Author: Judy Barlow, Citizen Journalist
It was a dream come true for one Central Saanich teen after entering a draw sponsored by the internationally acclaimed Gulf Islands Film and Television School (GIFTS) on Galiano Island. Fifteen-year-old Stelly’s Secondary School student, Kai Barlow was thrilled to win a runner-up prize – free tuition for a week of no-holds-barred immersion in film at GIFTS.
Offered her choice of documentary, drama, or video effects and animation, Kai followed her passion and opted for animation, working down in the “Nerd Hole” alongside two other computer geeks. Meanwhile drama and documentary students roamed the grounds shooting scenes for their films, before they too closeted themselves in post-production.
While the other animation team of two used some photography, Kai toiled alone day after day producing frame after frame of hand-drawn art. “I love animation. It would be hard to find anything I don’t love about it,” Kai exclaims. “Although my least favourite part is how long it takes to produce even a second of it. That’s just really annoying – how long it takes.”
GIFTS founder and Director, George Harris says, “[Kai] rocks the world. I never saw her not working… This young lady arrived here on Sunday night with a positive attitude and worked her butt off all week long. I don’t know how her film came out – How was it?”
Kai, “Thirteen seconds.”
George, “Well she worked real hard.”
To put that in perspective Kai does a little math for SVO readers. “We got up at 7:00; breakfast at 7:30. We started work at 8:30. We cut for lunch and again for dinner and we could work up until 10:00, or maybe 11:00… I worked about 14 hours a day for 5 days; that’s about 70 hours. My finished product was a collection of random stuff, called ‘Things I Like’. I had to do about 10 frames for 1 second of animation so I had a lot of frames to draw. I used Adobe Flash; Paint, which is pretty good for most videos; Final Cut Pro; and FX Animator.”
Working in drama, teen actor/director Ally Harris was enthusiastic about her GIFTS experience too. Says Ally, “This school is incredible and it’s fun. I learned a lot about filmmaking. I think it will help everyone in their later years. Everyone was so nice and it was very awesome.”
Everyone raved about the food. Kitchen assistant, actor, mentor, and all-round go-to guy, Tito Martin-Nemtin keeps the teens well fuelled and helps with production in any way he can. “It was interesting how I got this job… My mother was originally on the Board. When I first came here … I fell in love with the place. I thought that here was a place… where you could just be united with people who might be different, but at least they’ve got one thing in common; this drive to create something wonderful… I think everyone who goes to GIFTS finds something that they’re looking for. You work hard to make something you can be proud of and you learn to get along with other people. You learn something about the film business and about computer stuff, but it’s really about people. It’s always the people that come to GIFTS that make the school what it is.”
Kai agrees with Tito. She loved the camaraderie – being “one of the gang.” She has some advice for parents of teens. “This is a really great school. I think if you have a child at home you should ask if they would like to go there and then let them decide on their own. Everybody is there because they want to be; nobody has to make them go. And if that doesn’t say something great about the school then I don’t know what does. They’ll get some knowledge that will really help them in the future because technology these days is starting to take over everything.”
Kai can hardly wait to go back; the sooner the better. “Next time I’ll do animation again,” she confides. “But I’ll try some different things – more things I don’t already know; create different effects.”
GIFTS is an independent residential film school, established in 1995; the only one like it in Canada. In addition to various aspects of film production, courses are offered in visual effects, computer/3D animation, game design, and both music and extreme sports video production.