“My film is about how I put myself on display in strange ways.”
Jeff Coll is explaining Me on Me, his new short film. It details his peculiar exhibitionist tendencies, and is one of 20 pictures to be shown at a June 1 end-of-school-year screening of work by students of the Nova Scotia Community College’s screen arts program.
Coll, a PEI-born, 26-year-old filmmaker, is on the verge of graduation. Me on Me was partly inspired by his experience as the vocalist of his pop/electronica band, The Jeff Coll Five. He has also directed a video for their song “Giant Lizards,” and produced a video for another song, an amusing catalogue of mundane misfortunes called “Oh No.” Both videos, along with his literally self-conscious documentary, will be screened.
“Me on Me starts off with me on the floor in my underwear being yelled at by the crew in an outtake from the shoot of ‘Oh No,’” he says. “I’m doing this to myself a lot, strange situations like that—photo shoots of me doing weird things when I was in the student newspaper at UPEI I formed a band out of doing bad karaoke.”
The NSCC screen arts program, a two-year intensive in the arts and sciences of making film, has just completed its seventh year. Twenty students graduate annually from the class, and this week’s screening features short films from both first and second year students. The program is split into two sides, one, production with hands-on, non-specialized technical training, the other the design side, dealing with set design and art direction.
“They’re working above the line and below the line and every production is run like an industry production,” says NSCC faculty member Janet Hawkwood. “Scriptwri- ting and creative development is part of it. They do everything from budgeting to shooting to casting to post-production. Over the two years the idea is they will experience all the positions you need to understand the production cycle.”
Much of the work that will be shown at the screening is assignment-based, though some are personal projects the students do in their final year. On-camera performers are culled from friends, the student body and the theatre community, with second-year students using unionized actors. Collaboration is key, something the NSCC students have clearly been taught: London, Ontario, native Martha Cooley, 26, directed Coll’s “Oh No” video. She has shot two other films, Envision Wild Success and Otherwise We Should Never Have Known, both of which will be screened at the event.
She explains her drive to make films is more socio-political than that of some of her classmates. “Most people that I’ve met who are interested in film are because of the great movies they’ve seen, but for me, I’m more interested in making movies that I don’t see,” she says. “I’m queer, and I want to make movies that reflect that identity but aren’t solely about that—movies that have queer characters but aren’t coming out stories, cheesy and whatnot.” Otherwise We Should Never Have Known is inspired by a quote by Proust, and the film is an exploration of Pooley’s relationship with her parents and an ex-girlfriend through the quote, which she interprets to be about “lies, whether you tell them to other people or to yourself.”
Twenty-three-year-old Dartmouth native and NSCC screen arts student Jacqueline Poole approaches a prospective career in film from a practical perspective: “All the career paths I ever wanted you can do all at once in the film industry,” she says. “I wanted to do interior decorating, you can do that in the art department. I wanted to be a photographer, you can do that in the film industry. It just seems like the perfect little place.” That she isn’t specializing in anything but is encouraged to try everything is a big plus. Her documentary, Steering Clear, is about the Ecology Action Centre’s “Steering Clean” program that provides drivers incentives (such as deals on bicycles, sneakers and scooters) to recycle their cars once they are past the point of being roadworthy. The documentary intercuts an interview with the program director with footage of the cars being pulverized in a wrecking yard.
“That was my main incentive,” she says. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch a car being crushed?”
NSCC Screen Arts screening, June 1 at Park Lane, 7pm, free