Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Year Christmas Came from Nashville

So as soon as our film was mixed, Luc and I put together a special CD of our five finished Dolly Parton "remakes" (as arranged by Alex Cattaneo and interpreted by Martha Wainwright, Coral Egan, Geneviève Toupin, The Wailin' Jennys and Nelly Furtado), and we sent this very limited edition (1 of 1) CD to Dolly Parton - care of her fantastic right-hand gal in Nashville last week.

Believe it or not, in her mind-bogglingly busy schedule, Dolly actually took the time to listen to our offering right away... And this is the little Christmas miracle that came back over the fax last night!

So, with the spirit of Dolly filling my heart to the brim, I want to wish you all the magic and abundance of this Christmas season...

Enjoy your families, your friends and your feasts, but rest up!

2011 is going to be a big movie-going year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Merry Multi-Tasking!

Something crazy seems to happen to the space-time continuum at this time of the year.

It seems to suddenly shrink. And curl up into itself. So that the days fly by in bundles of three and five instead of one at a time. Catapulting us all headlong, at warp speed, into D Day.

In other words, Christmas.

Don't know why this black hole in our calendar always catches me by surprise, but here it is looming in front of me again, and as usual, I'm behind on everything - including the blog...

So, in the spirit of the season, I'd like to update you on all that's happening to get the film out into the world by writing this post in the only dialect I'm using these days ...

To Do List:

- Consult on graphics and animation for the film's theatrical trailer, freshly edited by Arthur Tarnowski
- Attend auditions for voice-over actors playing the roles of Elizabeth and Annabelle in the French! version of the film, "Dolly Parton, ma mère et moi"
- Review proposal for film's website homepage! designed by "Cri"
- Lock down the number and "names" of pieces of score to be included in the soundtrack
- Review and approve the film's poster! with Métropole and Mongrel
- Find generous and/or hungry graphic designer for the soundtrack album cover, use poster art work as model
- Finalize album song line-up
- Secure all licences
- Mix selected score
- Master all tracks
- Drink wine

That last item is a floater - it can pretty much be inserted anywhere in the list. Like, for instance, right at the top.

Well, time's flying and I've got a lot to do, so... better start working my way down the list!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Title Bout

In preparing to write this blog every week, I work pretty much the same way I did when I started writing the film: I get an idea of what it is I want to say. What story I want to tell. And then I come up with some groovy title that gets my juices flowing and I use it as a springboard to plunge into the writing of the thing ....

Well I have to tell you, I've had one hell of a time coming up with a title for this week's blog post.

And that is almost always a sign that I'm avoiding telling the story ...

See, in last week's entry, I talked about how we are now all about launching into this next, uber important phase of filmmaking: the "showing it" part. And how we and our partners are going to talk about getting the film seen the way it's meant to be seen : In cinemas. By people. (however I use the plural in both cases advisedly).

Now everyone knows that homegrown (albeit French) cinema is alive and thriving in an enviable way here in la belle province. But those very same celebrated and SUCCESSFUL films rarely travel beyond Quebec's borders to the rest of Canada, or beyond. And unfortunately everyone also knows how notoriously difficult it is to get English Canadian films to be seen by English Canadians in English Canada - let alone anywhere else.

But because our little project is something of a cross-cultural cocktail : an English-language film coming out of French-speaking Québec, starring a high-profile Québécoise actress, an exciting young newcomer from Vancouver and featuring internationally acclaimed singer Dolly Parton AND her music, with the added advantage of being backed by well-respected distributors in both Toronto and Montreal, you might think we have managed to combine the best of a few worlds... That we just might have what it takes to erase borders and apathy and actually "cross over".

I know I promised last week I would tell you how it all went down in our marketing meeting with our respective distributors but I guess you've probably figured out that this is the part of the story I'm having trouble telling. So maybe the blog titles I've been agonizing over will help give you some idea of why. Here's what I've got so far:

"Managing Expectations"

"Why Even Bother?"

"The Two Solitudes - Cinema Style"

"You'll never do a whole lot unless you're brave enough to try"
- Dolly Parton

Okay, you know what, I'm going with that last one. Because that's the tone I ultimately want to set for the tale that's about to unfold over the coming months... the tale of some plucky Filmmakers Without Borders who triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds and apathy to actually get their film seen in cinemas, by people!

We all know it's a multi-media jungle out there. And they say if you don't have an American star headlining your little indie Canadian film, you don't have a hope in hell of drawing an audience. Oh, but wait, just because you HAVE an American star headlining your film, don't think you have a hope in hell either.

