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John Hopkins

by Dave Stewart

A youthful John HopkinsI’ve known John for a long time through osmosis via the local film community. I’ve seen some of his projects, I’ve been a member of the Island Media Arts Co-op with him, and I’ve had chats with him, but I’ve never gotten in-depth with him about what makes him tick film-wise. Here, in less than 550 words, is an attempt to get at the tip of the iceburg.

Dave: I imagine you grew up in a very creative environment. Can you tell me about that?

John: My whole life from Day One has all been about the act of art, and notions of creative concepts. Hilda Woolnough, my mother, was a dedicated full-time professional artist, and we’ve always had a studio everywhere we lived, and original art works about the house. Reshard Gool, my mother’s partner, was a poet and novelist and had an amazing vinyl jazz collection, so it was an “arts and letters” household.

Dave: What lead you to filmmaking?

John: I came to media through Martin Dorrell who was an executive producer for CBC Radio here. I worked as a freelance radio journalist. My training was very simple: “This is a micro-phone, and this is a tape recorder. And this is audio tape and a cutting-block. You take this razor and you cut. That is called an ‘edit.’ Then you tape the two pieces together. Now go out there lad, and good luck.” And with that he was gone and that was it, the 5 minutes that changed my life in this direction.

Dave: Tell me about your filmmaking and some of your projects…

John: I’m interested in stories that take us out of our perspective of what we think is going on in a dramatic or doc and then turn that inside out. All of my projects reveal parts of me, and what I am interested in, and I express them through the stories I tell as per my experience, and evolution of stages in my life. Portfolio was about time management and a loss of control, and about my dream of developing as an artist and an image-maker. Johnston was again about how one’s destiny is out of one’s hands, as pre-determined by the cogs and wheels of the society we live in. With Timepiece, I’ve broken away from those themes, and made a very personal film about my mother and about a person who is an example of how one can coalesce a lifetime of experience and failings in one’s experiments in creativity, and how that can be turned into an artwork of magnitude built upon “accidents and mistakes,” as Hilda described them.

Dave: What’s next for you?

John: My company, Square Deal Productions Atlantic Inc., has begun developing a new series on flyfishing for Atlantic Salmon, spanning two continents and cultures born of the same roots and history ( I’ve been in discussions with the National Film Board and the Province on a documentary from the perspective of inshore Island fishers. I’m also going to do a second film on Hilda based on seven diaries I found in her studios, and I’m continuing to shoot TV commercials to allow me the income to keep the wolves at bay while I develop and make larger documentaries and series as described above.

Donna Davies

Island Imagemakers
by Dave Stewart

Director and producer Donna Davies of Ruby Tree FilmsYears ago, I sat on the Island Media Arts Co-op board with Donna. A talented filmmaker who left PEI for Halifax, I’d always wanted to know more about her filmmaking, so…

Dave: How did you get into filmmaking?

Donna: I was trying to get my short stories published and saw an ad for a screenwriting and filmmaking workshop for women. I ended up in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia with about 50 other women. That program kick started the careers of quite a few filmmakers. I started Washday Productions with Halifax writer Shandi Mitchell right after that, and we shot our first film, Gasoline Puddles, a few months later. The day we finished shooting we dropped the footage off at the National Film Board in Halifax for processing. A few hours later, the Halifax Film Board burned to the ground and all of our footage was destroyed. It was an interesting start. We eventually raised the money and re-shot the film a year later. After making a few other short dramatic films including A Space For Sara, I ended up making a documentary about psychics with the NFB. That led to a few more years at the Film Board making a feature length doc about folk music called A Sigh and A Wish that featured Pete Seeger.

Dave: You started Sorcery Films Ltd in 2002. Do you see yourself more as a director or as a producer?

Donna: I just started up a new company called Ruby Tree Films. I actually started out as a writer/director. Producing is something I kind of grew into. I consider myself primarily a storyteller. It occurred to me pretty quickly that if you want to tell your own stories, your own way, you need to have control of where the money goes. Producing gives you more control over what ends up on the screen.

Dave: How would you describe yourself as a filmmaker?

Donna: I’m quirky, obsessed, and maybe even a bit fanatical about certain things. Like lighting. Lighting is really important to me and I spend a lot of time working out the look for each of my films. Same with the music. I use original music in my films and have worked with some great musicians and composers like Mary Jane Lamond, Asif Illyas of MIR and PEI’s Chris Corrigan who composed the music for Kitchen Goddess. I’m not a total control freak…. I leave room to collaborate with my crew throughout the process.

