The lack of Hollywood film shoots in Montreal is a sign to some in the local movie industry of a coming apocalypse, in which out-of-work craftspeople tear at each other’s throats for the slimmest chance to work on an Air Bud sequel.
But to Ezra Soiferman, director and co-founder of the Montreal Film Group, the movie community’s spirit is nevertheless hale and hearty, and its talent pool deeper than ever.
“I’m seeing more people coming out of schools who are looking to get into the industry,” says Soiferman, a documentary filmmaker and director of the Segal Centre for Performing Arts’ CinemaSpace, an intimate screening room and lounge which serves as the group’s unofficial clubhouse.
[n.b. Soiferman left his job at CinemaSpace in June of 2010 to return to directing documentaries full time]
“There’s no shortage of talent; there’s just sometimes a shortage of jobs.”
On Tuesday, the Montreal Film Group celebrated its fifth year with a party at CinemaSpace. Over 200 members showed up.
Since its creation, the MFG, which is open to all and free to join, has seen its membership grow from 12 founders to more than 2,000, with the biggest spike coming after the launch of its website in 2006.
Currently, the Montreal Film Group’s roster includes filmmakers like Up the Yangzte director Yung Chang and documentary producer Ina Fichman.
“It’s a mix of the emerging and veteran (filmmakers) – anglophone and francophone,” Soiferman says.
The Montreal Film Group’s mission has always been to bring filmmakers together, encouraging collaboration and helping film professionals find work.
“When it wasn’t film festival time, people were off doing their own thing,” Soiferman says of the impetus behind the group’s formation.
“There wasn’t that much cohesion between emerging filmmakers and mentors in the film business.”
So, Soiferman and Montreal filmmaker John Christou created an organization to connect early-and mid-career filmmakers with more experienced artists, like a matchmaking organization, except that it fosters professional relationships rather than one-night stands and trips to the clinic.
“The idea was to create a group that would bring people out of the woodwork at all times of the year for networking events, to meet each other, share ideas, and mainly lift the spirit of filmmakers in the city.”
The most popular part of the Montreal Film Group’s site is its news page, updated almost daily by Soiferman, to keep members fully informed of film-related events and build a sense of community.
But unless you’re related to Leatherface, you can’t eat community, so the job listings are popular as well.
“We have companies that know about us, that know people look for work on our site, so it’s an easy and quick way for them to find talented people,” Soiferman says.
And then there are the events.
“We’ve done round-table discussions with CBC executives, and we’ve done panel discussions about how to get your film into film festivals,” Soiferman says.
“Another event was Guerrilla Filmmaking 101, basically how to make your lowbudget film and get it seen.”
The purpose, Soiferman says, is to transfer skills and foster face-to-face relationships.
“Making films is not just being in an editing room,” he explains.
“(It’s meeting) other people, sharing ideas, sharing your passion, and coming together – seeing others to catch up again and to meet new faces.”
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2009