Alison Parker loves films and ferrets. Lucky for her, she combines both in her career as a filmmaker in Canada. Her latest movie, “The Magic Ferret,” is one of five family films featured at this year’s D.C. Shorts Film Festival. KidsPost reporter Marylou Tousignant interviewed Parker, who is 33, about making movies.
Did you always know you wanted to make films?
I always knew I wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry in some way. It took me a while to find out in what way. . . . My best friend and I would do silly skits, and I had some cheap cameras. I’d film anything. I also made stop-motion films with a little bear. I’d move his arms and record for one second, then move his arms again, so it looked like he was moving.
What training did you have?
In school, I studied sound in film. Later I was a “runner” in a sound studio, fetching coffee and lunch for some famous actors. But I found I didn’t like working on other people’s projects. I’ve learned everything else [about moviemaking] on my own.
How did you get involved with ferrets?
I had cats all my life. And then for a few years I didn’t have a pet. I wanted something different, and my friend suggested a ferret. I got two and then realized I’d never seen a movie that showed what great pets they are. I trained Falcor [who stars as Booger in “The Magic Ferret”] myself. It’s not any harder than training a dog.
Some moviemakers won’t work with children and animals. But not you . . .
No, I love watching movies with animals and children. And I make the kind of movies I really love watching. [Working with child actors and animals] has never been something I found difficult.
But there must be challenges . . .
By law, children can only work eight hours a day on a film. We usually work 12-hour days, so if the kid is your lead actor, it’s a challenge not to go over eight hours.
Also, ferrets have a lot of energy. They run around like maniacs, but they also sleep a lot. And they don’t have body doubles to fill in for them. Sometimes we’d be shooting a scene and Falcor would be falling asleep, so we had to go shoot something else.
Did anything funny happen during filming?
Well, a couple of times Falcor went poop where he wasn’t supposed to, and everyone had to stop and run in with paper towels. He also liked to knock the box off the table during the magic show. That happened a lot.
What advice do you have for young would-be filmmakers?
Try to find something you’re passionate about, like skateboarding or catching frogs. Use whatever equipment you have and just keep making stuff and showing it to others, even if it’s just your parents or sister, to get their opinion. Every time will be better than the last. That’s what happens with me.
Favorite movie (that’s not hers):
“The NeverEnding Story” because “it’s about doing what you dream and having an imagination.” She named her ferret Falcor after a character in that movie. Falcor stars in three of Alison’s films.
Favorite food: Pierogi. “You fry them with butter, bacon and sausage — they’re so good!”
Least favorite subject in school: “Math. It wasn’t difficult, but it was very boring.”
Word that best describes her ferrets: “Falcor [who died recently] was brilliant. Frisco is lazy.”
A perfect day: “Eating all my favorite foods, driving my car on a long country road and blasting the music, hanging out by the water and then watching a movie.”
Favorite gift: “My best friend bought me an acoustic guitar when I was 19. She knew I wanted one. I still play it — but I don’t play well.”
Three Family Film screenings are planned for the D.C. Shorts Film Festival:
● Saturday, noon, U.S. Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
● September 20 at 1 p.m., Angelika Film Center, 2911 District Avenue, Fairfax.
● September 21 at 1 p.m., Angelika Film Center.
Admission is free, but you need a ticket. Screenings last 70 minutes and are for age 8 and older. For tickets, have an adult sign on to festival.dcshorts.com/category/filmfest/screenings/family-films.
Here is a brief look at the films:
“The Magic Ferret”
A 6-year-old orphan hopes to find a new “forever family” with the help of Booger, his pet ferret, and a few magic tricks he’s got up his sleeve. (12 minutes, Canada)
“The Girl and the Gondola”
Carla, 10, dreams of becoming a gondolier like her father in Venice, Italy. But she has a problem: She’s a girl — and for 900 years, only men have been gondoliers. (12 minutes, Britain)
A dancing palm, a raccoon and a baboon help Mitzi look for love in this colorful toon. The animator spent four years turning her favorite song, “Monkey Rag,” into a toe-tapping cartoon. (4 minutes, United States)
From the bully at school who teases him about his dirty clothes to the laundry monster lurking at home, life hasn’t been the same for 6-year-old Sam since his parents split up. (18 minutes, United States)
“Ravi & Jane”
After moving to Australia, 10-year-old Ravi meets Jane on the first day at his new school. Despite their differences, they become best buds, until outside events rock their world. (14 minutes, Australia)