Filmmaker Carla Sinclair’s creative spark came seven years ago while she was in a small Nelson music venue. A Selkirk College student at the time, she had no idea how the flames would be fanned.
Behind the microphone that night was Kate Reid, a passionate folk-roots musician who delved into themes that hit home with Sinclair.
“When I first saw her perform in downtown Nelson I remember not being able to peel my eyes away from this woman on the stage,” says Sinclair. “I had never heard anything like this before and I thought to myself: how can I get everyone to listen to Kate’s music because what she sings about resonated with me.”
Filmmaker Carla Sinclair (left) and the main subject of her Heal Myself documentary Kate Reid (right).
Today Sinclair is part of Empty Cup Media, a bustling photo/video company serving clients in and around the Greater Toronto area. Though now a long way from the Kootenays, the spark seven years ago ignited a full-length documentary project about Reid that now nears completion.
Heal Myself follows Reid on her journey as a musician, activist and teacher. Standing up for gay rights and teaching tolerance, Sinclair has pointed the camera at the alt-culture artist as she has crossed the country doing shows, speaking at schools, conducting workshops for gay-straight alliance groups and doing sensitivity training.
Roots Planted at Selkirk College
Sinclair grew up in Hampton, New Brunswick where she fell in love with making movies when she was 12.
“When I was 16 I bought my first video camera instead of buying clothes,” she says with a chuckle.
After graduating from high school Sinclair entered the journalism program at St. Thomas University, a small liberal arts university in Fredericton. Not finding the calling she was looking for, Sinclair left after just over a year into her studies and headed west to Rossland in search of deep powder winter days.
“I’m a very visual person and like to be able to do things while I learn,” she says of her stint at university. “I don’t like the idea of sitting in a lecture for an hour.”
After two winters in the Kootenays, Sinclair had the urge to return to school. One day she saw an advertisement in the local newspaper about the Multimedia and Design Program at Selkirk College. The idea rekindled her love for making movies and she enrolled in the program in 2004.
“It immediately blew my expectations out of the water,” Sinclair says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Selkirk. I went to university and I was miserable, and it wasn’t because the university or program was bad, it just didn’t suit my learning style. I need a lot of attention and need to have the ability to ask a lot of questions and not feel like I’m on display when I ask questions.”
Diving right in, Sinclair was further energized by the passion her instructors brought to the classroom every day.
“It was hard to sometimes get myself to class at university,” says Sinclair. “At Selkirk I was one of the people who volunteered for everything and the custodians had to kick me out at the end of the night. There was a group of us who practically lived at the college while we studied there.”
After completing the two-year Digital Arts & New Media Program, Sinclair added a third year with the International Digital Film Advanced Diploma.
Fully in love with the Kootenay lifestyle, Sinclair managed to find work right after graduating where she helped teach and develop a digital filmmaking program for youth. She also worked at KBS radio as a news anchor/reporter.
In 2008, she was introduced to Colin Burwell of Empty Cup Media through a mutual friend. The Toronto-based photographer was sole proprietor of his fledgling company and looking for somebody to join him. Sinclair’s talents fit the bill and she took chance, moving to the big city to pursue her dreams.
Over the last three years, Sinclair and Burwell have put together an impressive body of work. Their projects include corporate videos, educational videos, public service announcements, promotional videos for companies and municipalities, weddings, social media publicity videos, and short documentaries.
Heal Myself Project Stays on the Radar
Kate Reid has never been far from Sinclair’s ever growing to-do list.
“Kate has been a mentor to me as a woman who really just wants to succeed in her dream and do it full time,” says Sinclair. “It’s difficult to do as an artist. I’ve used her music over the last seven years and the experiences that I’ve gained through this filmmaking process to really transform myself in a very positive way.”
Filmmaker Carla Sinclair (right) while on location shooting Heal Myself footage.
Sinclair and Burwell were married last year. For a honeymoon, they decided to spend their money finishing the Heal Myself footage. In the last 12 months they have travelled to Vancouver, Vancouver Island, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Nelson, Saskatchewan and Alberta completing the work.
Sinclair is now using the website Kickstarter to help crowd source the $25,000 needed to complete the editing and final post production work on Heal Myself. She has until November 3rd to reach her goal and begin the last push to completion.
“Kate’s talent is to captivate an audience and speak to them about things that only she can sing about,” says Sinclair. “That’s not my talent, my talent is beautiful visual storytelling. By pairing up with her I’m trying to get more eyes and ears on the messages she is promoting.”
Kootenay Snow and So Much More
Sinclair comes back to the Nelson/Rossland area every winter to get her taste of quality Kootenay snow.
Part of the continued attraction of the Kootenays is where Sinclair honed her skills as a filmmaker. She says Selkirk College will always hold a special place in her life.
“I talk Selkirk up everywhere I go because I loved it so much. It really did give me a good foundation,” she says.
“One of the most important things is not the building you are in, but the people who make up the organization. I can say from personal experience that Selkirk College was a goldmine of amazing instructors who not only fostered the work we were doing in class but gave me opportunities outside of class. They continue to be a support long after and those are the kinds of connections that are actually going to really help you in your career. Those quality, long-term relationships are the ones that really matter.”