Greater Victoria residents Simone Blaise and Carey Newman were awarded $50,000 to produce documentaries. The funding comes from Telus Storyhive which supports new and mid-career filmmakers in different genres.
Blaise and Newman were among the 382 applicants who sought the $50,000 grant from Telus Storyhive’s Documentary Edition. The two Victoria-based storytellers were chosen along with 28 others across B.C. and Alberta. The winners will produce documentary films that highlight local folks as well as the history and culture of their respective communities.
The films don’t have to be about the city the filmmaker lives in, but it must reflect the community, explained Smita Acharyya, a Telus Storyhive project manager and former filmmaker.
Acharyya pointed out that the Storyhive grant also comes with mentorship, workshops and all manner of support. Some of the winners are first-time filmmakers and they will receive training and skills to take to their next projects, she said.
“It doesn’t have to be someone fresh out of film school,” said Acharyya. “They just need to have a story to tell and reside in B.C. or Alberta.”
The mentorship aspect is one of the things that drew Blaise, a dancer trained in several genres and a student at the University of Victoria, to apply for a Storyhive grant. A friend was awarded the grant last year and Blaise observed the process. The same friend encouraged Blaise to apply this year withan idea she’d been sitting on for awhile.
Blaise will be producing her first documentary. Dance Like Everybody Is Watching, follows three black dancers from Victoria and will provide a platform for them to share the challenges they face including exclusion, tokenism, stereotypes, cultural appropriation and racism.
“I want to explore the dynamics going on and allow black people to enjoy being in their bodies,” she said.
Blaise and her crew will start filming in September while she continues to go to school, work and teach dance. She invites the community to get involved and follow along in her process through the documentary’s Facebook page of the same name.
Newman, the other local grant winner and an advocate for Indigenous rights, is currently filming another project in Europe. He will direct The Oaklands Totem which discusses the new wave of including Indigenous learning in public education with a focus on Oaklands Elementary. The local school has been adding Indigenous learning to their classrooms and carving a totem pole which has impacted the students.
The documentaries must be completed by June 2020. They will then be uploaded to the Storyhive YouTube channel and put on Telus Optik for the public to enjoy.
Applications for the Telus Storyhive Web Series Edition close on Sept. 19. Forty applicants will be awarded $20,000 to produce pilots and two of them will receive an extra $60,000 to produce their whole series.
“It might seem intimidating, but if you have a story to tell that’s reflective of your community, you should apply,” said Acharyya.
To view previous films produced by Storyhive winners, to learn more or to apply for a grant, visit storyhive.com.