by Nadine Ishak
Concordia Film Studies graduate Ari Grief (BFA 98) has his hopes pinned
on a public phone booth.
The action in Griefs 90-minute digital film, 681-0638, revolves
around a New York City telephone booth and the people who use it. After
working on it for more than two years, Grief is submitting his project
to the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver film festivals.
Its about relationships and communication, he said,
but its also a quirky comedy at a phone booth, and thats
Grief made his first film at Concordia in 1996. When the Film Production
program declined his application twice, he enrolled in the Film Studies
specialization and took the last spot in a production class. Peter Rists
Film Aesthetics and Carol Zuckers Film Directors courses had a significant
impact on him.
I appreciate how much I learned at Concordia, and how much these
people really are passionate about the cinema, Grief said. I
owe a great deal to them.
The 29 year-old got the idea for his film while reading filmmaker Francois
Truffauts book about Alfred Hitchcock. The master of suspense once
toyed with the idea of a telephone operator overhearing a sinister plan
in a phone booth with the receiver off the hook.
Grief thought that was a brilliant idea for a movie, but he didnt
want to wait for the support of a film board. He wrote the screenplay
and put the cast together within a year.
This is a first feature, and Ive tried to be pragmatic and
realistic about it, Grief said. Its not fancy, and its
not polished. We didnt really have a lot of money.
The films total budget was under $10,000. His cousin edited, and
a friend from school directed the cameras. They had to make compromises,
like renting a camera and shooting on weekends to accommodate the cast
and crew, since he couldnt pay them.
It was tedious, he said afterwards. People started to
waver and the energy level fluctuated.
There were benefits, however, for the core cast of 10. Small actors
are not used to getting juicy parts, Grief said. They got
Last August, the Ontario Film Development Corporation selected Grief as
a producer intern for the Toronto International Film Festival. He made
contacts at the festival, and followed up when the films Web site
They said, Ari, great site! Let me know when it gets into
Toronto. Thats what they want, someone to legitimize it.
If the film makes the cut, it will be eligible for the Most Popular Feature/Best
Canadian Feature awards. Grief said his goal is to promote it and have
as many people see it as possible.
Grief is now wrapping up his graduate studies at Torontos York University,
as well as working on other film projects, including a coming-of-age tale
set in Montreal against the backdrop of a Quebec referendum.
Despite the uncertainty, he feels good about his choice of career. It
combines photography, the visual arts, writing, musicall my interests
in the arts, he said. I can share it with a lot of people
and make a decent living.