Change your angle.
Whether you’re taking a selfie or shooting a music video, Kootenay filmmaker Jonathan Robinson believes it’s crucial to try to find a fresh perspective — whether that means laying on the ground, standing on a chair, or attaching a camera to his recently purchased high-flying drone.
“The sky’s the limit? Now I’m in it,” Robinson quipped to the Star.
“Filmmaking isn’t always the most accessible thing to do do — I’ve been working with a camera that’s about seven years old — but it doesn’t take a lot of crazy fancy equipment as long as you have a bit of vision.”
And it’s his knack for finding idiosyncratic projects and approaching them in innovative ways that’s earned him attention locally, most recently with a Kootenay Music Award for his work on local electronic producer Mooves’ video “Baby I Know.”
Robinson’s artistic projects have been making a splash in Nelson for the past few years, as he’s collaborated with musicians such as Brian Rosen and the Whatnow. His Blewett-filmed video for Sofiella Watt and the Huckleberry Bandits’ “Junkyard Bettie,” which was released in 2014, was particularly popular.
But he only works with people who share his principles.
“My background in university was international development studies and women’s studies. I come from an activist-savvy community, and it’s important for me as I move forward and grow as an artist to not just be doing things for the sake of making money.”
So you won’t catch him filming glossy promotional work for big companies. Instead, he’ll jump at projects that are further off the radar — such as filming the book trailer for Selkirk College professor Leesa Dean’s Waiting for the Cyclone, a project that involved a number of local actors.
“I think people are starting to recognize that there’s a type of work I want to create, and it’s work that’s loving and supportive and inclusive and radical. So they’re not approaching me to do back-country snowboard movies, but I will do a book trailer to support an outspoken young woman telling stories about marginalized voices.”
And that ties into one of his other passions: the Nelson Poetry Slam.
“I’m telling Kootenay stories and I’m working with Kootenay people. If I’m going to get behind a story, it means a lot to me to know the people I’m supporting need that support, and deserve it,” he said.
“I’ve been working with the spoken word community, where there’s a lot of youth and support networks I want to be a part of. I want to pick collaborators where I can support their growth.”
And he feels like he’s just getting started.
“When we won the Kootenay Music Award, it was kind of like graduating from university — I realized not everybody gets this opportunity, but it’s also a responsibility.”
And that’s why he’s studying digital media at Selkirk College, a program that has put him in touch with filmmaker Amy Bohigian.
“Amy has been a huge inspiration for me, and right now she’s an invaluable mentor. She has this way of reinforcing, of making people have that ‘oh yeah, that was smart’ or ‘that was important’ moment.”
At one point she encouraged him, saying, “Make film, you’re going to do well. Just go do it.”
And it’s being a part of a creative infrastructure that keeps him working, and playing, locally. He considers the KMA win a “leg up,” and wants to capitalize on that momentum.
“I can’t just go, ‘This is a great award, it will look nice by my computer.’I’ve got to say, ‘This is going to help me get grants and elevate other artists.’ I want to work with people to elevate the cultural and political movements in Nelson.”