And if your film doesn't have a major festival/award as a springboard into the movie-going consciousness, or it doesn't have some high-concept hook to hang it on, or a Hollywood look, or an ethnic angle - you may as well just start making space in your DVD rack right now, Bunky, because there's pretty much no way your film's going to break through.

Although, plenty of films that have some or all of the above going for them didn't break through either.

Okay, but what if it has a good story? Strong performances? Tasty sights and sounds?

And a killer, head-turning title?

Yeah, it all starts with the title.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Taking the Show on the Road

Well, the deed is truly done.

Last Friday, Francine G. (our fantastic, patient and positive post-production coordinator), Barbara, Claudine and I all screened - and approved - the glorious 35 mm answer print of our finished film!

In French, the answer print is called "copy zero" - meaning: the only way to go is up. Meaning: from hereon in, the film goes forth and multiplies!

And so do we - in the sense that we now hope to grow the number of people who have seen the movie by many multiples!

And so the "distribution and promotion" phase of this adventure begins....

To officially kick it off, we will be screening the answer print for our investors and distributor (Métropole) here in Montreal on Monday and then Barbara, Theresapedia and I will once again travel that well-worn trail of celluloid dreams to Toronto, cans of film in the trunk and high hopes in our hearts.

Once we've shown the finished film to both our Quebec and Toronto-based distributors (Mongrel), we'll sit down with both offices to discuss distribution and marketing strategy. Will the approaches be different in Quebec and the ROC? What festivals will the film be submitted to? When will the film be released in theatres? What can we do to draw people to those theatres? What means and media can we exploit?

If all goes according to plan, we'll have theatrical trailers to cut, posters to design, web sites to build and god help me, interviews to give!

I'll keep you posted on all of that as we go, but in the meantime, we (Barbara, Luc and I) have started a very cool side project, a natural offshoot of the film ...

We're putting together a kickass soundtrack album! A whole new frontier, but with familiar faces - very cool.

Oh, and Go Als!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Road to Recovery

I wrote a fellow filmmaker last night, "As much as making a film is probably the most challenging thing I've ever done, the next most challenging thing is letting go of that thing and finding the sense of my life again."

In the wake of the last big push before sending this creation out into the world, I am starting to have a better understanding of why Woody Allen "chain filmmakes" - essentially sparking up his next film off the dying ember of the last with barely a breath in between.

Call it separation anxiety. Or adrenaline dependence. Or gluttony for punishment. Call it what you like, but now that I'm actually here, practically on the other side of making my first film, I find I'm in a nostalgic limbo. Not an entirely unpleasant one because there still is a whole exciting stage left to this project - the showing it part - and there is the delicious luxury of finding the next inspiration ahead of me - but I find I'm in a longing limbo nonetheless. A bit floaty, a bit foggy, a bit gushy... especially over the people who have brought me so far towards achieving my dream...

To all my talented collaborators, each one of whom I've mentioned here over the months, each one of whom has worked so tirelessly to hook into my vision and help me realize it and more, I give my heartfelt thanks.

And in keeping with my gushy, mushy mood, let me paraphrase a saccharin Jack Nicholson:

"You all make me want to be a better filmmaker."

In the meantime, I'm thinking of taking up the clarinet...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Melancholy Mix Mania

It's Final Playback Eve here in Studio E and so it appears we are really, truly nearing the very end of our run....

"Mix"ed emotions abound.

We just placed the last of our Dolly remake tunes over the final credits (if there was a Juno/Genie combo award for best end credits, I would say we'd be a serious contender! Nelly and Geneviève have done a fantastic job taking us out of our film but making us want to stay in our seats to read all the credits of all the folks who worked so hard making this picture).

Even though the "crafty" part is coming to an end though, there's more film fun to come. Soon we'll be submitting the finished film to festivals and start planning for the Canada-wide theatrical release and who knows - maybe doing some promo junkets.

Road trip anyone?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mixing it Up

Music is almost done! Luc locked his final original composition for the score last night. Gorgeous.

All the elements except our Dolly remakes, which are being pre-mixed this week and next, have found their way into the mixing studio. Into the huge, NASA-like console in Studio E. And so we now begin mixing all the aural layers of the film together this afternoon with Mr. Gavin Fernandes. I do believe we're in the home stretch, everyone! The "making" part of filmmaking is slowly but surely drawing to a close - and soon the "film" part will emerge to stand on its own.

An important finale is just around the corner. An ending that will become a whole other beginning.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

See What We're Hearing

If you weren't lucky enough to have been within earshot of Studio Victor in Montreal (home of RCA Victor) last week, you can check out some photos of The Montreal Sessions on our Facebook Fan Page.

