The religion of art, on film

‘Vocation’ profiles people who didn’t choose to be artists; art chose them

Published on June 19, 2014
Canadian musician Bif Naked in a still from local filmmaker Rhonda Buckley’s latest documentary, “Vocation,” screening tonight at the LSPU Hall as part of the Nickel Independent Film Festival.
— Submitted photo

Filmmaker Deepa Mehta has a memory of being about five or six years old, and her father, a film distributor, taking her to a movie theatre. She can recall the plastic film, how it threaded through the projector, and reaching her small hand out to touch the screen.

“I remember putting my hand on this piece of cloth that seemed like magic; that something that came from a strip of plastic … got projected somehow through a lens and on a piece of cloth, and all these piece came alive and they could make you laugh or cry or want to sing,” Mehta says. “That was pure magic.”

Mehta, now an Oscar-nominated and Genie-winning director and screenwriter, is one of the artists profiled in local filmmaker Rhonda Buckley’s new documentary, “Vocation,” to premiere tonight at the Nickel Independent Film Festival in St. John’s. The film profiles people who knew they wanted to be artists early in life and, against all odds, continue to make a living in art. Writer/performer Andy Jones, Hollywood director Brad Peyton of Gander, visual artist Christopher Pratt, musician Bif Naked and Quebec actress/theatre director Marie Brassard feature in “Vocation” alongside Mehta.

“More than art as religion, they are artists and they had a calling,” explains Buckley. “It’s about calling, fate and faith. Many artists will say they aren’t sure if they decided to be an artist or not. It just felt like they had to be one. That is who they are and what they have to do.”

Buckley, who has produced or co-produced films such as “Crackie” and has directed and produced a handful of documentaries for CBC, aims to understand why each of the artists chose art as their career, and how their passion has driven them to continue working through tough or challenging circumstances. In some cases, she says, the artists reveal it was the work that chose them and not the other way around.

“Also, in fairness, all of these artists aren’t using traditional means of art to make their living, in my mind,” Buckley says. “They are all bringing up brilliant ideas and challenging thoughts in our daily life and experimenting with the media that they use.”

The Nickel Film Festival began Wednesday and will continue today with a daylong screenplay workshop with filmmaker Justin Simms. “Vocation” will screen at the LSPU Hall along with “Two Penny Road Kill,” “Windows of Wonder,” “The Murderer,” “Unknown File Type” and “Complete,” starting at 7 p.m. For tickets, visit

Twitter: @tara_bradbury