Big city opportunity close to home

Student work populates Kingston Canadian Film Festival lineup

Film and media students thrive in the “boutique festival” environment. Above, students shoot a film for the festival.
Film and media students thrive in the “boutique festival” environment. Above, students shoot a film for the festival.

The Kingston Canadian Film Festival (KCFF) is back, and students are becoming more important to it than ever.

The festival serves as an example of Kingston’s thriving arts community while doubling as a way for students to get involved and gain valuable insight into a difficult industry.

“Essentially, [it’s] the only all-Canadian film festival in the world,” said Hilary Smith, the festival’s hospitality and volunteer co-ordinator.

KCFF has been an annual event for 14 years now.

“Alex Jansen, the founder, created the festival as a way to showcase his friends’ projects as well as others that would never get attention on a greater scale,” Smith said. “Now we pay that tradition forward.

“Basically, our purpose is to show great Canadian content that wouldn’t otherwise get shown.”

Smith is just one of many students who are leaping at the chance to gain real-world film industry experience and connections in a relatively small town that doesn’t have the advantage of international recognition. “We bring the film industry to Kingston for a weekend,” Smith said. “It brings up opportunities for students to network that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Especially speaking as a student that’s not from the GTA, it’s hard to make contact with anyone in the industry. The festival really makes it accessible.”

The film industry can seem completely opaque to those who aren’t currently entrenched in it, and being located away from a big city for university can only reinforce that.

This can be frightening for students who find themselves in love with their chosen topic of study, but unaware of how to make a living within it. Getting involved with KCFF can help, as Queen’s student and KCFF production intern Shayna Markowitz says.

“It’s something outside of the Queen’s community and it’s a taste of the film industry and the different ways to work within it and what it takes to make a film festival,” Markowitz, ArtSci ’14, said.

KCFF provides those curious about a career in the film industry with a student-friendly opportunity to gain real-world experience and build relationships through networking before graduation.

Tellingly described by Markowitz as “a boutique festival,” the relatively small size of the festival, combined with its localized, accessible quality, gives volunteers responsibilities they likely wouldn’t get while interning for another company.

For example, Markowitz and KCFF’s other production intern for 2014, Spencer Brown, ArtSci ’14, ended up in charge of creating a television commercial for the festival.

Every production role, from camera work to makeup, was filled by Queen’s students. The commercial was eventually shown on Cogeco during Olympics broadcasts.

“It’s the perfect opportunity in Kingston,” Markowitz said. “It magnifies film for you.”

Kingston Canadian Film Festival runs in various Kingston locations from Feb. 27 to Mar. 2.

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