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By Shannon O’Reilly
For the fourth year in a row, Humber’s Film and TV program has a student documentary in Toronto’s Hot Docs Festival.
“Generally it’s only this program that gets chosen from,” said Michael Glassbourg, program coordinator for the Film and Television program at Humber. “And frankly, as happy as I am that we got one in, I’m surprised we didn’t get more. Six or eight of our productions this year were really first class.”
— Humber Today (@HumberToday) March 19, 2013
“The War at Home,” the short film produced by Humber’s Shayne Maglay and directed by Andrew Bukovac, will debut at TIFF Bell Lightbox on April 30 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Canadian International Documentary Festival. The film focuses on the issue of post traumatic stress disorder.
“The War at Home features a self-driving emotional story about a family torn apart by the affects of PTSD,” said Maglay. “Throughout this film, it was important to us to explore the affects of PTSD on not only the soldiers, but the families left at home as well.”
“It comes down to awareness,” said Bukovac. “The troops are returning home and aren’t getting the help they need. I wanted to bring awareness and it was a great chance to direct a film and what an opportunity to work with this kind of subject matter.”
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What originally started as a multi-disciplinary class project for the 2nd year students soon started to take on a more professional look, said Donna O’Brien-Sokic, faculty professor and executive producer of the film.
“From day one we made a point of making a professional final product, that has the potential to go much further than the classroom,” explained Maglay.
Faculty in the Film and TV program also played an important role in the development of the film, from coaching the students to selecting the final films to be submitted to Hot Docs.
“The film projects are developed and produced in Production Management [class], the story and directors are mentored through their Directing class, and picture and sound editing processes are mentored through their Post Production classes,” said O’Brien-Sokic.
“So, as you can see there are many faculty that coach and mentor this project and the students along the way.”
Maglay also gave credit to Humber’s faculty and said working with knowledgeable industry professionals provided an excellent opportunity for him to build his skill set.
“Humber teaches you the practical applications necessary to complete projects professionally, efficiently and knowledgeably,” said Maglay.
“I have now been able to experience what its like working with industry standard equipment in crews of passionate people like myself.”
Bukovac also said his directing class helped him prepare for interviews on a sensitive subject.
“When I asked the subjects questions going into PTSD, you have to be really sensitive,” said Bukovac. “They can just stop the interview so you have to be selective about the questions you put forward.”
“We kept it as a conversation and kept it flowing,” continued Bukovac.
Glassbourg said that higher standards are a big aspect that differentiates Humber students from other schools.
“They’re in classes 24 hours a week, and our expectations is that they are working anywhere from 24-50 hours a week outside of class on their projects,” said Glassbourg. “The curriculum is really strong and demanding but we also attract students who are really strong and can meet those demands.”
Record of number of entries
This year the Hot Docs festival, which runs from April 25 to May 5, received a record number of submissions.
“We had an additional 200 films this year than last year,” said Alex Rogalski, Canadian Programmer at Hot Docs. “There are three of us who watch all the selections and this year, there were 300 Canadian films.”
— Hot Docs (@hotdocs) March 21, 2013
Rogalski said the selection criteria for short films has to due with what will pair best with their longer feature film.
“We always look for short films that can feature with the longer films so we can showcase as much as possible from Canada,” said Rogalski. “We had a fantastic feature film called Unclaimed about a Vietnam War vet and The War at Home is incredibly well told and we’re thrilled because it’s a great pairing.”
Before sending their documentaries to Hot Docs, Humber students must have their film selected by a panel of TV and Film program faculty. Afterwards, the program will take on the application fee.
“The films have to be technically well made but it has to tell a really great story,” said Glassbourg.
Maglay adds that being accepted to Hot Docs is a tribute to the crews’ dedication.
“The fact that organizations like Hot Docs appreciate the message behind our film as much as we do, and believe that the public will as well, is great,” said Maglay.
Before coming to Humber, Maglay spent a year in the military. He said his time in the Canadian Forces helped him gain insight and add dimension to the film.
“While there I met many veterans and heard many stories surrounding their experiences with combat injuries whether mental or physical, and at the time realized that these were issues that are better left addressed,” said Maglay.
One thing that set apart The War at Home from other Humber documentaries was its high profile interview with the federal Minister of Defence, Peter MacKay.
“As one of the most prominent and recognizable Canadian politicians involved in addressing PTSD, Mr. MacKay’s interview was absolutely paramount in regards to offering an alternative insight in regards to what efforts are currently being accomplished, and how important it is to change the stigma surrounding PTSD,” said Maglay.
“It gave us a huge marketing push,” said Bukovav.
Hot Docs is the largest documentary festival in North American and Rogalski said they’re happy to share the experience with first time filmmakers.
“Its always nice if we can profile emerging filmmakers for the first time at the festival,” said Rogalski. “We’re happy to include them and to see their future films as well.”
“That’s why it’s called a festival so we can celebrate and expose what we’ve been doing the rest of the year,” added Rogalski. “It’s exciting for first time filmmakers to be involved with that.”
O’Brien-Sokic said getting a first film accepted into any film festival is a real accomplishment.
“When you’re accepted into a film festival like Hot Docs, one of the premiere documentary film festivals in the world, that’s a big feather in your cap,” added O’Brien-Sokic.
Bukovac said it took several days for the implication of being accepted into Hot Docs to hit him.
“It doesn’t matter what area of the industry you’re applying to after,” said Bukovac. “Directing a Hot Docs film looks great. It’s a big thing.”
“I don’t think it makes your career but it certainly is a wonderful foundation to build on,” said Glassbourg.