- Ida Beltran-Lucila
Edmon Rotea - Skinamarink’s Filipino Connection
Early this year, an experimental and debut film made waves for its astonishing box office and critical success. This is Skinamarink, directed and written by Edmonton filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball. This Edmonton-shot movie is about two children who wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing, and all the windows and doors in their home have vanished. It has reviews from the New Yorker, The Atlantic and Rolling Stone, and is described as “the scariest they've ever seen”. Skinamarink was filmed over seven days in August 2021 with a budget of $15,000. The film has grossed more than $2 million since its premiere on January 13.
What is not widely known is the Filipino connection in this smashing success, Edmon Rotea, who is the executive producer of Skinamarink. Edmon is the son of Ernesto and Gloria Rotea. His family moved to Canada in 1975, sponsored by relatives in Vancouver who had arrived in the early 1970s. His parents were the first in their immediate families to migrate and settle in Canada, paving the way for other aunts, uncles, cousins, and their extended family to immigrate and settle in Canada and North America.
Back in 2012, Edmon took courses at the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta (FAVA) in Edmonton, a local non-profit artist-run film and video co-operative. These studies were on screen writing, documentary production, film producing, acting, and operating digital cinema cameras, such as the RED and ARRI cameras used on big Hollywood movies and TV shows. In 2017, he started getting more involved with the local film community, helping with short films, web series, and eventually documentaries and feature-length films, such as The Line (2020) and Skinamarink (2023). Incidentally, FAVA was a big sponsor of Skinamarink.
In an email interview, Edmon relates his involvement with the film. I first got involved with Skinamarink when my friend, writer/director Kyle Edward Ball, first told me about his desire to make a horror feature film way back in August 2020. It was the midst of the pandemic and Kyle was taking time-off from work and he wanted to fulfill a life-long dream: proving to friends, family, and the greater Edmonton film community that he could write and direct a feature-length film. I told Kyle that I would support him in whatever capacity I could, as I had previously helped a mutual friend produce his first documentary film earlier that year—The Line by writer/director Anthony Goertz. I also had previously known Kyle for many years, when I was a customer at Vistek in downtown Edmonton, a local camera store I used to shop at.
I was able to obtain a development grant from the Alberta Media Production Industries Association (AMPIA) that helped Kyle create the initial storyboards and assist with pre-production efforts for Skinamarink. After the production team experienced several unsuccessful attempts to get arts and film grants, I later helped promote the crowdfunding campaign in Summer 2021, asking friends, family, and members of the Edmonton film community to support Kyle and the film (I also contributed to the crowdfunding campaign myself and other resources, including providing props for the shoot and hard drives for recording and post-production efforts).
I had the opportunity to attend a variety of meetings and events throughout the development and lifecycle of Skinamarink, from script development and table readings, pre-production meetings, the world premiere of the film at Montreal’s 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival, and now I have phone discussions with Kyle regarding updates on the film’s theatrical and distribution/exhibition efforts, including helping to generate publicity on social media and local media in Edmonton (huge thanks to Alberta Filipino Journal for this interview opportunity!).
How do you, and the team, feel about the success of Skinamarink? I, Kyle and the cast and crew are proud of the success, especially with the film’s origins and humble beginnings as a crowdfunded community-supported film that allowed Kyle to prove his writing and directing talents, to a film that was able to obtain both a theatrical and broadcast/streaming distribution agreement, that was able to generate over $2 million dollars at the US Box Office (which is very rare for independent microbudget films, especially those made in Edmonton). We are thrilled that Skinamarink screened in over 809 theatres across Canada, US, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia during the opening week of January 13th. It later screened in Poland on the weekend of February 10-12, with over 10,000 tickets sold, with a theatrical debut in Mexico next week and France in May. It continues to play in select theatres in Canada and the US, even into mid-March, with special 35 mm film screenings.
I am most proud of Kyle for staying true to himself and the film that he wanted to make. Skinamarink is a testament to Kyle’s creative passion for filmmaking, resiliency, friendship, and making a film—not just for money, profit, and fame—but because of a strong desire to create and express yourself. I also hope that this is proof to aspiring and emerging filmmakers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and around the world that you don’t need a big budget, the latest cameras, famous actors, and a lot of money to make a feature film—just a strong dedication to your creative vision and supportive friends, family, and a community who are willing to nurture and support your artistic vison who can help your film come to fruition.
Skinamarink is also a “calling card” first feature film for most of the cast and crew, including Kyle as a writer/director and myself as a producer. We hope it will raise our profile as filmmakers, making it easier to get opportunities and funding to pursue and work on more film projects in the near future. I also hope that it further reinforces Edmonton as a destination for original feature film production—and not just a city for out-of-province, American, and foreign TV and film productions to shoot in Edmonton. We hope to continue to tell the stories of Edmontonian, Albertan, and Canadians on both the small and big screens, and share their stories to international audiences.
Aside from his film projects, Edmon works full-time at Alberta Health Services as a Contract Administrator for construction and facilities maintenance projects and serves part-time in the Canadian Armed Forces Army Reserves for a communications unit, 41 Signal Regiment, 1 Squadron, as a Signals Operator since 2004. He also received a Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal for his volunteer work - with FAVA, the International Festival of Winter Cinema, Alberta Media Arts Alliance Society of Alberta, DOC Alberta and with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE). He also works with and mentors a few emerging filmmakers, working on pre-development for a coming-of-age comedy and a variety of drama, documentary, and narrative film projects, assisting with grant writing and strategies for securing funding, distribution, and exhibition.
Photo credits: Gerardo Ramos, Edmon Rotea
* This article was published in the March 2023 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.
** Do you know of a Filipino, or of Filipino-descent, artist/creative, or an art and culture event that should be featured? Send a message to PhilippineArtsCouncil@gmail.com