Sunday, December 11, 2016

In Memory of Michelle Jackson

The narrative that has followed the death of Michelle Jackson on January 18th, 2008 is inspiring. The St. John's, Newfoundland writer and aspiring director was 34 and expecting her first child, only to be swiftly claimed by viral myocarditis.

At the time of Jackson's death, mourners were encouraged to donate in her name to the St. John's International Women's Festival, which is held every fall. Two years later, the Royal Bank of Canada Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award was officially launched and is now in its seventh cycle.

The prize has a very specific purview:

This annual peer-juried award is open to emerging female directors who reside in Newfoundland and Labrador and who have not yet directed a feature film. Only directors may apply. The award provides services and cash towards the creation of a six-minute film. The final film will screen at the Closing Night Gala of the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.

The cash and in-kind amounts of the prize have grown each year. The 2016 winner, Emily Bridger, will bank a total of around $26,000 towards her short film Waste It, which is set on a film set.

Wanda Nolan, the 2015 winner, made a short titled Crocuses, which screened ahead of Maudie, a drama starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. Nolan, who works as a researcher with the National Film Board, also this year directed in partnership with the organization Mystery of the Secret Room, her first animated short.

A few years ago, Bridger gave an interview about her native land to Sea and Be Scene. Newfoundland is a magical place, and when she was asked to 'Name 3 Things I've Gotta Do When I Visit Newfoundland and Labrador,' her first answer was spot-on:

"1. Find a townie (St. John’s native) in a good mood, and get him or her to take you on a tour of downtown St. John’s, complete with personal anecdotes. The older the townie, the better, but I guarantee that a local of any age will provide great commentary as a soundtrack to the beautiful sights of downtown St. John’s."

Nolan's Crocuses is a period piece spanning the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s. Thanks to the Emerging Filmmaker Award, she was able to spend a lot of money on locations, much more otherwise than she would have been able to afford.

Bridger's film will premiere on the closing night of next year's St. John's Women's International Film Festival. The memory of Michelle Jackson lives on, powerfully and organically.

[RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award]

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