Tavis Putnam was 17 when he lost his social virginity.
“I think the first one I went to was my friend’s second cousin’s wedding social or something like that,” says Putnam, a 29-year-old filmmaker from Winnipeg.
After 12 years, the details of that holy Manitoban rite of passage are fuzzy at best, but Putnam does his best to fill in the missing parts: there was alcohol, there was a raffle of some sort, there were sandwiches and chips on paper plates, and there were interactions with tenuously connected characters from his inner and outer circles. It might have been at the Caboto Centre, but he can’t quite recall. There was probably some song and dance everybody knew except him, leaving him awkwardly tapping his feet.
RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
With A Social, director and star Tavis Putnam wanted to create a comedy that felt personal while poking fun at a Manitoba tradition.
For Putnam, the experience was strangely formative, and definitive of the Manitoban experience. Elsewhere in the world, there must be loosely philanthropic galas to pay for celebrations further down the road. “So why do we call it a social and not, like, a fundraiser party?” he wonders during a Zoom interview. “The name was funny to me. So, you just … go and be social? It’s one of the few things that I feel is distinctly Manitoban, I guess.”
Drawn from that Manitoban obscurity, Putnam has made for his feature film debut a character study that is unmistakably Winnipeg-ish. The tagline says it all: “On every street in every corner of the world, there’s somebody selling tickets to something,” it reads. “In this town, that something is called… A SOCIAL.”
In A Social, which screens tonight at the Dave Barber Cinematheque, Putnam, who wrote and directed, also stars as Ross St. Clair, an awkward but lovable young man who wears his city on his sleeve. He drinks Slurpees, refers…