Local Shorts feature penguins, robbers & more

Queen’s students take different roads to film fest, from managerial ambitions to sneaking into pulp fiction

An Inconvenient Penguin Death March was created with pixelated collage animation.
An Inconvenient Penguin Death March was created with pixelated collage animation.
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Interview: Local Shorts @ Kingston Canadian Film Festival

If life worked out as planned, Ashley Hobb would be the next Steven Spielberg; Breean Hougesen would be practicing botany in a biochemistry lab; and Dave Bedrich wouldn’t even be in Kingston. Fortunately for the Local Shorts program, they’ve all been brought together for the Kingston Canadian Film Festival.

Bedrich, ArtSci ’08 said he got into film when he was 13 years old.

“My dad snuck me into Pulp Fiction. I just fell in love with the movies and wanted to be in film,” Bedrich told the Journal.

Unlike many of his peers, Bedrich realized his rare passion at a young age and was able to focus his energy churning out films in high school—one of which would be an official selection for the Toronto International Teen Movie Festival.

Hougesen, ArtSci ’07, on the other hand, didn’t find his niche until years after he enrolled at Queen’s. Despite starting his university career as a science student, Hougesen always “liked what the camera is capable of” but was unable to realize his filmmaking dreams until he quit school for travel.

“I did my first two years of biochemistry here, took a year and a half off and travelled Europe, making a documentary while I travelled, and then I came back here, went into the film program.” Hougesen said.

“I wanted to come back to school and make something enjoyable.”

Hougesen found “something enjoyable” when he enrolled in Film 451, beginning his collaboration with Bedrich and completing an animated short entitled An Inconvenient Penguin Death March.

Although the title may imply a sadistic tribute to the documentary work of Al Gore and Morgan Freeman, the film is actually a humourous satire on human greed and over-consumption of natural resources.

It begins with a world where humans have destroyed the natural penguin habitat, using the last remnants of polar ice to cool their martinis. As a result of this disrespectful gesture, the penguins take revenge on their oblivious human co-habitants—wreaking havoc from coast to coast. Once the penguins have destroyed the human race, they too, in accordance with humanity’s corruption, are overcome with greed and destroy each other from within.

“I like the fact that both An Inconvenient Truth and Happy Feet won at the Oscars. It’s kind of funny that we’ve got a penguin named Happy Feet who murders humans due to the consequences of global warming,” said Hougesen, who also has a solo short, , in the festival.

Created by using a pixellated collage technique pioneered by Terry Gilliam, Bedrich and Hougeson spent hours cutting out magazine spreads, moving photographic images in front of a camera, and piecing together the film frame by frame.

“We spent at least 42 hours doing pure animation,” Bedrich said.

During this tedious process, Bedrich was fortunate enough to sit in on a lecture by the animation technique’s creator and legend. Bedrich approached Gilliam after the lecture to mention his use of the classic technique.

“He told me: ‘What are you doing playing with paper?’”

Despite using ancient animation method, the final product earned Bedrich and Hougesen a spot in the Local Shorts program, where it will be screened at the Capitol 7 theatre before the feature Canadian documentary this Sunday at Empire Capitol 7 theatre.

For this privilege, the filmmakers can thank Ashley Hobb, technical assistant for the festival and coordinator of the Local Shorts program.

Initially intent on studying at Ryerson University, Hobb dreamed of directing big-budget films, idolizing the work of Spielberg and company.

“When I was in high school, the most important thing was: ‘Would I have fun?’ ” Hobb said. “And there’s nothing more fun than Hollywood movies.”

Yet Hobb’s big-budget directing dreams would slowly change course when she entered Queen’s as a keen film student.

“It was initially very intimidating,” Hobb said. “They introduced a lot of language and text that I had never previously been exposed to.”

Through this intellectual growth, Hobb discovered her interest in a field outside of directing—one where she could exercise talents she never knew she had.

“There are so many parts of media and communication that I’m passionate about. Being a director isn’t the be-all and end-all ... Being able to look at texts in a different way and using analytical skills to come up with ideas that other people maybe haven’t thought of is, in some ways, as creative as making a film.

“It’s all subjective, but there are so many options I never considered. Yet through university, I’ve realized that there’s so much more out there.”

Hobb is now pursuing the management and business aspects of media production.

While Bedrich, Hougesen and Hobb have taken very different paths to Kingston’s flagship film festival, Hobb says the credit is largely due to the challenges and circumstances presented by the Kingston film community.

“There are a lot of opportunities for students,” Hobb said. “I suggest looking. It’s truly a great experience.”

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Local shorts are screened before each feature attraction at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival. A complete list and schedule of the shorts is available at www.kingcanfilmfest.com.

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