We had our ears and hearts caressed by the sweetest sounds of Geneviève Toupin and Martha Wainwright and their accompanying musicians,

José Major; drums,
Andrée-Anne Tremblay; violin,
Rick Haworth; dobro, lap steel, harmonica
Mario Légaré; Double bass
Luc Sicard; guitar
Alex Cattaneo; original arrangements, guitar, mandolin
Elie Jalbert: sound engineer

all assembled for the recording of the first two of five Dolly "remakes" we're doing for our film.

One week later, I'm writing you this very moment from that same studio, where we have the same musical backbone - with the notable additions of Bob Stagg on keyboards, Joseph Perrault on drums and Carl Bastien on guitar - supporting the voluptuous, visceral sounds of Coral Egan for "The Grass is Blue".

One of my very favourite songs in the film is being made even more delicious than I thought possible by the chemistry between Alex's arrangements and these divine and eloquent artists.

Give me (and likely our resident whiz kid, Theresapedia) a few minutes but we'll get some visual support up on the fan page so you can see a little of what we're hearing!

Okay, the video has started to flow! See Composer (compositeur d'oeuvre commandé) Luc Sicard channel his inner maestro here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

K-Tel, Eat Your Heart Out!

So much is happening on the music front, I'm all out of breath and feeling flushed! In the very best possible way....

While my talented composer Luc Sicard continues creating beautiful, original cuts for the film's soundtrack at a superhuman pace, much behind-the-scenes arranging and deal-making has been going on in preparation for the recording of some select Dolly songs by some very special guest artists.

This other, equally important prong of our soundtrack - the actual line-up of Dolly's music - has required a veritable army of people and good will to pull off. It all began (and couldn't have gone anywhere without) the original generous offer from Dolly Parton herself to help us acquire the publishing rights to her songs.

Although Dolly had made this amazing offer to me in a personal letter, that was way back at the script stage and almost two years later, we were very careful not to take anything for granted.

But when we finished the picture edit and our final musical wish list was sent out, Dolly and her people at Velvet Apple came through big time, granting us the publishing rights to nine of Dolly's greatest hits for - well, a song. On the shiny list are, the inimitable, "Jolene", "I Will Always Love You" and "Love is Like a Butterfly"!!!

The ultimate plan for the film has always been to feature some of Dolly's original recordings as well as her compositions re-imagined by our brilliant producer/arranger, Alex Cattaneo and a hand-picked roster of guest artists.

So now, I have the absolute pleasure of saying here that, thanks to the efforts of so many generous people, we have just confirmed my DREAM line-up for the guest artists!

Check this out...

The official soundtrack for "The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom" will feature:

Miss Dolly Parton herself!

along with ...

Nelly Furtado!

Martha Wainwright!

Wailin' Jennys!

Coral Egan!

and Franco-Manitoban (now Québécoise) up-and-comer...

Geneviève Toupin!

Alex and Luc have recruited some of this city's - this country's - best musicians to record the songs. We'll be in studio on the 14th and then again on the 21st to lay down tracks and in some cases capture the vocals live off the floor for what we're calling our Dolly "remakes". Stay tuned here and on the Facebook fan page for more stuff!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Post-Parton Party

Yes, it's come to that - paraphrasing my own self.

But what this title lacks in originality, it makes up for in accuracy. Because my dears, this post part is a pure, unadulterated blast! From the composition of the original MUSIC with the inspired and talented Luc Sicard, to the alchemy of choosing the best artists for original interpretations of Dolly tunes with Alex Cattaneo, to the re-recording of dialogue and "presences" with our eerily talented lead actors, Julia Stone and Macha Grenon - who were expertly guided by Benoît Leduc and Marcel Pothier, to the colour correction of Ms. Sauvé's stunning images with the soulful Nico Iliès, artist and gentleman - I feel like a kid in a craft-y candy shop!

I have to say - with no bias whatsoever - that all the artists and craftspeople who've worked and are still working on this film are the very BEST a girl could ask for!

In many ways, this part of the production is like a whole other shoot! But instead of the crew being all together on the set or in the production office, they're hidden away in their individual workshops - creating their own kind of quiet, but equally important magic.

