Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council
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The Nickel Independent Film Festival

Location: St. John's, NL
NLAC Program Funded Under: Annual Operating Program for Professional Arts Organizations
Amount Funded: $8,000

Nickel-1

Melissa Carrera, Mike Hickey, and Andrew Winter

Dates: April 15, 2015 to April 14, 2016
Organizational Website:
http://www.nickelfestival.com
Organizational Contact:
Melissa Carrera, Executive Director
Contact E-mail: nickelfestival@gmail.com

The Nickel Independent Film Festival has put together a jam packed series of events and screenings for the upcoming 15th anniversary. The festival, which will run from June 23 to 27 this year, was founded in 2000 by Roger Maunder who recognized a void in opportunities for local filmmakers to actually screen the artwork they were producing. Other than the St. John’s Women’s International Film Festival which has certain eligibility requirements, there was no alternative for local filmmakers to share their cinematic labours of love and so what was initially a three day event came to be. The festival was affectionately named after the Nickel Theatre which was the first venue in St. John’s to screen film in 1907, and admission was – you guessed it - just a nickel.

Maunder recently shared in an article with The Telegram that it was the second year he enjoyed most. He admitted he had uncertainty as to whether or not he would continue his efforts, but following a meeting with Geoff Stirling and with his support, year two took place screening Waiting For Fidel with a questions and answer session afterwards featuring Stirling. The festival also brought Gordon Pinsent home that year.

Nickel-2

Since those early beginnings, the festival’s board has changed, passing the torch on, and continuing to breathe new life in to what is now an institution to the Newfoundland and Labrador summer festival line up. The Nickel, known for its innovative and creative posters, has also evolved and expanded. The festival runs longer than ever, features a wealth of local content alongside national and international content, and is enhanced with workshop and networking opportunities for filmmakers.

The festival has also added new activities to its annual operations outside of the main event in June like a two-week tour to rural schools throughout the province, showing films made by and for young people and offering hands-on filmmaking workshops. They also carry out a travelling road show that takes films from the previous festival to other summer festivals and community centres. And, there’s also the new outdoor screenings on an inflatable mobile big screen in the summer and special events through the year to highlight the achievements of local and Canadian independent filmmakers. The festival also has a number of partnerships with other organizations like MusicNL... executive director Melissa Carrera tells us more.

Q and A with Melissa Carrera...

NLAC: The burning question, what local films can audiences look forward to seeing at this year’s anniversary festival?

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Melissa: As always, we pride ourselves on screening a multitude of local films, and this year is no exception.  NIFCO’S First Time Film Program has crafted many wonderful films such as Jenina MacGillvray’s Boarding, Andrea Dunne’s Makeover, Brian Woodford’s Connecting, Cody Westman’s That Little Room: The Story of Erin’s Pub, and so many more.  Aside from that we will see two Picture Start films, Latonia Hartery’s Sadie and Roger Maunder’s Between Two Walls. Last year’s Michelle Jackson Award Winner, Tamara Segura’s beautiful drama Before the War will also screen.  To be honest, that is just the tip of the local content.  Check out our website for the entire line-up.

NLAC: How much of this year’s festival programming is locally produced content? What are some of the films being screened which come from outside the province?

Melissa: Our mandate at the Nickel is to ensure we screen a minimum of 40% local content. This year I am proud to say that 54% of our content was produced locally or by locals.  I think that is a true testament to the growth of the film industry here in our province.  We’re seeing more and more amazing content being produced locally and the quality of that work is improving each festival season.  The bar is being raised higher and higher. 

As for some of the films from outside the province, with films like Ol, a Hungarian film that will leave a lasting impression, and Mr. Invisible, which features a familiar face - Greg Ash, who many know as Grand Maester Pycelle from the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones. And, Amour et Commando, a French comedic musical about war - you won’t be disappointed.  With almost 50 films screening, it’s hard to name them all!

NLAC: What kind of activities have you planned to celebrate your anniversary? Why is this anniversary an important one for you?

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Melissa: Any milestone year is always an important one, especially when it is a multiple of 5! (winks)

Fifteen years gives us a vote of confidence that we are successfully fostering and utilizing the wealth of talent in this province. It is crazy to think that all this was born at a kitchen table between some friends - it really goes to show that despite those long nights of work, or the weeks of near poverty you go through as an emerging artist, that there is a huge foundation of support, and a well of people who are rooting for you to succeed. Festival week is always a very inspiring and humbling week for me. I want nothing more than to see these artists, especially the first time filmmakers, flourish in the atmosphere we work so hard to create.