Dave: Was the move from PEI to Halifax a necessary one industry-wise?

Donna: Yes, I made a couple of short films in PEI but found that I couldn’t make a full time living. I still consider myself an Island filmmaker. Most of my stories are inspired by the Island and I film here whenever I can. There’s a huge amount of talent here. My plan is to make a feature film, or a TV series here in the next few years.

Dave: What’s next for you?

Donna: I’m heading to Los Angeles in August to begin filming a feature documentary for the Movie Network. Nightmare Factory looks at the changing role of special FX in the film industry. Oh yes, and I’m working on a werewolf musical. Seriously! Don’t ask.

Jeremy Larter

Island Imagemakers
by Dave Stewart

Jeremy Larter at work turning something small into something big (photo: Dave Stewart)One day before The Buzz deadline. Two new messages in my Facebook inbox. One is from Jeremy Larter, responding to my filmmaker Q&A. It goes like this:

Dave: How would you describe yourself as a filmmaker?

Jeremy: A work in progress. I’d like to keep learning my craft to the point where I feel like I can tackle any type of film. I love making comedies, but my interests as a filmmaker lie outside that genre.

Dave: People on the Island really became aware of you from Profile PEI. What was your filmmaking background before that?

Jeremy: I started making short films with classmates in high school. I took workshops and university courses in film history. I moved to Toronto in 2003 and studied acting, and then graduated from the post-graduate film program at Sheridan College in 2005. I moved back to PEI and kept shooting footage on my own. I was teaching myself how to edit and made about a dozen short films between college and Profile PEI. I have been a member of The Island Media Arts Co-op for a number of years. It is a great resource for anybody interested in filmmaking.

Dave: How has your filmmaking changed since then?

Jeremy: One of the most challenging things to learn as a filmmaker is how to tell a comprehensible story. It is something that we take for granted when we watch professionally made TV and films. I think I’m better able to do that now.

Dave: Any movie making role models?

Jeremy: Spike Jonze. I would love to have the type of career he has had. He started out making skate boarding videos, then music videos, and then great feature films. Paul Thomas Anderson, Alexander Payne and Hal Ashby are other directors I admire.

Dave: Which of your projects best reflects what you’d like people to see from you? Why?

Jeremy: Profile PEI. It appealed to a lot of different people all over the place. I still get messages from people who are discovering it for the first time and how much they enjoy it. We were really ambitious, and were fortunate to have a dedicated team of people pulling it off week after week.

Dave: Tell me about your new web series…

Jeremy: Well, we haven’t completely settled on a name yet but the working title is Ponderings. The videos focus on two unnamed characters played by myself and Robbie Moses. Most videos will begin with a question. Robbie and I will be in a different location every time. Each video will run between a minute and half and two and half minutes. The subject matter we talk about will range from evolution, the universe, attractiveness, the importance of thrusting in sexual intercourse, cat penises, life after death, musical tastes, the meaning of life, etc. There will be guest characters coming in during certain episodes as well. You can find Ponderings at We will release one episode in May to give people a taste, and then weekly episodes will be released in June.

Dave: What’s next?

Jeremy: I’m working on two feature film scripts. There is another web series in the works called 3 Bass Players and it is almost written. We’ll keep posting new short films between web projects at

Rob MacDonald and Jason Rogerson

Island Imagemakers
by Dave Stewart

Cast and crew shooting a scene of Bunkerdown, the newest Sketch-22 projectExt. Ch’town Street/Int. Editing Suite—Day

Rob MacDonald gets an e-mail from Dave Stewart on his iPod while heading for a coffee. Jason Rogerson gets the same e-mail on his Mac while editing a TV ad at Moses Media.

Dave: Why do you make movies?

Rob: I have a lot of important and personal things I need to say about the state of society, humanity as we plummet into the abyss of immorality. Nah, just kidding. The real reason is I just like making people laugh. I don’t see myself as a filmmaker. That’s too serious and high-falutin’ a moniker to give myself. I see myself as a guy who makes fun little videos and sketches.

Jay: Preservation of sanity. Which is ironic when you think about all the work involved. Plus, I love making people laugh and forget about their troubles for a while.