It is so exciting to be finally seeing, and hearing, it all come together - all the layers of sound, music, movement, air, texture, colour, light and shadow that finish bringing the film to vivid life - and its final destination - a cinema near you.

p.s. Check out some of Sue's photos of the ADR experience on our Facebook Fan page and see little Julia all growed-up!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TIFF for tat

Okay, we're back from TIFF. And yes Sue, I took photos! ;-) However, I spent all day today in the dialogue listening session (surely there's a better way to say that - the French, écoute technique is so much more elegant!), then had a first look at our visual effects by the guys at Mokko, and am off early tomorrow morning to New York so will post the TIFF photos from there in a day or so... Suffice it to say, TIFF was all tat - a blur of parties, people, pretensions and possibilities...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

We're going back! To a school of sorts... This Friday, Barbara and I are making our third annual pilgrimage to Toronto to swirl among the glitterati in that big snow globe of cinematic schmooze affectionately known as TIFF.

Once again, we head on down the 401 to pay our respects to many of the people who have been instrumental in getting our film made and who will be instrumental in getting our film seen once it's finished.

And we also go every year to pay our respects to all the films that actually ARE finished (a herculean accomplishment unto itself). We go to support films that have, first and foremost, been made by people we know and love! And have been selected to screen at one of the most important film festivals in the world ...

Films like :

"Score: A Hockey Musical" opening the festival, this vaguely Canadian-sounding project is distributed by our own Mongrel Media and showcases an honorary "Dolly" alumnus, Nelly Furtado. What's not to love?

"The High Cost of Living", shot by our own fabulous cinematographer, Claudine Sauvé (second year in a row a film shot by her has been selected for TIFF) written and directed by Deborah Chow - a talented young filmmaker we were introduced to at last year's TIFF. Way to go, Deborah and Claudine!

"Barney's Version", featuring our own dear Macha Grenon in the juicy role of Solange. This is a star-studded, big-ticket film based on Mordecai Richler's book of the same name. Can't wait!

"Trigger" starring Molly Parker and Tracy Wright as ex-rock n roll bandmates, written by Daniel McIvor and directed by Bruce McDonald. Need I say more?

So somewhere between the overlapping parties and the business meetings actually scheduled to take place in a hotel lobby, we hope to get to see a couple of these movies. Hoping you'll all get a chance to go out and see them soon at a theatre near you too!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Care and Feeding of a Filmmaker

Picture Lock.

That phrase conjures up action, doesn't it? Makes you think there's something dynamic about this momentous step in the filmmaking process. You'd imagine there'd be some fan fare around it. Some distinctive noise of some kind. If not vuvuzuelas (or however you spell them), then maybe the impressive noise of a big strong lead-lined door closing and combinations dialling, or even the satisfying sound of tumblers and keys clicking tightly, firmly, into place.

Either way, there must be some significant sound and sense of closure involved in something called a Picture Lock. Right?

Wrong. I've found it's quite the opposite. Quite a quiet, passive experience in fact. Because instead of DOING something, you essentially just STOP DOING it. The pressure's on, time runs out and you just stop editing. And walk away.

And then you live with the fact that you have to live with every frame of the film that way, the way you left it, for time immemorial.

Oh, there's the noise.

Sounds like, .... finality. (with apologies to Duvall and Coppola)

Finality. That's a hard noise to get out of your head. Especially when your head's a bit of a hamster cage like mine can be. So, to drown out the noise, I've just carried on editing for the past week - in my dreams.

The same thing happened when we wrapped shooting actually. My subconscious started hounding me with the imperative to shoot whatever it was I was dreaming. For literally weeks after wrap, I'd be in the middle of some nonsensical nocturnal narrative and be suddenly struck by the urgency to shoot it for the film. But, how could I when my film takes place in the 70's and my dream was all contemporary? Anxiety usually ensued and I'd start rushing around trying to find a way to change the decor in my dream to match the period of my film.

Same kind of deal with the end of editing.

Now that we've begun the sound effects and music composition process, though, things should change. Like the wood shavings on the bottom of the cage. And maybe the water. I'm going to need fresh water for sure.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

This Just In...

Dateline : Montreal, August 21, 2010

At 2:43 am, PICTURE LOCK was officially proclaimed (we know it was official because champagne was uncorked) on The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom movie. While neither Jeff nor Tara could be reached for comment, insiders do say the team looked bedraggled but happy in the aftermath.

So now what's next for this little film that could?

The sound of music. And the music of sound.

Play on!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Playoffs

We're heading into the finals! I know this not because our post-production calendar says so, not even because the film is getting tighter and better every day, but because my editor, Jeff Bergeron has stopped shaving entirely. Yes, sports fans, he's growing a full-on playoff beard! Et ça sent la coupe!

