Young local filmmaker wins at Georgian Bay festival
By Darren Lum
Published May 9, 2017
A local teenager has earned a first place award at a recent film festival for his horror short, Unaware, set entirely in the village of Haliburton.
Rowan Tofflemire, a Grade 12 student with a passion for the horror movie genre, won the first place award and $150 cash prize at the South Georgian Bay 2017 Film Festival. It was welcome recognition for Rowan.
“It felt really good. It was a nice feeling,” he said.
The award can be added to his professional resume, which he hopes will help with a career in film.
Close to four minutes long, his film has plenty of local flavour including the cast, crew and setting.
It was co-written with friend Seamus Lynch and has a cast of other local teens such as Cassidy Glecoff, Robbie Hall, Julian Anderson, younger brother Gage and Seamus.
The story is about a girl leaving work late at night, immersed in her music when she is surprised and confronted by a masked man in the village of Haliburton early in the morning. The writing took three weeks while he worked at Sticks and Stones Media. The shooting and editing took more than 10 hours. An interesting part of the filming, he said, was how a noisy McKecks Bar and Grill required him to become a Foley artist – creating and recording noises related to movements and actions, which is executed after the initial shooting.
“I couldn’t use any of the audio for it because McKecks was way too loud with people there. I had to record the audio of her putting the coat on and putting the chair [up on the table] all in my house and line it up, which I thought was cool,” he said.
It wasn’t intended, but he recognizes the irony of how his film (available at the YouTube channel RX2 Productions) shot with a DSLR camera and a mike contradicts the common perception of the Highlands being a quiet, safe place.
“I was just thinking I wanted to really build suspense with the fact that this girl is walking and can’t hear what’s happening around her,” he said.
This isn’t his first award he has won for film.
Back in 2014, at the There’s Something in the Water documentary premiere event in Haliburton, Rowan won the People’s Choice award. Winning the South Georgian award meant a lot to Rowan because the field of entrants included filmmakers from all over the world, who entered their work online through the website FilmFreeway.
James Wan is his favourite director, known for the movies The Conjuring (his favourite) and Saw.
“He’s so good at building suspense and then ending [the film] with a good scare. Just keeping you on edge the whole film. My favourite horror movie is The Conjuring,” he said.
He loves the horror genre for how it leaves people feeling.
“The way your heart races and the way someone would feel while watching a horror movie ... it’s a negative feeling, but really it’s good because you don’t have that in real life. Most people don’t really feel fear for most things and when you do it’s a new kind of excitement. It’s like a roller coaster,” he said.
Rowan started making films at 10 years old. Even though those first attempts were basic, he has come a long way to his current work that possesses greater production values and more refined lighting.
There are many people who have influenced and helped him get to this point, he said, naming Tammy Rea, a former employer and mentor and current mentor Pasi Posti of Positive Media, where he has a co-op placement. However, it was his father, Tim Tofflemire, who started it all.
“He’s the one that won that digital camera when I was like seven. I guess that’s the reason I’ve had cameras all my life and the lens I used to film [Unaware] my dad gave to me because he has a bunch of old Canon lenses,” he said.
Tofflemire is a local freelance photographer, who has shot weddings, commercial work and editorial for The Minden Times and Haliburton County Echo.
Currently, Rowan is busy working on a video for the upcoming Red Hawks annual athletic banquet.
He is also working on a script he wants to use for a coming-of-age film he hopes to enter into the Toronto International Film Festival this year.
Although he intends to take this coming year off to work and build his portfolio, he plans to apply to Humber College and Canadore College for film production. He would like to work with a Toronto film union and hopes to work his way up through the ranks.
Haliburton is well-known for its beauty. However for Rowan he sees another side, which inspires.
“When I was trying to write for this short film I just drove around and went to the most isolated places in Haliburton. I did. I just sat in the woods, thinking of ideas. It’s so quiet,” he said.