Ty Giffin’s mafia inspired short film Cicerone is as much a testament to the local film community’s supportive nature and the province’s many picturesque locations as it is an engaging example of local cinema.
New Brunswick’s independent film community has a history of punching above its weight. For many of us outside the community’s inner circle, Jillian Acreman’s 2020 feature film Queen of the Andes was a huge eye opener. To see how a major feature film project could be conceived and actualized right here in Fredericton spoke volumes to the regional talent, vision and the potential for future projects to exist. And then there is Strike Pictures, a trio of established visionary filmmakers who have become leaders in New Brunswick short film production (currently gearing up to shoot their feature debut this summer!) and an inspiration to an emerging talent base of local filmmakers and indie cinema fans.
But these are only two examples of an increasingly diverse range of emerging and established filmmakers and production companies whose work is helping to change the broader understanding of film in the province. Last year, Fredericton filmmaker Ty Giffin (Bison FilmWorks) released the mafia inspired short film Cicerone. Written and directed by Giffin, co-produced by Strike Pictures, and clocking in at just over 10 minutes, Cicerone is as much a testament to the local film community’s supportive nature and the province’s many picturesque locations as it is an engaging example of local cinema.
The film’s list of credits reads like a who’s who of New Brunswick filmmakers, camera operators, sound engineers, and all points between.
“I think as a film community in New Brunswick, we’ve been very good at supporting each other and we need to keep that up,” said Giffin. “If we continue to collaborate and to champion each other’s works, we’ll continue to grow and other provinces and countries will take notice.”
Over the past year, Cicerone has made the rounds of Atlantic Canadian film festivals including the Shediac Film Festival, the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival, the Parrsboro Film Fest, the Charlottetown Film Festival, and the Silver Wave Film Festival, picking up several awards and nominations along the way.
“[At Silver Wave] we ended up taking home awards for Best Genre Short, Best Supporting Actor (Jon Wilkinson) and Excellence in Screenwriting,” said Giffin. “And we received nominations for Cinematography (Michael Ryan Mohan), Music Composition (Zachary Greer), Art Direction (Arianna Martinez), Lead Actor (Robbie Lynn), Supporting Actor (Ryan Barton) and Best NB Short.”
The film also earned Giffin the award for Best Director at the Charlottetown Film Festival, received an honourable mention at the Shedic event, and earned additional nominations at both the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival and Anatomy Crime & Horror International Film Festival in Athens, Greece – no small feat for any emerging filmmaker.
Despite its short running time, Cicerone has the look and feel of a full length feature. The story is full of relevant themes and clever location choices, with colouring and editing that showcase the diverse skillset shared among Giffin and his fellow filmmakers.
“The time limit of ten minutes was a tough creative challenge,” said Giffin. “It really taught me to be economical with my filmmaking. Even though the script was about that length, in the edit I was finding lots of moments to establish mood and tone, which put me into the 15-18 minute range. So it was a balancing act of keeping the essential story beats, and trying to remove everything else without losing the film’s personality.”
Giffin says increased access to funding for local filmmakers has helped fuel a growing number of projects. Cicerone was funded in part through the New Brunswick Arts Board, the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture/Telefilm Canada Short Film Venture Program, with additional production support from the New Brunswick Filmmakers’ Cooperative.
But the community still has its struggles, Giffin says. One of the biggest challenges being access to audiences. Outside the few annual film festivals that exist in the province and the broader film festival circuit, local filmmakers are limited in ways to build audiences locally.
“We need a venue to showcase New Brunswick films,” said Giffin. “An indie boutique cinema would offer an alternative to the multiplex, where local feature and short films could play. This could provide a venue to local film festivals as well, like Silver Wave and newer fests like Demonic Brilliance and Pink Lobster.
“The talent is here, we just need to get the word out,” said Giffin. “Audiences will be more inclined to watch a film that looks and feels like a real film. So at the end of the day, I think there’s an element of fake-it-till-you-make-it. Let’s pretend we’re the preeminent province for cinema. Let’s have big premieres, media coverage, social media exposure, put our movies on Letterboxd, posters, merchandise. If we put forward that energy of prestige, I think we’ll become a prestigious film community, and the audience will grow.”
Cicerone is now available to stream on demand through Vimeo.