Film classes offer a chance for everyone to find their niche

Erik Fjeldsted and Ryan Black make a great team. The pair have taught film classes at MTYP’s Theatre School together for the past two years, although they have both been involved with MTYP for much longer. Their introductory class, Actor & Camera, is extremely popular. (It runs for 22 weeks on Thursdays and starts in the fall). The follow up class, Reel Action, is also well attended and runs on Tuesdays.

Black is a veteran actor and producer, best known for performing in Dance Me Outside, The Rez and TNT’s Geronimo among many other credits. Erik is also an actor and filmmaker, and appeared in You Kill Me and The Pinkertons.

The night I attend the room is practically bursting to the rafters. In Actor & Camera, students create scenes and then film them. In the follow-up class, Reel Action, students are ready to work on their own films.

“Actor and Camera is the first step,” says Erik. “The kids don’t know how anything works when they start. We bring in our own gear and give them the tools. At the end, if they were to walk onto an actual film set, they wouldn’t get in the way. They get the hierarchy on a film set. We give them the full experience. They know how to act to a camera because they know what a camera does.”

One of the main attractions of these classes is that there is a role for everyone on a film set. “Mostly we get kids who really want to be here,” says Erik. “They think it’s super cool. If you want to act, you can act. If you want to run the camera or create sets, you can do that too.”

Actually the list of tasks is quite exhaustive. Students also learn to “run the boom, operate the audio recorder, set up the lights, focus them, flag them (shape or diffuse lights) set the marks, operate the camera, which includes framing and focus pulling. They are also their own script supervisors and assistant directors.”

“A big part of effectively teaching the arts is leaving room for self-determination,” Ryan adds. “Letting them discover where they fit. The kids see what everybody’s doing and they see where they fit.”

When they’re not teaching, the local filmmakers co-own a company called Crowhawk Entertainment. “We are an indigenous owned company and like to focus on telling indigenous stories,” says Erik. They are working on several feature films and are currently working with a literacy program associated with South Winnipeg Family Information Centre. “We’re making a video on literacy, for children between zero and six, in English, French, Dene, Ojibway and Cree.”

The dynamic duo met in 2006 while acting in a film called Eye of the Beast. In it, they were both killed by a giant squid. “We bonded,” says Erik. “We were opposing boat captains who hated each other,” says Ryan.

What keeps them coming back to teaching at MTYP? On this they agree. “Love of film and love of teaching. The kids buy-in and interest in film. We find it inspiring. And it makes us better filmmakers.”