When Film and Video Arts Society Alberta, or FAVA, first started in 1982, it was about 15 people crowded around the kitchen table of whoever could host the evening. FAVA president and 14-year member Eva Colmers says it was originally just a meeting of great minds, not what it is today, a 400-member artist-run co-op for film education, equipment rentals and mentorship.
“FAVA had zero equipment at its beginning,” she says. “People mainly got together to talk about their plans of making a movie, how to go about it
and how to help each other.”
Over the decades, members and the NFB donated their own equipment and the Canada Council lended some, too. As the non-profit society celebrates its 30th birthday this year, it boasts an extensive inventory of camera, film, audio and lighting equipment, and high-resolution cameras considered high-end even by Hollywood standards.
But, says prize-winning filmmaker Trevor Anderson, what FAVA really delivers to its members is a “punk, grassroots, do-it-yourself attitude” that’s helped him create all his films.
In fact, Anderson, who is also FAVA’s director of programming, says without this attitude, his documentary, The High Level Bridge, probably would have ended up tossed in a drawer. Instead, it enjoyed an international film festival circuit that won it recognition from AFI, Sundance and Roger Ebert himself.
(He can add one late addition to its trophy collection; an independent committee gave Anderson’s 2010 film the inaugural Award of Excellence in March as part of the festival FAVA launched for its 30th anniversary.)
Anderson looks poised to repeat this success with The Man That Got Away, his new musical about his Uncle Jimmy, which already won him a short film prize and three-month residency from Berlin’s international film festival.
Anderson had been tossing around the idea for years — there were many ways to tell the story of his tap-dancing uncle who ended up in rehab with Judy Garland — but with the help of FAVA member actors and technicians, the organization’s high-end equipment and its DIY-attitude, it came together.
Since its inception, says Colmers, one of FAVA’s goals has been to prove that you can “be creative even with a smaller budget.”
She’s proving it with The Weightless Traveller, a film shot on a big shadow screen that has since been viewed by audiences in Sri Lanka, the Netherlands and the U.S. It was made with the help of the FAVA Lisa Trofimova Video Award, which covered some costs of production.
“Thirty years ago,” says Anderson, “someone decided, ‘Let’s pool our money instead of spending our life savings on gear.’ Now, when someone wants to learn, they don’t have to move away or pay tuition at a school; they can come to FAVA.”
See the five winners of FAVA’s inaugural Awards of Excellence at Metro Cinema on May 23.