And the Winner Is…Words: Deborah Lampitt-McConnachie
The Saskatchewan/Alberta border town of Lloydminster is just about as far away for the glamour of Hollywood as you can get. However, it is home town to Centre for Arts & Technology ‘Digital Filmmaking’ alumni Benjamin Musgrave, and also the location for his 2017 prize-winning short film ‘Late Harvest’.
Late Harvest is about a young man named James, who is searching for life beyond the wooden fences of his prairie home, and overly- familiar cycles of life that go with it; he dreams of a life of something more. In the film – a musical – ‘more’ includes ballerinas dancing in fields, songs of love and longing, and the inevitable father/son conflict.
“It’s a story about the generations, a story about family, about the pressures of expectations and about the pursuit to follow one’s own dreams,” said Musgrave at the film’s hometown premier.
Musgrave has said in an interview that the whole inspiration for the film came from listening to music that reminded him of the vast, open fields of wheat, and he decided to create a story around that image.
“Music is how everything starts for me, everything has a tonality, a feeling that you can experience before you even open your eyes,” he says.
“Everything that I have worked on so far has started with sounds that inspire images, then images that inspire narrative. For me, the story is always subservient to the way something makes you feel. Musicals allow you to express a strange surreality that isn’t typically used in conventional narrative.”
‘Late Harvest’ won the ‘Performing Arts & Entertainment’ prize last May at the prestigious Yorkton Film Festival, which is actually North America’s longest running short film festival.
The “Golden Sheaf” awards are presented annually, and were established in 1947 under the guidance of the Yorkton Film Council, with the first festival held in 1950. The festival is open to Canadian productions, or international productions directed by a Canadian, and focuses on films that are under 60 minutes in length.
“It probably sounds cliché to say but I really think the hardest thing and the thing I love about filmmaking are almost the same; it’s the ability to take a dream or an abstraction (something in your mind) and convey it in such a vivid ‘f**k you’ way. You can’t come anywhere near as close with any other artistic medium.”
Benjamin admits his filmmaking signature/ethos is still developing. “I think it’s too early to tell yet, that idea is always changing. I don’t think you should set out with a style, I think you need to create and find it, but I think right now it’s mostly just about tricking people into thinking the films are good enough to allow me to make another one.”
Looking back at his 18 months at CAT, he says – for him – the most important thing was the people he met and the relationships he formed. As a matter of fact, he is still working with CAT instructor Natasha Howes, who was Executive Producer on ‘Late Harvest’ and also on upcoming projects.
As for other aspiring filmmakers, his advice is as follows: “Trust your soul, that’s all you really have. It will always feel better to trust your soul and make a mistake than it will to pretend it’s not there and regret it later…. and don’t take anything too seriously.”
As for what he’s doing now, post-awards season: “I’m drinking whiskey mostly; in between re-writes, location scouting, casting, scheduling, production meetings, camera testing, storyboarding, and everything else that goes into pre-production on something very exciting that I’m not allowed to talk about yet.”