Stefan Kuchar is a Toronto based filmmaker and the host of the Sudden Impulse Film Festival.
Interview by Rebeccah Love
What is the Sudden Impulse Film Festival?
The Sudden Impulse Film festival is a one night a year self-funded event that showcases funny, weird and inspiring short films from Toronto and the GTA. This is my 7th year running the festival which I run with the help of my friends and family.
This year’s event is June 2nd at the Revue Cinema. The night starts at 8pm where the filmmakers walk the red carpet and have a live cast interview with red carpet hostess Caleigh Le Grand. All of this can be watched online at mediaevents.ca/siff-2018. Then at 8:30pm the doors open and night begins at 9pm when I perform a musical number, I like the night to have a sort of low budget Oscars feel. After that there are three 45 minute acts of short films with two 20 minute live music intermissions in between. This year’s incredible band Slowfish happens to be made up entirely of filmmakers, which is a special first.
How did you first develop an interest in film?
I started acting at a young age and my parents bought me and my brother a video camera in grade 6 which I made a lot of videos and short films with. Most of these were comedies, I loved making an audience laugh. Life’s hard, it feels good to laugh. Growing up I was also inspired by a lot of films and television, artists like Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Jim Henson and shows like SCTV and Kids in the Hall. I guess I like weird stuff and funny stuff which is a lot of the festivals programming. Also I feel it important to mention as a queer filmmaker I like to pepper in the odd LGBTQ film. Just trying to convert the heteros as per my agenda.
What are some of the greatest challenges associated with running a film festival?
Time is the greatest challenge for sure and the money part ain’t great either. Running the festival in the way I do with the red carpet, red carpet hostess, live band plus the theatre rental which gets the liquor sales means I no longer bring in a profit, a minimal profit or just hope to break even, let alone pay myself for my time. I don’t track the hours, but it’s well over 100. Balancing the time to run this festival and not turning down paid work is tough, which I often have to do, so I’m also losing money that way. In the future I’m looking at incorporating to help bring in funding but this could end up taking up more of my time since I will now have to manage a separate company. Currently I run the festival under my business Sudden Impulse Productions.
What is your curating process like?
The curating process is exciting. This year we had over 100 short films submit, 101 to be exact. This took two days to get through. Currently the voting panel is very small, just three of us, this may grow if I incorporate in the future. We each vote yes, no, or maybe. Then we line the results up and see what we are working with. I then program three 45 minute acts of short films. This is my favourite part, figuring out which film to open and close each act with, which to play in the middle, the flow of the night, when to bring the audience up and when to bring them down, when to make them laugh and when to make them squirm.
What is your favourite movie of all time?
Ghostbusters is by far my favourite movie of all time. I love the direction, writing, cast, cinematography, music, sfx, story, comedy, Canadiania, nostalgia, it all holds up. Taking an absurd concept and treating it very realistically with quirky yet believable characters.
Do you think that Toronto is an artist-friendly city?
I think Toronto is the best city in the world and is incredibly artist friendly as well culturally diverse and gender accepting. Sure the city has its problems, but compared to the rest of the world we have it very good. We have the opportunity to create art and share art with such a diverse population. I’m not saying being an artist is always glamourous, pay can be low, risk is high, venues are vanishing, but a true artist will always find a way and this city is full of artists, and artists support artists, that’s part of the reason I run this festival and feature local filmmakers and musicians.
Why are film festivals important?
Film Festivals are important, they bring otherwise unseen work to an audience. For example, there is an incredible short film community in Toronto and the GTA as well as some extremely funny comedians that most of us aren’t aware of. The CRTC mandates that the radio make sure we listen to Canadian content, and we have incredible bands we hear in this Country but the film industry does not have a comparable system, especially for short films. I would love to see the government mandate cinemas to play one Canadian short film before every feature so the existing short film industry could see some financial return. Or reserve one cinema for Canadian features along with reserved funding for advertising incentives. The CBC is starting to take more risks online, programming some very funny web series, hopefully this continues to grow. Canadian filmmakers are creating good content, but they struggle to find a medium, and the medium is the message.
What are you looking forward to?
Honestly, I’m looking forward to getting some paid work, maybe start calling into IATSE as a lighting technician, a short trip to PEI and then focus on what’s next to direct. It’s such a lot of effort leading up to this event, but also such a privilege to show the work of so many talented filmmakers and musicians and to get to hear the laughter and feedback from the crowd. Once this year’s festival is finished I’m also going to seriously consider growing the festival by incorporating, applying for grants, seeking funding and hiring help. Hopefully is this happens and the festival will become more manageable and see many more years.