Kellie Ann Benz takes us behind the scenes of CBC Short Film Face Off; final episode this Saturday

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All right already. So I can’t draw.

By now the evidence of this flaw has mounted across three episodes of CBC Short Film Face Off and if you’ve been loyally watching, since it’s an awesome show and you should be, I have a spoiler alert for the final episode.

My drawing does not improve.

Sorry.

If you’re wondering, the show is as fun to shoot as it is to watch – and since you’ve been enjoying the lazy entertainment of watching us judge the best short films in the country and my terrible attempts at drawing, then we have a surprise in store for you in the next episode.

This Saturday night, August 31, CBC Short Film Face Off opens its voting polls to the nationwide audience giving Canadians from every corner of our great country the chance to choose the best Canadian short film of 2013!

If you need a quick catch up, here’s episode one and episode two. Episode three airs on August 31, then you have exactly 24 hours to cast your ballot for the best of the top three shortlisted by us and the audience.

The winner YOU choose gets $40,000 towards their next short film. This is like crowdfunding without having to open your wallet.

In only four short years, CBC Short Film Face Off has become the competition to win in our country. I’m not glad-handing when I say the only other competition that measures close to this is NSI’s Online Short Film Festival. So you can imagine my delight when they asked me to join their cast as a panelist.

Naturally, I played it cool, stalling as I re-shuffled my calendar and responded only to ask, “When do we start?”

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Above: this must be my door

Flying out to Halifax in May for the first time in my life, I got to see the quaint that is the quaint that identifies the Maritimes. As a lifelong Pacific Ocean gal, the opportunity to check ‘seeing the Atlantic Ocean’ off my bucket list has been a highlight of my year so far, especially since we shot in the iconic This Hour Has 22 Minutes sound stage at CBC Halifax.

If you’ve been watching since the show launched on August 17, then you know who has been shortlisted. I can tell you from having such a good vantage point, that the films chosen were selected by a different audience each night.

We shot each episode one day at a time, in a large sound stage with eight cameras around us (some tucked into secret locations that even I couldn’t see from my seat). The crew was so efficient we didn’t even notice them until there was a break in the filming and then they’d converge en masse to the sound stage to adjust then poof! gone again once the cameras started rolling.

The whole show was being run with precision by our director Shelagh O’Brien from the control booth that sat right beside the CBC Halifax news studio.

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Above: director Shelagh O’Brien lets me into the control room

My co-panelists – Mojit Rajhans, the handsome, suave, ultra-cool, movie critic from Toronto’s Citytv; Michelle Latimer, the gorgeous, stylish, pure artist and multi-award winning director and producer AND senior programmer of the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival – and I did not discuss our opinions of the films in advance, so what you’ve seen on the air really is the genuine reaction to hearing what each other thought of the films. I was surprised to discover which ones we agreed on and which ones we differed on.

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Above: the panelists goofing off as we waited for another filmmaker to join the set

Our host Steve Patterson was no help (whatsoever!) with my confidence in drawing since I knew his first reaction to anything I attempted was unrelenting judgement. Thanks a lot Steve! To be honest, I’ve never witnessed someone have such charisma with the studio audience. Clearly a master at the quick-jab, Steve kept us all giddy between the sometimes long or abrupt technical gaffes that come with shooting live-to-tape TV.

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Above: host Steve Patterson explains how things work to the studio audience

We all had to sit for extended periods of time – mostly the extremely patient studio audience – and Steve kept the energy on the set so light and fun that, despite the delays, you didn’t want to miss anything he might come up with on the fly.

The whole concept of the show was designed and delivered by producers Peter Hall, Bill Niven and Michael Lewis, veteran CBC-ers who can provide the best in Canadian television. It was a marvel to sit back and watch these masters do their thing so well. I was grateful for all of the lessons I was learning just by virtue of being present in their ‘shop.’

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Above: a Kellie Ann Benz sandwich – with producers Peter Hall and Michael Lewis

On a break one morning, they sent us with our PA/guide out to Peggy’s Cove where this Pacific coast chick finally got to see the Atlantic Ocean.

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Above: Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia as seen with my own eyes

It’s darker than anything I’ve ever seen on the west coast and, in many ways, very majestic.

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Above: Mohit Rahjans rocking the rock in Peggy’s Cove

Steve didn’t miss an opportunity to host us on the rocks of the famous Peggy’s Cove lighthouse – a hoot and a half that almost had each of us falling into the Atlantic waters. We all made it back to the studios safe and sound where we shot the final episode you’re going to see on Saturday.

But not before you vote.

So Canada, now it’s up to you.

After Saturday’s show, you’ll have the three short films which Michelle, Mo and I – not to mention the studio audiences in Halifax – have selected as our favorites.

These three films represent the best in Canadian film talent – while representing three great genres: drama, raucous comedy and … well, you’ll have to tune in to Saturday’s show to see the third winner.

If you love movies as much as you love your country, stop reading this article right now, watch and vote for the future of Canadian film.

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