Cam Woykin currently teaches film production at the University of New Brunswick. He received his BFA in visual arts from the University of Lethbridge and graduated with an MFA in film production from York University. His creative work has been exhibited at festivals, galleries, and alternative spaces across Canada and internationally. His latest collaboration, The Stairs (a feature documentary he contributed to as cinematographer), recently won the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award, which is presented annually by the Toronto Film Critics Association. On January 19, UNB and the New Brunswick Filmmakers’ Co-op will be hosting Dreams + Disillusionment, a retrospective of his short film work.
1. New Brunswick craft brew
My 2016 started with an experiment: no alcohol for a month. One month turned into two, then three, and before I knew it, it was September and I was moving to Fredericton to teach film at UNB. Soon after my arrival, I discovered that New Brunswick has one of the highest craft breweries per capita in the country. Moving from a city of 5.6 million to one that just cracks 56,000, a detail like this – at least for someone who enjoys good food and drink – is a hard one to miss. Aside from the diverse styles and tastes of beer being produced out here, the thing that really impresses me about the NB micro scene is the sense of camaraderie that exists amongst its brewers. Instead of trying to edge one another out, they’re helping each other develop and promote their product. Hopefully that spirit keeps up. As for my experiment, I did what any other sober-minded beer appreciator would do: I let it fizzle to a frothy carbonated end after eight-plus months. My current obsession: Maybee’s Elevensies Espresso Stout.
2. Environmental psychology
In my 36-plus years on this pale blue dot (shout out to Carl Sagan), I have lived at 28 different addresses throughout Canada, spanning 22 unique communities, seven municipalities, and four provinces. My personal and professional travels have taken me to countless other locations across the country and overseas. What I’ve learned from this peripatetic lifestyle, aside from the fact that it makes good fodder for my creative practice, is that one’s surroundings have a direct and observable impact on one’s life. To some, it may seem an unstable existence (trust me, I’ve been told), but it’s actually had the opposite effect. The continuous flow of new people, new places, and new rhythms has at times been challenging (I feel my fellow introverts cringing), but it’s also helped me become more adaptable, resilient, and open-minded; and that’s translated into a better understanding of self, others, and this crazy world we live in. My unsolicited advice to the discontented soul: change your environment. A new reality, a new you, awaits.
3. Gramma's photos
My grandma, Shirley Woykin (love you, grams!), used her camera to document much of her and her family’s life, from about 1950 up until shortly after my grandfather’s passing in 2006. She wasn’t an artist, journalist, or anthropologist. She was simply collecting memories. She kept them safe in giant hardcover albums I can remember going through as a kid. They were four inches thick and nearly impossible to lift. Thinking back, I wonder if that’s what planted the seed that burgeoned into my own romance with photography? Perhaps I’ll discover the answer in the images themselves. The family recently had her photographs digitized and I receive my copy of the collection this week.
4. Alan Moore
I recently found myself wandering through a comic book shop, as I sometimes do when seeking a dose of that familiar levity from youth’s past (I used to collect as kid), when I came across a copy of Alan Moore’s From Hell (a 600-page graphic novel about the Whitechapel murders). I bought it. I read it. I loved it. I bought more Moore and read more Moore. Soon after that, I found myself watching video clips of Moore. Once, I even fell asleep listening to a podcast of Moore. My appetite was insatiable. There’s always room for Moore! Why is he so interesting, you ask? Well, aside from being an incredible writer, the guy has a beard to revere and is a practitioner of ritual magic! Do you need to hear more? How about from the lips of Moore himself (via the doc The Mindscape of Alan Moore): “I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness ... Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people's consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman.”
During my aforementioned no-alcohol experiment, my partner introduced me to Kombucha – a fermented tea drink that, according to Wikipedia, originated in Manchuria around 2200 years ago. I wasn’t sure about it at first (it can be a little stinky, kind of like vinegar, and is often accompanied by a slimy yeast colony, which is apparently healthy for you slurp down), but now I’m hooked. It makes a great alternative for beer when trying to beat the summer heat (it’s carbonated, refreshing, and you get to avoid that dreaded post-beer energy zap), and – according to some health experts – it provides your gut with a decent dose of good bacteria (think yogurt, kimchi, and other fermented goodies). I’ve also found it helps settle my stomach on days that follow late nights when I may have indulged in too many craft brews…
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