CULTIVATING CREATIVITY: Nick Pujic and Vantage Point Media

By Peter Paylor/Quinte Arts Council

Vantage Point Media House is a second-to-none television and video production and post-production facility located above Capers Restaurant in the heart of Belleville’s Downtown District. Specializing in the outdoor adventure sector – fly-fishing especially – when there’s a story to be found in the bush or on (or under) water, there is no one who can capture it on video better than Vantage Point.

I recently spoke with Nick Pujic, Vantage Point’s producer and founder, to find out why a world-class facility would choose to come here.

“I grew up in Belleville, I went to school in Belleville, my wife and I just bought a farm just outside of Belleville a year ago,” says Pujic. Vantage Point didn’t come here, it was born here.

Pujic was a photographer and life-long outdoorsman with a passion for fly-fishing — but no video experience – when the World Fishing Network came to him with a proposal: If you’ll produce a television show, we’ll put it on the air. “Which is kind of huge, right? Which, if you’ve never made a TV show, you’re like, ‘Right, yup, we’ll find a way to make that happen,’” says Pujic. “We bought some video cameras at Future Shop, I’m not even kidding with you, and got on a plane to B.C. and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re making a fishing TV show. Here we go. ’And, yeah, we did.”

They must have done well. “The phone started ringing with people who had their own shows or productions who said, ‘Hey, we’d like to have you guys in and film or edit or both’…we’ve been doing that ever since,” he says.

Then came March and COVID-19. “Most of our work is not local and the stuff that is local is always exciting because it’s at home, and the current state of affairs aside, 85% of our business would be stateside,” says Pujic. “We certainly appreciate the stuff we get to do around home, especially on the tourism side, because you’re always proud of where you’re from.”

With that in mind, “When the lockdown first happened, every one of our producers was tasked with producing a project based on their passions and whatever was in reach.”

The first of these projects was A Thing of the Past, a beautifully-produced short documentary, a cautionary tale about the disappearance of brook trout in Ontario waters by Vantage Point’s senior producer Yoshi Aoki. In the film, Aoki recounts a visit to a favourite fishing spot: “My grandpa used to bring us here to fish brookies…I can remember the last brookie we ever caught here…that’s a long time ago now, that’s probably 25 years ago now, but it’s pretty crazy to think that we’re the generation that saw them disappear, and I can remember him telling us…he told us that someday they’ll be a thing of the past.”

Another short documentary, The Camp, by Vantage Point’s Brady Rogers was released mid-November. It’s a personal, heartfelt, and exceptionally moving testament to family told through the lens of the Rogers ’family cottage and hunting camp on Ashby Lake, north of Bon Echo. Again, it’s a beautiful film.

There’s a quality to both of these documentaries that’s unmistakably unique to Vantage Point. I asked Pujic for some insight on what that quality might be. “I see it as a collaboration where we have talented individuals who come together, address each objective, whatever it might be, uniquely, and come at it from creative angles that, in the end, achieve the objectives and often exceed them because there’s guys like Yoshi and guys like Brady and others, who will come in and do what they do and they’re so good at it that we often end up with something much greater than we ever conceptualized.”

I asked Pujic what’s next: “I feel like there’s still a lot of stories I want to tell and I have a list of things that I’ve talked about doing for a very long time, but I have not yet achieved or done, whether it’s because of excuses or lack of time, but I’m looking forward to checking off a few of those. And a lot of those have a lot to do with here. Because what I’m finding, the more I see the world because of my career, which has blessed me with the ability to travel everywhere, the more I realize just how much is here…I want to tell those stories through video. I want to have time to do that. I don’t know another place where you can do this. I don’t know of a place you can do more.”

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This article was originally published in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of Quinte Arts Council’s Umbrella arts magazine, available now.