by Joanne Jackson
It is a very exciting fall season for The Messenger. We have just come back from a fall road trip. We also just got word about two more awards and another nomination. There are over 40 fall screenings booked, with more pending, and we’ve had some new media coverage. We are now taking pre-orders on-line and preparing to release DVD’s and Blu rays, so our Canadian office is hopping. The full impact of The Messenger’s film release is certainly not known yet, but we know that outreach and awareness of the pressures facing songbird populations and the potential impact of bird declines on the environment is being recognized by more and more people. Many have said the film is ‘transformative’ for them. The potential for our film to make a real difference in society’s conservation attitudes is enhanced by every grassroots discussion inspired by the movie.
Being on the road with the film is exciting, encouraging and sometimes exhausting. There is a lot of prep work involved and we usually end up working 24-7, but it is really rewarding to interact with local audiences. We can’t attend every screening so we really appreciate organizations like universities, colleges, Bird Studies Canada, the film societies and conservation groups who amplify our work by hosting screening events and participating in Q and A’s.
Director Su Rynard made a quick but wonderful trip to the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival (DREFF) in mid-September, then went to a special screening at Fleming College in the Kawarthas. (not too far from her cottage).
This weekend Su is winging her way to West Virginia, where she is a keynote speaker at the The American Conservation Film Festival (Shepherdstown, West Virginia).
The Messenger is also being featured at The Antigonish Film Festival in Nova Scotia and The Cinema Verde Environmental Festival in St. Augustine, Florida this weekend. (Cinema Verde has already acknowledged the film with it’s 2016 Whistle Blower Award.)
Film participant Michael Mesure took time from FLAP’s busy bird rescue work in Toronto to head north to Pefferlaw, with Producer Diane Woods to attend a special fundraising screening event for a wildlife refuge called Shades of Hope.
Social media and community outreach is critical for us to let audiences know about screenings. We could not do the outreach work we do without our subscribers and Facebook Fans support and the dedication of our screening co-ordinator Cayley James.
Cayley liaises with community groups and looks after a lot of the event details. Thanks Cayley!
At the end of September, I went to some Ontario screening events in Belleville, North Bay, Sudbury and New Liskeard. More about that under the mini-tour heading below.
On October 11, at the Pariscience Awards Ceremony in Paris, France, the Messenger was awarded the prestigious Prix Buffon from the ‘Jury Bioversité’. The award was presented to our French co-production partners Films a Cinq and ARTE France.
After the film screened at the North Bay Film Festival, the audience poll voted The Messenger as the Favourite Feature Documentary.
Earlier this year we received the 2016 Carl Nunn Media and Conservation Award from Ontario Nature. The film was recognized because it “raised awareness of the mass depletion of songbird populations around the world.” Diane Woods and Su Rynard were there to pick up the award.
The Messenger is currently nominated in two categories at the Dutch International Science Film Festival. Categories: The NTR Audience Award and the Youth Jury Award.
Stay tuned to see if we have more announcements in November.
Before I left to head out on a road trip for a Northern Ontario mini-tour, The Messenger played for one night at the fabulous Empire Theatre in Belleville. Jerry Archer from KX96 Radio moderated the September 26 event and I was joined by Peter Fuller, Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory and John Hirsch, Quinte Conservation for a Q and A following the film.
Then, on Friday September 30, I started the scenic drive north from the Toronto area. My first destination was Sudbury, and the drive up hwy 69 with the changing fall colours was spectacular. The Messenger opened that evening at Sudbury’s newly renovated Imagine Downtown Movie Lounge. Phil Strong, our composer and sound designer who is a Sudbury native was in the city visiting his family, so it was great he was able to join me for the Q and A. David Pearson and Chris Blomme from Laurentian University came out to participate in the discussion too. Thanks to Laurentian Film Studies Prof Hoi Cheu for setting up the sound system and bringing student volunteers to help with the event. A special shout out to the Giles and Strong family members who made it opening night and Lorraine Dupuis who put up movie posters for us.
Earlier that same week, I was interviewed by CBC Morning North radio host Markus Schwabe. You can listen the to that interview here.
On Saturday October 1, I participated in a panel with other industry producers at the North Bay Film Festival about ‘getting your film into film festivals’. The whole thing was streamed live on Facebook, so that was a new experience for me! It was very encouraging to hear the other producers talk about the great opportunities for filmmaking that are taking place in northern Ontario. Canadore College’s digital cinematography professor Dave Clement moderated the panel. If you scroll down on our Facebook page to Oct. 1 posts, you can watch it there.
On October 2nd we had over 160 people at the festival screening of The Messenger in the impressive theatre at the Capital Centre in North Bay. Moderator Adam Contant from KISS FM Radio, introduced me and the film. Afterwards Paul Smylie from Nipissing University and Richard Tafel from the Nipissing Naturalists Club joined us for a Q and A. We had a number of educators who made the trek out on that rainy Sunday morning to see the film, so thanks to them and everyone else for being there to ask such thoughtful questions.
Just before the screening I was interviewed by Linda Holmes of CTV and a clip made it on the Northern Ontario evening news.
When festival co-ordinator Holly Cunningham later informed me that The Messenger was the top audience documentary choice for the festival, I was a bit stunned. What a lovely surprise and wonderful way to enhance our road trip!
Final Stop on the Tour
Although I have worked in the tv/film industry for over 20 years, and produced many hours of Television programs, The Messenger is just the third independent documentary I’ve produced. It is the first feature film I’m involved with to have theatrical release, so I was really pleased to wind up the mini-Northern Ontario tour in my hometown of New Liskeard. I still have family in the area, so it was wonderful to share the film with the local community at the Empire Theatre in its full theatrical glory on October 3rd. Drew Gauley of the Temiskaming Screening Room film society kicked off the event. After the screening we had another interesting Q and A discussion. The town is located in the ‘Little Clay Belt’ agricultural area of Northern Ontario and there are many farms nearby, so the issue of ‘pesticides’ and ‘free roaming cats’ were hot topics.
The Q and A was moderated by Temiskaming Secondary School science teacher Glenn Scott.
I was joined by Bruce Murphy and Mike Werner from The Hilliardtown Marsh Conservation Centre and Terry Phillips, District Director of the Grain Farmers of Ontario. Prior to the event, we had some wonderful local media coverage too, thanks to a Twenty questions article in the Temiskaming Speaker by reporter Sue Neilsen and a Morning chat interview facilitated by CJTT station manager Gail Moore and Radio host Jack Morin.
Check out the commercial they made for the film! Just click on the audio file below.
More Campus screenings are currently taking place, and more are being booked. Find out where & how here. Educators and libraries can now order educational copies too. (with public performance rights) in the new Educators section of the Messenger’s website at www.theMessengerdoc.com
To read additional media coverage about The Messenger check out the press section of this website.
Special thanks to Mary Jackson, Darlene Jackson, Jennifer Gravel, Shelley Jackson and Patti Dubois (my sisters and sister-in-law) for helping to promote the screening and assisting me at the screenings.
Thanks to Telefilm Canada for providing marketing and promotion assistance for The Messenger.
If you would like to contact me about the film, please email firstname.lastname@example.org