SCA News

Posted on 26 May 2016 in

Aerlan Barrett

Dean Lastoria, who's in charge of New Students and Retention for the SCA, touches base with a few recent graduates.

Meet film maker and writer, Aerlan Barrett.

You did a lot of work with film organizations outside of SFU while you studied here — how did that engagement impact you as a filmmaker?
This was critical. I was invited as a Step-Student to run the gear room at FAVA (Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta), which was instrumental in my education. Spending hours talking with filmmakers, organizing gear, and being around equipment helped shape my sense of the service end of film. It’s way easier to learn technology with a room full of equipment to play with; books can only go so far. I was also involved with Summer Visions, which has become The Indie Filmmakers Lab: a two week filmmaking intensive for youth aged 14 to 19. It was terrific building my practice as a teacher and stepping into other artists' creative processes. The challenge of crafting a fully produced short in two weeks with these young people was instrumental in me letting go of my baggage. It’s astonishing how much resistance comes from ourselves. Seeing young people JUST DO IT is endlessly inspiring and it's one of the only ways to put a mirror to your own process. The only real way to change your film making is to change your process.

You finished in December — what have you been up to since?
I’ve been working as a freelance editor/colourist on short films and features. I recently directed/DoP’d a documentary in China, which was a terrific challenge. I've been studying acting at VanArt's part time classes and I was invited to work as an instructor to write and direct four short films with their acting students. I was fortunate to have some of my photography exhibited at the University of Alberta in May and blessed to be invited as a reader for Praxis / Whistler Screenwriting Awards. I also stepped into the classroom at SFU as a first and second year film substitute teaching assistant throughout the semester, as well.

What’s next for you?
I hope to launch my own production company, Pothos Pictures, to unify all my work. I have two short films to be released in the fall. The Cigarette, an experimental documentary and, Grant, a narrative short, under the name of my new company. I have a new narrative short in preproduction, due to be filmed in July. I was also awarded the Telus Story Hive grant to photograph a music video this month in Alberta. It’s very important to push my dream projects forward and work on the 'big picture'. My dream, ever since I was a little boy, was to become a feature film director for a living. My hope is that Pothos Pictures can help move me toward this becoming a reality. As Rob Groeneboer once said, “the person who wins is the person who gets to keep doing this.”

Any advice to future students?
My advice is to take the time to learn. That means working at this thing every day because it’s a hell of a lot easier that way. When I asked Andrew Scholotiuk, my first teacher and mentor in Edmonton, if I should buy a camera he said: “Yeah you can buy a camera. It’ll cost you a few thousand dollars, you’ll maybe shoot one movie on it, and it’ll be out of date within a few years. Or you can by a book for twenty bucks and learn how to use every camera.” The only way to get paid to do something is be really good at it. Reading all the critical texts (*spoiler: those are the ones your teachers give you), doing all the readings, volunteering on every set, offering your services as an editor, camera person, gaffer, colourist, AD, or whatever, is the only option. The beauty of film is that there are so many areas to play in and they all overlap each other. You can’t go wrong by just working on stuff and mixing it up as soon as it feels comfortable.

I also highly recommend taking classes outside the discipline. For me Cognitive Science, Philosophy, English, Drama, and History courses were the most critical. I don’t believe art comes from a vacuum and it helps to shape a wider pallet. Sharon Kahanoff taught a course where we worked on one eleven-page text for a whole semester (Notes on Gesture). It was one of the best classes for me because I realized how detailed you NEED to be. That specificity is a requirement – it’s not good enough to read something once. If there’s a book that feels important, there’s no limit to the number of times you can read it, take notes from it, and research it. That’s what studying is. It’s not sitting on the bus skimming something for the gist and hoping the other students answer the TA’s question. I know because I’ve been in both camps.

Not sure how to word this — you were always good at sort of making things happen … thoughts on collaborating?
Film cannot exist without collaboration. There’s a terrific episode of “House” where a massive group of interns are competing to be part of a three-man team who will work exclusively with doctor House. Throughout the episode, a young doctor struggles because everything he says is contrary to House, while this older doctor has all the right answers. When the moment comes for House to let someone go, the young doctor's convinced it’ll be him. House opens his mouth and, to everyone's surprise, fires the older doctor. Shocked, the young doctor asks, “why?” The older gentleman pipes up: “He doesn’t need someone to tell him what he already knows.”

