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Cinema 6 Min Read

Igniting the next generation of cinema

December 07, 2023

Meet Mila Paulman, a next-gen filmmaker, and creator of our new cinema trailer

In this piece:

Meet Mila Paulman. She’s a fourth-year student majoring in film and media production at Toronto’s Humber College, and the creator of Christie’s new cinema trailer that’s scheduled to make its theatrical debut this month at CineAsia, the tradeshow and conference for the Asia-Pacific movie theatre industry, held in Bangkok, Thailand.

Before we get into Mila’s winning pitch, let’s look at how the idea of our new cinema trailer came about.

A chance meeting with Digital Sabbath

We’ve worked closely with Digital Sabbath Film Company, a Kitchener-based production company, through a sponsorship of their Open Gate Filmmaker Lab, which brings filmmaking to high school students through hands-on, experiential workshops. We sponsored the first cohort of students out of the lab, so we knew that Digital Sabbath shared our passion for supporting the next generation of filmmakers.

It was a quick conversation between Digital Sabbath and the Christie team at a local event that led to the idea of collaborating on a new Christie trailer for theatres, while also engaging up-and-coming filmmakers.

From there Digital Sabbath launched a contest on Christie’s behalf: a call for pitches went out to colleges and universities in Southern Ontario, encouraging student filmmakers to submit their pitch for a 45-second trailer for a chance to win a monetary gift, a day on-set, and to have their concept shown on the big screen.

A woman sits at a table reviewing paperwork.

Mila reviews paperwork in the make-shift greenroom on-set.

We asked students to submit pitches about the love of cinema, and to include a logline and synopsis, script, character descriptions, and a mood board.

“These are all the kind of things that they’ve been working on in school,” says Katie Billo, producer, Digital Sabbath. “It's communicating their concept in a really visual and concise way, which is something that happens in the industry all the time. Once you start looking for funding or distribution opportunities, you really need to be able to communicate that [concept] effectively.”;

The winning entry

“I connected with Katie [Billo]. I asked a lot of questions about the pitch, to make sure that I delivered what Christie and Digital Sabbath were looking for,” says Paulman. “My coordinator at Humber really encouraged me to submit my idea.”

Paulman’s winning entry started with this logline: “A boy’s love for stories takes him on a journey into a cinema where dreams come true, reminding us all that deep down, we’re just kids who want to see stories come alive in front of our eyes.” 

And her pitch mapped out the characters and action. Tommy is a young boy who is engaging in imaginary play under a blanket fort, and the entrance to the fort transforms to the entrance of a movie theatre. He rushes to buy a ticket, and an usher guides him to his seat. The screen lights up with a big-screen version of the toy and story he just imagined and he watches his story come to life.  

There’s nothing like the moment you see it on-screenbecause you remember all the work that went into it. When you finally watch it put together, you put two and two together and say, OK, this is the process, this is the work it takes...

“I loved the idea of a kid by himself and his imagination and how we could reveal that as an experience on the screen. I think visually it was two very different things –  a tent and then the big theater – which we loved,” says Kyle Sawyer, director, Digital Sabbath.  

A day on set

The crew assembled at Hamilton’s Playhouse Cinema for the one-day shoot. It’s a single-screen theatre that embodies all the charm of a theatre that you’d expect to see in the movies. Digital Sabbath serviced the production, with gear support provided by Arri Rental in Toronto. Camera, art, sound, grip and electric, a data management technician, and hair and makeup departments rounded out the team. 

A woman stands looking at a film monitor with members of a film crew in the background.

Mila watches the monitor while members of the film crew get ready to shoot the opening shots of the trailer.

Mila joined the crew on set and jumped right in as Assistant Director (AD), suggesting new ways to film scenes, and offering character direction. This first-hand experience is very important, says Sawyer. “I mean, you can learn so much in even a single film shoot and then you take that into the next production. And hopefully Mila can do that.” 

“This was my first opportunity to learn about the creative aspect of filmmaking,” says Paulman of her time on set. “It was a great chance to show how I can think creatively and collaborate with Kyle [Sawyer] as an AD.” 

Sawyer explains that working in the film industry is through connections and word-of-mouth. “It’s a small industry, so she got to meet the crew and now knows them. It will help Mila move forward in her career with a bit more of a ‘Rolodex’, so to speak.” 

“I was really excited to collaborate with Kyle, and to learn how he directs and collaborates with others, like Paul [Duck, director of photography]. Being a part of the crew and presenting myself as a future director was a great opportunity.” 

Color and sound 

Digital Sabbath engaged Company 3, a global company that specializes in post-production and special effect services, to provide color grading for the trailer. From their offices in Toronto, Paulman was able to see the color grading process first-hand, which provided a new and unique experience.  

Five people are sitting and standing in a brightly lit movie theatre. There is a futuristic looking spaceship shown on the screen.

The crew readies to shoot a scene in the movie theatre.

“It was cool to be in Company 3’s theatre and ask questions about the color grading, and inspiring to be in their offices and see the post-production side of things. I hadn’t seen post at this scale before,” says Paulman.  

Sound Dogs in Toronto created the sound design, and Company 3 mixed the sound in Dolby Atmos 7.1 and 5.1 surround. “At the beginning of the trailer, the boy makes spaceship sounds with his mouth, so we focused the sound there. Then when we move into the theatre, the spaceship comes on the screen and the sound comes from everywhere,” says Sawyer. “The sonic boom at the end is pretty awesome.”  

The trailer

“There’s nothing like the moment you see it on-screen because you remember all the work that went into it. When you finally watch it put together, you put two and two together and say, OK, this is the process, this is the work it takes,” says Sawyer. 

The trailer looked stunning when it debuted at CineAsia. Nurturing the next generation of filmmakers is an important mission for Christie, and we’re thrilled to have worked with partners that share the same vision.  

Technology that loves cinema trailer

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And as for Paulman, she has big plans after she graduates. “In ten years, I’d love to direct a big-budget feature film.” And we have no doubt that her passion for filmmaking will translate into something spectacular.