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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Whose eyes, whose ears : chronology and perception Martell, Jan-Marie

Abstract

In 1972, the Federal Government of Canada, through the Federal Treasury Board, initiated a unique summer employment project for students of film production in educational institutions. Nearly one quarter of a million dollars was released from the Treasury Board at the start of the 1972 fiscal year to finance what can be described as a co-production between the National Film Board, acting as producer, and the National Museum of Man, providing supervision for the film projects. The educational institutions supplied equipment, editing facilities and student film makers. This innovative approach to student summer employment precipitated film projects across Canada, among them a challenging film expedition to Hesquiat, a remote Indian reserve on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Later called the Hesquiat Film Project, the program involved three student film makers from the University of British Columbia. From May through August, 1972, the government paid them a salary of $110 per week, provided them with 30,000 feet of 16mm color film and work print for the project, and supplied them with a nearly unlimited amount of film stock for color and black and white stills. Unlike the initiative required from students under O.F.Y. (Opportunities For Youth, a former government summer employment program), the ideas for the film program did not originate either with the students or from among the people involved locally in the project. Ostensibly, the combination of institutions and people was logical. As an outcome of the summer's projects, the National Museum would acquire documentary and archival footage; the National Film Board would fulfill obligations to the Treasury Board by utilizing a relegated number of man-hours provided by the Federal Treasury Board; and student film makers would be employed, be exposed to the Federal Government civil service, gain experience, and acquire films to edit during the following winter or summer. The Hesquiat Band would acquire workprint with which to secure finishing money for whatever films they wanted to make from the material shot at Hesquiat. Nevertheless, no films were produced from the Hesquiat footage, and at the time of this writing, no films have been completed from footage shot for film projects carried out elsewhere in British Columbia. The Hesquiat Band representatives and the student film makers left the project feeling exploited. From their point of view, the most obvious goal of the project, finished films, had not been realized. Neither the N.F.B. nor the National Museum expressed any intention of bringing the film projects to completion. Once the original film footage reached the storage vaults of the National Film Board in Montreal, the project was considered closed. A post mortem investigation into the Hesquiat Film Project unearths explanations and rationalizations that include: lack of time, naivety, inexperience, and fear at the local level, combined with tokenism, indifference, waste, poor conception and conflicting, changing aims at the national level. However, these reasons for (lack of completed films give only superficial explanation for the collision of expectations and the resulting use of materials, energy and emotion. Through interviews and letters, I have assembled material with which to examine project origins, aims, and expectations of people in the context of chronological developments. My exploration of this material was undertaken to discover why perception and action were blocked in this circumstance.

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