Dave: How’d you start doing this kind of stuff?

Rob: Back when I was in a live sketch show called “Annekenstein,” we dabbled a bit in creating really simple videos. I’d also occasionally create stupid videos with my friends, just for fun. After that I partnered up with a friend named Dave Stewart and we created a few short films.  With Sketch-22, incorporating sketch videos into the live show was always part of our plan.

Jay: I’ve always written. Then I studied Film & Video at York and came home to do…theatre! But I couldn’t resist getting some video into it. Sketch-22 has really been the best of both of those worlds, and a great opportunity to develop my skills as a filmmaker.

Dave: Gimme the one-liner for your latest project.

Jay:  Surviving the bomb was easy compared to this. Wait. That’s a tagline… After the world ends, seven people are the future of humankind. We’re in big trouble… Why can’t I get it in one line?? Rob!!

Rob: “Bunkerdown” is a science fiction comedy web series about a group of disparate and desperate people who are forced to live and survive in an under-stocked bunker after a cataclysmic event wipes out the world’s population 400 years in our future.

Dave: Tell me about splitting writing/directing roles on Bunkerdown.

Rob: Generally in Sketch-22, the person who writes a video sketch is the person who’ll also direct it. It made sense to continue that tradition with this series. Our goal was to shoot two episodes each weekend, and to shoot them in the order in which they’d appear. It turned out that each weekend, we’d shoot a script Jason wrote and a script I wrote. When I directed, I’d occasionally look to Jason for his assistance and opinions, and when Jason directed, he’d occasionally look to me.

Jay: Rob and I split the writing down the middle, writing five episodes each. Then we each directed the episodes we wrote. We’re so democratic. The fact that we’re splitting this interview only reinforces that. Unless I get a bigger word count. Hint, hint. Crantinis on me, Dave…

Dave: Where can we see it?

Rob: Jason’s the producer. I don’t concern myself with any of that detail mumbo-jumbo.

Dave Moses

Island Imagemakers
by Dave Stewart

Dave Moses juggling son Hector, writing, answering Buzz interview questions and snapping webcam photos. Int. Vancouver Condo – Day

DAVE MOSES sits at his computer. A DING! indicates “You’ve Got Mail.” It’s from DAVE STEWART.

Stewart: Gimme the one-liner for 'Hiccups', the show you’ve just finished working on.

Moses: It’s about a children’s author with anger management issues who finds a life coach who is just inept enough to help her out.

Stewart: Who’s in it?

Moses: Nancy Robertson and Brent Butt are the stars but there’s a great supporting cast too.

Stewart : Where can we see it?

Moses : Monday nights on CTV starting March 1. Check schedule for time.

Stewart : What was your position on the show?

Moses : I was a story editor and one of the writers. Which involves coming up with stories, and writing and rewriting scripts. It’s very glamourous.

Stewart : How was the experience?

Moses : It was a great experience. Andrew Carr and Dylan Wertz were the other guys in the room and most days were spent trying to make one another laugh. It’s nice work if you can get it. p.s. In case you didn’t know, Brent Butt is funny!

Stewart : Any good behind the scenes stories; Did Brent Butt demand only red M&Ms?

Moses : Brent is so big now that M&Ms sort themselves in his presence. It think one of the craziest things that happened was Brent broke a couple of fingers half way through shooting and several scripts required last minute rewrites to accommodate the huge cast on his hand.

Stewart : What other TV projects have you been involved with?

Moses : Robson Arms, Heartland, and many other shows that never lived long enough to be put in front of the camera.

Stewart : How did you get in to writing for TV?

Moses : Long story … but I’ll make it into a Haiku:

Workshopping a script

A series sought new writers

I kept my mouth shut

Stewart : Was writing for TV as opposed to say film a goal?

Moses : I think the goal was just to get paid to write. Even back in the day when Rob MacDonald and I were pumping out Annekenstein skits I don’t think we ever said: “But what I really want to do is features.” I think we just thought: “Wouldn’t it be great to be paid to do this?”

Stewart : You’re located in Vancouver now. Can what you’re doing be done in PEI?

Moses : Well, I still have Moses Media, my production company on PEI! Really we’ve just taken advantage of a business opportunity and opened a west coast branch.  But I’ve got great people back home like Beryl and Jason holding down the fort. I don’t know if I could do what I do here there. At least, I don’t know if I could get paid for it. But the plan is still to one day pitch a show that we could produce there. In the meantime there’s still lots to learn.

