Vancouver filmmaker Jason Karman has lost track of how many of his films have appeared in the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
“I stopped counting. Is that bad?” say Karman. “It’s not about numbers, it’s about self-expression, finding new things and putting them out there. I can’t call myself a filmmaker unless I make films.”
While Karman says it is become increasingly more difficult each year to find the time to make films, the fact he has two in this year’s annual celebration of LGBTQ movies speaks volumes to his passion for the art.
“I saw a really beautiful piece performed at Ballet BC that was choreographed by Nicolo Fonte,” says Karman of the inspiration for his five minute short. “It was a very moving male duet, a metaphor of a male relationship and I wanted to put it on film.”
While Karman was unable to secure the funding for that particular Ballet BC piece, the choreographer eventually offered another similarly themed dance.
“While we couldn’t get funding for the Ballet BC piece I kept up with Nicolo and he showed me a piece that he had done with Oregon Ballet Theatre, and that is what we used on screen,” says Karman.
Acknowledging that dance doesn’t always translate well to film, Karman says it was with the help of Fonte during filming that ensured The Promise would be successful.
“Nicolo was this amazing translator between the film crew and the dance world with an exquisite terminology that we were not familiar with,” he says.
Three years in the making, Karman is not only again exploring the medium of dance on film, it was also his first foray into 3D filmmaking.
“Dance lends itself well to 3D as it best recreates volume, and there is something about the shape of the human body recreating in 3D that you don’t get in 2D,” he says.
Despite being filmed in 3D, the version premiering at the Queer Film Festival will be shown in traditional 2D format.
“Maybe things will change between now and August 13, but the first 3D screening will be on October 28 with a number of other locally made 3D films at Pacific Cinematheque,” he says.
On the opposite side of the spectrum comes Karman’s second short, Two-Sided Ride.
“Where The Promise was bogged down by technology, with Two-Sided Ride I went in with the simplest technology possible, using an iPhone and a DSLR camera,” says Karman.
Calling the process of making Two-Sided Ride liberating when compared to The Promise, this nine minute short follows Alex, a hopeless romantic looking to make a love connection in the big city as an Uber driver.
Coming out of a competition sponsored by Toronto’s RT Collective in 2015, Two-Sided Ride takes place inside a car-for-hire, and told via the use of a dash cam. But while it might not incorporate the technological sophistication of his 3D film, that doesn’t mean it didn’t come with its own challenges.
“We did a lot of preparations because the background was important,” says Karman. “What was showing in the rear view mirror is indicative of what the driver was going through, with specific locations coinciding with the state of the character.”
Audiences will have to watch closely for those connections, including the opening and closing scenes of the film, representing the growth of its central character.
“In the beginning Alex is going through tunnel, representing him being trapped,” explains Karman. “In the end, at the playground, it is a completely different feel; open, with an opportunity to explore and grow.”
While Karman’s two films may be miles apart in how they were filmed, like The Promise, Two-Sided Ride also uses dance, albeit in a more subtle way, to help tell its story.
“I always thought because I was an immigrant I was limited, with language always being an issue,” says Karman. “I was trying to find ways to tell stories without the limitation of words, to transcend different groups and cultures. Dance is that form for me.”
The Promise and Two-Sided Ride play as part of the Coast is Queer at the 2016 Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Visit http://queerfilmfestival.ca for tickets and information.