Becky Wosk’s journey to Earl Parker Award and beyond

This year’s winner of the Earl Parker Award for Jewish Film, Becky Wosk, wasted no time in throwing her hat into the ring. Upon hearing about the award from her mentor, Jonas Quastel, who is a Langara Film Arts Program director, she promptly submitted her entry for the competition.   

She says being able to showcase at a film festival is an enormous opportunity for emerging filmmakers because it provides a platform that they wouldn’t have otherwise. “It’s one thing to create something, but to get it in front of an audience is a whole other matter, so having these opportunities is invaluable,” says Becky.   

The Earl Parker Award aims to promote the development of Jewish film. The Edmonton Jewish Film Festival presents it on opening night. Contestants may propose a range of film-related projects, including film productions, script writing, post-production or attending film courses and workshops. The competition is open to Canadian residents of all ages, including school groups. “It’s important to make Jewish films because our stories need to be documented and shared with the world. We have a unique viewpoint of the world and individuals that deserve space and attention,” says Becky.  

Becky’s project, titled One Thread, is a documentary-style short that will feature multiple interviewees of diverse backgrounds who all have one commonality—being Jewish. Becky dedicates this film to her grandfather, Saul Wosk, whose parents immigrated from Ukraine to Canada in the late 1890s. He fought in Israel’s War of Independence, instilling in Becky a sense of pride and strength in her Jewish identity.  

“I see this potentially becoming a series that can eventually be all tied together on a global scale. It will showcase how, regardless of where we live or our backgrounds, we are one people—a tribe of resilient humans who have overcome all odds to be here today. It will be a look at the diversity of the diaspora and how we all have one common thread,” she says.     

“The participants need not be actively practicing Jews as I want the overarching theme to be our ethnicity, not religion. However, I would like to touch on customs and traditions within the interviews.”   

Becky plans to use the $1,500 award for gear, studio rentals and editing. She believes that receiving this award’s support will give credibility to the project. “Having support from the Edmonton Jewish Film Festival and the Earl Parker Award validities the concept that was pitched, if the public knows that an established organization and/or event finds merit in your project—it adds value to it,” she says.  

The grant has provided her with the motivation to complete the project by a specific deadline and has enabled her to create a comfortable environment for interviewees and crew during production.   

Becky had a childhood dream of becoming an actress. Born and raised in Vancouver, she auditioned for film and TV roles at a very young age. However, she soon faced the harsh reality of performance anxiety. “I always froze in auditions,” Becky recalls, attributing her struggles to severe social and performance anxiety, which led to her never landing a job. Despite these challenges, her love for being on set never waned. “I also did background work because all I wanted was to be on a set—I didn’t care what capacity, I just felt so at home.”  

She also grew up watching films by Jewish filmmakers, from whom she drew inspiration. “My sister and I loved the classic Adam Sandler films like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, which inspired my love of comedy. Amy Heckerling was very inspirational for me as a child; I watched her lighthearted films (Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and they just brought me so much joy and created such a colourful universe. There’s also Nora Ephron, the queen of the romantic comedy genre. The Coen Brothers, Kubrick, Abrams, Brooks, Apatow, Marta Kauffman, Ben Stiller, Spielberg, Taika Waititi—I could literally go on and on. There are so many visionaries in our community, and it affirms my deep love and motivation to be a filmmaker, because it’s clearly in our DNA,” says Becky.   

Becky moved to Chilliwack, which brought some new challenges. Acting opportunities were scarce, and she grappled with body dysmorphia, making it difficult to be on camera. However, her high school filmmaking class at Chilliwack Senior Secondary became a pivotal point. “The filmmaking class was really the only reason I showed up at school,” recalls Becky. “We were working with old cameras and editing eight mm (about 0.31 in) tape/VHS. It was so old school, given that the year was 2006. We had to adapt to using older equipment, as the school was in a lower income area and didn’t have funding for arts programs.”   

Despite these setbacks, Becky and her peers were passionate amateur filmmakers who displayed remarkable creativity and collaboration. This was not the only time when Becky had to show her ingenuity at producing films. Once, she made a music video with a mere $100 budget. “So, to bring it to fruition, it took a lot of resourcefulness and do-it-yourself creativity. It turned out great and was featured in a large local media outlet, which made me proud to show how much you can do with just your imagination and any video camera,” she says.  

In an ideal world, Becky envisions her role as a director significantly influencing the film landscape, particularly in Vancouver. “I don’t want people to be afraid to tell their stories. I would hope females have a larger role in filmmaking and I would make a point of having a diverse crew on whatever project is in progress,” she says. “I don’t know how, as an individual, I can impact the landscape, but if I do, it will be with authenticity and serve the greater good.”