Local talent gains international acclaim
It could be said Vantage Point Media House was founded on fishing stories. For a little more than a decade the company has had a part in telling many other kinds of stories too – adventure stories, stories of people breaking world records, and even mythical stories.
Their own story is one of a successful hometown business, doing very well from their modest location in downtown Belleville. The company is growing, even though the service they offer – state of the art video and film production from the shooting to post production phase – is usually associated with larger urban centres like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, New York, or Los Angeles.
The company’s story began when Belleville native, Nick Pujic, an avid angler, was approached by cable television’s World Fishing Network to shoot some video. As co-owner of The Canadian Fly Fishing magazine at the time, Nick was already travelling the country to more remote areas taking photos for his magazine, so it made perfect sense for him to shoot some video for a television show at the same time. Thus, Flymax Films was born, eventually becoming the series Fly Nation and laying the foundation for what would become Vantage Point Media House.
Senior producer Victor Cooper began working with Nick as an intern in the Loyalist College television and film program. At first it was just the two of them and they outsourced the editing. Specializing in outdoor production, the company now owns all their own equipment, including 8K Red cameras, capable of 17 times the resolution of high definition. They also have aerial cinematography ability, either using drones or by shooting from helicopters, and have a resident photographer, and six fulltime staff, most of them graduates of the same Loyalist program as Victor. “There is a lot of good talent coming out of Loyalist College and we’ve tapped into it,” said Victor.
As the business grew, Victor said the decision was made to expand the sort of work they do. A year ago, the company moved its operations to a larger space above Capers restaurant on Front Street in downtown Belleville to accommodate this new work. The new headquarters includes a reception area, offices, editing suites, and a new sound studio with 5.1 surround sound and closed captioning services (closed captioning is now required in both the United States and Canada for broadcast programming).
The new space will also accommodate an entirely new venture. This winter VP Academy launched with three video and film production workshops, offering participants the chance for professional instruction and hands on experience with their high-end equipment.
In the middle of the offices and editing suites is an open area filled with what, at first glance, appeared to be an art installation but as it turned out, the stage-like structure was actually the set from The Woodsmen, a short horror film featuring legendary Bigfoot as one of its characters. Shooting had just wrapped up and the set had yet to be torn down. Victor and his wife Jodi Cooper, self-described horror movie junkies, wrote the screenplay, and Victor directed and plays Bigfoot in the movie, which was shot locally and featured all local actors. The only thing that wasn’t local in the movie was Victor’s suit, which was custom made for him by a Hamilton special effects company.
“The Woodsmen to date has been the most fun I have had at work, but maybe period. It was just a ton of fun. We spent eight days lost in the woods being tracked down by Bigfoot and came out the other side unscathed.”
The couple wanted to produce a horror movie without the computer-generated images prevalent in today’s movies. “It’s neat to flex our muscles on something like this and show we have some pretty talented people locally,” he said.
The Woodsmen was originally written as a full-length movie but that proved too costly, so they shortened it, and launched a very successful Kickstarter crowd funding campaign last fall, raising enough money to produce the shorter version. Victor describes it as a passion project, but the hope is it will be picked up and maybe serialized.
The Woodsmen is not the couple’s first foray into horror. They wrote, and Victor directed Mercy: The Story of the Artist, a short horror film also staring Kirsten Wight which came out in 2015.
In order to pursue these types of projects they formed a group called The Five Year Plan made up of Victor, Jodi, Kirsten Wight, and her husband Rob Howsam, also a Vantage Point producer. “It’s basically a creative group willing to spend some extra time or our off time creating these concepts then joining together with Vantage Point to actually pull them off.”
There are obvious differences in making a documentary, a television series, or a movie, but for Victor the similarity is more important – all of them are about telling stories. “At Vantage Point we specialize in outdoor production. It’s what we are good at. Most of us here are hunters and anglers, so being outdoors isn’t new for us. We’ve spent a lot of time filming in the outdoors and it’s its own craft. To be able to deal with weather or all the other things you may have to deal with when you’re out on a boat in the middle of a lake, in a tree stand in the middle of a forest, or on the back of a snowmobile when it’s 30 below, that’s our specialty. Within that I think the reason we’ve done so well is we are good at telling stories. That transitions into anything.”
Specializing in outdoor production has meant a lot of travelling and adventures. The Vantage Point Media House website is filled with stories too numerous to mention. They have shot documentaries about sharks for Discovery Channel, and they were in the Nevada desert when Aerovelo’s Eta broke the human powered speed record three times in September of 2015. Even their commercial work gets accolades with their HUK fishing gear advertisement winning the Videographer Award of Excellence for best product commercial in 2017.
Although Vantage Point’s work takes them around the globe, they are busy locally, too. The company has worked with Gray Brothers Films, Belleville General Hospital, and Quinte Craft breweries. “There’s a lot going on here, under the surface that most people don’t necessarily see. It’s a pretty busy little town,” says Victor.
At the end of the day Vantage Point Media House and the Bay of Quinte region have proven to be a good fit. They are close enough to international airports for all the travelling, there is a growing demand locally for their services, and the popularity of events like The Belleville Downtown Docfest and Trenton’s Hollywood North film festival suggest there may even be a growing local interest in the sort of work Vantage Point Media House does.
Finally, as Victor points out, the fishing is great. “We really like it here. We’re outdoors people, and it’s amazing to be able to leave the office and literally walk to the river and go fishing at lunch, or at the end of the day to still have enough sunlight to go sit in a tree stand and hunt. If you were living in the big city, you would have to take some time off to go do those things because just getting to them, there are just not enough hours in the day.”
Photography by Daniel Vaughan