Reel Shorts: Real Inspiration

Written by Jessica Sanderson

This year, the 7th Annual Reel Shorts Film Festival featured 102 films from twenty countries over a span of five days, making the largest showcase of short films in Alberta. The Festival continues to be a celebration of short films and the filmmakers and the events of this year included films, workshops, and opportunities to talk with the filmmakers and other industry professionals. A huge community draw for the festival is from students around the region: Out of the 2,780 people who took part in the festivities, there were over 1,000 students who attended. With so much to offer and with it growing bigger each year, the festival provides a great opportunity for both those seeking enjoyment as well as those with a desire to learn.

The Horizon ProjectThe Festival offers a great opportunity for students looking to get into the film industry in its two week training and production program called Shoot for Reel. Twelve hand-picked interns helped on set during this program to create the film The Horizon Project, a twenty minute short about the survivors of a biological pandemic. Although the theme is quite popular in today’s industry, The Horizon Project was polished and very entertaining; well worth watching a second time. Director Scott Baelyea said he believes Grande Prairie has the potential to become a media hotbed or an indie scene for films. He found that there is so much access to community support and involvements thanks to the local embrace of filmmaking and the support of the project. Furthermore, the great rural locations help films like The Horizon Project achieve a sense of isolation not far from the city itself. With the opportunity for a sequel to the movie and the experience gained by local participants, the Grande Prairie film scene can only grow.

The TrapAs the Reel Shorts continues running and more and more opportunities become available, it becomes possible to be part of something big, but it is also possible to work on a smaller scale by yourself. Rio Fitch, a resident of the small community of Rolla in British Columbia, does his own filming, editing, and sound engineering. Fitch has no formal training and considers filming his hobby, but he has put a good deal of time into learning the craft. All his work certainly paid off, as could be seen in his latest film, The Trap, which was shown at Reel Shorts. The film is about the inquisitive nature of children and shows Fitch’s talented daughter Billie, taking actions to catch the tooth fairy. The Trap premiered at the Epiphany Children’s Film Festival in New York at which it won the “Best in Show” award.

During this year’s Festival came a great opportunity to be inspired and educated through an afternoon with Phil Richards, a day with the artist behind the Diamond Jubilee portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The afternoon started with a screening of a behind the scene documentary, The Portrait, following the process Richards took in creating his portrait. The film, and Richards himself, were filled with inspirational messages and lessons that were encouraging for any artist to hear. Despite being told many times in his life that figure painting was dead, Richards refused to accept it; to him it is natural for humans to want to paint people. He didn’t want to be part of a fashionable movement, but something that would be sustainable over decades. With this mindset, Richards had to go through hard times but by pursuing what he loves, keeping a structured routine, and putting in a lot of preparation, he has become successful. The day ended with the opportunity to see a live demonstration in portrait drawing.

A Royal Commission“Learning the details of the work involved to create a large-scale masterpiece was very enlightening,” said Melanie Jenner, a local artist who attended the session with Richards. “Observing an artist work and having them explain their artistic process from start to finish is a rare experience. I’ve never had the pleasure of watching a professional artist draw a portrait live and in person and it made me wish I had this opportunity when I was an art student.” Artist or not, the presentation was a rare experience that was truly inspirational. An additional documentary, A Royal Commission, was also shown at the festival.

The Reel Shorts Film Festival is an all-around enjoyable experience which brings opportunity to the Region and, whether you wish to attend for pleasure, education, or inspiration, you will find what you’re seeking. With a broad selection of films and a diverse schedule offering things on various days and times, there is really no excuse to miss out on this local gem.


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