Two Yellowknife filmmakers will have their work screened in Toronto after winning a contest that gave them only 48 hours to create their final video production.
The contest, dubbed National 48, was presented by Western Arctic Moving Pictures (WAMP) and described on the WAMP website as “a Canada-wide short film festival that aims to discover, cultivate and celebrate rising Canadian talent in film, music, aural and visual design, and the performing arts.
Jonny Vu and Kai Walden, both from Yellowknife, are the winners and they will now have their works screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Bell Lightbox Theatre as part of the 48-Hour Film Festival.
The contest is in its second year, said Bran Ramsey, executive director of WAMP.
“It is run in every province or territory in Canada,” Ramsey said of the contest that produced two local winners. “This year we had four teams and they were judged on cinematography, acting and whether the film was cohesive. Bonus points were given if they added a different language or local music (and) creative freedom reigned.”
For Vu, it was an exciting moment to win the contest because filmmaking is something he has always wanted to do.
His winning entry was No Lo Hagas (Don’t Do It).
“I have always loved film. But it was the Spike Jonze film, ‘Her’ that changed my life, for some weird reason. It was a film about a guy going through a divorce and he falls in love with an AI,” Vu said of how his interest in the creative filmmaking process began. “I remember leaving the theatre and I just had to know everything about it. And I went on YouTube and searched interviews and commentaries and I started spiralling down into how films were made and stuff like that.”
That interest began Vu’s budding filmmaking career.
“I participated in a few short films in Toronto when I was there a few years ago when I was just starting up. A lot of coworkers asked me when I graduated film school but I didn’t – I just honestly love it so much that I went on YouTube and was proactive about it,” Vu said of his desire to learn and to become a filmmaker. “You just have got to really love what you are doing and then other people can see that as well.”
He said winning the contest will help him stay on his toes and to strike while the iron is hot, which helps him to maintain his creativity.
“I’ve got five screenplays going on right now, so I am going to try and shoot some more films.”
Vu said filmmaking in general is a team sport and he was appreciative of his team’s support in his filmmaking and he is glad he entered the contest.
“I am really super happy that everybody was there and I got to meet some new and really cool people. I feel like I am going to be working with them for a long time.”
Vu’s other films include You May Kiss the Bride, Friends That Kill, and A Close Eye.
Now in filmmakers’ circle
Walden’s winning entry was titled Get the Lead Out. He made 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” took top prize, winning Best Picture at the Okotoks 24-hour horror film competition in Alberta.
“It was really fun to participate,” Walden said of his newest winning entry. “The coolest part was to see it on a big screen in the theatre and having an audience watch it.”
On the organizational side of things, Ramsey said for the first time ever, WAMP will have a complete governance board of six directors who will support and boost the year-round activities and constant programming that they do annually.
“It is always good to bring more voices to the table and to help generate more ideas and directions to go and create discourse where there wasn’t discourse before,” Ramsey said. “They have different backgrounds and different expertise levels that it is really exciting and exciting to have more people participating. “
Ramsey said it is great that WAMP is able to offer support to new talent and that the National 48 contest is one example of that.
“Ultimately, the films are great and people are very talented. It is great to see participation and community buy-in and interest.”