Film festival brings homegrown composer full circle

Tara Jeffrey

Erica Procunier credits her Sarnia upbringing with a promising career as a film composer.

Erica Procunier

Erica Procunier

“I took piano lessons since age seven,” said the graduate of St. Christopher Secondary, where she also played the flute. “And the Lambton County Music Festival was always an important time of year for me.”

Now based in Toronto, Procunier, 32, will return to her hometown next month for the South West International Film Festival, where audiences can catch the short film Mariner — for which she wrote the score.

“I am really excited to share it with everyone in my hometown,” said Procunier, who went on to earn a Masters of Music Composition from Western University, before being selected for the prestigious 2013-2014 Slaight Family Music Residency. “It’s my first film that will be played in a theatre in Sarnia, and hopefully there will be more to come someday. That is the goal.”

Mariner, which tells the story of an ambitious marine cadet who is haunted by his past, made its world premiere at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.

“The sound and music were incredibly important in the telling of this story, so I think it’s a really good showcase of my work,” said Procunier, who also received two 2014 SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Audio/Visual composers for her work on short films Avalanche and Fist Plus Face.

“My job is to put you in the headspace of this character and encapsulate his complete and utter panic, anxiety and nervousness about trying to succeed in this environment. The film itself is so visually stunning.”

Director Thyrone Tommy will also be in attendance for a Q&A at SWIFF, now in its second year.

Founder Ravi Srinivasan has added 12 short films to the four-day festival returning to Sarnia’s downtown — six international films and six Canadian films — beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday Nov. 5 and Sunday Nov. 6.

“What’s unique about the shorts is that they’ll be competing for the SWIFF audience award — everyone will have the opportunity to choose their favourite film,” Srinivasan said, highlighting another area connection in the short film The Road to Webequie, by Chatham filmmakers Ryan North and Tess Girard.

“It’s our way of encouraging emerging talent; you’re trying to nurture the filmmaker and support them and build ties,” he added, “in hopes that they’ll support the festival in the future.”

Procunier praised Srinivasan for bringing the festival to Sarnia.

“It’s something that I really wish was around when I was there growing up,” she said. “There is so much out there that’s being made here in Canada and abroad — more than just what comes to the big multiplex theatres.”

Meanwhile, Procunier, who also writes music for film, television, cartoons, theatre, games and advertisements, has recently been commissioned by TIFF and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to compose the orchestral film score to an animated short film to celebrate Canada’s 150th, which will premiere with the TSO in February 2017.

“I’m absolutely in love with it, and so excited for everyone to hear it,” said Procunier of “Dam! The story of Kit the Beaver.” “It’s an honour to have been selected to have this opportunity — it just blows my mind.”

Mariner will be shown as part of the SWIFF Short Film Programme on Sunday, Nov. 6, which begins at 11 a.m. Tickets are available at the Imperial Theatre. For more information on SWIFF, running Nov. 3-6, visit