University of Victoria theatre grad Emily Piggford stars in Frost as Naya

Spotlight on Victoria talent at TIFF

Filmmaker, actress debut at prestigious Toronto International Film Festival

As filmmakers, actors and fans from around the world descend on Toronto for the Toronto International Film Festival, Greater Victoria won’t go unrepresented.

Jeremy Ball, with his film Frost, is one of two Victoria-raised directors making their TIFF debuts this week. Frost stars recent University of Victoria theatre department grad Emily Piggford as Naya, a young arctic hunter in search of food.

The 13- minute sci-fi thriller, produced through the dramatic short film program at the Canadian Film Centre, was shot entirely on a sound stage in Toronto and through the magic of post-production, landed Naya in an icy arctic backdrop.

The film gave 38-year-old Ball, who has worked in visual effects on large-scale productions since attending the Beijing Film Academy, the chance to apply his knowledge to his own work, as he completed 25 to 30 of the 80 visual effect shots in Frost.

“There’s a school of thought where the director can hand over a cut of the film and be very loosely involved in the visual effects, but I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to do that on this film,” he said. “I’m very hands on.”

Ball, also a UVic grad, was enthused to cast fellow UVic alumnus, Piggford – someone well-equipped to tackle the physical demands of the role with a solid background in theatre and dance.

“She has a tremendous attitude about the work and takes it very seriously,” said Ball, who despite showing allegiance to his hometown cohort, auditioned Piggford twice for two iterations of the project.

Frost is intended as a fairly straight-forward adventure narrative, Ball said.

“On a thematic level, I think it’s about legacy and how the things that we leave behind form the pathways for future generations, and also the importance of being able to not only see those, but go beyond them or transgress those things.”

Ball hopes to expand on those themes as he continues to develop the concept into a feature-length screenplay.

“Part of doing this is to show what is possible without going outside of Canada for resources,” he said. “A lot of people who have seen plans for the future have suggested it’s more of a Hollywood-style production, but we’ll see. Maybe the short will change peoples’ minds.”

Much of Ball’s so-called Hollywood visual effects work (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Rise of the Planet of the Apes) has been conducted in South Africa, the Ukraine and China, where he lived for many years. He’d like to believe Canadian filmmakers will be able to one day stay within Canada and pursue a successful career in the industry.

His content, however, will remain universal.

“I’m interested in stories that cross cultural boundaries,” Ball said. “I’m interested in stories that have a universal or global appeal. I’m not interested in getting pigeon-holed in a particular genre of filmmaking, but I do like things that are innovative in terms of the way of telling stories or the kinds of stories being told.”

University of Victoria graduate student Connor Gaston was also accepted to the festival this year with his short film Bardo Light, which he produced last year while pursuing his undergraduate degree in the university’s writing department.

nnorth@saanichnews.com