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Filmmakers Nicole Steeves, Struan Sutherland share some thoughts on their industry during Y-Con 2019

Struan Sutherland and Nicole Steeves, Halifax-based filmmakers, were in Yarmouth for this past weekend’s Y-Con gaming and comics event, where two of their films were screened. (Steeves is a former Yarmouth resident.)
Struan Sutherland and Nicole Steeves, Halifax-based filmmakers, were in Yarmouth for this past weekend’s Y-Con gaming and comics event, where two of their films were screened. (Steeves is a former Yarmouth resident.) - Eric Bourque

Listening to Nicole Steeves and Struan Sutherland offer advice to aspiring moviemakers, a famous sports marketing slogan comes to mind.

Steeves and Sutherland, Halifax-based filmmakers, were in Yarmouth over the weekend for the inaugural Y-Con gaming and comics event, where two of their movies would be screened: Aliens with Knives and a short called Dogged.

On Saturday afternoon they spoke about filmmaking to a small group that wanted to know – among other things – how to get started. Their advice? Simply put: just do it.

Sutherland noted that modern technology has made a potential moviemaker out of almost everyone. So, to those looking to take the first step, the message – one they spoke about further in an in interview with the Vanguard – is pretty basic.

“Just make movies,” Sutherland said. “Just use whatever you can. I mean, everyone has a cellphone now, so everyone can make a movie.”

Said Steeves, “And don’t be afraid to make a bad movie.”

Steeves is a former Yarmouthian. Sutherland is from Ontario.

Filmmaking can be discouraging in the early going, Steeves said, “because it’s such a visual medium and, you know, if you try it and the first thing isn’t great, it can be a little daunting, but I think it’s one of those things that you just have to do and do more of. Eventually you get better.”

Said Sutherland, “You pretty much have to make bad movies before you can make good ones ... You’ve got to learn by making mistakes.”

After graduating from high school in Yarmouth in 2004, Steeves attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, although she didn’t finish the program there and spent some time out West before coming back.

She got into moviemaking about six or seven years ago.

“I was working as a production assistant and a makeup artist,” she recalled.

Sutherland’s interest in filmmaking started at a younger age than hers.

“I started with cartoons, made a bunch of those, before I moved to Halifax in 2011,” he said. “I’m from Cambridge, Ontario. Once I moved here, I started getting involved in the film co-ops, started meeting people I could make things with ... It was a while before I actually started working on crews on films.”

Sutherland’s background also includes doing industrial and business videos.

(Aside from their own projects, Steeves and Sutherland work on the TV program These Woods Are Haunted.)

A few years ago, the film industry in Nova Scotia took a big hit when the province slashed the film tax credit. Asked to describe the filmmaking sector today, Steeves said, “I think it’s rebuilding. It just takes a while because it became so that productions were scared to come to the Atlantic provinces. There was uncertainly around it.”

It’s hard to find crews, she said, because so many people moved away.

Meanwhile, as for their own films and creative interests, Steeves said she and Sutherland love comedy.

“That’s basically all we do, whether it be horror comedy or sci-fi comedy,” she said. Sutherland added, “It’s usually dark comedy.”

Asked about Y-Con, Steeves said she was impressed with how those attending their session on filmmaking were engaged and asking questions, “which makes it so much better, because sometimes you can feel like you’re alone up there.”

Sean MacLellan was the session’s moderator.

Steeves said she and Sutherland are happy to be filmmakers and plan to keep doing it.

“Absolutely,” she said.  “I can’t think of anything else I’d want to do. Even just working on other people’s projects ... it’s pretty rewarding.”

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