Photo credit: Danny Lennon

Canadian short film is alive and well. The proof? These eight filmmakers, who are at Cannes this year, share their inspirations, projects and hopes. (part 2)

5- Meghan Heffern, writer, producer and lead actor, and Christopher Warre Smets, director of Flung

What was your inspiration for this short movie?
MH:
Flung is loosely based on a very awkward experience I had in New York with an old friend.
CWS: When she told me about her idea, a movie about a "lost weekend" fling between two friends in New York City, I was captivated right away. I love stories about missed – or in this case, fleeting – connections. And I've definitely had one or two lost weekends myself over the years. I think everyone has, and that's what's been nice about the response the film has gotten so far.

What was the biggest challenge during the project?
MH:
The biggest challenge in shooting Flung was getting everyone to New York. It took months to plan every detail and then when we got there it was a whirlwind. It was such an amazing experience though, getting to shoot in that incredible city.
CWS: Working without permits in another country, stealing shots, hiding cameras, managing passers-by...dealing with the constant onslaught of humanity, basically. We also wanted to capture the city at very specific, magical times of day, so we woke up before sunrise and shot till after sunset. Long days. We were fried by the end!

How did you prepare for Cannes? Do you have any expectations?
MH:
Preparation for Cannes was very overwhelming. This is my first time, so I really had no idea what to expect. Also the weather changes by the hour, so packing was a little tricky. Luckily I've been able to talk to Cannes veterans who have given me some great tips and advice.
CWS: The nice thing about being in Not Short on Talent is that Telefilm has been very supportive of all the filmmakers, connecting us via Facebook and email with lots of helpful information about the festival. Beyond that it's just all about being open to opportunities and possibilities. I'm treating it like an adventure.

What are you working on right now? What is coming up for you?
MH:
Currently I just wrapped production as an actor on a movie called Serialized, and I'm shooting the CBS drama American Gothic through the summer. We are also taking Flung around the world on its festival run, recently having screenings in Canada, Cannes and NYC.
CWS: I have a few things on the go right now as a director. I'm working with some Vancouver-based producers to bring my screenplay My Life in Stereo to the screen. I also have a detective film I'm developing, and I'm currently writing a web series with Tara Spencer-Nairn (Corner Gas), who is hilarious. I think it's going to showcase her in a really funny, unexpected way.

6- Alexis Fortier Gauthier, coréalisateur de Ships

Quelle a été l’inspiration pour votre court métrage?
Alexandre [Auger] et moi voulions aborder l'histoire d'un couple d'expatriés. Plusieurs de nos amis vivaient cette période difficile que sont les sept premières années d'une immigration. Une période de doutes et de découragements. Nous voulions aborder la thématique par l'intime, vivre un moment au cœur de ce dilemme. Un court film mettant en vedette deux personnages pris dans l'hiver québécois. Ils ont convenu d'y vivre, mais une asymétrie finira par briser le couple. La femme s'y plaît et veut rester, lui veut partir. Deux bateaux, dont un seul trouve son port.

Quel a été le plus grand défi durant ce projet?
Nous avons tourné sans argent. Nous voulions expérimenter de nouvelles façons de faire, explorer de nouvelles manières de tourner. Nous avons improvisé entièrement les scènes autour de lignes directrices. Le vécu des acteurs a été mis à contribution. Nous sommes allés tourner au Jardin botanique sans autorisation, afin de faire la scène dans Papillons en liberté! Nous voulions garder l'équipe petite, l'inspiration à fleur de peau. Nous avons tenté de rester le plus ouverts possible face aux imprévus, aux surprises. Cette démarche d'exploration s'est poursuivie lors du montage où les images ont pris de nouveaux sens et l'histoire, une nouvelle tournure. Comme la plupart des projets autoproduits, il nous a fallu une bonne dose de persévérance afin de mener le court métrage à bien, mais surtout une confiance quasi aveugle et un extrême dévouement de la part de nos collaborateurs.

Comment se prépare-t-on pour Cannes? Quelles sont vos attentes?
Nous sommes tous les deux honorés de faire partie de la programmation de Talent tout court, mais nous ne pourrons malheureusement pas assister au festival. Nous sommes en préparation de notre prochain projet dont le tournage est prévu pour la fin mai. Malgré les belles opportunités de promotion et de réseautage que nous offre Cannes, nous avons pris la décision de privilégier la production d'une nouvelle œuvre, histoire de faire tourner la roue et de profiter de la stimulation créative que nous a procurée cette sélection.

