James Turpin isn’t the kind of guy who sits back and admires what he’s produced.
Critiquing his work is an important part of the process for this Yarmouth amateur filmmaker.
He says he likes to look at “this hobby” as one long process of learning to fix what he messed up in the last film.
“I try to hold onto that self-awareness and keep a good eye on what needs to be done better the next time,” he said. “It's the only way you can grow and not delude yourself into thinking your work is perfect already. And really, it just makes the whole thing a lot more fun, too.”
Most viewers would likely watch each of his short gems and not see any mistakes.
Two of Turpin’s films will be shown late Saturday night (11 p.m.) prior to Nicole Steeves & Struan Sutherland’s feature-length Aliens with Knives during the Y-Con Gaming and Comics Convention at the Rodd Grand Hotel. (For ticket price, contact Y-Con)
Turpin’s Headshot is a speculative fiction satire based on a short story by local writer Julian Mortimer Smith. It follows a soldier in the near future who is forced to rely on ordinary citizens at home voting on what actions he is allowed to take out in the field.
Clap Clap is Turpin’s latest short film. It’s a magical realist short that follows a woman with the ability to open any locked door just by clapping her hands over the lock.
Following is a Q&A with Turpin.
Are you working on anything now?
At the moment I’m in production on a very short three-or-four-minute film -- it follows two estranged brothers who have to meet and dispose of their recently departed mother's ashes. It relies less on actual narrative and is more focused on a slice-of-life, moment-in-time feel. I'm lucky to have two very good local actors, Dan Sherman and Stephen Arnold, on board.
Where do you get your ideas from?
There never is a singular, consistent source of ideas. Like most creators, I think I just tend to constantly be thinking about what to do next -- and when you think about something too much you tend to pick up a lot of random ideas. I do tend to think of my stories visually first, though. I'll get an idea of a certain shot and then try to think of a story that would evolve from it. Once that has happened, I then like to figure out the specifics of the story with help from my wife and friends -- it keeps things fresh and is a good way to get bad ideas shot down.
Are the actors/actresses all volunteers? Are you looking for more?
Yes, all my actors and crew are volunteers -- and I am too, really. My goal is not to make a profit, that's for sure, and I don't show my films for money or anything. I think of it more as a hobby or passion project. We're lucky to have an abnormally large theatre community in the area, and I've been very fortunate to have a lot of talented people willing to take part in my projects. I'm always looking for more people to get involved, though -- and one of my very long-term goals is to grow a bit of an amateur film community in the area. There are already a couple of us directing amateur films, so hopefully that will only snowball.
What are your aspirations with your films?
My long-term goal with my films is to try and grow a bit of an amateur film community in the area. I just love to have fun creating things with other people who share my interests.
What do you think the future is for film production in the province?
For an answer to that, I'm afraid you'd have to ask the professionals. As an amateur, I don't have the knowledge required to discuss the future of film in the province. There have been a few things of note shooting in the area, Southern-ish N.S. specifically -- Locke and Key, The Lighthouse, etc. -- so who knows. Hopefully it can grow into something bigger. Our region certainly has a unique feel, and it'd be great for larger productions to take notice.
Being an amateur filmmaker is a bit of a double-edged sword, as is being an amateur artist of most types, I suppose. It means the expectations for your work are pretty low, as no one is going to expect professional quality or polish. But it also means that you are unable to take advantage of the skills, technology, and knowledge available to those in the professional community -- and this does limit your work quite a bit. But I really do enjoy having the freedom to just think up an idea and go out and make it, and I'm lucky enough to have had a lot of support and help locally to do that. That freedom means a lot to me., and it allows me to just learn more naturally.
Want to watch these shorts online?