for the first time. After years of toiling away in sciences, he brings a real sense of wonder to the work he does. Whether it’s writing a script, setting up lighting or planning a shot, he enjoys discovering the process.
For now, Jobb and Buchanan are keeping busy. They’ve been taking in lots of films at the Atlantic Film Festival.
“Michael Shannon is incredible in Take Shelter” says Buchanan. “We’ve been trying to catch the other short films as well.”
“We’re hoping Picnicface gets a second season pick up,” says Jobb. “So hopefully, Alyssa, that script coordinator job comes up again.”
In the meantime, Buchanan is working at a costume shop. While they’re waiting to shoot their next short, inspiration can come from anywhere, whether it’s a newspaper article or a drag queen who just wants to go as Lady Gaga for Halloween. “He was so disappointed!” says Buchanan. Their first short came from a joke about a killer toaster. Inspiration can come from anywhere, as long as the story is worth telling. Buchanan and Jobb look like they’re in this for the long haul, looking for the next good story to film.