Festival award for young director

She may only be in Grade 12, but Qualicum Beach teenager Alli MacKay is already an award winning filmmaker  and she is well on her way to making a name for herself as a film director.  - Brenda Gough Photo
She may only be in Grade 12, but Qualicum Beach teenager Alli MacKay is already an award winning filmmaker and she is well on her way to making a name for herself as a film director.
— image credit: Brenda Gough Photo

Grade 12 Kwalikum Secondary School (KSS) student Alli MacKay is well on her way to making her mark in the film industry.

The talented KSS student recently won the best young director title out of 26 entries in the Vancouver Film Festival.

Her Best Director award at the fourth Annual Reel 2 Real Film Festival Young Filmmakers Showcase in Vancouver was for her short video, Air Pressure, a four-minute coming-of-age story. It was one of  26 youth entries from across B.C. that was screened at the awards ceremony on April 19.

McKay said it was fantastic to win the award and it was a great experience being at the ceremony.

“I honestly didn’t expect to win it going in.  I was really nervous … it was the first film festival I had entered a serious film in so I didn’t know what to expect,” she admitted.

The film jury included Jonathan Tammuz, a director and film instructor who received an Academy Award nomination for his 1987 short, The Child-Eater, Stephanie Damgaard, the Associate Programmer of the Canadian Images Program at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and Jennifer Somerstein, an Argentinian filmmaker.

MacKay’s short film featured fellow KSS student, Joshua Caldwell in the main role.

She said the film is about coming into adulthood.

“It’s about loss of innocence essentially … at that time in your life when you have to move on and face the realities of life.”

She said she was inspired by listening to the song Walk About by Atlas Sound.

“I got this image of a whole bunch of children all over the world with balloons and them coming together in a city square and letting the balloons go all at once. I knew I couldn’t do something on that scale but I adapted it into a short script.”

MacKay started making films when she was in the fourth grade. Her short animations gained quite a following on You Tube but after dabbling in that film genre, MacKay realized it wasn’t animation she wanted to do.

“It was more of the directing side that interested me … so I made connections with some people and started doing live action.”

MacKay has won awards through the CBC and has produced hundreds of short films.

MacKay could only think of Penny Marshall and Sofia Coppola when asked how many female directors have made names for themselves.

She confessed the industry she wants to pursue a career in doesn’t have many women behind the camera and she would like to see more women in cinema recognized for their work.

“I don’t understand why it is a male dominated industry.  There are not very many female directors … it is pretty rare. I would like to change that,” she stated.

She said her male role models include Academy award-winning filmmaker Michele Gondry. His  2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind became one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year and garnered him an Oscar for best screenplay. She said his movie The Science of Sleep is also one of her favorites but she has other role models she looks up to in the industry.

“I really like Wes Anderson’s films … The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore and I really respect Woody Allen and his recent movie Midnight in Paris. The next film I am making, has a similar tone to that. I am writing the script right now but I am still looking for actors.”

MacKay’s casting call is for a male lead, age 16 to 22.

“I need an older teenager to play a character who projects an image of being self confident and knowledgable, but in reality he is insecure and lonely. He would need to be socially awkward looking, lanky and a nervous sort of guy. This one has quite a bit of dialogue. I am working on the story board now and it should be done soon.”

Anyone interested in being in the film can leave their name and number at the KSS office.

MacKay is looking forward to following her film making passion.

She has been accepted for fall admission into the Emily Carr University’s Film, Video and Integrated Media Bachelor of Fine Arts Program.

You can check out her short film at


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