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Victoria filmmaker takes intergalactic journey

It seems appropriate the protagonist of Denver Jackson’s sci-fi kung-fu movie Somnius is a young monk on a pilgrimage.
Somnius, the Victoria-made sci-fi adventure, is premiring at this weekendÕs Short Circuit film festival.

It seems appropriate the protagonist of Denver Jackson’s sci-fi kung-fu movie Somnius is a young monk on a pilgrimage.

Jackson, 26, was something of a hermit himself on a pilgrimage of his own — albeit creative, not intergalactic — before he teamed up with two high-school pals — writer Alain Williams and composer Marc Junker — to conceive their ambitious hybrid.

The visual-effects adventure, filmed on a shoestring budget over nine days in 2011, makes its world première Saturday as part of Short Circuit, CineVic’s second annual festival of short films that begins Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Vic Theatre.

The 28-minute film relating attempts by a monk, using his martial-arts skills and his spacecraft’s ability to simulate different worlds, to thwart bandits who have hijacked it, concludes the two-night festival of shorts from the Pacific Northwest.

Other entries include Connor Gaston’s Bardo Light, about a young murder suspect who claims the real culprit is a television set; A Hand to Stand, Lindsay Marie Stewart’s and Matt Miles’s documentary on the therapeutic journey of Bella Bella Community School students who craft their own paddleboards; Michael Worth’s Checkmate, inspired by the life-changing childhood experiences of Nairobi-born Victoria artist Eric Mazimpaka; and Self-Inflicted, Oregonian Ross Williams’ dark comedy about a likable masochist’s romantic pursuits.

For Jackson, the Somnius screening is more than an opportunity to showcase the fruits of his labour, including some mind-blowing visual effects perfected after 4,000 hours of post-production.

The final product reassured the soft-spoken filmmaker that after years of quietly and methodically creating striking animated sequences for clients such as Tourism Victoria, the Sierra Club and Jordan Clark’s Filipino folklore documentary Aswang: A Journey Into Myth, he could work in a less solitary environment.

“It was the first time for me working with a full crew,” recalled Jackson, who wore several hats including editor, concept and storyboard artist, props and costume designer and building miniatures in his garage studio with his partners.

“I’m so used to working on my own with Marc and Alan. We had this great producer [Clark] who got all these people interested, and they all volunteered their time and talents.”

Having more people on board pushed Jackson to further develop the concept that he, Junker and Williams conceived over breakfast in a café after wrapping Samurai Cops, their tongue-in-cheek homage to 1970s action flicks.

Somnius, produced by Jackson’s Djaxx Studio banner with Simon Norton Game’s Picture Cloud Studios, also fulfilled his passion for sharing his knowledge, a gift he appreciatively notes he himself received from artists.

“I think I am where I am because of them,” said Jackson, now working on the short Cloud Rise in his Fernwood studio.

“I believe in sharing all my experiences. If you’re passionate about anything, it’s easy these days to go out and create because there are so many tools online.”

Festivals like Short Circuit are an essential showcase for such projects — even with Vimeo and other online venues where short films proliferate but can be challenging to sort through, says CineVic director Bryan Skinner.

“It’s the difference between watching a sporting event and actually being there and seeing the people involved with their creation,” he said, noting the success of last year’s inaugural event at Intrepid Theatre prompted the move to the Vic.

While there are fewer entries from the U.S. this year, there’s a dramatic increase in films from Vancouver, Skinner said.

Short Circuit, sponsored in part by Driftwood Brewery, is a 19-plus event.

Tickets, available at CineVic and Lyle’s Place (770 Yates St.), are $10 per night, or $15 for a two-night package.