As with every year, we have continued to put on our workshop series, which this year we have tailored more specifically to the needs of the emerging film community.  We are also offering matinee screenings of three amazing documentaries which will screen at NIFCO.  However this year we wanted to bring the focus back to helping create content and give emerging filmmakers a chance to test their limits and capabilities, so, we have paired with MusicNL to create a 48 Hour Music Video Challenge. The challenge is something that we are very excited about, as it allows us to encourage collaboration between multiple disciplines and helps fortify a stronger arts community.

NLAC: Can you tell us more about the workshops and professional development opportunities there are at this year’s festival?

Melissa: I admit I’m very excited about this year’s line-up of workshops.  Common Ground has generously offered us their space for some of these workshops. One in particular, So, you want to be a freelancer? is a workshop that I think is applicable not just to the filmmakers, but anyone who is trying to establish themselves in a very competitive market right now.  You will learn how to determine an appropriate hourly rate, consider taxes and avoid surprises at tax time, as well as ways to save for rainy days.  It is one that shouldn’t be missed.  We’re offering a Script Supervising workshop; this position is in demand these days and yet we lack trained people to fill that void.  Not to mention amazing workshops like Developing the Pitch Package with Brad Gover, The Screenplay Series with Justin Simms and 3 Acts in 3 Minutes with Mark Hoffe, there is guaranteed to be something for everyone this year.

NLAC: Can you tell us more about the work the Nickel conducts outside of the festival events throughout the year?

Nickel-outdoor-screeningBannerman Blow-Up

Melissa: I’m proud to say that more and more we are becoming a year-round organization.  Once the festival wraps, we take the best of the festival on a Summer Roadshow.  We pair with many of the province’s summer festivals and offer a screening in the different communities.  This year we will return to the Brigus Blueberry Festival, Writers at Woody Point, and many more locations. 

As autumn hits, we do our annual Bannerman Blow-Up outdoor screening, which is always a special experience.  In October we’ll once again offer our popular 48-Hour Horror Challenge.  The bar was raised last year and the competition gets steeper every year!  I’m very excited to see what this year will bring. 

Our February Oscar event always packs a punch of fun in the middle of the winter blues and we plan on adding more great events to the roster as we move into our 16th season.

NLAC: What are some of the best memories and highlights from years gone by, considering this is a milestone anniversary?

Melissa: Oh my… that is a tough one.  I have only been at the helm for a little over a year now and can say that it has been a rollercoaster of learning, laughs, and labours of love.  In order to encapsulate 15 years of memories, we actually made a short film this year called 15 Nickels.  We go over everything from the original idea, favorite memories, evolving careers and so much more.  We will make this film accessible a little later this year for all to see and hope they have as much fun travelling down memory lane as we did when making the film.

NLAC: What would you say to someone who might be just considering or is on the fence about coming out to some of the Nickel’s events?

Melissa: I'm glad you asked that. Our marketing goal this year was to help people see that independent film isn’t something to shy away from.  In fact, many don’t realize that some of their favorite films are independent productions.  Films such as The Blair Witch Project, Terminator, Pulp Fiction and The Big Lebowski all wave the independent flag.  We want people to know that the films screening tell amazing stories and besides, with 54% local films, why wouldn’t you come out and support your own?

NLAC: How does the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council (NLAC) funding from the Annual Operating Program for Professional Arts Organizations help?

Melissa: Programs such as the new AOPPAO funding are our lifeline. Without these amazing grants we wouldn’t exist. They not only help us facilitate the overall festival, they allow us to expand our workshops, they help us keep our admission costs low so that more people can access the amazing films that are being produced right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Most importantly, they allow us to always offer a venue for emerging filmmakers. In order to progress as an artist you need the ability to receive audience feedback, compare your works against others screening the same night, meet other filmmakers, not to mention the encouragement of knowing you made something that will be viewed by hundreds of people. It’s an invaluable service that wouldn’t be able to happen without these grants and funding programs.

NLAC: Where can people go to find out more information about the festival, or if they want to get tickets or register for events?

Melissa: You can visit our website, www.nickelfestival.com for all the festival details and sign-up sheets or email me at nickelfestival@gmail.com.  You can also purchase tickets directly from the LSPU Hall website at www.rca.nf.ca or call their box office.