Outpost 31 Goes to Cannes

The founders of Outpost 31 were recently selected to attend the Cannes Film Festival through a program called Not Short on Talent. The program, a Telefilm initiative, recognized the Yukon company for its short film The Changeling. I sat down with Neil Macdonald, filmmaker and co-founder of Outpost 31, to discuss the experience.

So, how did the opportunity come about to go to Cannes?

We made this short film as part of the Dead North Film Festival – a film festival out of Yellowknife. Unbeknownst to us, Danny Lennon, who curates a Telefilm program called Not Short on Talent, was watching all the films at the festival. He’s been taking one of the Dead North films to the Cannes Film Festival every year and selected The Changeling to take this year! It was the first time the film screened anywhere.

Wow, so cool. How did it feel when you found out you were selected to go?

It was pretty crazy! We didn’t know about the opportunity until we got to the festival. They kind of just let people know that one of this year’s films would be selected to go to Cannes. So, on the final evening of the festival, after the awards ceremony, they announced the selection. We were definitely shocked that we were the ones that were chosen because, you know, it’s the world’s biggest film festival! But I need to be clear – we didn’t screen in the festival, we just attended. But even just being affiliated in some small way is really cool. Getting to go was the best part.

Totally, what were some of the cool things you got to do at the festival?

Well, it was great to take advantage of everything that Telefilm had to offer: the photo op, a couple parties, some one-on-one sessions with festival programmers. The one-on-one sessions were really cool – to get to sit there with the programmers of Sundance, Toronto International Film Festival, and different festivals, and to meet the other Talent to Watch cohort. There are 15 short films that are representing Canada and to meet some of those other people and filmmakers and realize there are some connections and you’ve worked with some of them before is cool.
We also wanted to take advantage of the market aspect of the festival. It is a huge market and, like, probably a bigger market then it is a film festival. There’s like 10,000 accredited people attending the festival and there are all these concurrent mini film festivals that are associated, but not part of the festival. It’s just this huge, huge film event.
A producer we had previously made a film with, Shayne Putzlocher, was there this year and he’s always been a bit of a mentor to me, so he helped us do some prep work and set up some meetings for us. We also have a couple other projects we’re working on, so it was nice to meet the people we’re working with from outside of the country and outside of the territory, face-to-face, at this crazy festival.
So, a lot of just relationship-building and networking. And seeing movies and going to workshops and master classes and stuff like that.

Did you notice any trends in filmmaking, or media, or just film culture in general?

I think the biggest one is the growth of XR (extended reality). It’s still a burgeoning part of the medium and people are still figuring out how to use it to tell stories and what the best audience experience is for those specific types of forms. But VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), 360 videos, and those kinds of things are now being branded as XR, and there was a whole section dedicated to it this year. It was beneficial to explore the medium and see where it’s headed. It’s certainly an interesting way to tell stories. A big thing that was being talked about was cinematic VR because I think a lot of people associate VR with video games and a lot of the experiences to date have been more akin to video games. And I’m really interested in exploring the hybrid of how you take those kinds of longform participatory immersive storytelling experiences and blend them with the cinematic experience. So, it’s cool to see that trend and I think people are starting to figure it out. There are a lot of unknowns about it at this point, but it’s really exciting and definitely a developing part of the business which is cool.
For the future? The landscape is shifting and we’re at a really interesting time. There was a lot of talk at Cannes this year about Netflix and what constitutes a film versus TV. There were these big heavyweights in the industry weighing in about this whole thing. I think this year is the first year in Canada there are more OTT (over-the-top media service) subscriptions *. So, we’re at that tipping point where TV as a medium is going to change in a big way, or maybe die. And that’s going to be a big shift in the business and then just storytelling in general.

I imagine you have some great stories from your trip, can you tell me about the most interesting or surprising thing that happened at Cannes?

Well, there’s this whole lottery system to get tickets at Cannes. Your badges can get you into certain screenings, but for the main gala screenings it’s a lottery. So, the three of us were all trying to get into one film together, so we could walk the red carpet and see the premier of some big movie. And, like, literally within the last eight hours we managed to all get tickets to one screening on our last night! So, by pure luck, we got to walk the red carpet and go see a movie that we actually would have really liked to see. It was a genre South Korean drama movie – kind of cop thriller/serial killer movie. So, that was really cool. We got the black suits and bowties, walked the red carpet and got to see a movie in the Grande Palais. That was the last thing we did at Cannes, then we walked home and got up at five in the morning and went to the airport.

That’s amazing, what a perfect way to cap off your first trip to Cannes. Was there an experience or meeting that you anticipate will influence your work as a filmmaker, or as a media company?

