EDSS TV was created earlier this year in March by Siddharth Singh, this year’s president of the English and Drama Student Society, who observed that previous EDSS initiatives only catered to English students.
“We have CCIT students doing the technical stuff like lighting and sound, TDS as actors, the English and PWC students write the scripts, and we also have students from cinema studies,” Singh said. “We want a diversity with students.”
In this incarnation of a campus TV station, scripts are handed to a panel of EDSS members who all have had previous experience working on short films. The scripts are reviewed and, if they make the cut, undertaken.
I was invited to sit down and watch their first day of shooting. A group of about 10 students gathered in the Davis Building to shoot a rather ambiguous scene of dialogue between two young men, one of whom seemed to be going through a particularly rough time. The direction by Singh and Shaquille Hosein was great to see; they were professional but encouraging, and everyone seemed to be having fun between takes but took the project very seriously under the lens.
This project is a complete 180 from EDSS TV’s first one. Dry on a Sunday was the initiative’s premiere short film and is described by Singh as a “stoner comedy”. But the recent untitled script deals with a student on the brink of suicide after the death of his girlfriend causes his depression.
The film was actually drafted just over three years ago by Hosein. “At the time, I wanted to write about the story of a man who intended on killing himself and how his last day would play out before being prevented from doing what he wanted to do,” he says. “Person-vs.-self conflicts really appeal to me more than anything because I’ve always been fascinated with exploring and analyzing different mindsets.”
“We often see friends depressed or sad and don’t actually make it better. We ask them if they’re okay and then that’s it,” Singh added. “He’s suicidal but his friends don’t know.”
In order to tackle such heavy content, Singh and Hosein needed to prepare themselves and their lead actor, Mohammed. “We explained to [the actors] the weight of the story and for the longest time we were going to the psychology department for information on body language and speech of a depressed person and used this for dialogue,” Singh says. “That’s why we have pauses in some of the lines. We used this to tell our actors how to say their lines and what their facial expressions should be.”
Singh went on to say that through this method, members of the crew were nearly brought to tears during the improved performances. “These members are people who had seen these takes being done before so this isn’t something that should theoretically affect them,” Singh says. “But it just shows Mohammed’s talent when he performs.”
Hosein was also the winner of last year’s UTM Film Festival Viewer’s Choice Award for Crave. He also won Best Screenplay at the U of T Film Festival for The Invitation, which went on to win the Best Film Award at the Mississauga Youth Film Festival.
“I started directing my own films and began taking the craft seriously after grade 10, when a friend of mine approached me with an idea of collaborating to create a zombie film. Although the film was scrapped after the script was completed, the idea of creating something from nothing and being excited about working with friends really drove me to pursue it further,” Hosein says.
“As a director, I feel that over the years I’ve improved in terms of understanding how to properly prepare for a film shoot, whether it be with organization or management. Gone are the days of working with just a couple of friends on a school project. Now I’m living in a time where film crews are much, much larger and mistakes cannot be made.”
He said he would have advised his younger self to share his work with the world earlier and to not be afraid. “There was a gap of almost an entire year when I wasn’t comfortable sharing what I had made in fear of my videos not being good enough,” he says. “When I finally shared my work, people loved it, and in the end, filmmaking is all about entertaining others, right?”
Hosein and Singh hope that they will finish shooting by the end of the month and premiere the film at the UTM Film Festival this February. EDSS TV also plans to send out films to other festivals, including the Toronto Youth Film Festival, Mississauga Youth Film Festival, and the Hart House Film Fest.
Meanwhile, UTM/TV has also been more active recently. Control of the video production group was transferred to the DEM Society in October 2012, and they are currently producing a “UTM Talks” series. EDSS’s last attempt at video production, WebTV with the series “PranksNews”, has not been updated since April.