An award-winning filmmaker will deconstruct the documentary process at a UVic talk Thursday evening that is open to the public.
As a writer, director, executive producer and show-runner, Judith Pyke has travelled from the frozen lands of the High Arctic to the scorching streets of Liberia to follow her storytelling passion. She has interviewed a myriad of people ranging from top scientists and international figures to village locals and renowned artists like Lou Reed, Philip Glass and Stephen King.
“Filmmaking is my passion so I am always excited about it,” said Pyke. “I’m always challenging myself to tell the best story possible.”
Pyke will discuss the key pillars to what she believes makes a strong documentary, using her last two films as primary samples: Cracking Cancer, which aired on the Nature of Things last year; and Inseparable, which aired on CBC as part of CBC Docs POV.
Inseparable – the story of a set of conjoined 10-year-old twin girls in Vernon, B.C. – won a Remi Award at the 51st Annual Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival, and has also been nominated for a Golden Sheaf Award in the “Documentary History and Biography” category at the Yorkton Film Festival. Her 2017 documentary Cracking Cancer received a Canadian Screen Award nomination for “Best Direction in a Documentary”.
As the 2018 Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction for UVic’s writing department, Pyke has been commuting to UVic from Vancouver every Friday this semester to teach a one-off course about documentary filmmaking as part of the prestigious journalist-in-residence program.
While Pyke’s 50 students have had access to her 20 years of filmmaking experience over the last few months, Thursday’s talk will give the public a chance to see what goes into the process that has led Pyke to multiple awards.
“Some projects I work as a hired gun and some as an independent producer and director. Sometimes people will hire me to do a particular topic and other times I come up with the story on my own,” said Pyke. “It’s a mix of what I’m passionate about, and also what broadcasters are looking for. You get a commission when you are both on the same page.”
Cracking Cancer had Pyke in the role of a hired gun, directing and writing the film for Dreamfilm Productions. Inseparable was produced through her own company, Curious Features.
The academic path that Pyke took to get to where she is today began at UVic with an English degree before moving on to a graduate degree in Communications at Concordia and a Masters Degree in Political Science at York University.
“They are all relevant to what I do as a filmmaker,” said Pyke. “I loved going to UVic so it is really great to be back as an instructor. I’m basically teaching the course that I really wanted to take when I was there.”
The class has walked students through the documentary process from the initial idea for a film, through execution and completion of a film.
“The students are super keen and super bright. This group of students is really exceptional,” said Pyke of the class that wraps up the day after the public lecture.
After the class and talk wrap up, Pyke returns to Vancouver to dive back into juggling films and family.
“Balance is basically an impossible dream as a working mom. It’s a nice word. I like the sound of it,” said Pyke. “But having a kid has made me a better journalist. It makes me a better filmmaker. It is another way to connect with people.”
And documentary work is all about connecting with people.
“You have to take that first chance and reach out to people. Then you have to earn their trust. It is a process,” said Pyke. “I don’t think most people understand the amount of work that goes into a documentary.”
What: “Discovering Documentary: A Filmmaker’s Journey Through the Foundational Aspects of Documentary-Making”
When: Thursday, April 5, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Room 240, Human & Social Development Building, UVic
Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
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