I’ve always felt this way about collaboration. Collaboration is at its best if everyone's doing something the others can’t. The idea of the auteur or the genius artist, and all that stuff, has really messed up a lot of projects. We feel like we need to do everything, have all the answers and be the king of our little film island. Truth is, great things only come from a group of hard working people. A lot of the challenge is finding the right people and learning how to work with them. It's about letting go of your ego, letting go of this facade of perfection, and accepting that you need people who can say things you’ve never thought of.

In the first couple of years at SFU we felt like we needed to see every movie ever made. You'd watch people pretending they'd seen stuff they hadn't just to keep up a facade. Halfway through I realized, "Wait, wouldn't it be wonderful to find someone who'd never seen, read, or experienced the same things as me? We'd have so much to teach each other!" That's why we collaborate.

Film is a cohort based program — what is it like to have that same group of students for 4 years?
It’s very special but the stakes are also very high. I was smart enough not to piss anyone off or jump in bed with anyone. It’s a real problem but, on the other hand, a lot of people get married to each other in the program, because once you make it through four years, there’s a hell of a bond. It becomes family and it’s important to treat it that way. You rely on these people and they rely on you. There’s such a strong sense of community and that’s something very unique to SFU. We try to not pit people against each other and instead foster interdependence – even if it looks a hell of a lot like co-dependence sometimes – where we have each other's back.

Bridget Hill, my first year teacher, said something that’s always stuck with me: “Hold onto these people, because they’re the only ones who’ll tell you the truth. When you’re out in the real world, they'll be able to tell you when you suck, when you’ve messed up, and when things are working or not. That’s the most important thing and what real friends do.” We get so used to critiques that we really learn how to give and take it in a productive way. Filtering through opinions, facts, and perspective is half the battle.

Also, being surrounded by such fundamentally different artists helps a great deal. I was always a dramatic writer who made films, so my work was very actor/dialogue focused. Being around experimental, documentary, and dominantly visual filmmakers helped expand my work through osmosis. There’s nothing better than learning to understand why someone does what they do – it affects you in this super unconscious way.

Any anecdotes about profs you’d like to share?
I feel very lucky to have had such amazing professors.

Bridget Hill, who set us on the right path in first year, encouraged us to READ THE DAMN BOOK, and said that creativity can only happen after preparation. In hindsight, I realize how patient she was sitting through our funny experimental films and encouraging us to keep going. They were nothing to call home about but she cared as much as we did.

Chris Pavsek gave the perfect introduction to film theory. We made a drinking game of chugging coffee every time he mentioned his daughter, Tom Hanks, or the holocaust. We even slipped it under his door hoping he’d mention it to the class but he never did. I later went deeper into his discipline during an experimental documentary class where I began to see cinema as MUCH larger than our social dramas, and I understood why a drinking game including the holocaust is completely missing the point of the class.

Chris Welsby showed us experimental films that challenged every fiber of our being. At the time it stung and we had a great many rants about it, but I see how eye opening it all was.

Rob Groeneboer was perhaps the most important teacher to me. It was because of him I got my first job in film and he also brought into class as a teacher. I hold onto his advice to this day. He understood that our films and our sense of self are interconnected. In order to work on our films, he had to work with us as people, too, making his teaching powerful and humanist.

Patricia Gruben read more drafts of my scripts than anyone in this world. She patiently helped me through a feature and a full play in two directed studies. It was because of her that I’m a writer. She took my work seriously when even I wasn’t prepared to. That’s a very special thing. Because of her mentorship, I earned a spot as a Praxis Screenwriter, forging a deeper respect for the craft.

Colin Browne got me reading. Beckett, Chekhov, Ibsen, Shaw – you name it. I asked him what books on filmmaking I should read and he said, "You never know where inspiration comes from. A playwright, a poet, a person on the street – you have to pay attention to it all." I still have a terrific book on Robert Altman he loaned me that I need to give back!

Scott Weber helped me fall in love with acting, actors, and directing. His directing course was a gift and I was so privileged to have him as my fourth year professor. We spent countless hours talking through every shot, cut, and line of dialogue in my film. He helped me see how specific you can be about everything – and even with all of that, you only begin to have a chance at something great.

