Community funding groups have been giving emerging artists the opportunity to bring their stories to life.

At least one young Calgary filmmaker, Cassandra Paige Johnston, has been using such programs to actively pursue her career in film.

The 24-year-old however did not initially start off on this career path. She first enrolled in the theatre performance and creation program at Red Deer College, where she learned that her passion for film was strong and that theatre could no longer hold her satisfaction. So she switched to the college’s motion arts program.

In her final year in the program, she wrote and directed her first short film, titled Mending with Gold. The film was shown at the Edmonton Short Film Festival where it won best short experimental film. Ever since, she has not stopped writing and strives to create and show more of her work, hoping to make it in the industry.

While she still loves to act from her theatre days, she says writing and directing are more fulfilling to her as a form of expression.

While Johnston had initially decided to pursue a career in theatre she has always had a history with films. Growing up, her father was a film buff who had a whole room dedicated to movies. Her strong roots in cinema gave her vast knowledge on the history of film, and what works and doesn’t work in movies.

One of her idols is acclaimed filmmaker Sophia Coppola, who is best known as the director of Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides. Both films have had an influence on the style and the way that Johnston’s approaches her work.

Johnston is currently working a short film, Inconvenient, which centres around a young girl working in a convenience store struggling with her own identity.

screenplayScreenplay for Cassandra Paige Johnston’s new film Inconvenient set to premiere February 6  - 12, 2017. Photo by Olivia Baychu

Johnston recently received a $10,000 grant from STORYHIVE, sponsored by TELUS Optik that she won through a voting process between all local writers and directors in the Alberta and B.C. area. STORYHIVE is a community-based funding program created to help local artists bring their projects to life through grants, training, and distribution.

Zoe Webber from STORYHIVE says, “STORYHIVE creators often use their finished films as calling cards to build their careers and grow their fan base.”

There are other funding programs out there that help young artists to create their own projects, including Alberta Film, Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Alberta Media Fund.

From February 6 to February 12, Johnston’s film will be premiered online through STORYHIVE where people from the community can vote for their favorite short film.

As a director, Johnston has a good reputation among actors.

Actress Kas Nixon says, “she was great and really easy to work with.”

Nixon said it was nice to work with a female director because of how relatable she is and the different skills she brings to the industry.

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