A potter sits at his wheel, intently sculpting a shallow dish as the sunshine streams in through the window, revealing a glimpse of Whistler’s forest landscape.
This is a scene from, Binty , a five-minute film that features local potter Vincent Massey — better known as Binty — working and telling the story of a daring rescue he was part of in March 2005.
Armen Evrensel is a full-time filmmaker who was raised in Whistler, but is based out of Vancouver, now. Binty is his first 35-millimetre short.
Evrensel took an experimental approach to the film, opting to tell one story visually, while simultaneously telling another orally, through Massey’s unscripted voiceover.
“I think to tell a documentary type story like this, you can either try to say everything about somebody, or you can try and say one very specific thing that tells you a lot,” said Evrensel. “And one of the conceptual things was that I wanted to stick to one very specific part of Vincent’s story, and him making a piece of pottery from beginning to end.”
He received a $5,000 grant from the Whistler Stories filmmaking program to create the film, spending just one day filming Massey in his studio.
“The visuals were very carefully scripted, shot by shot. When you go in with a large crew, you have to make sure that you get everything you need,” Evrensel explained.
“We had one day to shoot everything because of the sheer volume of crew and equipment that we needed, we could only get it for that long.”
In one scene, they capture Massey pouring glaze over the massive platter, revealing the images he has etched on the surface.
“That was a very tricky one because it was impossible to replicate, basically. We had one chance to do it, and we didn’t even know what it was going to be all about until the day,” he said.
Selecting a story for Massey to tell wasn’t an easy decision — Evrensel wanted to make sure the combination of images and sound gave real insight into the individual. After some discussion, Evrensel decided the dramatic story of the rescue at Green Lake would be the best match for the visuals.
“The rescue of Juerg Humbel was one that I had heard of and it was one that I had in the back of my mind, so it was basically my top choice, but it was really approached in a documentary way,” Evrensel explained. “It looks very well structured and tight on the screen, but I kind of approached it in a very organic way.”
Not everyone who knows Massey was satisfied with Evrensel’s depiction of the local artist.
“One of the comments I got from a lot of people when I was showing a rough cut around, people who knew Vincent were always complaining that I didn’t show him snowboarding, and I didn’t show him doing all these other things, and he’s so much more than just a potter,” Evrensel said.
“It’s not meant to be an all-encompassing story, it’s just meant to be a snapshot.”
But so far, the film has been extremely well received by film communities within Canada and abroad. It was awarded the title of Best Canadian Short Doc at the Okanagan Film Festival, won the (RED) Vision Award, and was the official selection for the Canadian Film Centre World Wide Film Festival, the London Independent Film Festival, and the 2007 Whistler Film Festival, among many others.
Evrensel thinks the experimental formatting of Binty , as well as the fact that it was shot on 35-millimetre film, gives it a unique appeal, and sets it apart.
He was also very pleased with how the filmed turned out, adding that it is true to the vision he had set out with. But he still isn’t sure if Humbel has ever seen the film.
“There’s a story about a guy who was anonymously rescued, and that’s the key to the whole thing, and the key to the story, and yet, we’re not sure if he was in that Whistler screening at the Whistler Film Festival or if he heard about it or he’s seen it since,” he pointed out.
Massey was one of three men awarded a Medal of Bravery from the Governor General of Canada in January for the rescue effort.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out the film, visit http://www.greyareamedia.com/binty.html .
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