Justin Ducharme Invites Public to Take Part in Research For Upcoming Independent Film

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Justin Ducharme at READ Books at Emily Carr University in February, 2024. (Photo by Perrin Grauer)

By Emily Carr University

Posted on February 22, 2024

The writer, filmmaker and director is hosting a series of events at Emily Carr University to offer the public a rare glimpse at how a film takes shape.

Writer, filmmaker and curator Justin Ducharme is pulling back the curtain on his independent filmmaking process with a series of events hosted in collaboration with the Libby Leshgold Gallery at Emily Carr University.

Through screenings, workshops and discussions, Justin invites the public for a rare opportunity to engage in the research process behind his upcoming film, Seventeen.

“I think people don’t realize how equipped they are to talk about how film or television makes them feel,” he says. “People sometimes write themselves or their opinions off as not having value during this stage of creation. But I’ve been really surprised at some of the things that have come up so far, even in casual conversation. It reminds me why this medium of storytelling is so important and why I fell in love with it in the first place: because it is a very powerful tool and it affects us all.”

Seventeen is a feature film that was written and will be directed by Justin. The story follows three urban Indigenous people whose lives intersect over the course of seventeen hours through chaos, circumstance and the shared experience of familial and colonial displacement.

Justin is from the Métis community of St. Ambroise on Treaty 1 Territory. He was a fellow in the Sundance Film Festival's 2022 Native Film Lab with his television pilot Positions adapted from his short film. He was the recipient of the Toronto International Film Festival's Barry Avrich Fellowship and is an alum of their 2021 TIFF Filmmaker Lab.

Justin’s residency at ECU was the “brainchild” of Vanessa Kwan, Director + Curator of Gallery + Exhibitions, and Lyndsay Pomerantz, Bookstore Operations at READ Books. The residency is the first initiative in a new public program called Research As…, which makes the creative research process more visible and accessible.

Justin says community outreach has always been a part of his writing process. But that outreach is typically aimed at the communities where his stories take place. For instance, while writing Seventeen, he consulted with his community of urban Indigenous people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Working with PACE society, he expanded his research by consulting with his community of sex workers.

He says he wants to expand the circle of people who offer input on how his story is being understood.

“With this residency, I’m trying to bring down the barriers around who can engage with the film’s development and let in anyone who feels compelled to participate,” he says. “The idea to engage specifically with students excites me because one of the characters is an art student. I’m just interested in hearing takes from people who are from outside my own lived experience.”

So far, that process has included a public reading and reception as well as a social and screening at the Libby Leshgold Gallery and the Aboriginal Gathering Place at ECU. Through February and March, Justin will host a three-day open studio and a writing workshop at the ECU Library, a live table reading at the gallery, and a screening of GUSH by Fox Maxy at the Reliance Theatre. Along with artist, musician and filmmaker Chandra Melting Tallow, Justin will co-host a Real Housewives watch party for an event titled ‘Reality TV as Research.’

"I know my story’s truth and I know what’s necessary to make the film that I want to make,” he says. “But I also know that if I’m going to make a good film — a film that has the potential to mean something to people or touch an audience — I need to be able to understand where people are coming from. And I’ve had conversations that have opened up the way I’ve thought about the film.”

Visit the Libby Leshgold Gallery online for details on upcoming events related to Justin’s residency. All events are free and open to the public.

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