By Bobinec, Greg on January 8, 2020.
A southern Alberta film producer has been named one of the top emerging film producers in Canada by the Canadian Media Producers Association, following her success over the last decade.
Gianna Isabella, of Gate 67 Films, always knew she wanted to create movies, even at the early age of five when she began writing. With technology just emerging when she entered the University of Lethbridge, Isabella didn’t see the possibility of the film industry in southern Alberta until the dean of the Fine Arts convinced her to take a look at the New Media program.
“I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker, direct, produce and write, and I started writing when I was five, and it was actually the dean of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge who asked me what I was doing with my life and asked me to check out the New Media department,” says Isabella.
“I got a tour and I saw a bunch of students making a movie, and I was surprised that it happened here and not just in Hollywood. I got a feeling for it and then I dove in head first with the first class that I took. One of the first assignments was to make a short film. I didn’t know how to do anything, I didn’t know how to use a computer or a camera, and so I called a friend and she had a camera and we shot a mini gangster movie, which was silent because I didn’t know how to do audio.”
With a steep learning curve, Isabella persevered through the program to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts in New Media and began helping locals with their film projects. During her busy schedule helping produce smaller projects, she received a phone call for an interview, which would lead her to her first big break into the film industry.
“I started by helping a couple of people with their film projects, and while I was helping one of them, I got a random phone call which asked me to go to Okotoks to do an interview to be on this movie. I said yes,” says Isabella. “I worked through the night on the film and then drove up to the interview and was hired on a little movie called “Interstellar,” and that was my big first job as a casting assistant. It was shocking, I didn’t know that any of those famous people would come to Alberta, especially a small town and in the middle of nowhere, and to know that I would be their assistant was a little overwhelming, but I just dove right in and it worked well.”
After working as the casting assistant for the Oscar Award-winning “Interstellar,” she went on to work on another Oscar-winning movie “The Revenant” in 2015, followed by organizing a small film crew for parts of the Disney production of “A Wrinkle in Time.” In between the bigger productions, Isabella continued to produce and work on various short films, documentaries and her first feature film, which is set to come out later this year.
“I couldn’t have imagined I would have done this 10 years ago, but I am really excited about it and glad that it has happened,” she says. “After that I thought that I should try and produce a feature film, so I optioned the screenplay ‘The Ballad of Audrey Earnshaw,’ and it took me about a year to raise the money for the movie. We went and shot it and now it is finished.”
With almost a decade in the film industry, Isabella has caught attention nationally and internationally to help create and produce everything from films, documentaries, music videos and photo shoots. Her hard work was recognized by the Canadian Media Producers Association who named a small group of Canadians, including Isabella, as one of the top emerging producers in the country.
“The group of producers across Canada thought my application was good and they decided to pick me and I get to go to the Berlin Film Festival which is exciting, and what they do with that is they do some training, pay for all the expenses, and then train and coach you so that you can have the best chance at success for the next project,” says Isabella.
“It was very shocking. I did not expect at all that a kid from Lethbridge was going to get this. I would have assumed Vancouver or Toronto, maybe Calgary, but I am still over the moon and excited, I am already ready to go and learn and ready for any meeting.”
Humbled by the recognition, Isabella is ecstatic to go to Germany in the coming weeks to learn from European film experts and spread her networking circle. She says the recognition speaks loudly about the quality of productions being made in Alberta, and with the current provincial government cutting funding for the local film industry, she hopes this is a step in the right direction to show how valuable the industry is to the province.
“I think this is a very good sign for us in Alberta. I know that we’re kind of up in the air with Alberta productions right now with what is happening, but I am feeling more positive these days and this is a good step for recognition and a good step to see our little movie from Alberta is doing good as well. I am hoping that people will see that and we will be able to make some more,” she says.
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