The Sundance Film Festival typically does not impact the lives of Calgarians very much. Fans of the television show Entourage may vaguely recall seeing brief glimpses of the festival at one point, but the prototypical citizen remains blissfully unaware of the happenings in Park City, Utah for 10 days in Jan.
This year, however, Calgary's Cam Christiansen heads to Sundance not only as a film fan, but as a competitor. Christiansen's animated short I Have Seen the Future, based on a song by local musician Kris Demeanor, was one of 83 shorts selected from 5,107 submissions. What makes his experience unique is his relative inexperience with filmmaking.
"The one we got into Sundance with was basically the first film I've made," shares Christiansen. "I worked in the commercial side of things for the last eight years doing commercials and motion-type stuff for ad agencies and web development and stuff."
I Have Seen the Future began as an idea when Christiansen was selected to pitch projects at the Banff Centre's Interactive Screen new media program. Despite some hardships, the project found funding.
"We pitched at the Banff Centre but we didn't succeed at winning," remarks Christiansen. "Luckily we had a chance to meet Judy Gladstone from Bravo!FACT. They have a foundation to assist talent, so we got some funding through them to pursue this idea."
Despite being a first effort for Christiansen, I Have Seen the Future has met with positive response. In addition to being recognized by its selection to Sundance, the film was named one of the 10 best short films at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film's involvement in the festival is what gave Christiansen the confidence to apply to others.
"I didn't even apply for any festivals until Bravo applied on my behalf to Toronto," says Christiansen. "For me, I was actually just thinking it would be cool. I get [my film] on Bravo, it'll be on national TV and that'll be cool. I didn't really expect much else. Then I got word from them that the Toronto festival was interested in it. I got all excited and it made me inspired to apply absolutely everywhere, including Sundance and, at the time, I didn't know what to think about it. It's super-hard to get in there. A year later, I get a call from them and fell out of my chair."
Christiansen isn't about to rest on his laurels and enjoy his success. He's already hard at work on his followup project, based on Rheostatics guitarist Dave Binini's book Five Hole: Tales of Hockey Erotica. Instead of a six-minute short, though, his next project is going to be a full-length film.
"We're just in the process of developing it," says Christiansen. "It's gonna use a lot of the same techniques that I started messing around with my short--which is using motion capture data, computer modelling and animation--on a much more ambitious scale and hopefully with more ambitious results."
Increasing the length of a project tenfold doesn't necessarily mean that the project will take ten times as long to complete. While Christiansen's not entirely sure how long getting funding and making the film will take, he's aiming for it to take around a year.
"It's hard to know right now how it's all going to play out in terms of funding," he says. "It may take longer, but that's the kind of exciting thing about working in this digital era. It kind of makes it accessible. Things you can do now what you couldn't possibly do even five years ago."
While the work on his next project is underway, Christiansen is heading to Utah to enjoy some much-deserved time off. He's relishing being able to attend all 10 days of the Sundance Film Festival, especially the chance to meet festival magnate Robert Redford as a festival competitor.
"We just decided to go for it, enjoy it as much as possible," admits Christiansen. "I had heard from some other people that you could easily go ahead and continue to make movies for the next 20 years and make really great movies and still not get in there. You should just go and enjoy it. That's what everyone tells me, so that's what we're doing."
I Have Seen the Future can be downloaded between Jan. 17-27 at iTunes.com/sundance for $1.99 US. Check out more of Cam's work at www.anlanda.com.