Festival founder Henry Acteson shares filmmaking passion through independent event

A year after his high school graduation, independent filmmaker and photographer Henry Acteson had not yet reached his creative potential.

It was time to get serious about his passion for films.

“I honestly hadn’t really been doing much film,” Acteson says. “And I realized I needed do something. I needed to start getting myself a lot more busy.”

Since that moment just one short year ago, Acteson has successfully filmed two music videos, a short film and is currently working on three more projects. Not to mention his upcoming event, Moon Jive Film Festival.

New film festival hosted in YYC

Named the Moon Jive Festival as an intended play on words after the popularActeson outside the Plaza Theatre beside one of his posters advertising the independent event.

Photo by Sarah Comber Sundance Film Festival in Utah, the Calgary event has grown rapidly out of Acteson’s passion for filmmaking and curiosity for event planning, as well as his self proclaimed desire to meet more local people who share his interest in films.

The one-night festival will debut at the Plaza Theatre, in Kensington, Nov. 22, at 6 p.m. Any Calgarian filmmaker is welcome to submit to the festival until Nov. 1 in one of the following categories: short film, music video, animation, silent film or computer-generated imagery. The final selections will be decided on Nov. 5.

“I kind of was like, ‘I’m going to host a film festival,’” says Acteson. “It was just a random idea and I rolled with it and it exploded really quickly.”

Acteson has always had a passion for movies, from watching spaghetti westerns with his Dad – “I love The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Any of those old Clint Eastwood movies I go nuts for” – to experimenting with his parents’ camcorder at the age of 13 while he and his friends filmed war videos.

Movies influence aspiring filmmaker

Films have always played a significant role in Acteson’s life.

“There are films that I watch that make me want to change my entire way of living and my point of view on life, films that have the ability to make you smile, to make you cry, make you depressed for the rest of the evening, make you uplifted or make you want to go fight someone or something,” he says.

“Other films I just find cinematic art as such a beautiful art form. You’re watching things in real time and you’re watching life as it is.

“There are films that I watch that make me want to change my entire way of living and my point of view on life, films that have the ability to make you smile, to make you cry, make you depressed for the rest of the evening, make you uplifted or make you want to go fight someone or something.”

– Henry Acteson

“You’re seeing it through the eyes of someone else… it is such an influential and powerful art medium.”

Although he has been seriously filmmaking only for the past year, Acteson is confident in his career choice.

“I used to be very sceptical about what I would do with my future, but I know where I want to go and what direction I want to take my filmmaking in right now,” he says.

Any place, anytime, anywhere

Acteson stumbles upon inspiration for his films from anywhere – and has made a habit of carrying a notebook everywhere with him.

For instance, the inspiration behind his short film Vacuum – which Acteson finished shooting this summer – came to him when he discovered an old model rocket kit from the ’80s in his grandparents’ closet. But other film ideas can simply be “fuelled by alcohol and conversations in the pub,” he says.

Submitting to Moon Jive Film Fesitval

Acteson standing outside the Plaza Theatre.

Photo by Sarah ComberMateusz Blach, a fellow independent filmmaker and submitter to Moon Jive Film Festival, shares Acteson’s passion for films and was inspired to pursue movie-making after his first trip to the theatre at the age of five to see Jurassic Park.

“This was my first experience going to the movie theatre and it was here that I realized the incredible power of the cinema – of making the impossible visible,” says Blach in an email.

Blach, who initially found out about the festival “casually surfing the web,” thought the Moon Jive Film Festival would be an excellent opportunity to showcase his film and meet some “like-minded individuals who are trying to get their voices heard in this city.”

“It lets us celebrate the creative spirit that we posses and hopefully it’ll let us get to know each other a little better, allowing us to make bigger and better things in the future,” says Blach.

“These small indie festivals like Moon Jive exist for no other purpose than to celebrate film itself – it really is just a bunch of people who like to watch movies going in unison to celebrate something unique.”

Official support for YYC

Yvonne Abusow, the production director of the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers, says that supporting independent filmmakers allows them to have a voice.

“It is harder to become part of the industry if they don’t have that support,” she says, adding that it is important to have film festivals so that filmmakers have a venue for their work to be shown.

Just the beginning

As for Acteson, he says: “If the festival goes well, I will host a second one. I would truly love for it to become a seasonal thing.

“And I would love to make friends and connections with more people who are as seriously into film as I am. Filming is not a one-man process anyway.”

scomber@cjournal.ca