Stewart : What’s next for you?

Moses : I have no idea. I was just working on a show that got the plug pulled on it. My agent is asking me if I’m interested in working on an explicit sex comedy. And I’ve got a pile of my own little pitches that I’m working on and it’d be great to get one of those in development.

Fox Henderson

Island Imagemakers
by Dave Stewart

Fox Henderson applies a prosthetic application to Natasha Kudashkina behind the scenes of his “1940s Film Noir... but with demons” called Cronus.Int. FX Studio/Computer Lab–late night

I expect Fox Henderson to be kind of shy, but as he enters the lab, he warns me that he’ll probably swear a lot. He doesn’t. He does, however, have a lot of film projects, both behind him and ahead of him, to discuss.

Dave: What got you in to movie making?

Fox: When I was a kid living out in Murray Harbour North, there was no outlet. So in high school I’d done basically a Ghostbusters movie, and that was the first. You know, editing from tape-to-tape on two VHS recorders. And then I got back into it twelve years ago as I was learning computer animation, and it was all available on one single computer. The moviemaking thing is ultimately just a hobby. I have no desire to become a filmmaker, it was just something I did for fun.

Dave: It’s a way to get your effects work out there…

Fox: Yeah, that’s what it became. The first one I did, I’d literally written every scene around some sort of little visual effect that I knew I could probably do. Then I did a feature six years ago, and it involved major visual and special effects. It was called The Monkey Rodeo: Malice. We used over 40 prosthetics and there were five main characters that were totally computer generated. And it’s like, well, to do another feature is just going to be a pain in the ass. Forget it, we’ll just do a bunch of shorts and make it more interesting that way. Every movie became, “Okay, let’s find something new that we can challenge ourselves with technically or whatnot, whether it was in the editing, the writing, the acting, visuals, or the effects.” Hopefully there’s something in each film that’s really unique.

Dave: Sounds like effects are your primary interest when you make a movie…

Fox: More and more it’s becoming that. I’m starting my own business called The Monkey Rodeo ( I have six or seven other short films that we’re doing over the course of the next year, and they all involve a certain amount of prosthetic work and prop making. I’m making all this stuff and there’s molds that just get wasted. And I thought, “Start making them for mass production, and that way, all the effects I do end up kind of paying for themselves.” So the short films have kind of become the launching pad.

Dave: How many films have you made?

Fox: Probably into the 40s. Most of them are short films, some good, some bad, some I’ve managed to destroy all copies of because they were so bad. Only one feature, Malice, but I still have yet to finish up the second feature. Some of them are computer animated.

Dave: Which three films of yours should people seek out?

Fox: The Conspirators. It’s these four bank robbers before this big bank heist, and they’re basically trying to steal the gateway key to Hell. I’m fairly proud of Bimbo Zombie Killers, and probably The Last Days of Death, one of the first ones I made. Basically it’s about the Grim Reaper losing his job.

Dave: What’s next?

Fox: I have two to finish up that were already shot, but we’re sort of doing pre-production on an 80s-style slasher flick. We had so much fun with Bimbo Zombies. That style, you can just throw crap on the camera and it comes out fun if you know the genre well enough. We’re also doing a musical called Social Lives of the Undead, and it’s a zombie love story musical. The latest one that I’m hoping to get out is The Invasion of the Horrible Alien Brain Monsters from Outer Space in 3-D. It’s an Ed Wood-style movie. We’re going to make it in 3-D. We tried to do as much as they would have done it back then, like no computer animation. The visual effects are so incredibly crappy and minimal, and the acting is over the top. It’s that whole 1940s-1950s bad sci-fi Atomic Age Monster Movie. It’s terrible.

Dave: Terrible … in a good way…

Fox: Oh yeah, like it’s absolutely hilarious. It’s one of those things though. Even with Bimbo Zombie Killers, that was meant to be kind of a ’70s zombie slasher flick. But there was a small percentage of people who didn’t get it. I’m kind of surprised by that. People actually thought I was trying to make a serious movie.

We’ve got to fade to black, but you can check out some of Fox’s films on Youtube by searching “Bureau 51” or “The Monkey Rodeo.”

