A documentary contest could be a way for Island filmmakers to tell the stories the way they want.
Several groups of filmmakers from Vancouver Island are entered into this year’s Telus StoryHive contest and collecting votes to try to win funding so they can realize their visions on screen.
One of the documentaries being pitched is Penny Girl. Made in co-operation with Frankie Edroff, it’s a biography of the child fundraiser, now 24, whose efforts built Jeneece Place in Victoria, and who recently came out as transgender.
Every project that has made it this far is a finalist; from here, the top 15 vote-getters will receive $50,000 apiece and then judges will select another 15 documentaries to fund, as well. Some entries from Nanaimo filmmakers include Beyond Bandaids, which will try to look at solutions to homelessness and drug addiction; Five Acres, looking at the history and modern relevance of Nanaimo’s five-acre farms; and Salish Orca: Guardian of the Sea, about researchers’ efforts to protect the Salish Sea’s southern resident killer whales.
“This is the first time they’ve done documentaries. They’ve done humour, they’ve done drama, they’ve done this, [that], all that stuff,” said Jeff Patton, producer with Cinnabar Vista Productions and Beyond Bandaids.
Paul Manly, part of the team making Five Acres, said he’s been making documentaries for years and has seen the funding models change.
“It’s gotten a lot more difficult to find funding for a documentary film, so these sort of things end up being the way that filmmakers have to go in order to try to find funding for the films that they’re passionate about,” he said.
The concept for Penny Girl came together quickly and recently. Co-producer Joseph Boutilier is a Nanaimo resident but grew up in Victoria and said since the news of Edroff coming out as trans broke, “it felt like there was more of a story there and I wanted to see a film about it.”
So he and a “ragtag” group of people from around the mid and south Island decided to try to make that film.
“I’ve been, like most of the Island, I think, following [Edroff’s] progress from back in the day when he was the ‘penny girl’ and was just sort of getting started and really exceeded everyone’s expectations, I think, in terms of the fundraising power that he clearly possesses,” Boutilier said.
The co-operation of Edroff is key, because Boutilier said the filmmakers really want it to be more autobiography than biopic.
“We’re just there to support Frankie who’s already an extremely creative and articulate person and has a personality that really comes through well on camera and shines on his own,” Boutilier said. “So for us it’s more facilitating that than creating something from scratch.”
Boutilier said Edroff has said that transitioning is the most challenging thing he’s done, which is saying something coming from “someone who’s basically combated cancer for his entire life and raised over $1 million in pennies and done all kinds of other things that most of us wouldn’t dream of doing in a lifetime.”
Read more about Beyond Bandaids and Five Acres in the Nanaimo News Bulletin here.
Read more about Salish Orca in the Nanaimo News Bulletin here.
StoryHive voting continues only until Thursday, Aug. 2, at noon. To see all the entries in the documentary pitch contest, click here.