“I didn’t grow up wanting to be a filmmaker,” admits Vancouver-based Josephine Anderson. However, the 29-year-old documentary filmmaker was recently selected as one of four participants for the NFB/CFC Creative Documentary Lab. This means she will develop a feature documentary with grant and filmmaking support from two venerable institutions—the National Film Board and the Canadian Film Centre.

Josephine, an alumna of the Documentary Certificate at Capilano University, was born in Nova Scotia, moving to Vancouver when she was still a child. She first completed an undergraduate degree in English Literature, later attending Capilano University.

Josephine says she initially wanted to be a writer. But over the course of her education, she began to develop an inclination towards documentary filmmaking and decided to enroll in Cap’s doc program.


“I was interested in finding a way to tell stories about people more collaboratively—that was what got me interested in documentary,” she says.

“One-woman filmmaking machine”

Josephine remembers her years at Cap as a window of time where she learned the skills of the trade—skills that later proved immensely useful. She credits the program with ensuring that everyone in class learned each aspect of the process of filmmaking. This ranged from pitching a story to running a camera to filming and editing. Josephine refers to it as making her a “one-woman filmmaking machine” and says she prefers this style of curriculum to learning only one particular skill.

“I really knew nothing about filmmaking going into the program,” she says. “It was only a year-long program, yet in it I learned everything that I needed to know to go out there and make films.”

She admits that there is a lot of time after graduation spent simply trying to make projects happen, but adds that this time is worthwhile. During this period, the interaction with classmates and the opportunity to set foot into the field of filmmaking were vital to starting out her career.

“My favorite part of the program was the personal care and attention, and the relationships that were built between students and instructors,” she adds.

Launching a career

Since then, she has been making films independently, winning many awards. Her first interactive documentary, The Sticking Place (2012), was recognized as an official Webby Award Honoree, winning two Pixel Awards and a nomination for a Digi Award.

As a resident of the NFB/CFC Creative Doc Lab, Josephine is developing her feature project, The Third Movement.

Josephine with her co-participants in the NFB/CFC Creative Documentary Lab

The story of the film revolves around Baltimore-born classical pianist Sara Davis Buechner, who lived in New York City for most of her adult life. Her illustrious career has included performing with some of the most prestigious orchestras in the world, establishing an active repertoire of more than 100 concertos, and winning multiple international awards.

Telling important stories

However, when she turned 37 in 1998, Sara publically transitioned from male to female. This change turned her world upside down. Not only did her family and friends struggle to accept the idea, but she faced challenges professionally as well. Out of 50 shows she had lined up at the time, all but two were cancelled. She was harassed out of a job—a reality that brought her almost to the verge of homelessness—until she was able to get back on her feet again.

Sara applied to more than 30 different positions, but was not called for any interview until she finally found work at a children’s music academy. In 2003, she was hired to teach piano at the University of British Columbia. When Josephine’s brother showed her a local article about Sara, Josephine felt herself drawn into Sara’s powerful story.

“The film is really about her journey as an artist, and her desire to earn back her place as one of the best pianists in the world,” Josephine explains. “But it is also about this person who is going through a transformation—trying to explore issues of identity, aging and ambition.”

Despite the challenges facing young filmmakers, Josephine sees the documentary filmmaking industry as more hungry for new content than ever before. With the last government’s cuts on art and culture, it has become harder to get funding to make independent films. However, Josephine is positive about the potential for younger minds in the field.

As far as her own future endeavours are concerned, she says she wants to “keep finding ways to make people feel moved” through documentary filmmaking.

Submitted by Marketing & Communications, written by Shanel Khaliq

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