Artists of all forms need venues to practice, network and grow. For creatives involved in film production, Digi60 offers this opportunity. Beginning in 2015, the festival gives a chance for aspiring filmmakers to create and show original work. Ottawa Beat also spoke to one of these filmmakers to get a firsthand experience into the creation of an indie film.

How does it work?

Digi60 is an annual festival for Ottawa-Gatineau which gives filmmakers a chance to build their skills, challenge themselves, and to become part of the film industry. These digital films are created within 60 days of a “catch” or unifying theme being released. The catch might be an idea, a theme, or a prop. This year, the theme is Change.

Once the catch is released, filmmakers can decide to participate in the competition by creating an original short film – this could be a screenplay, a documentary, or a spotlight on creative people in the region. In addition, writers can participate by writing a screenplay and pitching it to filmmakers in hopes to collaborate.
For the December festival, the shorts are a maximum of seven minutes long. Digi60 also does a mini-festival in the spring, where the limit is three minutes.

What goes into creating a short film?

Christian Belisle, on set for his film, Overgrowth. Photo provided by artist.

Christian Belisle is film-studies graduate who became more involved in Ottawa’s film scene about a year ago. During that time, he met members of the film industry and assisted in their projects, including for Digi60. This year he decided to submit to the festival, which is his first film that will be distributed. His film is called Overgrowth, in which “a couple take a hike to an old ruin and in the process discover how much their relationship has changed”.

Reflecting on his experience, Christian is grateful for the opportunity, and he put in the time and effort to ensure his vision was fulfilled. “When you are producing your own short in a two month period, you have to be a producer, a writer, and a director. I also did craft services and wardrobe,” said Belisle. “All the help I had was so instrumental in getting it what it became.”

He spoke about the collaboration necessary to create the best possible product. “The people who were involved, I would not have been able to do this without them. I learned a lot about film being collaborative, and taking advice from them, said Christian. “You have a vision in your mind and it’s particular and single, yet other people get involved and bring their ideas and talents. The vision that you had has to change – and it’s a good thing. You get to work with people, and allow their creativity to flow through the project.”

EDIT: At the Digi-60 award ceremony, Belisle was recognized with four separate awards: Best Film; Best Director; Best Cinematography; and Best Acting. Congrats Christian!

What is happening at the festival?

Digi60 is taking place December 20-23, with Friday and Saturday as the biggest days. It’s a great chance to catch emerging filmmakers that are filming in the Ottawa-Gatineau areas.

On Friday evening, there will be a screening of 12 short documentaries, followed by a feature film created by alumni of Digi60. Saturday is an all-day affair, with workshops during the day and three blocks of film screenings. In the afternoon, you can see 10 short films about Ottawa-Gatineau’s creative community, and on Saturday evening there are two blocks of films – 13 and 15 respectively, concluding with an awards show and an after party. On Sunday, the workshops continue and there is another feature film in the evening, which is a Christmas-themed horror movie.

Workshops with spots remaining include a panel on Saturday titled “Living that Freelance Life”, and on Sunday there is a documentary masterclass and a primer on legal considerations for film.

The festival is $40 for the weekend, or you can attend any of the screenings for $10 adv/ $15 door. The festival takes place at the Ottawa Art Gallery and the Arts Court Theatre. Check out the website for more information.