Behind the Scenes – Behind the Silver Screen

by Deborah Rogers | photo by Janis Jean Photography

We’ve all seen the increase in TV and movie filming on the Saanich Peninsula these past few years. A fleet of catering trucks and dressing room caravans suddenly appear at the Mary Winspear Centre or the Saanich Fairgrounds; American flags replace the Canadian ones on Sidney’s Pier, or there’s snow on Beacon Avenue in August! But what if you don’t have the budget of Hallmark or Netflix? There’s a budding grassroots filmmaking industry in our area too, and they’re making award-winning stuff. This month I was literally invited behind the scenes; the scenes of a small-budget indie short film, Imitates Life.

Filmmaker and Director Tabatha Golat is passionate about movies. She tells me that her dad would host Film Fridays through her childhood and her interest grew through summer camps at the film school on Galiano Island as a teenager. After years of writing and filming home movies, Tabatha attended film school in Victoria and set off to work in the industry in Vancouver. Now she’s back on the Island, living in Central Saanich, and taking every opportunity to get behind the camera and create. A small grant from the CineCentral Filmmakers Society in partnership with SHAW Spotlight has allowed her current project to come to fruition.

It’s a tiny budget in the world of film, but with a generous, supportive community, that $2,000 grant stretched to four days of shooting with a cast of four (plus local extras) and a crew of eight! I joined the set towards the end of day one, tiptoeing onto a scene starring the lead, Kaliandra Capri, playing Amy.

I’ve never been on a film set before, but I had an idea of what it would be like, from watching movies ironically! An Airbnb property in Dean Park (use of which was generously donated) was the setting. It was a basement suite and quite cosy for the number of people present. Filming requires a lot of equipment. There’s the camera obviously, with cameraman Matt making quick decisions about how to achieve those interior shots without colliding with hallway walls or showing the boom mike inadvertently. That boom, at the time I arrived, was being held by sound expert Brent from the bathroom, tucked out of shot. Kaliandra needed to move from the “bedroom” towards the “kitchen” down a tight hallway. Matt had to walk backwards to capture the movement of the scene. That’s where another crew member assisted, with his hand on Matt’s back to guide him. Behind those two was Tabatha herself, directing the shot, watching the acting and deciding when to call “cut.”

When you watch a finished film it’s very hard to appreciate the number of repetitions of each scene, each line even. Kelly Finnerty, the project’s writer and co-producer, was also operating the clapperboard and explained to me how vital it is. Each scene and each take is noted on the board at the start of filming and the board claps to signal everyone to be quiet and ready. When Tababtha comes to edit all the footage down she’ll pair the notes she was constantly taking with those clapperboard numbers to enable her to wade through the hours of footage.

Imagine having to react to the same thing over and over again! It was fascinating to watch Kaliandra repeat her lines, adjusting the emphasis or the look on her face each time, taking notes from Tabatha between shots. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot but it’s a comedy and features Will, played by Sean Baker, as Amy’s “Perfect Man.”

Off camera makeup is being touched up, lines practised, and scenes blocked out. It’s high energy and exciting and I could tell how tight this crew was with each other. Tabatha said by the end of the shoot they felt like a family.

As well as the scenes at the house, filming took place at James Island wharf (pictured), The Roost, McTavish Academy of Art and Marigold Café. All of these businesses were tremendous about providing space and freedom for the film crew to operate.

Unusually for a film project this one came together very quickly due to the perfect combination of a story waiting to be told and the grant deadline. The completed project will be submitted in December, and audiences will be able to view it next year (the film will show on SHAW Spotlight). Tabatha hopes that this film, like her previous indie-short The United Guys Network, will be picked up for the Festival circuit. Watch this space for updates!

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