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Filmmakers at the Digi60 film festival. Photo provided.

Future of Ottawa: Filmmakers with Emily Ramsay

By Apartment613 on March 16, 2021


This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into Ottawa’s film industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Emily Ramsay on the future of indie filmmakers, or read posts from Bruce White on indie cinemas, Stephanie Davy on the film production industry, or Tom McSorley on film festivals.

Emily Ramsay is the Executive Director of the Digi60 Filmmakers’ Festival, a professional development fest for new and emerging filmmakers. A former public servant, Emily is the Ottawa Bureau Producer with AMI (Accessible Media Inc.) and is a member of Obscura Creative, a video collective telling community stories about Ottawa.

Emily Ramsay is the Executive Director of the Digi60 Filmmakers’ Festival. Photo provided.

Apt613: What is the current landscape of independent filmmaking in Ottawa?

Emily Ramsay: Ottawa is such a vibrant and exciting filmmaking community where you can find all levels of experience and quality in film, but one thing that really stands out is how giving community members are to their fellow filmmakers. Ottawa has a big city vibe with a small town feel, and that can definitely be seen by how close-knit everyone is—from sharing works online to supporting independent screenings of locally made shorts, docs, and feature films.

What I’ve seen through Digi60 is that the community shows up for each other. Even if you didn’t create a film that’s screening people show up to cheer on their friends and acquaintances. This tells me that if you pursue filmmaking as a hobby or as a profession, you will have an audience of like-minded individuals supporting you.

One of the best ways for emerging artists to get their start is to join organizations like Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC)—formerly SAW Video—or the Independent Filmmaker’s Co-operative of Ottawa (IFCO), sign up to make a short film at Digi60, or throw an idea around on Facebook groups like The Writers’ Room – Ottawa or Ottawa Filmmakers. These organizations also share their members’ works and provide opportunities for growth. You will find collaborators and friends who will cheer you on or give you constructive feedback. Putting yourself out there is the first step to becoming a working artist, and Ottawa is full of immensely talented creators—so join us!

Participants in a Digi60 workshop at DARC (formerly SAW Video) in 2019. Photo provided.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is indie filmmaking going in Ottawa in 2021?

I think the pandemic hasn’t slowed anyone down. In 2020, we were unsure what the turn out would be for both the filmmaking and professional development portions of the Digi60 Filmmakers’ Festival, but we were pleasantly surprised when we reached the same number of registered participants as the previous year, and then blown out of the water with what the filmmakers were able to create during a pandemic! If 2020 was a preview of things to come, we can’t wait to see what filmmakers are able to do in 2021.

Filmmakers aren’t slowing down; they are creating and they’re being creative in how they do it, too. From remote production to socially distanced sets, filmmakers continue to surprise us. They are adapting—as artists do.

And to top that off, there is a huge desire to learn. Filmmakers are showing up in waves to professional development opportunities because they are now online. Previously inaccessible workshops and courses are now a click away, and being offered locally and from across the country. That desire to learn will translate into more skills, and ultimately more risks being taken by filmmakers in genres, styles, and stories they may have only dreamt of.

The spring 2019 festival screening at Mayfair Theatre. Photo provided.

Where in your wildest dreams could Digi60 filmmakers’ festival go in your lifetime?

Our hope is that we can continue to build our professional development offerings for emerging independent filmmakers, in the realm of Women in Film and Television and Raindance, or what the former Summer Institute of Film and Television was, with the ultimate goal of contributing to Ottawa’s growing film, television and creative industries. With our ongoing partnerships with like-minded organizations like DARC, we can continue to support independent filmmakers and video artists in their search for practical career focused skills-building that might not be offered in post-secondary institutions, while also providing a venue for them to disseminate their creations within their community.

What is the best innovation to take place in filmmaking since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

I have seen so many independent filmmakers come together to create and support each other remotely. From the weekly film challenges on the Ottawa Filmmakers Facebook page, to accessible and free workshops offered by community members, to professional development workshops and panels from Digi60 and DARC. Filmmakers are taking the responsibility of skills-building and content dissemination into their own hands, and freely offering their services and experiences to others. It’s shown how tight knit the community is and how we can continue to support each other. And it also shows the desire to learn and be creative, no matter the circumstances. It’s really shown us the resiliency of the independent filmmaking community in Ottawa.

Filmmakers at the Digi60 film festival. Photo provided.

*Who* is the future of indie film-making in Ottawa?

I think one of the greatest things that we are seeing is that ANYONE can be the future of indie filmmaking in Ottawa. With more accessible technology, training, and events, people who may have only previously wanted to pursue filmmaking as a hobby are now seeing it as a viable career opportunity. Working on your own on independent projects means you can be a key creator from start to finish. And I think that should be celebrated! Because allowing everyone the ability to share their ideas and stories will only help to put Ottawa on the map and allow Ottawa to become a game changer.

Tell us something you wish somebody told you when you started your career in film.

Find a mentor or become one. Mentorship and networking are such an important part of this industry, and mentorship can mean many different things: career direction, feedback, skills-building, collaboration. And for those who have reached a level of success with their filmmaking, offer to become a mentor. It can be just as rewarding to help guide new and emerging filmmakers. Mentorships often create life-long professional bonds where one gives just as much as one receives. Being open to mentoring a new or emerging artist can help someone really find their groove and path in this industry.

Back in 2015, Apartment613 took a look at the future of Ottawa across several different sectors. In 2021, we’re bringing the series back, asking experts, artists, and community leaders to shed some light on their local field or industry, as it stands now and where they think—or dream—it will go over the next few years. Every week we’ll profile a different cultural sector in Ottawa, leaving no niche unexplored—from social justice to theatre, bars to sports, to the future of the municipality and its natural environs. Keep an eye out for a new batch of posts every Tuesday on