Corbin Saleken was a good friend through the years, always willing to talk about anything 'movies' and infinitely  generous with his time. I spoke to him before my interview and realized how much I wanted all of this.

I’d like to end with a quote from Rob. After screening his second year film to us in class, we asked him what he thought of it after all these years. He said: “It’s not a movie anymore. All I see are the people who were a part of it and where they are now. How some are married, some are still working, and some have passed away. So I don’t really have any thoughts about the film. I just see the memories and wonder why we thought it was all so damn important at the time.”

Posted on 24 May 2016 in

June Fukumura

Dean Lastoria, who's in charge of New Students and Retention for the SCA, touches base with a few recent graduates.

Meet theatre artist, June Fukumura.

What is New(to)Town Collective and Popcorn Galaxies? 
New(to)Town Collective is an emerging artist collective with a mandate to provide ongoing physical theatre training and opportunities for experimental artistic research. We call these sessions 'Training Jams'. They are fun, accessible, and dedicated creative workshops for artists of all disciplines across various levels of training. Training Jams are meant to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and the cross-pollination of ideas in the artistic community. Popcorn Galaxies is an emerging theatre company with a mandate to re-enchant the everyday through experimental site specific performances. Popcorn Galaxies has independently created and produced four shows since 2013. This year we are working on three major shows: New Narratives: an Enviro-Art Extravaganza, Elk Walk at Centre A Gallery, and a new work to be presented at this years Vancouver Fringe Festival.

How did they start? 
The best thing about both of these initiatives is that they emerged out of friendships that began in theatre program. Although they are two separate groups, both New(to)Town Collective and Popcorn Galaxies are at their core groups of friends who love to work and play together. We are just a bunch of theatre nerds who can't stop nerding out! There is a strong impulse to continue creating together, so really all we've been doing is following that curiosity wholeheartedly. None of us had ever run a company or a collective before, so it's been a big learning curve for us. But I've realized that becoming a Co-Founder or Co-Artistic Director is completely doable – even while you are a student. It's never too early to take the initiative! The trick is to find the right people you want to work with, to learn from alumni, and to take committed action to keep growing as a group.

Any anecdotes to share with current and incoming students?
During my very first theatre class at SFU a senior student told me: 'listen, you are not going to understand any of this stuff for a while. I'm in my fifth year and I'm only just starting to get it. So let yourself be in the dark and trust that the more work you put in now, the more you will get out of it – at some point. Just be patient.' And you know what? She was totally right. Only now – after six years of training – am I starting to realize how impactful all of those classes were, and I'm seeing how I can use my training to continue to develop my artistic practice. I'm still unpacking all the 'learning' that happened, and I'm sure I will be for many more years. So I'd like to pass that little tip along to all the current and incoming students!

I'd like to thank all of the incredible teachers and staff who supported me throughout my time at SFU. It has been such an amazing six years and I owe my success to their incredible dedication and generosity. When I first started this program, I had no idea if I even wanted to be in theatre at all. I mean, I hardly even knew what theatre was! And now, I'm pursing a career as a theatre artist. The teachers at SFU are the ones who have inspired and encouraged me to go down this path, and I will always be grateful for that. 

Keep track of June Fukumura at www.popcorngalaxies.ca and www.newtotowncollective.com.

Posted on 24 May 2016 in

Alexandra Best

Dean Lastoria, who's in charge of New Students and Retention for the SCA, touches base with a few recent graduates.

Meet art historian and social media coordinator, Alexandra Best.

Who is your favourite prof? Why? Any anecdotes?
My two favourite profs at the SCA were Sharon Kahanoff and Chris Pavsek. Both had the talent of making the most complicated philosophical content understandable – and making you care about it.

Any advice to future students?
1. I would advise any students in the program to try and get involved in as many hands-on opportunities as possible. I know this sounds a bit cliché, but it's true. I first started this program by going to class everyday, taking diligent notes, and trying to learn as much as possible. But as I neared the end of my degree, I realized that that wasn't enough. Employers will glance at your degree for a few seconds, but what they want to see is that you've proven these skills in the real world. For me, the FPA 406 internship class made a huge difference. Also, look for independent projects and try to apply for them as a directed studies course. You also learn so much more in the field than in a classroom.

