Studio Arts Student Jumps into Filmmaking

Sixty-second film selected to play on Toronto subway screens

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Guelph studio arts student Theo Bakker in a Toronto subway station where his film was chosen by the Toronto Urban Film Festival was chosen to screen.

Have you ever been to a movie that was filled with dramatic chase scenes and dazzling special effects, but left you disappointed because the story somehow got lost? If so, you’ll probably love U of G student Theo Bakker’s one-minute video JUMP. No special effects, no animated creatures, not even any dialogue – just a story told in 60 seconds.

The judges from the Toronto Urban Film Festival (TUFF) certainly loved it. They chose it as one of the films to show on subway station screens around Toronto during the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Currently finishing his second year in U of G’s studio arts program, Bakker says he came up with the story idea for his film only four days before the deadline.

“I posted online to see if anyone would be in the video and could only find one friend who knew a woman who would participate. Neither of the two people in the film – Aniela Sklepowicz and Ian Gibson – had any previous acting experience, but they were motivated and available, so we went ahead,” says Bakker.

The filming took about five hours and editing the footage took another half-day. “The hardest parts were the scenes where they are riding bikes out to Guelph Lake,” says Bakker. “I had to be on my bike, riding with no hands and trying to focus the camera.” The entire video was shot using a Canon DSLR camera and standard 50mm lens.

Bakker was born and raised in Guelph; his father J.I. (Hans) Bakker is a professor of sociology and anthropology at U of G. After high school, Theo Bakker wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, so he moved to Montreal for five years and worked as a DJ and music producer.

“I realized that if I wanted to really make it big in the music business, I needed to be in the U.S.,” he says. “So I moved to New York and began doing audio-visual work for EMI, Sony and other major record labels.”

Bakker eventually decided it was time to go to university and enrolled at Guelph.

“Initially, I enrolled in psychology, but after I tried a few art courses, I knew I wanted to be in that program. I’ve never looked back,” he says.

When he learned his video had been chosen, Bakker and Gibson were determined to watch it on a subway screen. “It was a Sunday, and I had other things scheduled, so we only had about an hour,” says Bakker. “We drove to Toronto to the first subway station, parked and went in. And the screens were down. They weren’t working. We panicked. Ian said we had to go to another station.

“I knew they ran the videos in a cycle, so we might have to wait a couple of hours for ours to come on, and we just didn’t have that much time.”

But they decided to try the next station, and just as they got there, their video started on the screen. Bakker was able to film it. “Everything worked out perfectly,” he says.

The response has been very positive, both on social media and from his friends and fellow students. Bakker adds that both of the actors have been approached by people who saw them in the video.

The TUFF experience has fueled Bakker’s interest in making more narrative films, and he hopes to work on feature films or animation after he graduates. “I’m also really open to collaboration. I’d love to work with music students who could create a soundtrack for a film, or theatre students who would like to act in something I’m working on,” he says.

Interested? Contact him at tbakker@mail.uoguelph.ca.

Bakker says he plans to enter TUFF again next year, and he’s also checking out other film festivals. “This is just the starting point, just the beginning.”