Direc­tor Tamara Voudrach debuts her film Suzanna at Capi­lano Uni­ver­sity on April 27

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.

“When I feel more sit­u­ated, I would like to tell sto­ries about home, because no one else is.“

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. 

“I may be asked why I’m not telling an Indige­nous story right off the bat.“

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

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