Monday, June 17, 2024

‘The Victoria I Know’ short film combines horror with Black experience in the arts community


The short film The Victoria I Know is a masterclass in combining a deep, meaningful and haunting story with a bit of history most Victorians don’t know — all through the lens of a Black creator working in a predominantly White city.

Local screenwriter Joel Brewster had his project selected for the latest batch of Telus STORYHIVE film projects and it was released on Tuesday, August 1st. 

Through STORYHIVE, Telus funds numerous Canadian musicians, creators and filmmakers’ projects. 

Brewster has lived in Victoria nearly his whole life and he has been writing films with an affinity for the horror genre for a long time in the city.

He says that he fell in love with film and making movies at a young age when he used to work at a video store.

“I taught myself how to screenwrite and it’s a very old-timey sentence, but I used to work at a video store,” Brewster told Victoria Buzz. “So I used to rent movies and just read scripts online, that’s how I taught myself.”

Brewster has received STORYHIVE funding before along with other grants and has written many short horror films, which is no easy task while working full time and raising a family. 

This last intake of projects they wanted to fund was a unique one in that they specifically went out of their way to put money in the hands of Black creators. 

“We are thrilled to be celebrating the Black Creators Edition Summer Premiere,” said Erin Shaw, Telus STORYHIVE Senior Program Manager. “It is incredibly important for us to continue supporting authentic representation of the BIPOC community in Canadian media.” 

“Over the past decade, STORYHIVE has been able to support many projects in Victoria and beyond across Vancouver Island. Joel’s project represents the type of stories that we want to continue supporting – it is engaging, tells a unique local story and tugs at our heart.” 

“His modern storytelling weaving elements of BC’s Black history is inspiring and creative. We are excited to see what Joel does next,” she added. 

What The Victoria I Know is about

This latest project he had funded, The Victoria I Know, was a hyper-local film which follows a character named Amber Ryley, who is a Black photographer from Victoria.

Through the film, she struggles to find herself in the photographs she takes of BC’s capital until she stumbles across a piece of history that changes her perspective on the city she calls home.

“I wanted to tell the history that is there , but I also wanted to point out the ghostly history that is really part of Victoria, like the hauntings of Victoria,” Brewster explained.

“I really wanted to also shine a light on what it feels like being chosen for a ‘diversity thing’ sometimes when it’s just kind of tokenizing.”

“Obviously it’s a bit ironic in the context of why this funding was around, which I’m really grateful for, but I wanted to shine a light on sometimes when you’re selected for these kinds of things there’s a forced feeling on it,” he added. 

Brewster says it was massively important to him to show what racism looks like as microaggressions, rather than in a blunt way which is the way it’s portrayed in lots of media. 

“It was a mix of the ghost element, my experience in being one of few Black people in certain circles in Victoria and my love of horror,” said Brewster. 

“I love the horror genre so much, I think it’s the greatest genre ever.”

How The Victoria I Know came to be

Brewster says he saw the STORYHIVE Black Creators intake and applied immediately, with a gentle nudge from the film’s director and Brewster’s longtime collaborator, Mik Narciso, knowing he has a story to tell although he was not 100% sure what it would be specifically. 

“I wrote the story and I workshopped it with Mik and other people,” said Brewster. “He really put a lot of it together.” 

In addition to the project’s director and producers, Brewster says that he got help with many aspects of the film from the Vancouver Island Film and Media Commission, friends of his and the cast of the film played a huge part in making the film come together.

“It really took a village to make the film,” Brewster explained. 

When it came time to actually shoot, it took four long days over two weekends to film and was done so over a COVID restriction-ridden 2021. Following the shoot, post-production took about eight months and then they submitted the film to Telus. 

Now, The Victoria I Know lives on YouTube as well as the Telus STORYHIVE website where anyone can watch it for free.

Here’s the film:


Brewster is still working hard writing and putting together new horror films, both feature film length and short format with more on the way in the near future. 

With The Victoria I Know, Brewster considered trying to put on a premier, but because most of the cast and crew live in Vancouver and to bring them all over to Victoria would be too arduous a task.

All he hopes from this release is that people watch it, share the film with their communities and fall in love with the horror and ghost story genre the same way he did.

“If anyone really enjoys this or wants to see myself, or Mik, or more Canadians make more horror films, ghostly films or anything like that, the most you can do is share,” Brewster told Victoria Buzz. “Just share it because we really appreciate it.”

“I just want to see more horror films and ghostly films be made in British Columbia because we have a lot of talent here,” he added.  

Curtis Blandy

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