She’s for reel

Tara Bradbury
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‘Seconds’ by Jordan Canning among finalists being considered for award

The taste of snow on wool. Peeling an orange in one go. Playing with food.

Filmmaker Jordan Canning is interested in exploring memory; particularly, how specific and precise our memories can be.

“You can remember somebody in your life dying, but you might also remember the way a tap was dripping at that moment,” she explains.

Canning, 29, came up with a list of her own specific memories or life moments that were important to her — and an hour later, had the script for her latest short film, “Seconds.”

She filmed the five-minute piece earlier in the year, with $500 in funding from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and Royal Bank of Canada, sponsors of the Emerging Filmmakers Competition.

Last week, Canning was named one of five finalists in this year’s contest. Canning competed in TIFF’s four-day Talent Lab last year, when she and 23 other filmmakers were given the funding and “time” as a theme” to shoot their films.

“Seconds” was filmed over three days last February, in Toronto and St. John’s, with the help of filmmaker friends like Duncan De Young, Sam Pryse-Phillips and Jonathan Eagan.

“There’s a shot of Middle Cove Beach and shots from my parents’ house,” Canning says of the film.

“In Toronto, I used my grandmother and a lot of my real friends. It was just a really lovely, collaborative three days.

The film stars Gord Rand as Peter Grimsby, a man whose life flashes before his eyes when he chokes on a piece of meat. As he falls to the floor in slow motion, a sequence of beautifully-shot and narrated images — images brought to life from Canning’s personal list — is played: the Atlantic Ocean, his mother’s button tin, perfecting his signature and stealing his brother’s Halloween candy.

“It took me a while to figure out exactly what I wanted to do because time to me is a pretty vague thing,” Canning says.

“The film has a lot of little pieces, a whole lot of memories tied together, and it was really nice to be able to draw on so many people and so many images.”

A panel of judges will decide the winner and runner-up among the finalists — Canning, Johnny Ma, Cameron Labine, Nimisha Mukerji and Kaz Cai — awarding top prizes of $15,000 and $10,000. In the meantime, the public can watch all five short films on the competition website (, and vote for the $5,000 prize-winning Fan Favourite Award.

It’s not the only competition in which Canning’s got a shot — “Not Over Easy,” an animated short film she made in 2009, is currently one of nine semi-finalists in CBC TV’s “Short Film Face-Off.”

The first episode of the show (in which “Not Over Easy” is featured) airs today, and the show continues for the next two weeks, pitting three short films from across the country against each other.

Three finalists will be chosen overall and the films will be put online, with viewers given 24 hours after the end of the June 30 broadcast to vote for their favourite.

The winning director will receive a production deal worth $40,000 towards their next film, including the $30,000 Telefilm Canada Short Film Choice Award and a $10,000 film equipment rental package from PS Production Services.

“Not Over Easy” was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, the Nickel Independent and Women’s International film fests in St. John’s, and the Atlantic Film Festival, where it won the award for best music (Jody Richardson and Grant King were the composers).

“‘Not Over Easy is about a woman who finds a long-forgotten gift from her moron of a boyfriend and fantasizes about what it would be like to give him a second chance,” Canning explains.

The film, a mix of live action and stop-animation, was the first time Canning had ever ventured into the animation genre.

“It was awesome; completely different from doing a live action shoot, because it takes so much longer but it takes way fewer people,” she says.

“It’s a very calm and measured process, instead of flying by the seat of your pants. It turned out exactly how we imagined it, so that was really exciting.”

Canning thinks she might return to animation at some point and already has an idea for a hand-drawn animated film, but says it’s not high on her list at the moment.

She’s currently doing continuity for Rock Island Productions’ feature film “Hold Fast,” an adaptation of the iconic novel by Kevin Major.

“Oliver Bump’s Birthday,” another of Canning’s short films, which won the Golden Sheaf Award for Best Short Subject at last year’s Yorkton Film Festival, will screen at the Nickel festival later this month. Canning is also in the process of writing a second draft of “Oddly Flowers,” a feature-length adaptation of the award-winning novel “Come, Thou Tortoise” by local author Jessica Grant.

To be produced by Pope Productions, the film just received another round of funding and is one step closer to fruition.

While short films might not be a terrificly easy or lucrative career, Canning’s enjoying her successes and life for her is good, she says.

“It’s been a really busy and really good year. People ask how I’m doing and I keep saying, well, I’m not broke yet and I haven’t had to get a job waitressing.’”

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Royal Bank of Canada, Talent Lab, CBC PS Production Services

Geographic location: Toronto, Atlantic Ocean, New York Rock Island Yorkton

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