Neil Champagne filmmaker

Are you from Calgary?

I actually grew up in Saskatchewan in a little town called Melville. I started my undergrad at the University of Regina in film and then I spent a summer in Seattle just playing hockey with a buddy and that actually led me to going to the Film Academy in New York. I ended up getting a scholarship. And then that turned into a job. I interned at a dozen places — I worked for the Tribeca Film Festival the Producers’ Guild of America. But before I moved to New York I lived in Fort Mac for about a year.


Well to save money. I delivered pizza threw garbage and installed satellites. I worked three jobs to try and bank money so I could actually afford to live in New York. Everybody kind of shits on Fort McMurray but I find the quality of living in Western Canada and Alberta specifically the best across the board in this country.

Even in Fort Mac?

Yeah. There’s no culture in Fort McMurray but quality of life — being able to live in a warm home that’s carpeted or has hardwood floors. You’re not struggling from day to day. I think a lot of people take that for granted but Alberta’s unbelievable for that. So yeah long story short I moved to New York I studied for about a year and a half and ended up getting a job in commercial production. I started as an intern and then I had the treatment writer kind of take me under his wing and I worked underneath him. So I was in New York for four years writing commercial treatments and ghost writing for directors. Then I did some freelance work in Los Angeles and then moved here. I’ve been here for almost three years. I was really at a juncture I think in my career where I really wanted to spearhead my projects. Not that I hadn’t learned anything along the way and that it’s not rewarding working for other people and story editing and helping other people with projects any way you can but I think I’m a little too ambitious to not try to get my own stuff off the ground. So I said you know I’m going to head to Calgary my girl’s here there’s a great fucking community so I’m just going to take it on that way.

So you’re doing a fundraiser to make a short film Microwave. What’s the movie about?

I’ll give you the brief pitch. I lived in Toronto for a while I finished my undergrad at York. So I actually started writing this script four years ago when I was in my undergrad as my big project to finish my screenwriting course. It recently took second place at the Alaska International Film Festival for best screenplay. I really want to make this film. It’s about sibling rivalry — two brothers inherit the childhood home they grew up in after their grandmother passes. Making a decision with your siblings is sometimes a little difficult and this is exactly that case but on steroids. One brother wants to keep the home the other brother wants to sell it. So it’s literally their tumultuous relationship trying to figure out what the hell to do with this home and dealing with the grieving process of their grandmother. It is a dramedy so there are some light moments some dark moments. In the end they finally get an offer that they probably should make a move on if they’re going to make that decision and they end up in an altercation and accidentally burn down part of the kitchen. So what they’re both fighting so hard for they screw up because they’re so stubborn. The house in itself is kind of the third character.

Is it pretty focused is it just the two brothers?

There’s two or three other characters that come in to do viewings of the home but it’s literally like 14 pages of these guys in the house being brothers not getting along trying to figure out what to do.

What’s happening at the fundraiser?

We have eight grand invested privately from someone who works in Fort McMurray of all places. So we’ve got to raise another 12 to do this film. So what we’ve done is we’ve literally organized a big party. What we’ve set up is LDV Pizza Bar is going to allow us to throw the event there so we have $5 pints of draft beer we have beer donated from Granville Island from Village Brewery Wildrose is helping out. I’m taking half of the house that night so anyone who just comes to drink and eat that night is helping the cause. On top of that we’ve been scouring the city looking for donation items so we’re doing seven raffles. We have a Hamilton Beach espresso machine coffee from Phil & Sebastian to over $600 of restaurant gift cards from various places across the city. So anybody who buys a raffle ticket helps the cause. Then anybody who really loves the project itself and wants to get involved we’re setting it up like a kickstarter with perks for everything from $1 to $1500 gets you different perks for the film. So your $50 donation gets you an online copy of the film where your $1300 donation gets you an executive producer credit on this film and associate producer credit on the next project as well as every single perk from the $50 to the $1300. We have musical performances as well. We have Laura Alderson she’s doing an acoustic set and we have Calvin Locke.

So have you just been running around trying to get people to donate?

Literally just hitting the streets. You have to.

But most people don’t that takes a lot of work.

Yeah it definitely takes work and time. But for me at the place I am I’ve got to take the movie by the horns I have to. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? I think this should be for every filmmaker across the board. If you want to do a project either get your friends together and do it really guerrilla or if you’re trying to do something bigger get a plan of action that you can actually try to shoot for that bigger goal. The answer to that for me was to hit the streets. Again what’s the worst that’s going to happen? They’re going to tell me no. Then where am I? I’m in the exact same place as I was 10 minutes before.

Or maybe even better because you’ve at least made contact.

Exactly. Again I can’t say this enough it’s blowing my mind. Just the film community and the general sense of community in this city.

Are you looking at government funding as well?

That’s post. The other thing is we’re going to throw a kickstarter campaign once this is over to fill the gap. So say we don’t make our goal at this event then at least we can reach out to everybody outside to say “hey maybe help out” and we raise another two or three thousand bucks.

Are you tied into Calgary’s film community like the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers?

Yeah I’m actually on the communications committee for the CSIF. I know Nicola and Yvonne really well. I actually have CUFF Docs donating passes to their upcoming festival so Brenda Lieberman’s been super helpful.

The Microwave fundraiser takes place on Thursday November 7 at LDV Pizza Bar in Bridgeland. 7 p.m.