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Still from thesis film Continuum.The thesis film of MFA candidate Calum Hotchkiss is nominated for the Canadian Cinema Editors’ Student Award of Merit.

Filmmaker’s creativity pays off with award nomination

Calum Hotchkiss, who graduates in June with a master or fine arts degree in film and media arts, is one of five nominees for the Canadian Cinema Editors’ Student Award of Merit for his thesis film Continuum.

Canadian Cinema Editors is the national honours association for practitioners; its awards are adjudicated by the top film artists in the country.

“There is no greater prize for a Canadian film editor,” says Nick Hector, assistant professor of film production in the School of Creative Arts (SoCA) and an award-winning producer and editor. “The CCE Student Award of Merit is an entrée into the highest echelons of the industry. Calum’s work will be seen by potential employers and open doors across Canada.”

The thesis film is the final project for graduate students in the film and media arts program. COVID-19 restrictions transformed the filmmaking process for students from what is normally a team collaboration into a project limited to only members of a household.

“We lost the luxury of working with a group of people,” says Hotchkiss. “It’s much more difficult on your own.”

He says he was fortunate to have the assistance of his girlfriend, fellow film graduate student and actor Gemma Eva Cunial.

His plan was to create a short film about environmentalism, connecting his upbringing, appreciation of nature, and exploring these values.

He took multiple trips to Point Pelee National Park, a place he frequently visited as a young boy. He travelled to different areas of the park collecting imagery that reflected his experiences growing up.

Usually, filmmakers create a storyboard as a guide, so they know exactly what shots are needed in advance, but because of the sudden changes due to the pandemic, the students had to adapt quickly.

“I just started shooting,” Hotchkiss says. “Normally during production what you shoot is what you get, but since I had a small crew and limited equipment, it was easy to reshoot and add to the edit as I was developing the story.

“That option provided me with a lot of freedom to experiment. During production, I found I was more attentive to what was available to me in the moment and less concerned about how everything was going to connect.”

A lot of the story came together in the editing room as he played around with the footage.

“I was researching associative montage: the juxtaposition of images and sound to create new meaning, and how that connects to the senses,” he explains, calling it “a great opportunity to explore myself as an artist.”

He began the editing process with several hard drives of raw footage and experimented with different visuals and sounds to sensorially express his appreciation for nature and the obstacles of growing up in a digital era.

Hotchkiss describes his time in the UWindsor graduate program as a great learning opportunity: “I would attribute that to the faculty.”

He praises their mentorship and for being very approachable and devoted to their students.

“If you are willing to learn, to make the effort, your profs will support you and guide you,” he says. “Nick Hector is a very successful editor in the industry. That’s why I approached him to be my advisor. Nick was the one who pushed me to submit my film to CCE, one of the best decisions for my career so far.”

Hotchkiss also appreciated having the opportunity to train on and use industry standard cameras and lighting equipment at SoCA.

“I’m very into cinematography,” he explains. “Having industry cameras and lighting to work with was exciting. It familiarizes students with equipment they use in the industry.”

Currently, Hotchkiss is submitting Continuum to film festivals. So hopefully, there will be an opportunity for the public to see it later this year.

Prof. Hector says he is not surprised by the awards nomination the film has garnered.

“Calum is a strong student and a talented emerging filmmaker. He combines artistic skills and intellect with hard work and professionalism,” he says. “Calum is a terrific ambassador for the great film program we have here at UWindsor. I know I speak for all faculty when I say we are very proud of him.”

The awards ceremony will take place online Thursday, June 3, at 8 p.m. Attendance is free, but registration is required. Visit the CCE website for details, including a list of all nominees.

—Susan McKee