In anticipation of Capilano University’s Indigenous Independent Digital Filmmaking Program year-end screening on Sunday, April 27, Sad Mag’s April Johnson sat down with Tamara Voudrach—writer, producer and director of short film Suzanna—and her cinematographer, Damien Eaglebear, to discuss the film as well as the indigenous independent filmmaking scene in Vancouver.
SAD MAG: What sparked your interest in filmmaking and what led to your decision to leave NWT for Vancouver?
TAMARA VOUDRACH: I’m from Inuvik, NWT—I’ve spent my whole life in the north. In high school I took a video production course. It was only about four months long. During that time I made a short film with a friend—a comedy that won a youth award at the Dawson City International Film Festival. We won a solid $150. It was good times (laughs).
After that, I started off in Journalism at Grant McEwan University in Edmonton. I realized there that I was more interested in people and telling people’s stories, but journalism felt too critical for me and didn’t allow me to tell the kind of stories I wanted to. I thought about Toronto Film School, but more research led to me the Indigenous Independent Digital Filmmaking Program (IIDF) here in Vancouver. I’m pretty comfortable now and don’t see myself relocating for a while.
SM: What kinds of stories are you interested in telling?
TV: At the moment I’d like to explore horror more. The film we just finished shooting, Suzanna, is a horror film about a girl with a phobia of the dark. In the film, a series of events take place in the span of one night (triggering her phobia). There are always explanations for the events, but she never sticks around long enough to find out, which is where the element of comedy comes in.
When I feel more situated, I would like to tell stories about home, because no one else is. There are a lot of documentaries coming out, but they are mainly Inuit and Eastern Arctic stories—from the Nunavut and Greenland area. I’m Inuvialuit, so I’m from the Western Arctic. I don’t feel comfortable with having other filmmakers go up there that aren’t Inuvialuit and distribute (the stories)—I just don’t think that’s right.
SM: Are you finding yourself interested in certain aspects of filmmaking that you weren’t originally looking to pursue?
TV: Directing kind of surprised me. I liked it. It’s something I want to get better at as time goes on.
SM: Film mentors?
TV: Before the IIDF program, I didn’t have a lot of connections. I just jumped into it and worked with whomever I could. I gained a lot of connections from Damien who knew a lot of Indigenous filmmakers at Simon Fraser University. Through these film experiences I feel like I found something that I want to keep working at.
SM: Damien, How was your experience working with Tamara on Suzanna?
DAMIEN EAGLEBEAR: She put a lot of trust in me and our visual ideas kind of matched.
SM: Was Damien a good teacher?
TV: Yeah. I got a lot of support from him throughout the whole process. I felt that between him and my lead actress I was able to connect with them and I was really fortunate.
SM: Nervous about the screening?
TV: I’m not nervous or scared, maybe just a little annoyed that I may be asked why I’m not telling an Indigenous story right off the bat. Because I feel that it is. Because I am, and we made it together (Damien and the IIDF class). I wanted an Indigenous lead actress, and that’s what I got. It’s a pretty solid story and we made a pretty solid film together, and that feels pretty Indigenous to me.
SM: In terms of cinematography, are you two happy with how Suzanna was shot?
DE: I pretty much did what she wanted. I’m happy with how it turned out and if she’s happy, that’s even better (laughs).
TV: It turned out a lot better than what I had envisioned (laughs). If I had done it myself, I don’t even want to think about how it would look.
AJ: Final words to future filmmakers?
DE: The most important thing to do on any film set is to always drink water. That goes for the after party, too.
The Indigenous Independent Digital Filmmaking screening is a free community event. Suzanna, will be screened Sunday, April 27 at 7pm in the Nat and Flora Bosa Centre for Film and Animation Theatre at Capilano University.
Images Courtesy of Trent Siwallace