2. Don't rush anything and don't be afraid to change your mind. When I first started at SFU, another four years of school sounded like an eon, and I couldn't wait to finish. A year into general studies, I participated in a field school in Italy to study English Literature, and we studied a lot of art as well. I fell in love with art history and I knew that this was what I had to do for the rest of my life. The day I got back I changed my major to Art and Culture Studies. At first I was devastated that I had 'wasted' a year's worth of money and time studying the wrong thing. But having a diverse background of studies has informed my practice in so many ways. Now, after five years of school, I don't regret a thing – and I get to go to my dream job everyday.

3. Go to school for what you love, but don't be too hung up on getting a job in that field. I went to school for art and culture studies, which is my passion. Now I'm a full-time social media coordinator at one of the most well-known journalism websites in Vancouver. The two aren't related, but I still use the skills I learned in university every single day at my job. The principles you learn in a classroom are so much broader than you may think.

Were your SCA classes just looking at art and watching films, or was it harder?
There's not actually that much looking at art and watching films. In many classes I took we didn't look at a single piece of art. We just studied art theory and read articles. When we discussed these articles, our debate would range from art, to politics, to philosophy, and more. So yes, I would say it is much harder. You have to be a very skilled critical thinker. Never stop questioning things.

What do you think about the SCA?
I would like to see more in-field experiences – classes going to art openings together, or a class that participates in local art events, like when my directed studies course was curating for the Capture Photography Festival. It means a lot to get to know arts community members and organizations before you've graduated. I would also like to see the Art, Cinema and Performance Studies program have more of a sense of community. Throughout my entire degree, I think I only met around five other people with the same major. We don't have a student association of our own. Overall, it is a very new program, and there is room to grow, but it is very exciting so far. With the right expansion, I think it could rival UBC or Emily Carr.

Posted on 24 May 2016 in

Cydney Paddon

Dean Lastoria, who's in charge of New Students and Retention for the SCA, touches base with a few recent graduates.

Meet interdisciplinary artist, Cydney Paddon.

You started out agonizing between Visual Art and Performance, but your work ended up having performative elements — can you talk about that?
As an interdisciplinary artist who works in many mediums (theatre, performance, muralism, painting, fabric art, street dance, and more), it was really difficult for me to make the decision between the Theatre Performance program and the Visual Arts program. After doing three semesters in both programs at the same time, I went with Visual Arts as it allowed me greater freedom and solo control of my work. I moved further away from theatre, instead growing my practice in event producing, performance art, and community workshops through hip hop. I think studying both fields helped me get to where I am now. I always thought I would graduate with a theatre degree, but couldn't have been happier with the Visual Arts program.

Who is Quigley, and did he scare you? Is his owner helpful?
Quigley!! I never been a dog person, but Quigley, the 611 studio dog, is one of the coolest pups I know. His owner, Andrew Curtis, the "shop and everything you could ever need" manager, is extremely helpful, understanding, and funny. He really makes 611 the friendly, creative and safe place it is.

Do the Visual Art profs really let you work directly on the walls? Any anecdotes about the profs?
Yes, since my grad show I have done ten pattern murals and intend to keep drawing on as many walls as I can. The freedom that 611 has is wonderful: you can do anything to a wall as long as you paint it back white afterwards. The Visual Arts profs are all wonderful – many strong women who have active art practices. Sharon, Althea, Elspeth, Elizabeth, Alison, Sabina, Marie Anne and Jin Me were all extremely influential for me. I will never forget how Jin Me helped me fight the building and the city to install my first year campus project: 100s of children toys installed outside SFU at the Cordova Street entrance of Woodward's.

What did you think of the studio spaces?
I enjoyed having first year at Woodward's at it allowed me to take my theatre courses without commuting. But 611 Alexander is one of the major reasons I chose Visual Arts. It is located in the heart of the Downtown East Side, close to many other influential visual art studios in the city, and it is probably the most beautiful studio I will ever work out of. There is a lot of freedom around creation there, with 24 hour access and gallery space, plus a great shop. I think it is more conducive to visual art than Woodward's as you can get really messy – none of this precious new building stuff.

