Victoria filmmaker Connor Gaston premiered his debut feature film The Devout at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea simultaneously this month. Pictured on the BIFF red carpet are (from the left): producer Amanda Verhagen, executive producer Daniel Hogg, actor Charlie Carrik, actress Ali Liebert, Gaston and visual effects artist Denver Jackson.

Victoria film premiers in top Canadian, Asian festivals

Former UVic student's thesis project celebrated globally

Last October during the Vancouver International Film Festival, Connor Gaston was attending church in  Vancouver as research for The Devout, his debut feature film set in evangelical, small town B.C. This year, the Victoria auteur was notably absent from VIFF, where he was honoured with a Best Emerging B.C. Filmmaker award at the world premier screening. The University of Victoria alumnus was in Busan, South Korea for The Devout’s international premiere at the Busan International Film Festival (Oct. 1 – 10), the largest film festival in Asia.

“I just want to make something that’s good, that I like, that people can relate to,” Gaston said, exhausted after a night of A-list party hopping the night prior with his fellow UVic alumn: executive producer Daniel Hogg and producer Amanda Verhagen. The trio made the trip alongside The Devout‘s visual effects artist Denver Jackson and lead actors Charlie Carrick and Ali Liebert of Vancouver.

The Toronto International Film Festival, where Gaston’s last short film Godhead premiered in 2014, was their initial goal for the film. “I just didn’t expect to get into Busan,” he added.

And in its first week before the public, The Devout has continued to exceed expectations. From throngs of fans demanding autographs post-screening, to insightful questions from some 250 middle school students who sold out one show, the Korean reaction to Gaston’s MFA thesis project underlines the 26 year old’s ease for telling stories that reach beyond cultural divides.

The Devout follows a Christian school teacher Darryl (Carrick) through a crisis of faith after hearing his terminally ill daughter Abi (Olivia Martin) claims to have had a past life as an astronaut aboard the Apollo 1 space mission. Darryl risks his marriage to Jan (Liebert) and his last days with their child to determine if she has lived before and will live again. It’s a story inspired by Gaston’s own claims as a four-year-old child, and one that he had some trepidation over telling for fear of offending Christians.

“My parents tell me all the time,” Gaston said. “I said I was a carpenter named Mark and that I fell off a roof and I had a black dog. … (The theory is) you’re still connected to the past when you’re young and you have a certain time frame when you can ask.”

The story was originally about a young boy, but when an open call at a Gordon Head preschool led to Martin, Gaston adapted the script. The four-year-old was a natural, both on screen and before a live audience in Vancouver where she fielded a post-screening Q & A while her co-stars were in Busan.

“Every day she’d walk on the set saying hi to everyone,” Hogg said. “She was so happy to be there. And I think we had sugary cereals at crafty that she wasn’t allowed to have a home.”

“Ali did this genius thing where she’d play with Olivia between takes. Then they were really comfortable with each other and she would really listen,” Verhagen said. “It also kept the mood light.”

The film was funded by Telefilm Canada, the B.C. Arts Council and private investors. It was supported by Cinevic: Society of Independent Filmmakers, shot on Vancouver Island and features locations across Greater Victoria.

Once Gaston returns to the Island, he’ll begin work on The Cameraman, a short based on the novel by his father, Bill Gaston, and made possible by the Harold Greenberg Fund Shorts-to-Features program. The project goes to camera early next year.

 

Just Posted

Victoria Royals on a roll heading into WHL season opening weekend

Team looks to gain revenge on Prince George after pre-season loss to Cougars

Indian and Western music combine at the Mary Winspear

Harry Manx and Emily Carr String Quartet play Sept. 23

Trio of high-powered explorers unveiled for new NatGeo Live season

Royal and McPherson Theatres Society bringing next wave of presenters to town

Frankenstein in Fernwood: Theatre Inconnu mounts gothic horror story

Director Ian Case adding another Halloween thriller to his resume

Victoria Symphony opens new season with return of Mahler, Berg compositions

Monday’s performance will also feature internally acclaimed soprano Leslie Ann Bradley

VIDEO: Rifflandia has Victoria dancing in the streets

As the Rifftop Tent is coming to a close and the crowd… Continue reading

‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Mrs. Maisel’ triumph at Emmys

In a ceremony that started out congratulating TV academy voters for the most historically diverse field of nominees yet, the early awards all went solely to whites.

VIDEO: Young B.C. musician sings with the Foo Fighters

Stranger Than Fiction’s Madi Duncan from Port Alberni was invited up on stage at the Vancouver show

Victoria’s Ethiopian community welcomes in the year 2011

Area residents celebrate Ethiopian New Year on Sept. 12, based on the Julian calendar

Mansbridge: iconic Canadian newsman coming to Sidney

Former host of CBC’s The National part of Mary Winspear Centre speaker series

Could #MeToo lead to equal pay for actresses?

Salma Hyeck says these once-taboo topics are the talk of the town, leading to change both on- and off-screen

Ken Lavigne sings your favourites (and his) on Islands concert tour

Popular tenor performing seven concerts at six venues over six days

Drake apologizes to fans for TIFF no-show, but offers little explanation

Drake offered his apologizes to moviegoers at Toronto International Film Festival, but gave little explanation as to why he bailed on his opening night event in the first place.

Vintage fans over the moon for Crystal Garden expo

Annual event features plenty of ways to celebrate fashion through the decades

Most Read