‘It was just me and the geese:’ Winnipeg director premiers new short film at TIFF

23 August 2023 / by Owen Thompson

Winnipeg documentary director and editor Kartsen Wall premiers his first short nature documentary at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Modern Goose is a nature documentary following the trend of having no narration; Wall says this is to allow the audience to decide on their own meaning and interpretation of the film. The documentary is just over 20 minutes in length of cut together footage of the local Winnipeg geese.

Wall has been in the Winnipeg documentary scene for over ten years working as an editor. Within the last few years, he has branched out to the role of the director. Modern Goose combines both roles as other than help with one scene he was the only person working on the short film.

“It just happened to happen around COVID. I think my project was a pretty safe thing to greenlight because it was just me and the geese,” says Wall. “Personally getting to know [geese] I’ve come to understand that they’re just as unique as humans. They all have their own personalities. Birds are kind of hard to read, because they kind of seem like their faces are blank.”

After receiving the green light from the National Film Board of Canada, production began in 2020. Wall has only finished his short film within the first half of 2023. He started filming in 2021 and finished Christmas of 2022. After he spent six months editing his film.

With over 30 terabytes of footage of geese Wall’s had to shorten it down to only 20 minutes.

“I have enough footage for another two movies,” says Wall.

He says the only reason he was able to keep track of it was due to his editor’s mind and detailed cataloguing methods.

“It’s pretty ridiculous how much I shot. This is a beginner’s mistake with my first short film. I definitely did not need to shoot that much. I could have used more of my own internal story direction,” says Wall. “You never know with nature documentaries. Especially as an editor, more is better. But it was definitely overkill.”

Despite all the footage Wall says he had trouble finding the story in the footage. The issue came from the independence of the animals. “They’re not actors,” says Wall. He says that the story had to shift around the footage he had. He says that working on this project was “like working on a puzzle” and that he was “working off the edges” to have a full narrative.

Originally, the film was going to be about pigeons, but Wall decided to pick geese after being on a walk. He found a dead goose in a parking lot of a casino with the macabre scene inspiring him to change the subject.

Modern Goose was submitted to Hot Docs and was rejected. Wall says that when he got the email from the NFB saying his short film was going to TIFF he thought it was a scam email. With TIFF, encroaching Wall is making his plans for the premier as he will be attending the event.

“I’m out of my depths here,” says Wall.

“I’ll just go with the flow. I don’t know how to prepare . This film was kind of an experiment. I had high hopes, but not this high of hopes for it. It was just to see if I could do it really. I’m excited. Now I have to figure out what I’m doing next. I can’t just sit on this film. I gotta keep going. So that’s my next challenge,” adds Wall.

TIFF goes from Sept. 7-17. More about Modern Goose can be read on the National Film Board website.

Listen to the story below: