Highlights from a Q&A session between Executive Producer Ann Shin and the Rogers Group of Fund about the filmmaking process:

  1. What makes a powerful documentary?

My dad says more action scenes ;). Aside from action, which all docs need, I think a strong story makes a powerful documentary, and there are a few different types of strong stories. The two kinds of stories I’m drawn to are: 1) Heroic human stories about overcoming challenges, about resilience, surprising ingenuity. These stories have strong emotional arcs and have the viewer rooting for the subject.  2) Stories with universal relevance, these are often about a social issue and it’s the filmmaker’s creativity and vision that makes the social issue come alive and resonate with the viewer.  And of course the best of the best are stories with all of the above. Plus more action scenes.


  1. What excites you about today’s cross-platform/interactive possibilities?

While we are developing a VR game and I’ve done a range of interactive projects, to be frank, I’m not doing that many interactive projects now, because funding in Canada for cross-platform projects (cross film/tv/digital media) has shrunk. That being said, digital media industries are doing well and there are interesting things going on in AR and VR. I also like following the work being done in podcasts and short form web content, especially web series. Both of those forms are like sandboxes for trying out new ideas and talent.


  1. What difference does it make to have women in positions of creative control?

Having more women in positions of creative control is, for one, a better reflection of our society. And it’s just as important to have people of different backgrounds and ability. I’m trying not to sound the politically-correct-horn because I know it’s deafened us all! But having all kinds of people in positions of creative control leads to smarter, better, funnier, and more universally relevant creative.


  1. When you look back on your career, what moments stand out?

Whenever I took a real risk, I ended up creating a memorable project, and the experience altered me. The first film I did, Western Eyes, with Gerry Flahive at the National Film Board, was really an experimental shot in the dark for me and I appreciated his guidance on the whole project. For The Defector, I travelled embedded with North Korean defectors on the run and their bravery and the stories of their sacrifices has stayed with me to this day. It was also a heart-harrowing journey to plumb the depths of Najah and Zahed’s story in My Enemy, My Brother and that has stayed with me as well. 


  1. You’re currently working on A.I. God and Smart Drugs. Does the potential of technology excite or terrify you?

Yes. To both. I’m uneasy about how we are developing powerful technologies without properly understanding the dangers, and without having developed the moral and social constructs to manage them well. Then there is the growing trend of relying on technology to tell us who we are, how we are, and how we should be. Yuval Harari talks about the Dataist religion – describing how more and more people rely on data and biotech to define who they are. We are losing sight of core human values, and indeed, those ‘core’ values are changing. It’s kind of terrifying and fascinating. 


  1. What do you hope viewers take away from these productions?

I hope people find the answer. Both these films address the pressure we feel as humans to ‘keep up’ with tech. As we sense that we are being outclassed and outmoded by technology, some have responded by bio-hacking and augmenting themselves with technological or pharmaceutical enhancements. I’m not convinced that’s the way to go but maybe in 15 years time, I too will use a brain-computer interface because everyone in the developed classes of the world has one. Or maybe I’ll join the ‘savages’ of the world, like John from Brave New World. Either way I hope to be a voice that helps shape our dialogues as a society and I hope everyone sees their own agency and responsibility to voice their concerns and to actively shape the direction we go, rather becoming flotsam and jetsam carried off by an AI tide.


Sugar Sisters

Sugar Sisters

Sugar Sisters is a one hour/feature length documentary following Hannah, a queer twenty-something filmmaker, and her two sisters as they explore the globally popular phenomenon of sugar-dating where people in their 20s date older, wealthier men in exchange for money and gifts. Hannah’s exploration into the lucrative life of a sugar baby challenges her morals and feminist ideals as she tries to maintain her personal relationships whilst her satisfying Sugar Daddies. Not easy.

Watch the full film on October 27 at 9pm EST on CBC Docs and at cbc.ca/firsthand

The Terrorist Hunter

The Terrorist Hunter

The Terrorist Hunter follows controversial spy Rita Katz, lauded by some for her work fighting terrorism, criticized by others who say she creates terrorist plots where none exist. The film weaves Rita’s tale within the context of the multibillion dollar counterterrorism industry, exposing how fear and terror play out in our society.

Find out more at The Terrorist Hunter

Welcome to Kafkaville

Welcome to Kafkaville

After Alan is dumped by his girlfriend, he encounters a suicidal Snowman tossing lit matches at himself. The Snowman is down because his life is short and he has never felt the touch of a Snowwoman. Only Alan can fix the situation - by building a Snowwoman. Alan isn’t ready to help others fall in love, but seeing his ex in a magic-realistic moment in a café might just change his mind. Welcome to Kafkaville follows Alan through the upside-down, bizzaro town, on a surreal journey of pain, reconciliation, and cold, cold snow love.

Eye of the Beholder

Eye of the Beholder

Accompanying the theatrical release of MY ENEMY, MY BROTHER is the world premiere of a dramatic VR experience called EYE OF THE BEHOLDER.

This spectacular 4-minute VR experience will be made available for theatre-goers for free. Set in a conflict zone, the player encounters another soldier in a bunker who may be friend or foe. The player’s decisions to combat or collaborate with the other in the ensuing challenges determines who gets out alive. This short VR experience questions how we prejudge others, and is a teaser for the longer game that will be released later in 2018.

The Superfood Chain

The Superfood Chain

Every year, the western world is introduced to a new ‘superfood’ that boasts extraordinary nutritional features, and year after year we buy them. The Superfood Chain is a feature documentary that explores the facts and myths behind superfoods, and reveals the ripple effect of the ‘Superfood’ industry on farming and fishing families around the world.

Shot on location in four countries, the film features the lush landscapes of Bolivia, Ethiopia, Philippines, and Haida Gwaii in Canada, following four farming and fishing families. The documentary examines the larger issues around globalization of superfoods, including unintended effects on food security and health, sustainable farming, and fair trade food practices.

Find out more at www.thesuperfoodchain.com

Smart Drugs

Smart Drugs

If popping a pill could make you smarter, wittier and increase your memory would you take it? If you were a surgeon working 20 hour days and you could take a pill that kept you performing brilliantly, would you? We are on the verge of a new kind of over-the-counter drug that could change the fabric of our society, they’re called Nootropics, or ‘smart drugs,’ and they’re globally popular both at parties and in the workplace but we are only beginning to be aware of some of the side effects.

Breaking Fast

More than 50% of secondary school boys and 67% of girls don’t eat breakfast every day. 1 out of 5 kids in America live in poverty. So why are our kids going hungry, and what is being done about it? Breaking Fast is a broadly conceived series and social engagement project which delves into the impact of poor nutrition on academic performance, neighbourhoods, and long-term health. It features characters like Zach Maxwell, 11-year old New Yorker whose ‘Gross’ school lunches video went viral, as well as farmers, celebrity chefs and schools from across the United States.

My Enemy, My Brother

Saving the Enemy A young soldier makes a split-second decision that will forever change the course of two men’s lives. Watch the trailer here!

The Family China Tour

Released this past summer, The Family China has won the Anne Green Award for innovation in narrative form.

Writer Ann Shin will be reading from The Family China and screening Smashing China videos at several literary festivals and events this fall, starting this Sunday, Sept 14 in Eden Mills.
Saturday, September 14, 2013:
Reading at Eden Mills Literary Festival

Tuesday, September 24:
Reading at Winnipeg’s International Writer’s Festival, ThinAir Festival: Main-stage reading, and campus reading.

Thursday, October 10:
Poets’ Dinner Party: Diaspora Dialogues at Grano Restaurant

Tuesday, October 15:
Reading and Performance at Calgary’s Wordfest

Friday, October 25 and Sunday, October 27:
Reading at Vancouver International Writer’s Festival

#46 Pure Poetry, Friday, October 25, 10:00-11:30 AM, Waterfront Theatre

#75 Catharsis, Sunday, October 27, 10:30 AM-12 noon, Studio 1398

Sunday, November 3:
LIT Live Reading, Hamilton
Thursday November 21-25:
literASIAN Writer’s Festival, Vancouver

The Defector

Dragon smuggles North Korean defectors across borders for a living, and his latest undercover trip with Sook-Ja and Yong-hee takes an unexpected turn when they are left stranded in China. This is only the beginning of an extraordinary 5,000 km journey.Their story reflects the reality of tens of thousands of North Koreans currently in hiding in China. Filmed undercover by a Korean-Canadian filmmaker, Ann gets intimate access with these 3 individuals in this dramatic POV film. Beautifully shot, with a compelling high-stakes story, THE DEFECTOR poses broad questions around human smuggling and the pursuit of freedom.

The Defector Interactive

The Defector Interactive is a cinematic journey into what it’s like to be a North Korean who tries to escape. It begins inside North Korea and allows the user to take a POV journey across the Tumen River into China and South-East Asia. There are decision-making points and 360° interactive locations with hotspots which the user can explore for more video, information, stills. This animatic gives a brief overview of the interactive experience which runs about 5-10 minutes. This project is a collaboration with Jam3 and Psyop and was featured at SXSW Interactive Festival 2013.

Stand Up Dads

A feature documentary in development about fatherhood in the 21st century. We follow up 4 stand-up comics on stage and off stage as they try to be standup dads for their kids. Featuring Sean Cullen, Shawn Hitchens, Paul Lee and others.

Paint Your Faith

Take 4 artists, a minister and 10 days in an empty lot and you have the makings of a project that transforms a neighborhood. We followed Faith47 (S Africa), Indigo (Canada), Titi Freak (Brazil) and Peeta (Italy) as they painted a 130ft mural in one of the worst neighbourhoods of Vancouver’s downtown east side. The project sparked off a series of surprising events and the neighbourhood rallied together around the abandoned lot.

Almost Real: Connecting in a Wired World

Obsession and the Internet, this film follows 4 people obsessed with life online, featuring William Gibson, Pico Iyer, and others. This documentary explores Shot in New Mexico, Sealand, Dakota, New York and Winnipeg. Produced with the National Film Board of Canada. Directed by Ann Shin.

Fall of an Asian Tiger

This film documents the lives of 3 very different people trying to survive the financial crisis in Asia. A former South Korea CEO turns into a waiter, a Canadian entrepreneur tries to launch a magazine in Seoul, and in the thick of it and a labour activist organizes rallies of thousands of people who take over the streets of Seoul.

Four Seasons: A Mosaic

A music video documentary with the gorgeous sounds of Inuit throat singers, musicians from China, India and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. perform Mychael Danna’s re-interpretation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. This film screened in festivals around the world and received a Gemini nomination for Best Performance Documentary. Ann Shin was the Director for this Media Headquarters production.

Incident at Roswell

This documentary probes into the myths and mystique of the Roswell UFO sighting, uncovering some surprising things. It was featured in festivals around the world and won Bronze Medal at the Columbus International Film & Video Festival. Ann Shin co-directed this Barna Alpers Production with Alan Mendelsohn.

Cow vs Clown

Produced by talents from the MTV and Spiderman animation teams, this short blends several techniques into a unique style. It’s a kickass cartoon about a Cow who narrowly misses the chopping block at Clown’s meat processing plant. Featured in festivals including a world premiere at the Montreal International Film Festival 2007 and the Planet in Focus Film Festival.

Hack Your Age

Hack Your Age

Follow Deedee Moscoe on a journey into anti-aging biohacking, super-agers, and family in the new documentary HACK YOUR AGE. From the Medcan clinic, to cryogenic chambers, and meeting with super-ager Nancy Elsasser, Deedee discovers that growing older isn't so ominous when you can hack your age. Available to stream on VisionTV (a Zoomer Media property).

Adventures in Retirement

Adventures in Retirement

Seniors are no longer spending their golden years sardined into rest homes. Instead, active elders are choosing retirement communities that rival vacation resorts and cater to their unique passions. Come along on the journey! Available to stream on VisionTV (a Zoomer Media property).

Watch the trailer here.