Moving, Part One, by Port Sydney filmmaker Sandy McLennan, has won first prize at this year’s Montreal Underground Film Festival.
“I never count on winning these things, but it was such a nice surprise,” he said. “It’s so fortunate to be able to work in a medium that still exists and suits me so well. I came away from this really pleased and inspired. If you want to do good work you need to believe in yourself that you will do good work.”
It’s the second time McLennan has taken home honours from the festival—his short film The Last Skate, which he filmed on Lake of Bays, was awarded second prize at the Montreal Underground Film Festival in 2019.
In 2019 he was able to attend the festival’s screenings and speak with the jury; this year’s event was virtual. “I love to go to these festivals because I love the community,” he said. “They are so friendly and encouraging. It’s not a nasty, competitive environment.”
McLennan began taking film photographs when he was seven years old and went on to study media arts at Sheridan College. Most of his career was spent as an audio visual technician in schools as well as a computer technician. When he retired six years ago he decided to take up darkroom photography again.
“I was pretty lucky that the film was still available when I got back into it,” said McLennan. “I love shooting on old cameras and hand processing motion pictures.”
The idea for Moving, Part One sparked when McLennan was thinking about moving from his home in Huntsville that he had been in since 1986. While going through old boxes he found a number of cassette tapes from a CBC program called The Power of Women from the same year he moved into the house .
“I started to play and pause the tape at different times and record myself talking about how I was thinking of moving. I have so many strong and powerful women in my life so I wanted to keep those bits,” he said. “I then started shooting images of the house over a few months and processed them differently so they have a different look to them. To me this film represents the various emotions I went through while I was thinking of moving.”
Made on celluloid film, the type of film that was used for home movies until 1965, the finished product is 3.5 minutes long. In order to share it online, he used a celluloid film projector and recorded the movie with a digital recorder.
“The images and the sound change alongside how I felt personally, but when you put it out to others to watch you never know what their experience will be,” he said. “You can submit films to festivals and they say ‘no thanks’ and another might give you first prize.”
In addition to making films, McLennan has been teaching workshops in schools both locally and across Canada to introduce students to pinhole camera photography.
Early in 2020, McLennan, in collaboration with New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA), worked with grade 7 students at South River Public School under an Ontario Arts Council grant. He helped the kids make cardboard pinhole cameras and they took photos in Sandy’s portable dark room. Using those images, McLennan has created an interactive installation that can be viewed through the windows of NAISA North Media Arts Centre (106 Ottawa Ave, South River).
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