Yellowknife filmmakers to represent NWT at Toronto International Film Festival
Two Yellowknife filmmakers will have their work shown in Toronto after winning a competition that gave them just 48 hours to create their final video production.
The competition, called National 48, was presented by Western Arctic Moving Pictures (WAMP) and described on the WAMP website as “a Canada-wide short film festival aimed at discovering emerging Canadian talent in the fields of film, music, audio and film, to promote and celebrate visual design and the performing arts.
Jonny Vu and Kai Walden, both from Yellowknife, are the winners and their work will now be screened as part of the 48-hour film festival at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Bell Lightbox Theater.
The competition is in its second year, said Bran Ramsey, executive director of WAMP.
“It’s held in every province or territory in Canada,” Ramsey said of the competition, which produced two local winners. “This year we had four teams and they were judged on cinematography, acting and the coherence of the film. Bonus points were given if they added another language or local music (and) there was creative freedom.”
Winning the competition was an exciting moment for Vu as filmmaking was something he had always wanted to do.
His winning entry was No Lo Hagas (Don’t Do It).
“I’ve always loved films. But it was the Spike Jonze movie Her that changed my life for some weird reason. It was a film about a man who gets divorced and falls in love with an AI,” says Vu of the beginning of his interest in creative filmmaking. “I remember leaving the theater and I just needed to know everything about it. And I went on YouTube and looked for interviews and commentary and started digging into how movies were made and stuff like that.”
With this interest, Vu’s burgeoning career as a filmmaker began.
“I did a couple of short films in Toronto when I was there a few years ago when I was just starting out. A lot of colleagues have asked me when I graduated from film school, but I didn’t – I just love it so much that I went onto YouTube and was proactive about it,” Vu said of his desire to learn and filmmaking to become. “You just have to love what you do, and then others will see that too.”
He said winning the competition will help him stay on his toes and hit while the iron is hot, which will help keep his creativity alive.
“I’ve got five scripts going right now, so I’m going to try to do more films.”
Vu said filmmaking is generally a team sport and he is grateful for his team’s support in his filmmaking and is glad he entered the competition.
“I’m really super happy that everyone was there and I got to meet some new and really cool people. I have a feeling that I will be working with them for a long time to come.”
Vu’s other films include You May Kiss the Bride, Friends That Kill and A Close Eye.
Filmmaker Kai Walden, right, is shown with his friend and actor, Caelan Waddell, in the film Get The Lead Out. The film was a winning entry in the National 48 Film Competition hosted by Western Arctic Moving Pictures and will now be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) Bell Lightbox Theater during this spring’s 48-hour film festival. Photo courtesy of Western Arctic Moving Pictures
Now in the circle of filmmakers
Walden’s winning entry was titled Get the Lead Out. He directed his first short film The Possessed Child for the 2019 Dead North Film Festival and was nominated for Best Practical Effects.
He continues to make short films and content for his YouTube channel – Blob Dude – and enjoys working with special effects, editing and animation.
In 2022, his short film Last Halloween won the grand prize and won Best Picture at the Okotoks 24-hour horror film competition in Alberta.
“It was really fun to participate,” Walden said of his latest winning entry. “The coolest part was seeing it on a big screen in the theater and having an audience there.”
On the organizational side, Ramsey said that for the first time ever, WAMP will have a full executive committee of six directors who will support and encourage the year-round activities and the constant programming they conduct annually.
“It’s always good to bring more voices to the table and help create more ideas and directions and create discourse where there wasn’t any discourse before,” Ramsey said. “They come from different backgrounds and different expertise, so it’s really exciting and exciting to have more people participate. “
Ramsey said it’s great that WAMP can support new talent and that the National 48 competition is an example of that.
“Ultimately, the films are great and the people are very talented. It’s great to see participation and community approval and interest.”