Sur quoi travaillez-vous en ce moment? Quels sont vos projets?
Alexandre écrit un long métrage de fiction intitulé Derrière le bruit des machines que nous espérons tourner à l'été 2017. D'ici là, le court métrage que nous tournerons cet été devrait se trouver dans un festival près de chez vous à la fin de 2016!

6- Mélanie Charbonneau, réalisatrice de Seule

Quelle a été l’inspiration pour votre court métrage?
L’impact des technologies sur les relations humaines au 21e siècle est un thème de l’univers de l'auteur Pier-Luc Lasalle et moi-même. La première fois que j’ai lu le scénario de Seule, j’avais l’impression que Pier-Luc avait décrit une réalité qui m'est proche et qui me tardait de raconter. Cette première collaboration fut très inspirante et nous faisons à présent équipe sur plusieurs nouveaux projets.

Quel a été le plus grand défi durant ce projet?
Lors du tournage, nous avons tourné deux dénouements possibles. Il fut ardu de faire le choix au montage. Chacune des propositions amenait une interprétation différente du film.

Comment se prépare-t-on pour Cannes? Quelles sont vos attentes?
Cannes est un événement unique où les grands artistes du cinéma sont passés. C'est un honneur d'en faire partie et c'est une grande source d'inspiration. Nous sommes ici pour rencontrer des passionnés du cinéma de partout dans le monde et pour échanger sur nos pratiques et sur les œuvres qui y sont présentées.

Sur quoi travaillez-vous en ce moment? Quels sont vos projets?
Avec Pier-Luc, nous bossons sur un prochain scénario de court métrage sur l’histoire de deux sœurs qui installent une caméra de surveillance dans un centre de personnes âgées pour surveiller leur mère. Nous développons aussi un long métrage avec la productrice Virginie Nolin. 2016 s’annonce très prolifique!

8- Ben Petrie, writer, director and actor of Her Friend Adam

What was your inspiration for this short movie?
The inspiration for Her Friend Adam came after a little stumble of jealousy I experienced one night, while hanging out with my girlfriend Grace Glowicki – who is the lead in the film – and a friend of ours. I had no cause for concern about their relationship, but the darker corners of my mind conjured one up and soon enough I was stewing in a stanky soup of jealousy. Laying in bed later that night, feeling like myself again, I couldn't believe how unhinged I had become in that moment – I had lost all perspective on my relationships with these two people whom I love and trust completely. Her Friend Adam was a way to lampoon jealousy, but also a way to exorcize the residual pus it had left in my pores.

What was the biggest challenge during the project?
My biggest challenge was the edit. Grace and I had performed each scene with a commitment to following our impulses on a moment-by-moment basis, in an effort to achieve a sense of authenticity and spontaneity. As a result, no two takes ever looked or felt the same, and our characters' emotional states were in constant flux; even though we never deviated from the actual words in the script, the emotional interplay varied so radically that it felt like editing an improvised movie. Finding the emotional through-line that served the overall story most effectively felt like trying to find a fishing line in a haystack. It was grim for a while there, and I lost my mind 3 or 4 times, but ultimately it was a very rewarding process.

How did you prepare for Cannes?
A lot of emphasis is put on preparing for film festivals by printing postcards, concocting a Twitter presence, and developing the elevator pitch for your next project – and that stuff is definitely important. I think it's just as important, though, to take a little time before a film festival just to relax and hang out with some close friends; these festivals mean so much to an independent filmmaker, and they can feel like such dauntingly consequential events, that it's easy to lose touch with yourself and fall victim to the pressure. Making some time to connect with people you care about, have some good laughs, and relax your mind can be a really healthy and grounding thing to do before jumping in to the fray.

What are you working on now?
Grace is about to play a lead role in Suck it Up, the second feature film by Canadian director Jordan Canning. Kristy Neville –who produced Her Friend Adam– just produced her first feature, Cardinal, with Marianna Margaret. Our cinematographer, Kelly Jeffrey, is always buzzing around shooting some goodies. Personally, I'm at the start of writing my first feature. After working pretty single-mindedly on Her Friend Adam for as long as I have, it feels insanely good to be starting from the top.

Interviews by Julie Champagne

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