HIFF 2014: AFCOOP's 40th anniversary

I first joined AFCOOP (the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative) in 1999 shortly after moving to Halifax.  I never went to film school so AFCOOP became more of an alma matter to me than any school, college, or university that I ever attended.  I had studied and practiced photography since I was 14, and had shot a few in camera super 8 films before moving to Halifax, but AFCOOP is really where I cut my filmmaking teeth.  They had a great workshop series on weeknights: $25 for a 4 hour workshop from 6 - 10 pm.  You could pick and choose whatever workshops interested you, and if you signed up for 4, you got the 5fth free.  So every season I would pick and choose 5 workshops fitting what I wanted to explore.  From storyboarding, to camera operation, optical printing, editing on the steenbeck, sound recording etc.  As a member I could also rent gear at discounted rates, so I would rent cameras and facilities for my projects, and process the film in my darkroom at home.  They also had open grants four times a year through which members could apply for up to $3000 in funding to help cover the costs of film stock, lab fees, shipping, and other expenses related to making films.  So it was in that period from 1999 - 2004 when I really started making films, just by taking workshops as I needed them, renting gear, working on other people's films, and making friends who were also making films.  I made some good friends, saw a lot of films, learned a lot, and experimented a lot.  During that period, they had a lot of committtees, and I served on the newsletter committee (writing and editing for Workprint, the hard copy quarterly newsletter that got mailed out to members), the education committee, the finance committee and the board of directors.

I had actually been the chair of the board of directors in 2004 for AFCOOP's 30th anniversary when we produced a documenatary about the history of the co-op.  That was the year I moved away to Vancouver.  Even while living in Vancouver, I made a point of continuing to volunteer for AFCOOP from the other side of the country, writing letters of support, proof reading documents, planning screenings and workshops.  I would travel back every summer to teach workshops and participate in a few events.  Even when I lived in Amsterdam, I returned to Halifax in the summer to teach a workshop and participate as a mentor in the Frame X program.  After returning to Canada and settling in New Brunswick, I continue to rent equipment and facilities from AFCOOP for my films, travelling regularly to Halifax for equipment and facilities.  In 2010 I was voted in as a lifetime member.

However, somehow I feel more disconnected from the Co-op these days, even moreso than I did when living in Vancouver and Amsterdam.  Perhaps there are less opportunities to volunteer from afar now that the Workprint is no longer produced.  Perhaps it simply has to do with time and turn-over of staff and members, in that the people I was close to and friends with when I lived in Halifax have moved on.  Perhaps it has more to do with me settling into my own practice and focusing on my own work and not reaching out enough to develop and maintain relationships with the new crew of people who have stepped in.  It can't be the geographic distance, since I am even closer now than I was before, but I feel further away.  Who's to say.  Whatever the reason, time passes and people and things move on, but AFCOOP still holds a very near and dear place to my heart.  As such I was deeply touched and flattered to be included in AFCOOP's 40th anniversary retrospective screening that was presented at HIFF (Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival) on June 6 this year. 

AFCOOP played a major role in my history as a filmmaker so it means a lot to for me to be considered as a part of their history.