Could You Take My Equipment? tells the story of Rae (played by newcomer MJ Jopling), a teenager who struggles to hide a personal secret from her teammates in an all-women’s queer hockey league after moving to Toronto to escape her homophobic father.
With the help of her new friends Tiffany (Taelor Lewis-Joseph) and Jasmine (Athena Kaitlin-Trinh), as well as a league executive named Shannon (Kerry-Lee Finkle), however, Rae finds the support she needs and learns to put her trust in those around her.
Along the way, the film highlights the challenges of precarious housing facing many at-risk youth and the power and importance of community in sport.
Toronto-based producer, director and writer Sheila Warren says the idea for the project came from both her love of sports and a desire to see more female-driven stories, especially those with a focus on LGBTQ+ inclusion.
“I come from many years of playing hockey, so I’ve always wanted to do something about women’s hockey, but I also wanted to do something about the community of sport and what people get from it,” Warren says. “Particularly when it comes to queer sports, there are a lot of marginalized people who come from all over and flock to the city because that’s where the acceptance is.”
Warren wrote the script in a little over two weeks in late-2022, drawing from her own personal experience, as well as from the roughly seven years she spent teaching at an adult high school in Toronto.
“At any given time, probably 50% of my students were in a precarious housing situation, where they were with their family, but now they’re at a friend’s house or couch surfing,” she says. “I wanted to look at the precarious housing situation with the queer element because there’s such a high percentage of queer youth that are homeless.”
“I wanted to look at the precarious housing situation with the queer element because there’s such a high percentage of queer youth that are homeless.”
Could You Take My Equipment? was shot in early-2023 in and around Cabbagetown and Moss Park Arena, with the latter serving as the setting for the film’s extensive hockey sequences. As a result, Warren explains, the project involved more complexity than she’d dealt with on previous projects.
“There was a lot more action, though I didn’t have any stunt coordinator or anything. I did everything myself because I don’t know anybody that could choreograph hockey any better than I could,” she says. “Also, I’d never worked with background performers or multiple locations. I’d never filmed in Toronto with all the permits and and all that comes with that.”
Warren credits much of the look of the film to the project’s director of photography Tess Girard, whom she describes as “second to none.” She adds that, while Girard brought a clear vision to the pair’s extensive prep sessions, her drive to realize that vision also led to some interesting challenges.
“One of the top rental places in Toronto let Tess loose, so she got about half a million dollars’ worth of gear – ice dollies, beautiful high-end lenses – at a huge discount,” Warren says. “But then our original insurance carrier dropped us because it was so much equipment. It becomes a question of security. Where’s it going to be stored? How are you going to protect it? Who’s going to be with it? I think it was just out of their range.”
“As you make more films, you’re just able to do that faster and not freak out. Just thinking on your feet, I’m able to do that much faster now.”
Ultimately, she says that the project required “a lot more to prep than I’ve ever done before.” With a larger production, higher budget, bigger crew and underage actors, she admits “it kind of got to the point where I couldn’t do it on my own.”
“All horizons were expanded. I learned that sometimes things change and you have to fly by the seat of your pants,” she says. “As you make more films, you’re just able to do that faster and not freak out. Just thinking on your feet, I’m able to do that much faster now.”
Could You Take My Equipment? had its world premiere at the Buffalo International Film Festival this past September, before making its Canadian debut at the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival last month.
Warren says she is already eyeing a slate of new projects aimed at the “the sporty, female, LGBTQ+ community” – including an upcoming feature about a recreational softball league called Could You Slow It Down? – but adds that she hopes her current film will help draw more attention to an on-going and growing issue in Toronto and elsewhere in the country.
“One out of five homeless people in Canada are under 24 years old and 26% of those are from the queer community. That to me was a very shocking number – it was higher than I thought,” Warren says. “Especially in the city, we go about our business and we’re really not aware of what’s happening to people around us. It often takes an offer of help, but you have to ask the questions and be able to take in the answers.”