Drew McLachlan
The Navigator

Raymond Knight is obsessed. “I can’t look at anything without seeing what kind of lens I would use to capture it, or whether or not a location I’m in has enough lighting to film, and just looking at everywhere I go as a possible filming location.”

Raymond Knight is a visionary. “I just let my brain go wild. I’ll write down pages and pages and make drawings of what I see.” Raymond Knight is a dreamer. “I really want to do the sci-fi film. That’s probably the biggest dream of mine. Who doesn’t want to go build another world and transport the audience?” Raymond Knight is a filmmaker. A local filmmaker. One of the many filmmakers leaving their mark on Nanaimo.

A former VIU music student, Knight’s love affair with film spans a lifetime. The spark had faded in the past only to be reignited as an inferno, engulfing both Knight and the local film scene.

“I mostly fell out of it because of the technology. I knew I didn’t have the technology to do what I wanted to do,” says Knight. “I did a lot of painting, I went to school for music, I started spreading my fingers at all these different art forms, I started taking acting classes and learning about photography and wondering ‘what the heck is this going towards, these are all skills you use to make films.’”

Knight’s latest project, KRUPA, is being screened at the Vancouver Island Short Film Festival (VISFF) on February 7 and 8 in the campus theatre. KRUPA is a music video featuring the funky jazz eight-piece Bananafish Dance Orchestra, colleagues of Knight’s from his time in VIU’s jazz music program. Knight describes the video, which will be his first foray into VISFF, as a 1940s spy-themed action intertwined with a love story. The quick-paced style, he says, was directly inspired by Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese.

Nanaimo’s film scene, while relatively young, has been seeing rapid growth thanks in part to the Hub City Cinema Society. Hub City was founded in the summer of 2012 by Zachary Tannar, another local filmmaker, as a way for those with a similar passion to connect and collaborate.

“It was definitely something Nanaimo was lacking,” says Tannar. “I knew all these filmmakers from the VISFF—I’d meet them at the festival, but for the rest of the year we would never see each other. I felt there was a community here, but we were very disconnected, so I wanted to create a group that brought people together more frequently and created a greater community spirit.”

The Hub City Cinema Society was originally known as the Nanaimo Cinema Society, but after it started gaining ground with people from all over the island, Tannar felt the name should reflect that. “We’re like a hub for people coming from Campbell River to Victoria,” explains Tannar. “The name change was to represent the fact that we’re more than just Nanaimo.”

Hub City hosts frequent socials where writers, directors, and actors can discuss their projects, brainstorm ideas, and plan collaborations. The society also hosts script sessions where writers can have their work read by actors and workshopped, and screenings where members can show off their finished work. The most notable events the society holds, however, are their film jams.

Tannar says the idea came from a youth film camp he attended in February 2012 during the Powell River Film Festival. “I really enjoyed that experience,” says Tannar, “so when I created the society I thought the film jam would be a good way to start working with people and get to know each other. I love it, because sometimes you’re working on a project and struggling to make it happen, so this is just like scratching an itch. When you love filmmaking, you just have to do it. That was the idea behind the film jam.”

The film jam splits participants into two groups of around ten people who have six hours to make a film. The first two hours are spent brainstorming ideas, planning scenes, and writing dialogue. The rest is spent rehearsing and shooting, which all takes place inside Nanaimo Centre Stage. The result is a short film, mostly improvised, with bare sets and props, but often intriguing, honest, and full of ambition.

Tannar’s love for film tied neatly into his passion for writing. “I have a very visual mind,” says Tannar, “so when I finally picked up a camera and started making movies with my friends, it just sort of clicked with me. Not just writing stories, but showing people what I see in my head. It was a perfect match.”

When Tannar was first inducted into the world of filmmaking, he didn’t see it becoming a serious endeavour. “It started as a joke,” recalls Tannar. “I was sitting on a trampoline with some friends, and one of my friends said it would be funny if we made a film about us fighting on the trampoline. I said it would be even funnier if we added some kind of story to it. I was 14 at the time, so it ended up becoming a parody of the kids’ shows we were all watching at the time.”

Tannar finished his latest project, Framed, in May 2013. He was inspired to make the film while walking through Maffeo Sutton Park, where he noticed a couple posing for a picture inside the giant picture frame. “The whole idea of the movie is to make a story there,” says Tannar. “It starts with a young couple walking by it and wanting to take a picture. They hand their camera to someone and things go wrong. It’s a series of unfortunate events.”

Framed will be shown at the Victoria Film Festival, which takes place February 7-16 at The Vic Theatre in downtown Victoria. The festival features films by Canadian industry icons like Atom Egoyan, director of The Sweet Hereafter and Ararat; and Dennis Villeneuve, director of Incendies and Polytechnique. Understandably, Tannar was taken aback the moment he was told his first screening would be at the Victoria Film Festival.

“I got an email on my phone while I was standing in a Staples aisle looking for file folders,” recalls Tannar. “I pulled out my phone and was like ‘what is this? Oh my God!’ It was very exciting. I remember that the guy standing next to me looked over and commented that I must have won a million dollars. It’s not quite like that, but the feeling isn’t far off.”

With the local film scene expanding and creating opportunities for burgeoning filmmakers all over the island, and our local directors gaining more ground outside of Nanaimo, could our city become a jumping-off point for amateur directors?

“I‘m exactly where I want to be right now. I’m just trying to work for the next project,” says Knight “I love the process. I hope that I can treat everybody good in the end, and that’s what [my current] project is about—showing off the talent in this town and bringing some well-deserved attention to the scene in Nanaimo.”