Any advice for future artists who want to fold non-visual things into their work?
Go for it! I saw so many of my fellow cohort artists coming back into their passions only in their fourth year. Whether that is illustration, weapon making, dance performance, soundscapes, or murals and community events like me, I think Visual Arts is the place to experiment and one of the least strict disciplines there is. I always stood out as having a very different aesthetic. Allowing myself to explore that, instead of conforming to trends in visual art, is what is helping to grow my career now.

Did the art history/theory courses change how you make art?
The courses that influenced me most was the art history taught outside of the visual arts program. I took one art history/ contemporary indigenous art course in First Nations Studies that really changed and influenced my practice and furthered my knowledge. I also took a sociology class around queer people of colour that spanned dance, film, visual art, and theory. I think learning about art outside of the western tradition should be mandatory for artists in the program. Unfortunately we are still only taught a very small scope of primarily male, European, and western art and theory in mainstream Visual Arts courses.

What’s next for you after SFU?
In my second year I started a street culture magazine called Mania Mag as a school project. We have since produced three issues and held over ten events, including variety shows, visual art exhibitions, street wear markets, dance parties, and more. I am continuing with that project and creating a series of live stream broadcasts that bring together local DJs and producers, street dancers, designers, and visual artists on a monthly basis. As far as my visual art goes, I have created a platform called PatternNation where I make jewelry, silk screen, and fabric sculpture, as well as draw large scale pattern murals, like the one in my grad show, and also create pattern mural sets for photo shoots and dance films. I am applying for various artist residencies in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I hope to further my practice and live for at least a year. However, the life of a visual artist is unpredictable. I will just go where the next project takes me. 

Keep track of Cydney Paddon at www.mania-mag.com and www.pattern-nation.com.

Posted on 24 May 2016 in

Lee Cannon-Brown

Dean Lastoria, who's in charge of New Students and Retention for the SCA, touches base with a few recent graduates.

Meet composer, Lee Cannon-Brown.

What’s next for you after SFU?
In September, I’ll be beginning a Master of Arts Program in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. I look forward to taking any courses I'd like to within the university's broad humanities department. My experience at Simon Fraser University was similar in that respect; at SFU, students take a wide range of courses outside of their main discipline, and emerge to be quite well-rounded. As I continue my studies, I find that I want to continue to have that same kind of latitude.

What was your favourite thing to compose for?
While at SFU, I composed recorded and live electroacoustic music, and acoustic music. I also wrote music for collaborations with filmmakers and choreographers. Most often, I found myself writing for acoustic performance. Every semester, composition students would write music to be performed by an ensemble hired temporarily by the university. It was a sometimes demanding ritual, but it could feel exceedingly rewarding. There was something very human about the semester-end performances of acoustic music; musical meaning was communicated by only a small number of performers and instruments, set before a reverentially quiet audience.

Is composition what you thought it was when you came here? What is it now?
I guess my idea of what composition is has become more nuanced. I've found that between any two different situations for which music is composed—live music performance, tape music, filmmaking, dance—the nature of composition is necessarily transformed. I spent much of my time as an undergraduate student investigating what constitutes (good) composition within each of those situations, and the investigation is ongoing.
 

Posted on 24 May 2016 in

Capture Photography Festival’s 2016 Public Installations

Students fron the Art, Performance and Cinema Studies area and MA candidates in our Comparative Media Arts program had the opportunity to work with SFU Work Integrated Learning and the Capture Photography Festival this year to help curate several public installations at Skytrain stations in Vancouver. Jorma Kujala, Abbey Hopkins, and Lauren Lavery curated SCA MA graduate Lucien Durey's Hamsterley Farm Water Tower (pictured here) at the Marine Drive Station, and Alexandra Best, Daniella Donati, and Solana Rompré curated David Ellingsen's Weather Patterns I at the Broadway—City Hall Station. Follow the links for more information about the different installations.

Abbey Hopkins had this to say about her experience:

"In curating for Capture Photography Festival, we were given the opportunity to choose artists whose work interested us and challenged the notion of truth and storytelling in photography. We worked in groups to choose artists and worked with Capture to print and install the images. An experience working with a festival was very valuable, as art festivals have become more prominent ways of displaying art for the public."

