Local filmmaker builds new friendships

Joanna Makes a Friend makes its Victoria debut at the Victoria Film Festival

Joanna (Dalila Bela) builds herself a robot companion named Edgar Allan Poebot, or EAP, in the short film Joanna Makes a Friend

Find out what a local filmmaker can do with a great story, $15,000, a taxidermy raven and an old Betamax VCR at the screening of the short film Joanna Makes a Friend in the Shorts Program: Beyond the Playground, Tuesday, Feb. 7 at the Capital 6 (Theatre 5, 9:45 p.m.).

Just over a year ago, director Jeremy Lutter pitched the short for the Motion Picture Production Industry Association (MPPIA) judges for the Short Film Awards at the Whistler Film Festival. Lutter came out on top, receiving $15,000 in cash and up to $100,000 of in-kind services to make the idea a reality.

The Broken Mirror Films and Like Minded Media production premiered at the Whistler Film Festival in December. Now Lutter is sending it out to festivals and looking for ways to turn the short film into a full-length feature. “I’m really excited to be bringing Joanna home for its second screening,” says Lutter.

He’s working with writer, and longtime friend, Ben Rollo to flush out the story. “We’re confident in the story because even as a short it has a complete story arc,” says Lutter.

It tells the story of Joanna (played by Dalila Bela), a dark and unusual little girl who has a hard time making friends and fitting in at school. She usually sits alone under a tree on the playground reading H.P. Lovecraft novels and making pencil sketches until one day she decides to take matters into her own hands. With parts discarded by her Betamax repairman father (Fred Ewanuick), Joanna builds herself a robot companion named Edgar Allan Poebot, or EAP.

Not to give it away, but this isn’t about being fulfilled by virtual companionship.

“It’s such a universal story. I understood what it’s like to be lonely because my family moved around a lot when I was a kid, and so I relate to Joanna,” says Lutter.

“The goal was to make the film as visually interesting as possible to attract an adult audience. This movie’s not just for kids,” he says. The 15-minute short is equal parts emotional rollercoaster and visual feast — featuring fantastic acting, stop-motion animation and quirky robotics.

Although Lutter and his team won a considerable amount of cash, it wasn’t enough to get EAP built, and they had no idea how to build a robot. They started an IndieGoGo campaign and raised $3,000 towards the cost. After Lutter purchased a pristine Betamax VCR, they hired Paxton Downard and Derek Lewis to build EAP.

The movie was filmed at Lord Selkirk elementary in Vancouver over the summer of 2011. Now the hunt for financing continues.

Lutter says he hopes he can find a producer who’s worked with family-friendly material in the past to help make the feature. “And I’d like to do it soon, before my actress grows up.”

Find out more at helpjoannamakeafriend.com. M

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