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Whistler Film Festival 2015 Interview: WHEN ELEPHANTS WERE YOUNG director Patricia Sims

When Elephants Were Young - At #wff15
by Jason Whyte

"A young man and his young elephant street beg in Bangkok struggling to survive until the opportunity comes to release the elephant to the wild, which changes both of their lives forever." Director Patricia Sims on WHEN ELEPHANTS WERE YOUNG which screens at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival.

Really excited to have you as part of the 15th Anniversary at Whistler! I heard you have been been with us before so what is it about this festival and town that excites you the most?

I have been going to Whistler for many years and have attended the Whistler Film Festival a few times since 2008. Whistler is a gorgeous mountain town, with a great community spirit. And, needless to say, awesome skiing! I love Whistler Film Festival, it is a really cool film festival, no pun intended, that showcases some of the best and newest independent films from Canada and internationally. The Whistler team is so respectful and supportive of the filmmakers and their films and it is amazing and gratifying to see. Plus, I love the access filmmakers, industry and audience all have to each other at Whistler in such an inspiring setting, which is perfect for celebrating cinema!

Great to hear you are coming! Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and your previous work.

I made my first documentary about dolphins while I was working as a producer CityTV/MuchMusic back in the "old days"! From that point I fell in love with traveling, making films about animals, and our relationships with them past, present and future. Many of my earlier films focused on dolphins and whales around the world. I am passionate about the interrelationships between humans and nature.

So with that documentary and TV background, how did WHEN ELEPHANTS WERE YOUNG get its start?

Elephants are more like people than any other animal. And we are losing them very quickly primarily because of humanity's greed and disconnection from nature. In WHEN ELEPHANTS WERE YOUNG I wanted to explore the issues between humans and elephants in Thailand through the very simple story of a young man and his elephant and the challenges they face, and being able to show one positive solution that can ensure the elephants' survival.

So what keeps you going while making a documentary like this? What’s your poison?

Insanity! Seriously, it's just the sheer focus and commitment to getting it done against all odds, and not compromising on the vision of what it can be. And of course, poison helps ...I'll never tell mine!

All projects are challenging in many ways, some more than others. What was your biggest challenge with making WHEN ELEPHANTS WERE YOUNG, and the moment where you knew you had something?

There were and continue to be many challenges. Of course, funding is always the biggest and on-going challenge, from one stage to the next. As one challenge is overcome another one arises. Searching for the best way to portray the story and the issues was a challenge with this film. We knew we had something special when we began to follow the lives of our main character and his elephant; we gained their trust and they let us into their world, which gave us a unique perspective on the paradox of the human-elephant condition, and the conflict between social and conservation issues in Thailand.

On the technical side of making this documentary, I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was shot.

My co-filmmaker Michael Clark and I have worked together for many years. We work together as cinematographers; Michael is the DOP and I shoot as second camera. Michael has a brilliant and unique visual style and designs innovative camera rigs that get us unique and diverse coverage on our subjects. Our design approach was to go close-up with the elephants. Since they're such big, beautiful animals and are so intelligent, we wanted to portray their personalities through close-up coverage that would enable an intimate view into their world, giving us a sense of what they are thinking and feeling.

Again, I am glad you are coming to Whistler for the film’s screenings. What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here?

This is our premiere, so it's the first time that we will be presenting the film to audiences! I am really looking forward to audience reaction and feedback. It's incredibly exciting!

After the film screens in Whistler, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to show?

Confirmed so far, WHEN ELEPHANTS WERE YOUNG will be screening at the Victoria Film Festival in February 2016. We're still waiting for responses from some other festivals and planning our release strategy.

If you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?

There's so many beautiful cinemas in the world, it's difficult for me to say one in particular. For sure, the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto is one of my Canadian favourites as I have been going to that cinema since I was a kid.

What would you say or do to someone who was being disruptive, like talking or texting, at a screening you were attending?

Ask them to be quiet, or to leave.

What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?

It's not for the faint of heart! You gotta love it to do it!

And finally, what is your all time favorite movie? Or film festival movie?

There is no way that I can say I have an all-time favourite movie. I love so many movies. The list is very long. Three that pop up for me are BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, BREAKING THE WAVES and THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL!

Be sure to check out the World Premiere of WHEN ELEPHANTS WERE YOUNG at #wff15 on Saturday, December 5th, 4:00pm at the Rainbow Theatre, and/or on Sunday, December 6th at 4:00pm at Millennium Place.

Follow the progress of the film by visiting the film at the official site, on Twitter at @ElephantMovie, on Facebook and on Instagram.

This is one of the many films playing at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival. For show information, tickets and for other general information on films and events, point your browser to the official website at!

[bigger]Be sure to follow instant happenings of Whistler Film Festival on my Twitter account @jasonwhyte, including mini-reviews of films, comments on festival action and even a photo or two. You can also follow the festival on my Instagram at jason.whyte!

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 11/30/15 04:58:26
last updated: 11/30/15 05:00:34
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