Peter Murphy

Island Imagemakers

by Dave Stewart

Pete MurphyInt. Office Meeting Room—Noon

Peter Murphy, self described as “big and gregarious,” sits at the far end of the conference table. He’s dressed for winter—scarf wrapped around his neck, face red from the cold, sunglasses hide his eyes.

Dave: Tell me about your background.

Peter: I drew comic books for ten years. I was asked by some pretty shady companies to draw some pretty crappy stuff. And I wanted the money, but at the same time, you gotta draw the line. So I said, “I’m going to do what makes me happy.”

Dave: Then the transition to film?

Peter: We were watching TV and there was some kinda crap on, and I turned it off and said, “No more.”  And from then on, I just didn’t watch TV anymore.

Dave: Like Film Threat Magazine’s motto: “If you don’t like movies, make your own.” How many films have you made?

Peter: 15 or 16. Three features.

Dave: What was your first project?

Peter: “Stravinsky’s Folly” was a big learning experience. I look back and I shudder about all the mistakes I made. It was an unwieldy 120 minutes when I finished it and I managed to cut it down to 100 or 90. I didn’t know how to edit. I was learning. Being an idiot, I shot on VHS, then transferred to digital.

Dave: And then?

Peter: Things changed when CBC called. They really liked the idea,“Bridging Gaps”, I’d pitched for their late night show “ZeD”. This was the big money job that got me my camera and my computer for editing.

Dave: How would you describe the way you make movies?

Peter: Is there something wilder than guerilla?

Dave: Yeti?

Peter: Abominable Snowman! I work other people’s shoots where you spend at least a couple of hours lugging gear and staring at the wall waiting to get started. No, no, no. My dad taught me, he was a carpenter, if you have a hammer and nails, you better drive ‘em. If you’ve got a camera and an editing bay, you’d better use it.

Dave: What’s your latest project.

Peter: “Dead Run.” My plan was to make a vampire nun film. And then I was watching “Run Lola Run,” and I turned to my son, “You know what’d be good? A beautiful girl running…” And my son says, “Yeah. From zombies!” I said, “I gotta go.” And I spent the next couple of months writing it. It’s about a young girl running through a nearly deserted city to save a little boy from the zombie apocalypse. It stars Lori Jameson and Andrew Weir. And then we’ve got Gordon Cobb. Cobb’s like having Burt Lancaster in your cast. We’ve got Corin McFadden who steals every scene. Wait til you see Corin and Patrick Poirier together. They’re like Laurel and Hardy. And Jason Furness as the crooked cop. This was so much fun. I just hope that the fun translates onto the screen.

Good to Go

The Best Thing
by Dave Stewart

In lieu of a BIG EVENT, the best thing that happened to me this summer was that I had a glimpse of how good I've got it. For no particular reason that I can think of, I was struck with the notion that what I have now, I won't always have. It wasn't an epiphany, it was just a fleeting thing. More of a "Huh..." than a "Eureka!"

Here I was, surviving yet another summer without being mauled by a bear while camping in New Brunswick (I'd die of fright as soon as one appeared anyway), or jumping off the Ferris Wheel at Old Home Week because I was on LSD and I thought I was Jesus. What I'm saying is that, despite 20 extra pounds of hideous man-fat, I'm alive. Right now all systems are go. Stay tuned as, 30 years later, Dave is promenaded around Victoria Park against his will by something out of a Diane Arbus photo.

(I had originally started this next paragraph with the phrase "Right now", but two of those in a row made me feel like I was writing a Van Halen song, and that's just dirty. So...) At this point in time, I've got great people around me. My folks are alive and reasonably well and they always look out for me (Mess with me and they'll put a cap in your ass). I've got a partner who is, no fooling, solid gold (50,000,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong). I've got a group of friends, who are kind, creative, and/or brainy (some are even a Biggie-Sized Combo of all three).

There's the basics too, which are all covered: roof-over-head, food-in stomach, meaningful employment, good teeth. And there's the frills, which jazz things up. For me that's interesting side projects, really cool movies, and music (Let's face it, if you don't like one form of music or another, you're already dead).

So, everything's Archie with me. At the risk of sounding like a "Very Special" Thanksgiving Edition of The Buzz, I'm happy with what's going on with me today... at this point in time... right now. I guess that's a better "Best Thing That Happened to Me This Summer" than a week at camp.

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