Speaking through her camera
Amy Bohigian has carved out a variety of paths to create her artistic success in the Kootenay region
On her resumé, Amy Bohigian of Nelson, B.C., calls herself a filmmaker and media artist. In the course of our conversation it became apparent that she’s also an adventurer, a facilitator, a teacher and a maximum-potential seeker.
American-born, Harvard-educated Bohigian was living in Toronto and working in the field of education when, in 2006, she decided to move to Nelson for the lifestyle and the creative community. She had always wanted to make films, and the fact that Selkirk College was offering its first Independent Digital Film Program sealed the deal.
Bohigian’s company, Watershed Productions Inc., has now produced work for such organizations as B.C.’s Knowledge Network, the Interior Health Authority, Columbia Basin Trust, the Government of Canada, Selkirk College and many others.
“Nelson is such an entrepreneurial place,” Bohigian said. “I found on going into business that everyone was immediately on board to help me in whatever way they could. People here saw that I had motivation, and they supported that.”
Besides doing contract work for clients, Bohigian is a part-time instructor at Selkirk College’s Digital Arts and New Media Program. She also runs a youth film camp every July, where dozens of youth aged six to 18 bring their ideas to be made into movies. When it comes to her purely creative work, Bohigian applies for grants and funding from arts entities including foundations, broadcasters, arts councils and others.
“The more I multi-task the more productive I am,” she said. “If I slow down, I get distracted. Lots of my work focuses on giving voice to marginalized people—youth, seniors and the gay and lesbian and transgender community. A documentary format brings us into a world we usually don’t live in, and what I’ve come down to is that my work is about tapping the potential of myself and others around me to create positive social change.”
Being creative—creating something out of nothing—is not an easy task. Bohigian believes that if you’re doing it authentically, you have to take risks and be vulnerable. Whether the work is about you or not, you can’t remove yourself from it, and it inevitably reveals a lot about you. She said that as your own boss in a creative business, it’s a risk every day to depend on your own motivation to continue the work.
Contrarily, Bohigian usually takes on projects that push the limits of her abilities, and that’s what keeps the work interesting for her. She said every project has multiple technical and creative questions that she doesn’t always know how to answer when she begins, but she’s always known that somehow she’d figure them out.
“One theme in my life is ‘leap of faith,’ ” she said. “Alone, I cannot do all of the things that need to get done, and I have an amazing core group that I work with. Daryl Jolly, the chair of the School of Arts at Selkirk College, does cutting-edge post-production work. John Tucker delivers such textured sound design; Ben Euerby creates masterful music; Gregory Mackenzie brings rich experience as an executive producer and Rachel Schmidt is a fantastic creative collaborator.”
We asked Bohigian what she loves most about her day-to-day work.
“It’s about my own journey, to some selfish degree,” she said, “and other people can relate to that if I’m honest with myself as I go through it. I think everyone ... has their own amazing story. Whether you’re a scientist or an artist or whatever, it’s important to figure out what you really need to say.
“My company tag line is ‘Our stories are worth telling.’ If you genuinely find everyone interesting, then it’s worthwhile to learn from them and figure out what their story is and tell that story. There’s no shortage of stories in general, but in the Kootenays it’s very rich.”
Apparently, some people laugh at the idea that it’s possible to be a successful filmmaker in the Kootenays. However, guided—or perhaps driven—by her wish to express what she herself needs to express and to help other people do the same, Amy Bohigian is accomplishing the unlikely.