Interview with the Filmmaker team of the short film “At Britannia Courts”

BRITANNIA COURTS, 4min,. Canada, Documentary
Directed by Thais Despont
Founded in 2017, local skateboarders transformed the Britannia Tennis Courts into a skatepark, now known as the Britannia Courts Skatepark. It is a constantly evolving space rooted in DIY urbanism that is built by and for the community. The Small Places team produced a short video on the Britannia Courts in 2022, spotlighting two skateboarders who met at the skatepark and became friends through supporting each other in developing new skills and tricks.

Get to know the filmmaking team:
Thais Despont – director
Sophia Sengsuriya – producer
Celia Winters – producer
Sophia Sengsuriya – producer

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Kathleen: Vancouver’s skateboard community is resilient, and we wanted to spotlight a skatepark created from bottom-up advocacy through skaters who use the space regularly, with Britannia Courts exemplifying this.

Sophia: I lived in East Vancouver for many years and enjoyed witnessing how its many Third Places have evolved. The Courts is one that seems to have a strong presence of community support and care. As well there are many cities on this land we call Canada that still put up no skateboarding signs in areas that have potential to bring people together. Missing out on being able to gather the last few years, places like The Courts are a great reminder that people can shape places if leadership sees the value in that too.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

Kathleen: The project spanned 5 months from inception to release, including a big break in the summer and early fall, given other priorities in our work schedules.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Sophia: People powered
Celia: Community driven

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Thaïs : My biggest challenge was to immerse myself in that skatepark, which was a new space for me, to get the shots I wanted but also not interfere with the other skaters doing their thing.

Kathleen: Our team members are from Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Paris, so a lot of the planning was done remotely. We coordinated a week in July to be in Vancouver at the same time to interview and film the skaters on two separate days.

Sophia: My biggest challenge was taking a great conversation that ended up being approximately a half hour duration, and condensing it to a shorter format for Thaïs to work her videographer magic. Also keeping the interview brief because it was a lovely conversation.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Thaïs : I was surprised some people thought I was a skater myself ! But it means I managed to welcome the audience in that community of skaters, even though I was discovering it for the first time.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Thaïs : I started filming the life around me with a small camcorder when I was 12. Same one I used for the credits of this documentary! Filming has just always been my favourite way to tell stories.

Sophia: I loved tinkering with cameras at a young age but discovered I especially liked interviewing and editing audio when I had a YWCA internship at a documentary film school now known as In Focus.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Kathleen: I grew up in a household watching a lot of films too many times, and Run Lola Run is definitely up there for its experimental quality and addictive soundtrack.

Celia: This one is a tough one and very contrasting films that I have seen probably equally: The Incredibles, North County and honestly, Dawn of the Dead!

Sophia: Probably anything from the late 90s such as Truman Show, The Princess Bride and Good Will Hunting.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Thaïs : The feedback video was incredibly helpful and rewarding, I wish other festivals did that.

Sophia: I agree with Thaïs. It was generally great to hear viewers felt like they were there too and what elements or aspects of the film were convincing as such.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

Celia: Pretty straight forward to be honest, pretty user friendly and easy to navigate.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Thaïs : French onion soup
Celia: Chinese fried rice
Kathleen: Bhindi masala
Sophia: This is the most challenging question! Any Lao food.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

Thaïs : I really like the short docuseries format… Why not another one?

Sophia: We’re looking forward to exploring this format and hope to find grants that are a good fit for it.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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