Graham Sheppard has been interested in film making for as long as he can remember, crediting his early education in film to a video store called Dexter's Video, originally located on Harvey Street in his hometown.
Sheppard grew up in Harbour Grace, where the idea of making films wasn't as accessible as he would have liked. The drive for the art, however, remained strong.
After pursuing his passion through school, Sheppard, who now resides in Toronto, graduated in 2005 and, as he told The Compass, has never worked a regular day job since.
"I'm lucky enough to be able to work in the industry I love so much, make a living from it, and not be stuck working a job where every day is the same," Sheppard explained. "I mostly work with commercials and things like that, so there's always something different going on."
Sheppard's passion doesn't stop at commercials, though. Recently, a short film of Sheppard's titled "But Then He Spoke" was selected as one of 25 to be included in the TIFFxInstagram Shorts Festival - a part of the Toronto International Film Festival which saw thousands of entries from across North America.
The TIFFxInstagram Shorts Festival showcases 60-second films of all types and genres from filmmakers hailing from every corner of the continent. The 25 chosen films are eligible for the Fan Favourite Award, presented to the filmmaker whose film received the most likes on the Festival's Instagram account (@TIFF_net), as well as the Jury's Choice Award. The jury includes notable directors and actors such as John C. Jay, Director X, Karan Johar, and Ashton Sanders.
Upon finding out his film was selected for the Festival, Sheppard said he was totally overwhelmed.
"It was like, crazy. It's still hard to believe that it's been selected. There are thousands of entries, and mine is one of just 25," Sheppard said, the pride and excitement still evident in his voice. "Not to sell myself short or anything, but there were just so many amazing filmmakers who sent in their projects, and the fact that they picked mine is still mindblowing."
Sheppard's comedic short film was not originally created solely for the Festival. In fact, Graham explained to The Compass that the 60-second version seen on Instagram comes from an originally eight-minute film.
"It was honestly pretty difficult to cut down an eight-minute film into 60 seconds," Sheppard said. "You need to tell an entire story in 60 seconds - that's tough. There was so much good footage I wanted to include, so many great scenes, but you need to really settle down with the bare necessities. It was almost heartbreaking to get rid of some of the shots we had."
But Then He Spoke
Sheppard's film tells the story of a young man and woman in Montreal who seemingly fall in love on sight. However, everything gets cut short once the man opens his mouth to speak, completely shattering the perfect vision the young woman had of her newfound love interest.
The film was shot entirely using Super 8mm film stock to provide viewers with a classic vibe to match the era the film is set in. The two main characters are portrayed by two of Sheppard's friends, Ermina Perez and Christopher Lewis.
"It was all shot here in Toronto in locations I'd come across on bike rides, and things like that," Sheppard explained. "It was a lot of fun to shoot, and it's been interesting seeing the film go up on social media. That's not something I'm used to with stuff I usually work on, like the commercials."
Sheppard noted that displaying his work to such a large audience through social media such as Instagram is both a nerve wracking and rewarding experience.
"On one hand, you've got so many people saying great things about (the film)," Sheppard said. "But on the other hand, it's the internet, you know? There are always going to be people who don't like your work, and their comments are right there. All they have to do is type. But in the same breath, I'm excited for those kinds of comments. It's like constructive criticism, in a way - they'll highlight something they didn't like, and I can use that and work on it in the future."
Even if he doesn't come out on top, Sheppard said that he's grateful to even have had the opportunity to have his work appreciated in such a way.
"Going ahead? I'm just going to keep at it. Keep doing what I love to do, regardless of how this all turns out. It's my passion, and I'm lucky to be where I am today."
Sheppard's film, "But Then He Spoke," can be seen on the Toronto International Film Festival's Instagram page, @TIFF_net, or on heir website at www.tiff.net/shortsfestival/.