Food on Film: 3 Short-documentary filmmakers talk about their experiences at Devour!

The filmmakers on the experience, their equipment and their next food film.

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The Devour! Food and Film Festival is held every autumn in valley town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia. One of the first of its kind, the event is now the largest gastronomic food festival in the world, attracting a discerning international audience of enthusiastic food lovers, film-buffs, and hungry bon-vivants.

The event also attracts short-documentary filmmakers such as Griffin Hammond, Erica Meus-Saunders and JR Reid, whose short documentaries were screened at Devour! 2017. They talk to us about lights, cameras…and, um, making pickles.

Griffin Hammond, Documentary Filmmaker, Director of Hand Cut

I knew about Devour! because I got my 2014 film, Sriracha into that festival, but this was my first time visiting. I was already intrigued because it sounded like a great event and then when I saw the trailer they had for it, it just seemed like, “Wow, they have a lot going.” And sure enough, it turns out it’s the world’s largest food film festival, and it’s great; it’s a lot of fun.

I arrived in Wolfville in what’s got to be one of the best times of year. The trees were gorgeous. I’m not used to seeing a lot of that in New York City, so even just the drive in, I was really impressed; it just felt like I could breathe, compared to the city.

Panasonic commissioned me to make something with their camera; I was the first documentary filmmaker to use the LUMIX GH5, so the film is an example of what the camera can do. It seems like right in this moment, filmmakers who like lightweight cameras are kind of gravitating toward the Panasonic LUMIX GH5 and the Sony A7S.

I don’t have a film in mind for next year. I feel like I have to come up with something, even if it’s a one-minute film or a five-minute film. I need an excuse to come back.

Film Location: New York City



Erica Meus-Saunders, Filmmaker, Director of A Chef’s Moment

I’m from the Bahamas. I came to Nova Scotia for Film School and A Chef’s Moment was my first short documentary piece that I did as part of my last semester at NSCC (Nova Scotia Community College).  I was advised to submit it to Devour! and I was like, “OK, let’s see what happens.”

On the first sit-down with the chef  (Andrew Farrell, Chef de Cuisine at 2 Doors Down), I went out the weekend before to look at the restaurant, and also we went to the market. I just wanted to spend some time with him, chatting and trying to find out what he wanted me to show. I did a pre-interview--no camera, just talking--and took some photos, and so when we went back, we shot it in about two hours.

You asked about shooting in a kitchen. The restaurant lighting was different, the kitchen lighting was very bright, too bright, but I used the Sony a7S-II.  I decided on this camera so I didn’t have to bring in any lights because the camera is very good at picking up low lighting.

I didn’t know what to expect because it was the first time I went to Devour! and it was so much more than I anticipated; just being in that setting. The crowd is different from a regular film festival because they come from all walks, and I think it’s a more mature crowd too, and that for me was kind of nice. And good food! The atmosphere is different; you’re hanging out, you’re having food, you're having talks with people who love food. I love food, I like to eat and I love to cook. I’ve always been a foodie person, so I was like, “Yeah, film and food, why not?”

School was very busy, but now I have more time to think about what I want to do, and yeah, I definitely want to submit something to Devour! next year.

Film Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia



JR Reid, Director of The MacKinnon Brothers

I definitely had Devour! in mind when creating The MacKinnon Brothers. It wouldn’t be the entire reason for making the film but it definitely was in the back of my mind and I wanted to get it done in time to potentially get into the festival. Devour! is inspiring people to create content that will be shown at Devour! but will have a life beyond that as well.

I use the Panasonic LUMIX GH4 and GH5; I’ve been using the Panasonic cameras ever since the GH2. There’s a steady release of them and I’ve just stayed on that platform. The image quality is amazing and the portability is great for the kind of stuff that I do. I shot about half of the drone shots myself, but unfortunately, I crashed it one too many times and it stopped working, and so a friend of one of the Mackinnon brothers was nice enough to come out and get a couple of shots.

It was my third time to Devour!. I went to an incredible workshop with Kevin Kossowan and Jeff Senger--they’re the guys that do From the Wild series. And they did this crazy day from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., when we were out by the water, we went fishing, we went foraging for cranberries and cooked some fish on the fire. It was this intensive part-hunting, part-foraging workshop, as well as Kevin and Jeff taking us through their process of filmmaking and how they approach telling stories in the wild.

I’m looking at doing a short about the process of traditional malting for beer. There’s actually only a handful of people doing that process in Canada right now, so it seems like that’s an up and coming part of the craft-brewing process that people are starting to take notice of. It will probably take me back to Wolfville to the Horton Ridge Malthouse.

A lot of my films are driven by my curiosity for food and learning about food.  I’m more of an eater than a chef, for sure, but I definitely like exploring the culinary world. I make pickles, if that’s a thing. I make the best dill pickles around.

Filming Location: Bath, Ontario