The Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative (AFCOOP) recently announced that eight teams of emerging Nova Scotia filmmakers have been selected to participate in the Project Development phase of the 2009 / 2010 FILM 5 program. New Waterford residents Ashley McKenzie and Nelson MacDonald make up two thirds of one of the teams whose project, Rhonda’s Party, is a short about a 100th birthday party gone wrong.
The script was written by their teammate Christine Comeau who is originally from Quebec City but currently lives in Halifax.
Both MacDonald and McKenzie completed the Halifax Interuniversity Film Studies Minor at St Mary’s University and are founding members of the Cape Breton Filmmakers Association, an organization whose goal is to encourage, inspire and realize independent filmmaking in Cape Breton. Both are also founding members of the New Waterford based Coastal Arts Initiative.
Now in its fifteenth year, FILM 5 is an educational and production program that has helped launch the careers of some of the region’s most prominent filmmakers. To date, the program has yielded over thirty-five innovative short films and alumni include such directors as Thom Fitzgerald (The Hanging Garden) and Andrea Dorfman (Love That Boy).
To be accepted into Phase 1 of the program, teams were asked to submit an application consisting of a script, director’s treatment, budget, letters of intent, resumes, filmographies, and demo reels. Between November 17th and January 28th the eight selected teams will participate in an intensive series of workshops designed to assist with the development of their short film project proposals. The teams have already workshopped with Camelia Frieberg who produced Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter and Exotica.
Teams will use their proposals to apply to the Production phase of the program in January, when up to four will be selected to each receive $7,500 in cash and over $25,000 in services towards the production of a five-minute film.
MacDonald describes Rhonda’s Party as a 5 minute drama set in a decrepit nursing home. Rhonda is a spunky but rough around the edges 78-year-old resident who has been busy planning her best and only friend’s 100th birthday party. When her friend dies on the eve of the celebration, Rhonda is forced to decide whether or not the party will go on. MacDonald says he and MacKenzie were interested both in the rare opportunity to work on a story that explores older characters and the rich visual environment of the nursing home setting.
When asked if he felt confident about his team being accepted into he program, MacDonald replied ”Ashley and I loved Christine’s script and we were hopeful that the jury would connect with it in the same sort of way that we did. But, we knew that there are a lot of very talented filmmakers in Nova Scotia and that FILM5 is a very popular program.” MacDonald feels their team was accepted on “the strength of the script, as well as the passion for filmmaking and learning that our team shares.“
Two other Cape Bretoners now living on the mainland – Charles Currie working with the Acadian Curse team and Chris Turner with the Like Father team – are also participating in the program.