Filmmaker flying high with Prairie vignette
Alumnus and filmmaker Mandy Cmoc is flying high with the nomination of her film, Prairie Soliloquy, for the Air Canada enRoute Film Festival. -Photo by U of R AV Services

Mandy Cmoc just graduated, but her filmmaking career is already taking off - literally. Cmoc's animated film, titled Prairie Soliloquy, is one of 20 chosen from across Canada as a nominee in the Air Canada enRoute Film Festival for emerging Canadian filmmakers.

Although the festival isn't until October, the four-minute-and-four-second video will be available for viewing on the personal seatback entertainment systems on all Air Canada flights throughout August and September - a potential audience of 3 million passengers every month.

The film will also be profiled in the in-flight magazine and can be viewed online at   where the public can vote online for the People's Choice award.

At the festival in Toronto in the fall, a jury of internationally acclaimed Canadian filmmakers will rank the top four films and nominate films for awards in four categories: Best Short Film, Achievement in Animation, Achievement in Direction, and Achievement in Cinematography.

For Cmoc, who received a bachelor of fine arts degree with a major in media production and studies and a minor in arts administration in the spring, this kind of exposure is unbelievable so early in her career.

"To have student work have such a wide audience is almost unheard of, so I am very grateful for this. It also makes me excited to showcase Saskatchewan as well, as the people, footage and composer are from here," says Cmoc, recognizing the creative talents of U of R composition student Zachary Appleton, who composed the film's musical score.

The film showcases the stories of Cmoc's grandparents from Yorkton and her boyfriend's grandparents from Regina, bringing the animation to a personal level. She was inspired by several animations completed by the National Film Board such as "Walking" by Ryan Larkin as well as her own personal interest in archival films and the past.

To make her short film, Cmoc combined old family photos with 1920s footage from the Saskatchewan Archives and footage from present day Saskatchewan. Using a technique called rotoscoping, she traced the frames to give it an animated effect.

"I chose rotoscoping because I've accepted that I am not Walt Disney and I cannot draw in traditional animation form that you see in cartoons. I also chose rotoscoping because I like the choppy movements that come from tracing every frame individually. I might alter the picture a bit, but I try and keep it the same as the footage. I used Flash to trace frame by frame and utilized a tablet and pen to give it that pencil-like drawing, instead of a regular mouse."

The film took two months for Cmoc to produce as her final project for her advanced animation class, and she submitted it to the film festival at the encouragement of her professors. She credits a team of classmates, instructors and friends for its success.

"As a filmmaker I don't think you ever do an entire project alone. Essentially my entire advanced animation class worked with me, because we constructively critiqued each other's work constantly. My professor Gerald Saul and the entire media production and studies department encouraged us as students. And of course Zach made everything fit together with his beautiful score! Finally, my family has worked with me in having interviews, sending me photographs, and my boyfriend Tyson brought me snacks when I was up's definitely a team effort!"

Cmoc's family has been touched by all the attention the film - and their personal family history - has received.

"I think my family is really excited and proud of me. In all honesty I am just doing what I like to do, but I'm really happy to have created something with a personal meaning to my family photos and my grandparents are featured in it. I was excited to show them the finished product and the first time my mom watched it I think there may have been a tear or's dedicated to her dad, Laddie Cyhla (my grandpa), who passed away 11 years ago. I'm proud of my family and all they have accomplished since coming to Canada many years ago, and now my own family will have those recorded stories and memories."

Cmoc is now running her own business as a contract filmmaker, and is also putting her talents to work at the University, creating promotional videos and student testimonials for student recruitment.

"I am going to keep creating new work and trying new types of projects and animations, because that is the only way you will learn new things and find something else you enjoy doing!"