It may only be three minutes long, but the short film Buck Smarch and his Restless Native Productions made this past weekend is something he has always hoped for.
“This idea has been brewing in my head for over 10 years,” said Smarch. “I have been working in the television industry … this is what I want to do with my life. For me to make my own movie, this is a dream come true.”
The film is about land claims, he said.
“We have a very powerful message to carry out to the people.”
The short starts off with modern music and two businessmen in today’s Whitehorse. A flashback transforms the men to their ancestral roles in a snow-covered forest.
A bloody battle ensues.
Smarch, along with his cousin John I. Smarch and friend Joseph Smith cheer and nod to each other, reveling in their special effects work that splatters blood across the large flatscreen TV in the editing suite at the Yukon Film Society.
“They had a lot of vision,” said Edward Westerhuis, the society’s tech director. “The story is very unique. It’s a high-concept kind of a story. It’s easy to explain – you get it – but it’s still enjoyable, it still moves you.”
Westerhuis was one of two mentors the Restless Natives had access to. For 48 hours, they could bounce ideas off them and ask questions.
But the mentors were only one part of the package.
The Restless Natives were one of nine groups in Whitehorse and two in Dawson City who participated in Cold Snap, a three-week long filmmaking experience.
It began on February 26 and 27 with a “crash course film school,” that brought together instructors in writing, directing, editing and cinematography from all across the national industry.
Last weekend, all the groups were given 48 hours to make a movie.
Along with camera and editing equipment and a $300 budget, each group was given an “inspirational package” before the timers were set.
Each package included three things: a prop, a line from a famous script and a location that had to be included in the group’s film.
The Northern Film & Video Industry Association and Yukon Film and Sound Commission put on the whole thing – at no cost to the participants – in hopes of building the film industry in Yukon.
“The main goal is to have fun, these 48-hour film festivals are that,” said Neil Macdonald, executive director of the association, who said he has participated in his fair share of 48-hour filmmaking challenges over the years.
Macdonald was also an instructor during the crash course film school and has worked in big Vancouver-based productions like the Twilight series.
“Overall, it was great,” he said. “The main goal for NFVIA was to try and grow the community here.”
And judging by the number of participants, they were successful.
Nearly 70 people participated, ranging from people who have never picked up a camera before, to people who already had ideas for films.
The ages varied as well, with one participant as young as 13 years old.
And it was the strong number of youth that stood out as a real positive for Macdonald.
“It kind of lights that fire again, reinvigorates your enthusiasm and passion for making films,” he said. “It’s great to see those young people learning the craft and taking those first steps into filmmaking. It’s exciting. That was kind of our focus, to get that next generation of filmmakers coming out of the Yukon and getting involved.”
It was that connection to the next generation that ended up playing a crucial role for the Restless Native as well.
Smarch’s eight-year-old nephew Sylas Itsi has a cameo appearance in the film, holding the prop that was included in their “inspiration package.”
Being role models is important for the all-Tlingit team, they said.
They are proud of their culture.
“This is just the start for Restless Natives,” said Smarch. “We want to stay strong to our roots. We’ve come to do business and we’re here to leave a mark.”
“We want to make positive moves and positive change,” added Smith.
“We are truly blessed,” said Smarch, beginning to list the numerous people who helped them over the past week.
It’s been a real rush, they all agreed.
“It’s a really good feeling,” said Smarch laughing when he remembered how at the end of it all, his cousin John said he has never smiled so much in his life.
“It’s motivated us to move forward in our dream,” said Smith.
Both Smith and Smarch, co-presidents of Restless Native Productions, are raising money to go to school for film. Currently Smith is taking a multimedia course at Yukon College.
“We’re lucky people,” said Smarch.
This Friday, Cold Snap will come to a close with a screening gala of all the films and awards ceremony at the Beringia Centre.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at