Taking Filmmaking to the Limit

Think you can make a 7-minute short film in 60 days? The Digi60 Filmmakers Fest puts Ottawa film buffs to the test, providing a rewarding and challenging opportunity for the aspiring filmmaker.

Ramsay and Mulligan. Image courtesy of Frank Pomerleau.
Ramsay and Mulligan. Image courtesy of Frank Pomerleau.


Jennifer Mulligan is a screenwriter and producer, originally from the Pontiac region of Quebec. She is currently working with producers and directors in Ottawa and Vancouver on several short and feature film projects. Emily Ramsay is a writer and director who has created several films which have screened around the world. She believes in the growth and sustainability of an Ottawa film industry and hopes to support it for years to come. She co-owns Say Ten Productions with Derek Price and is studying Scriptwriting at Algonquin College.

Together, Mulligan and Ramsay are the festival’s co-executive directors. Ottawa Life chatted with the co-directors about this year’s fest, the challenges it has faced and opportunities it gives filmmakers.

OLM: What is Digi60?

The Digi60 Filmmakers’ Festival is a grassroots, local “catch” film festival where filmmakers have 60 days to create and complete a seven-minute short film. These films are evaluated by a jury of industry professionals from across North America. The films are screened at a public gala event, taking place this year at the Centrepointe Studio Theatre.

Digi60’s long time mandate has two important components: to provide opportunities for new and emerging filmmakers to create and screen their work while networking with other filmmakers, and to build a professional skill base for the participants of the Festival to enter the filmmaking industry.

OLM: How did Digi60 first start?

Digi60 began in 2003-2004 when a handful of filmmakers were required to film their 5-7 minute short film on DV cam and digitize their work. Now with the affordability and availability of DSLRs, many more people are able to enter to festival.

OLM: What is the ‘catch’ theme for this year’s entries?

The catch for this year’s festival is “Memory.” In 2015, we have kept our catches as a theme so that there can be a wider interpretation of what the catch could mean to each registered filmmaker. As part of the film festival deliverables, they also create a short explanation as to how their film relates to the catch or how they interpreted the theme for the festival.

OLM: Who is encouraged to enter?

We encourage new and emerging filmmakers who want to challenge themselves and are motivated to take advantage of opportunities for industry networking. We want to see the evolution of new talent and foster filmmakers as they grow within the industry by allowing them to see Ottawa as a viable city to take up work in film and media.

OLM: What are some challenges that Digi60 has had to overcome?

Recently, funding limitations have led us to rethink the expansion of the festival. In 2014, Digi60 took over the Summer Institute of Film and Television (SIFT), but this organization used to run on thousands of dollars and was funded by all major Canadian film and television giants such as Telefilm, Harry Greenberg Fund, Shaw, Bell, etc. We have to evaluate how we can acquire sufficient funding to be able to offer SIFT to the next generation of emerging filmmakers in Ottawa and across Canada.

Image courtesy of Frank Pomerleau.
Image courtesy of Frank Pomerleau.

OLM: What are some of Digi60’s triumphs?

Digi60 has seen many of its films move on to various local, national and international film festivals. We pride ourselves on creating festival catches that are open to creative interpretation allowing the films to have a screen life after Digi60 is over. Several members of our filmmaking and alumni community have gone on to become active working members of the Canadian film and media industry.

OLM: Do you feel that the pressure put on filmmakers to make a film in a short amount of time causes better work?

Not always. This is part of the challenge – to balance the amount of work to complete and to have a successful short film. As filmmakers can’t seriously begin to plan the film until the catch has been released, there are definitely some who begin working on it right away, and others who wait until the last few weeks before they even think about it and end up rushing through. There are also varying levels of skills at the festival – not everyone has experience with writing, filming and editing a short and not everyone has easy access to gear, actors and resources needed. It’s all about balancing the workload to come up with the best possible work. Luckily we have great sponsors who allow rentals and access to gear for our filmmakers such as SAW Video Media Art Centre and Parktown Studios.

OLM: How does Digi60 benefit local filmmakers/artists?

Digi60 has been benefiting local filmmakers and artists by offering an all-encompassing experience to create short films twice a year. The filmmaker begins with their idea, and ends by seeing their final product on the screen. They also get to experience networking and workshop opportunities, and valuable prizes such as industry passes to festivals, events and training workshops. Filmmakers also end up presenting a film that may influence producers hiring for their set, so creating work that is a solid representation of the filmmaker’s capabilities is always a plus.

The Digi60 Filmmakers’ Festival will be taking place on December 11th (Documentary Short Films) and December 12th (Narrative Short Films) at the Centrepointe Studio Theatre.

To find out more about The Digi60 Filmmakers’ Festival and this year’s catch and screenings, please visit their website at Digi60.org.