It’s a long way from Hollywood and other film meccas, but Edmonton possesses a dynamic contingent of emerging filmmakers who are pushing the boundaries of creativity.
The mandate of NextFest is to promote the work of emerging artists, and the film component is no exception, with a program featuring experimental, comedy and horror films.
“It does seem like those are the three things that people tend to make in Edmonton,” says first-time curator Simon Glassman. “With horror I think there’s a challenge to create suspense and that’s a fundamental with all filmmaking … as young filmmakers they want to usually first understand the fundamentals. With comedy, it’s the most fun thing you could do and I think with the experimental, I don’t know—it’s tough to really be creative with filmmaking because it seems like everything’s been done. They’re the ones who are really pushing the envelope forward.”
Glassman was open-minded when it came to putting together this year’s bill, finding ways to include any work that was deemed interesting. He notes there seems to be a rise in the prevalence of web series’ such as Secret Desires (directed by Angela Seehagen), Dookie Squad (directed by David No and Michael Welsh) and Social Fabric (directed by Trevor Duffy and Chris Boyle).
“Instead of making a single short film, which is kind of tricky—everything has to be completely new,” he adds. “You have to have all new characters, all new sets, a whole new structure for your scripts, whereas web series get standardized and they can just continue pumping out stories and interesting characters.”
The other surprise for Glassman was Hybrid Moments, a feature-length horror film by Darryl Merpaw, who put the entire project together on his own. The idea began as a horror short about an unfortunate first date and evolved into an anthology piece focused on relationships.
“From that, it made sense to present the film as a dark comedy about the horrors of falling in love. If there’s a genre that desperately needs to be deconstructed, it’s definitely the modern rom-com,” says Merpaw, who spent two years filming on and off. “I tried to make the situations broad enough that even if you’ve only had one serious relationship in your lifetime, you’d still be able to relate to the general awkwardness of a first date or the intense pressure of finding the right time to propose to your partner. From there, I use those moments to springboard the stories into absurdity and beyond.”
The entire thing “cost less than a fancy pair of shoes” and Merpaw’s goal was to create something entertaining enough that the lack of budget was irrelevant. He claims working alone was rarely stressful and allowed him to explore his vision without creative conflict. Merpaw admits the amount of focus he had to devote to the project resulted in some meltdowns in his personal life, but he says he seems to have walked away relatively unscathed in comparison to other DIY film horror stories he’s heard.
“[The] main reason for it was practicality. A good crew is hard to find; it’s even harder when you have no money to pay them,” he adds. “I’m confident enough in my skills as a filmmaker that I knew I’d be able to handle the work. The downside is nobody gets paid. The upside is I have full creative control, which is a privilege even the most successful filmmakers rarely get to have.”
Experimental / Comedy Block
Mon, Jun 9 (7 pm)
Mon, Jun 9 (8:30 pm)