Image: Lucien Durey, Hamsterley Farm Water Tower, 2016. Installation view. Curated by Jorma Kujala, Abbey Hopkins, and Lauren Lavery.

Posted on 09 May 2016 in

Surrey School District Dancers

On Thursday May 5th, 2016, three schools from the Surrey School District visited the SCA for a series of classes lead by senior SCA Dance students Kayla DeVos, Jenna Kraych, and Anna Dueck, with support from and accompaniment by Prof. Henry Daniel. One of the teachers, Menelaine Valencia (SCA BFA Hon Dance, 2014), led the dance class from North Surrey Secondary. She sent us this note and we thought we’d share it.

 

Dear Henry, Dean, Kayla, Jenna, and Anna,

On behalf of North Surrey Secondary, I would also like to extend our deepest thanks to all of you for tutoring my group of students around campus, for answering all of our curious questions and for leading us through a beginner friendly movement class.

As a public educator, my wish is that my students will be a inspired to pursue their passion for movement in some capacity after graduation. For most of my students, this was an experience that opened their eyes to a world of dance outside of the entertainment industry. For others it was a window to their potential future as an SFU Dance Student and their future careers as contemporary artists. Thank for you for accommodating to the diversity of skill levels and interest levels that came with the group of students I had.

I will always be a strong advocate for the SCA as my time there highlighted some my most formative years. I will be looking forward to arranging another visit for my next group of curious students!

Menelaine Valencia
Dance & Planning Teacher
North Surrey Secondar

Posted on 09 May 2016 in

SCA Dance Lab 2016

The SCA's Dance area is hosting a Dance Lab from May 9 to June 17, 2016. The lab is devoted to research and new work in contemporary dance produced by SCA alumni in dance (BFA / MFA). Ten alumni have been selected to participate for this iteration of the lab, and the Dance area hopes to turn the Lab into an annual opportunity for alumni, both to further support SCA graduates as well as to help continue to build the community of dance artists in Vancouver in general.

The participating dance artists are: Robert Azevedo, Megan Hunter, Katie DeVries, Kim Stevenson, Jenn Edwards, Emmalena Fredriksson, Jeanette Kotowich, Erika Mitsuhashi, Deanna Peters, and Helen Wakley.

For more information about the Dance Lab and its possible future, please contact Associate Professor Rob Kitsos at rkitsos@sfu.ca.

Other artists are also involved in the lab, including dancers, actors, musicians, composers, filmmakers, and storytellers: Tom Pritchard, Keely O’Brien, June Fukumura, Marc Castellini, Katie Gartan-Close, Carmine Santavenere, Antonio Somera, Eddy van Wyk, Sofija Polovina, Cody Cox, Jennifer Aoki, Meredith Kalaman, Erin Lequereux, Cello Mizumoto, Sam Svensk, Heather Lamoureux, Deanna Peters, Michelle Olson, James Coomber, Alexa Mardon, Lisa Pham, Akeisha deBaat, Nathan Todd, Sophia Wolfe, Pascal Reiners, Lily Cryan, James Nahirnick, Chelsea Goddard, Gordon Havelaar, Brian Shannon, Janelle Reid, Kimberly Stevenson, David Cowling, Charlotte Newman, David Clennin, Jeremiah Kennedy, Graham Ereaux, Annie Therrien Boulos, Derek Chan, Christian Vistan, Georgia Williams, Jess Ames, Marcelle Vieira, Felicia Lau, and Carolyn Schmidt.
 

Posted on 09 May 2016 in

Juan Manuel Sepúlveda’s The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park at DOXA

SCA MFA graduate Juan Manuel Sepúlveda will be presenting his film The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park at the DOXA documentary film festival on Saturday, May 14, 2016, at 4:30pm at the Cinematheque (1131 Howe St.). Presented in the style of a John Ford epic western, The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park is a hybrid narrative-fiction / quasi-documentary that was created in collaboration with the men and women Sepúlveda befriended in the eponymous park in Vancouver's DTES. A unique and thoughtful work, Sepúlveda produced this project while completing his MFA. Click here for more information about the film and here to purchase tickets now.