Over the next few days I want to post some excerpts from what I scribbled down in my journal as Lizzie and I made our way through Paris and hopped a train to the 40th Festival du Court Metrage Clermont-Ferrand (Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, the largest festival in the world dedicated exclusively to shorts) where Peak Oil screened out of competition as part of Telefilm Canada’s Canada: Not Short On Talent showcase. The screening was sold out; the filmmakers who were attending their own screening had to sit on the floor.

It was my first time at a film festival of this scale. It was definitely overwhelming at first. So many people clambering for attention, gasping and reaching for anything resembling a leg up. An air of real desperation in the place. For me: a feeling like I didn’t belong and I didn’t know what I was doing. Like if I knew better or was smarter or more charming I could’ve sold my film or formed a career-changing relationship relationship with a producer. But these were not my goals, not this time, not with barely one foot in the door. My goals were to see as many short films as I could and to meet new filmmakers from across Canada and around the world. To see how my film measured up against the best short films the world has to offer, and what I need to do in the future to make a film that will truly stand out in a place like Clermont-Ferrand. In short: to learn. And I learned. I learned so much.

Friday, February 2nd

In Paris for a few days with Lizzie before we catch a train down to Clermont-Ferrand for the festival. Sitting at a small café across the street from the Museé d’Orsay where we’ve just taken in a number of paintings by Van Gogh, Maximilien Luce, Vallaton, others. My relationship with visual art is entirely different than when I was last here ten years ago. The influence of fine art on cinematography is slowly unfolding for me–I’m beginning to see with the eyes of a visual thinker now, nearly a decade into making movies. Also have a completely different understanding of/appreciation for the subjects these painters decided to portray. How much of Van Gogh’s work is pastoral, for example, or how Luce and the neo-impressionists were committed to humanism while still hoping to preserve a sense of poetry, and how this manifests in their portraits of working people and factories. In short: there is so much to learn, such a surprising amount of overlap in the reverent approach of these painters’ representations of blue-collar life in the late 19th/early 20th Centuries and the way that I’d like to photograph Edmonton. That has been the most unexpected part of this trip so far: the degree to which I find myself inspired to return to my wheelhouse, my under-photographed little corner of the world…

We walk everywhere. The way traffic works here both puzzles and astounds us. My French is enough to get us from place to place and order food and coffee without (seemingly) alienating the entire Parisian service industry. Nice to be here in the winter when there are demonstrably fewer tourists, but it’s definitely colder than either of us expected. The wet sort of cold that softens you just enough for the wind to rip through your bones…

Lizzie wears her red scarf around her shoulders like a shawl. Her face is striking, like out of one of those paintings we’ve just seen. Cigarette smoke wafts in from the street and I do not want to go back out into the cold. 


Until next time.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB


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