NFB’s Hyperlocal takes a personal look at Canada’s shifting communities

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is producing six interactive stories for Hyperlocal (, an online collection of personal observations about change in Canadian neighbourhoods, commissioned by CBC Canada Writes and launching today.

Part of the NFB’s leadership role in exploring and telling stories from Canada’s communities, this unique collaboration between the NFB and CBC Canada Writes adds a visual and interactive dimension to personal stories. Hyperlocal adapts the work of prominent Canadian writers Joseph Boyden, Will Ferguson, Lisa Moore, Heather O’Neill and Miriam Toews, as well as a user-generated story to be chosen via the Canada Writes Hyperlocal Storytelling Challenge, which runs through May 3 at

These interactive works are produced by the NFB’s Webby Award-winning Digital Studio. The project is headed by creative director Sean Embury (FULSCRN) and art director Jeremy Mendes (NFB), with an art direction and design team that includes The Goggles (Welcome to Pine Point), Kevin Airgid and Steve Mackey, and Jen Moss as interactive producer and Loc Dao as executive producer for the NFB. Sarah Gilbert is the commissioning editor for CBC Canada Writes.

The project

The concept of “hyperlocality” now permeates everything, from the way we source our food to the way we consume media. As the Internet elevates the personal to the public, it brings micro stories out to macro audiences. In this climate, “the little things” are getting noticed like never before, and we are discovering that these are the things that bind us together.

Hyperlocal challenges the notion of what constitutes change. Too often we dismiss our own observations, thinking they are somehow less significant than those of others.  But a crack in the sidewalk, a fresh coat of paint, or an unfamiliar family down the street can be as telling as the stories on the six o’clock news―and these small changes all happening concurrently amount to big shifts, in both culture and communication.

The Hyperlocal interactive stories are:

Joseph Boyden: Building Something (James Bay)

A campfire symbolizes the spirit of change in Joseph Boyden’s piece about teaching wilderness skills to Aboriginal kids as a way of helping them build self-esteem. Art direction by Sean Embury.

Will Ferguson: Garrison Woods (Calgary)

A former army barracks becomes the site of block parties and barbeques in this layered look at change over time in Will Ferguson’s Calgary neighbourhood of Garrison Woods. Art direction by The Goggles.

Lisa Moore: Traffic (St. John’s)

Lisa Moore and her neighbours used to leave the doors to their downtown St. John’s homes unlocked—but the sense of unease that has accompanied the growing traffic from the prostitution trade in the area has changed everyone’s viewpoint. Art direction by Sean Embury.

Heather O’Neill: The Red Light District (Montreal)

In her evocative look at change around the Montreal intersection of St. Catherine and St. Laurent, Heather O’Neill observes that in eradicating the ugly, you inevitably rub out some of the beauty too. Art direction by The Goggles.

Miriam Toews: My Hometown (Steinbach, Manitoba)

Evidence of change is everywhere in the once rigid Mennonite community Miriam Toews grew up in; as a young person she couldn’t wait to get out, as an adult―she’s not sure she entirely approves. Art direction by Kevin Airgid.

User Submission: Winning interactive project

The winner of the Canada Writes Hyperlocal Storytelling Challenge will get their story of local change turned into an interactive project by the NFB’s Digital Studio. Art direction by Steve Mackey.


About the NFB

The National Film Board of Canada is devoted to new forms of storytelling, helping to reinvent the grammar of 21st-century media and art. The NFB’s acclaimed content can be seen at and on apps for smartphones, tablets and connected TV. The NFB’s Digital Studios produce interactive documentaries and animation, mobile content, installations, and participatory experiences from an English-language unit based in Vancouver and a French-language unit in Montreal. The NFB has created over 13,000 productions and won over 5,000 awards, including 6 Webbys and 12 Oscars.