A local woman is assistant director for the first feature film in the Vancouver Film School's 25-year history.
Michelle Fjellgaard, first assistant director for Captive, a crime thriller created by students from concept to final cut, went to Southridge elementary, College Heights Secondary and the University of Northern B.C. for a commerce degree before she took the one-year film production program at VFS.
"Since I was little I loved film," said Fjellgaard. "I also loved business, so after I did the business degree it felt right to go to film school."
She tried acting when she was little but Fjellgaard said she's not very good.
During the program at film school, students learn all the behind-the-scenes positions and Fjellgaard found her niche as assistant director.
"This was the most fun I've ever had making a film," said Fjellgaard.
Right now she's looking to get work on anything anywhere -- even internationally.
She's well on her way to getting into the Directors Guild of Canada and that will allow her to have her permit to work as a production assistant on films and in the end, assistant direct.
"Assistant director and director are two completely different jobs," said Fjellgaard.
The title of assistant doesn't really do it justice, she added.
"It's one of the hardest jobs on set but, of course, one of the most rewarding," explained Fjellgaard. "For example, we had a lot of background actors on our set and my job was to coordinate them and because you're dealing with such a large crowd and you're able to move them around successfully that's the most fun. As assistant director you're in charge of the logistics of the film rather than the style of the film."
Jordan Brown, director of Vancouver Film School's first feature film, got the idea to make a movie when one of the administrators of the program came into the class and said since the program had been changed, it's now possible to make a feature film and he laughed.
"It was a joke to them but a few of us perked up at that and said oh, so it is possible," said Brown, who has already started his own production company with fellow students. "From there students started to come up with ideas and then Jon [Burnett], my co-director, and I started writing a script. From there it was just selling everyone on the fact that it could be done."
There were 32 students in the class and almost all of them were involved to a certain degree.
Without Michelle the movie just wasn't going to come together, said Brown, whose production company has already got two other projects on the go.
"So you've got me running around as director and it's easy for me to get lost in my own world of what'll look great and what we should do and she's the realist that has to pull me down sometimes and say no, we don't have time to do that, and no, that's not safe," said Brown. "So she's the rock that keeps me level and makes sure what I actually want done gets done and I couldn't have asked for more. We broke several VFS records for how many extras we had on set and with almost no industry training Michelle's handling hundreds of extras on set and taking it all in stride. The film couldn't have been done without her work and how well she did her job."
For Captive, the 90-minute film, the team of students raised more than $75,000 in private donations and dealt with challenges like complex action sequences, night shoots, and scenes calling for more than a hundred extras.
Captive is the perfect-storm scenario for the students and VFS alike, said Marty Hasselbach, managing director of the school. It's a testament to a filmmaking education that, in an incredibly short amount of time, provides a high level of knowledge and skill that allowed these immensely creative minds to achieve something truly groundbreaking. VFS is so proud of what these students have accomplished and are extremely excited to see what the future holds for them."
The film is an original screenplay, following John Rancour, a corrupt detective, who is on the run for murdering a fellow police officer in cold blood.
With enemies on both sides of the law wanting him dead, Rancour has no choice but to seek help from the very man that exposed his crimes and sent him into exile -- journalist, Tyler Chase.
The film was released at a private screening at Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Vancouver, an event that was well received by interested members of the film industry.
For more information on the film visit captivefilm.com.