Kathleen Hepburn
Jocelyne Chaput

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SFU film students and alumni rack up wins and screenings at film festival

November 10, 2015
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This year’s Vancouver International Film Festival saw screenings from a diverse range of filmmakers, but there was a common tie for a few—SFU’s School for Contemporary Arts.

The festival screened a record 10 films from SFU contemporary arts alumni and students, with four alumni taking home awards.

Kathleen Hepburn was named most promising director of a Canadian short film for Never Steady, Never Still. The documentary feature Fractured Land, edited by Jocelyne Chaput, took best B.C. film.

Also winning awards were Charles Wilkinson, who directed Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World, and Jordan Paterson, who directed Tricks on the Dead: The Story of the Chinese Labour Corps in WWI. Wilkinson’s film won most popular Canadian documentary and Paterson’s film took most anticipated B.C. feature film.

“It means a lot to get an award like this because it shows people are responding to my work and the particular ways I make films,” Hepburn says.

“You can’t sit in on every screening and see how the audience reacts,” Chaput says, “so this award tells me that my films are resonating with people.”

SFU contemporary arts lecturer Rob Groeneboer says the awards highlight the film program’s strengths and versatility, which combine rigorous hands-on technical and skills training with extensive film theory and history studies.

“Our students are exposed to a wide array of ideas, concepts and theories,” he says. “Filmmaking isn’t merely filming—you need to clearly and deeply understand an idea and build around it. That’s at the core of our student projects and a benefit of an arts program such as this one.”

Each year the film program admits a cohort of 24 students who form a collaborative and tightly knit team.

“We’re proud these bonds continue long after graduation,” Groeneboer says, “and, as a result, there’s a strong collaborative and creative SFU film community out there.

“Film’s a tough game. Not only do you need to have a strong skillset, you need to work together and support each other. 

Hepburn and Chaput credit the program for building their foundational skills and helping them develop a deeper understanding of film.

“I owe a lot to the program,” says Hepburn. “It challenged me to use film as a method of community building and question why and how films are made.”

Says Chaput, “At SFU, I developed not only the technical confidence to work in film, but also the theoretical framework for exploring an idea to the fullest.”

Other films screened at VIFF with an SFU connection include:

  • My Good Man's Gone, directed by Nick Citton;
  • Frank and the Wondercat, directed by Tony Massil and Pablo Alvarez-Mesa;
  • Penny's for Tea, directed by Sophie Jarvis and Kane Stewart;
  • Lifeguard, directed by Will Ross and Devan Scott;
  • My Favourite Summer, directed by Liz Cairns; and
  • Ocean Falls, directed by Ryan Ermacora and Jessica Johnson.