My friend Nettie Wild is a courageous leaper into the unknown.
In early projects — including A Rustling of Leaves: Inside the Philippine Revolution, A Place Called Chiapas, and FIX: The Story of an Addicted City — that jump into discovery often involved physical danger as well as political audacity.
Recent projects have taken ever-more-exhilarating artistic risks. KONELĪNE: our land beautiful navigates an almost musical structure as it gazes upon the landscape and inhabitants of northwestern BC. Uninterrupted threw images of migrating salmon onto the underside of the Cambie Street Bridge. The effect was so stunning I saw a cyclist almost fall off his bike the first time the projectors were turned on. And now Nettie is co-directing GO FISH with Scott Smith. GO FISH is about the herring run in the Salish Sea — although, artistically, it’s much more than that description evokes. It’s a kaleidoscopic frickin’ trip(tych).
Nettie clearly frames her work as collaborative. Her long-time producer Betsy Carson has been a stalwart. And, having seen the two of them working together, I can say that her frequent editor Michael Brockington is a genius.
Take a leap into the unknown, Net says. “On the way down, you build your wings.”
-Written by Colin Thomas, friend and Culture writer
Which ’hood are you in?
I live in Kitsilano two blocks up from the beach. My home is Helen’s Court Housing Co-op which we all built together almost 40 years ago. We were a bunch of hippies, punks (including one member of the famed band, DOA) and assorted artists all looking for a way to create community and survive Vancouver’s housing crisis way back in the 80s. Without the stability and community of this little village within the city, I wouldn’t have been able to make the movies and art installations that have proven to be the backbone of my career. Living here has sustained me in countless ways, not just making movies. I swim all year round in the ocean, without a wetsuit. The courtyard is full of kids (we have 20 under the age of 12 right now.) Thank heavens Covid is on the wane and our littlest members are wandering back into my front door. I have changed my living room into an edit suite. And we turned our Common Room in the co-op into a mini theatre to test screen my latest project. My neighbours in Helen’s Court are my extended family. I am a lucky filmmaker to have them.
What do you do?
I started out making what some called feature political documentaries – I called them high-stakes human dramas. The first one was about the housing crisis right here in the neighbourhood and opened with one of the founders of Helen’s Court holding her child in her arms and saying, “They can’t take our homes away from us!” – while a tractor tore down the house behind her. Since then I have had the good fortune of working collaboratively with an extraordinary and ever-changing crew of filmmakers. Together, our feature films have taken us behind the headlines and front lines of social change and revolutions around the world. They include A Rustling of Leaves: Inside the Philippine Revolution (1989), A PLACE CALLED CHIAPAS (1999), BLOCKADE (1993), FIX: the Story of an Addicted City.(2002) Then my work turned a corner as myself and my colleagues started to move more into the abstract to further explore the complexity and poetry of the subjects in front of my camera. We started taking chances in form as well as content. KONELINE: our land beautiful is a tone poem about a wilderness facing irrevocable change. Art installations followed: Uninterrupted used digital mapping and eight cameras to throw images of the sockeye salmon migration onto the Cambie street bridge. Then we moved into virtual reality when we migrated our salmon into headsets to create Uninterrupted VR. Every project has had an extraordinary life of its own – and surprised me with every frame.
What are you currently working on?
I am co-directing with filmmaker Scott Smith a video 3 channel triptych. GO FISH focuses on the herring spawn which explodes every spring in the Salish Sea. It poses the question if the herring spawn sets the table, who comes to dinner? The answer – millions of birds, sea lions and..the fishing fleet. The world premiere is on April 12 – May 27 at the Comox Valley Art Gallery in Courtenay on the shores of the Salish Sea where GO FISH was shot. Set on three screens, GO FISH presents kaleidoscopic images of one of nature’s biggest shows on Earth. We invite both fishers and environmentalists alike to come and celebrate the wonder and the complexity of the mighty herring.
Where can we find your work?