We had a few meetings with people we haven’t met before and spent some time with people we have already made movies with and will hopefully work with again. Certainly, spending time with a producer like Shayne Putzlocher, who I consider to be a mentor, and doing it out of place like that – he was generous to let us see a little bit of what he’s doing, business-wise. We’re constantly talking about doing more projects in the Yukon and hopefully doing some of our projects with him, so it’s good to strengthen those relationships and cool to do it in a place where there’s lots of business going on and meeting new people through him.

Right, yeah, I imagine just sharing the experience of being in a filmmaker in Cannes would strengthen those relationships. Is there anything else you’d like to share

Yes. There’s this amazing festival in Canada call Fantasia, it’s one of the bigger genre festivals in the world, and they have a market component and we just found out yesterday that The Changeling has also been selected to a program they have called Shorts to Features. So, we’re going to go to the festival in Montreal in July and show The Changeling and pitch our feature length version of the short, so that’s really cool!

*OTT (over the top media) from Wikipedia – is a term used to refer to content providers that distribute streaming media as a standalone product directly to viewers over the Internet, bypassing telecommunications, multichannel television, and broadcast television platforms that traditionally act as a controller or distributor of such content.

Meet our Members: Erin Holm of Den Designs

Erin Holm is one of our lovely Makespace members who encompasses so much what Yukonstruct aims to support. A maker and an entrepreneur, she makes beautiful art and home décor pieces for her business, Den Designs, in our Makespace.

Here she shares some of her thoughts and experiences of being a Yukonstruct member, an artist, and an entrepreneur.

Why did you join Yukonstruct?

I was working out of a great shop in Saskatoon before moving up, really enjoying the community and shared space environment. Particularly because Den Designs was my only job before moving to the Yukon, and I lacked an office or work social life. I had heard great things were happening up in the Yukon and could not wait to check out Yukonstruct. I think I toured the space day 2 of being in the Yukon and Lana sold me on it instantly – signed up right then and there! Yukonstruct is an impressive space with lovely, helpful people in a positive and supportive environment.

What has been your favourite project so far?

Wood prints using my own photography is the main focus of my business and my primary income for the business. When I had more space and a backyard, I loved making industrial and wood tables using a mixture of plumbing pipes and reclaimed wood. Working out of Yukonstruct and seeing what others are making, I now know that once I have some more time freed up, I can get back into making these larger items and am really looking forward to it!

What advice do you have for other makers in the Yukon?

I am new to the Yukon so cannot speak directly to this market yet, but, I would say that any maker really needs to be open to learning from others. Mentorship is key! I have been very fortunate in my life to have gone to school with, and connected with, other entrepreneurs along the way. It is great to hear from others’ experience and gleam knowledge where you can. So far, I can tell that the Yukon is a unique place, filled with very talented makers, artists, and entrepreneurs alike. I feel very blessed to be here and cannot wait to meet like-minded folks and explore collaboration and partnership opportunities.

What inspires you to make things?

I started Den Designs in 2017, following the loss of my father Dennis to a rare cancer. He had given me his hand tools and I used them to create these prints and other home decor pieces as a means of coping with the grief during the time I spent caring for him while he was sick. After he passed, I continued to create these prints and other artful pieces using my own photography and designs and selling them to friends and other folks. Within the first year, my art was sold at 10 retail locations, now going into my third year of business, you can find Den Designs in over 25 retail locations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and now the Yukon. We donate 10% of every sale to western Canadian cancer patient lodges, supporting those undergoing cancer treatment in honour and in memory of my later father, Dennis.

What are you working on now?

Den Designs is business as usual, I work most evenings and weekends at Yukonstruct to create prints for my retailers and other customers. And this summer, our first ever storefront is opening at Carcross Commons and we cannot wait to share the space with Yukon Built! We are very busy prepping for a very busy summer ahead! Come on down to our shop this summer, located right beside the Bistro!


Our Members’ Got Talent: beautiful cutting boards made by Russ

Russ LaChapelle came to the Yukon in the early 90’s to work on the highway and never left. Russ and his wife Barb finished raising their three kids in Whitehorse and have been part of raising the grandchildren that followed, both from their own kids and the many that have grown to call them Grandma and Grandpa. He has always had a love for woodworking and enjoys it when he just needs a break or gets an idea or 10. When he discovered YuKonstruct (a local place to build things when you do not have your own shop) it was a match made in heaven. Russ started to challenge himself making cutting boards, rocking chairs, Time Out chairs for the Grandkids, puzzles, Aviaries, Lizard enclosures and many other things.

Russ’ attention to detail and design is second to none. All of his children have something in their homes made by Dad and he is working on making sure all the Grand-kids have something as well.

Get inspired and say Hi! to Russ next time you see him in the woodshop!