UVic student’s short film accepted to Toronto International Film Festival

Gaston’s work shows startling maturity

Connor Gaston's film Bardo Light debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival this week.

As Connor Gaston’s classmates watched a sneak peek of his latest film, Bardo Light, the University of Victoria writing student kept his eyes glued on one friend who was visibly swept away during the 10-minute short.

“It seemed like he was actually invested in the story,” said 23-year-old Gaston. “And whenever it’s a sci-fi story, or something you might not actually believe, it’s nice to get that reaction – even if it’s just for that moment.”

This summer, the list of those invested in the drama inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead and Gaston having seen pug dogs watch television, expanded beyond Gaston’s supporters at UVic to include the programmers at the Toronto International Film Festival. Bardo Light, a reference to the light we cannot resist and would rather watch than breathe, now makes its big screen premier this weekend alongside the world’s top films at TIFF 2012.

“There’s a maturity to his voice as a film director that’s quite startling, considering how long he’s been making films,” said Maureen Bradley, filmmaker and professor of screenwriting at UVic. “I see these kind of heavy endings in Connor’s work that quite frankly, kind of terrify people. (Bardo Light’s ending) is terrifying in one way if your relationship with mortality isn’t settled and if it is, it’s quite a beautiful, calming moment.”

Once Bradley gave Gaston access to filmmaking resources available through UVic’s writing department, including the school’s RED digital camera, Gaston fully committed to the project.

“That really inspired me, thinking that I have this camera that they use in Hollywood and if the story’s half-decent, what’s stopping me?”

Gaston shot the film between Gabriola Island and Victoria, with a small volunteer crew and cast that includes local actors Chris Mackie, Donna Barnfield and Shaan Rahman with cameos from Gaston’s family dog Sally and his father, fiction author Bill Gaston.

Bradley describes the film as chilling, almost horrifying and ultimately moving through its use of metaphor similar to Gaston’s previous work. Gaston is reluctant to make any statements on the recurring theme of his films.

“That’s for other people to decide. I’m just thinking about story. A good story: that’s all I care about,” he said. “If you want to make a movie, go do it. … You can shoot a movie on your phone. It shouldn’t be about the production value at all. Start off with a good story, a good character, whatever it may be and go out and shoot. You’ll learn a lot and you’ve got nothing to lose.”

Though attending TIFF equipped with a feature film pitch and a freshly-printed set of business cards, Gaston plans to return to Victoria after the event and study screenwriting as a graduate student under Bradley’s guidance.

“I think it’s really good for Victoria that he’s sticking close and I hope we don’t lose him to L.A.” Bradley said. “He’s going to miss the first week of class, but I figured that was alright. I’m not going to dock him any marks for going to the Toronto International Film Festival. I figured it was a pretty good excuse.”

Also on the TIFF program this year: Frost, a sci-fi adventure short, written and directed by Jeremy Ball and starring Emily Piggford, both fellow UVic alumni.

Just Posted

Saanich driver races to Chairman’s Trophy in Mission

Bill Okell has driven the same race car for 44 years

Local school districts gear up for the new back to school season

Seismic upgrades, inclusion and student safety are priorities

Camosun’s continuing education site a quick hit

Hundreds of courses available to launch new career opportunities

B.C. police watchdog investigating high-speed crash in Victoria

Police watchdog called in after dramatic early morning crash at Bay and Douglas intersection

VIDEO: RCMP officer killed in the line of duty remembered ‘through the laughter of children’

Sarah Beckett Memorial Playground opens with ceremony in Langford

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. VIEWS: Pipelines set to roll as federal politicians posture

Projects to drive B.C., Canadian economy in years ahead

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Vancouver Island man dead after reported hit-and-run incident

Oceanside RCMP seek public’s help gathering information

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Most Read