You've heard me speak highly of him. You've seen his name in this very blog. But you've never seen the man himself. The man who has laboured from morning to night in semi-obscurity from the beginning of this most sunny of summers to almost its end. Fuelled exclusively by coffee, cigarettes, banana milkshakes and a Guru or two, Jean-François (a.k.a. J-F, Jeff) Bergeron has forsaken a healthy skin tone to make magic for our film.

Because his painstaking efforts are so successful though, you won't even notice all his hard work when you watch the film! That's the Catch-22 of great editing: to be good, it must be invisible to the naked eye.

So, while his great work must necessarily stay hidden - his lair, his hair and his playoff beard shall not!

And, oh, ET Canada, in case you're reading this - the stories about J-F and the magpie having anything other than a strictly professional relationship are filthy rumours! The man just REALLY loves his work!

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Despite all evidence to the contrary, I have NOT abandoned the blog! I have just been M.I.E.

Mired In Editing.

It's an all-engrossing occupation, this cutting together of the film. In reality, it's the final re-write. The last chance to make it all make sense - the last chance to make it all really mean something.

As an editor by training and a director by tenacity, I can now fully endorse the opinion of Orson Welles who said: "For my style of cinema, editing is not simply one aspect, it is the aspect....The only time one is able to exercise control over the film is in the editing. The images themselves are not sufficient. They're very important, but they're only images. What's essential is the duration of each image and that which follows each image: the whole eloquence of cinema is that it's achieved in the editing room."

If anyone can talk about eloquence in film, Mr. Welles, it's surely you.

I would take his point further though and say that in most auteur-style films, there are many "authors" who could legitimately co-sign the finished film - the writer, the director, of course. But also the producer, the cinematographer and the editor. Although filmmaking is a fully collaborative creative pursuit and every single person involved along the way contributes something essential to "birthing the film", these particular people actually influence and shape the film's very DNA.

In our case, the "first assembly" of the film was more or less a literal translation of the shooting script on screen and it all "worked"! (much to my joyful relief) It worked on a very basic level, because the script worked. It was as easy to watch as the script was to read. But then began the very delicate, very labour-intensive and very necessary process of turning that visual rendering of the script into a living, breathing, fully fledged film.

And that's wherein I've been mired these past weeks. My talented cutter, J-F Bergeron and I have been sculpting the material, layer by layer, character by character, emotion by emotion, frame by frame - to make the final film as eloquent and as meaningful as possible.

We owe that much to everyone who helped create "her"!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More Photo Ops

As promised in a previous entry, I've posted a few other photos from my recent, brief but momentous trip to Nashville to record Ms. Dolly Parton for her role in our film!

You can check them out here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reality Check

Just woke up from one of those recurring dreams - you know the kind: You're standing in front of a room full of your peers only to realize, to your horror, that you're naked?

Oh no, wait, that wasn't a dream - it was my first cut screening. Twice over.

Kind of the same feeling though. Except you never wake up!

Seriously, though, overall I'd say the reaction was positive (to the film, I mean). In Montreal, people chuckled in lots of good places (and only one bad one). Some cried (I hope it was in the good places!). In Toronto, there wasn't as much overt reaction either way. But lots of good, constructive comments after the lights went up.

The bottom line is, my naissant film is still very much a work in progress and everyone in the respective rooms was there to help us, the filmmakers, towards making the best film possible. Their reactions and input were invaluable at this stage. What I have in front of me now, though, is a pretty big challenge. Time is running out on the editing phase of the process and there's still so much work to be done if we're going to achieve our ultimate goal: making the best film possible.

Nonetheless, my editor, J-F and I are taking a few valuable days to absorb all the feedback and replenish our creative juices before launching back in to the edit for the final push.

Think I'll go crank some Dolly now! (and put some clothes back on)

Monday, July 5, 2010


... and first cut. All in one week.

While one milestone has been memorialized in an image, one mile (or thereabouts) of images is on the verge of being presented...

Tomorrow morning first thing, we will show our first cut to the first of our investors. To get to this turning point, my editor, Jean-François Bergeron and I have been burning the midnight patio lanterns to carve out something that is palatable for the first-time viewer, while still remaining very obviously "a work in progress...".

And with no objectivity left in me at all, I would say that we've achieved our goal: What we have - after 7 straight days of pretty methodical montage - is, I think, a well-prepared canvas that reveals a "sketch" of what the final work could look like....

So to sum up: so far so good.

I think.

The reaction of others - tomorrow in Montreal and then Wednesday in Toronto - will, however, tell much more of the other sides of the story than I can right now. I'll let you know what goes down...

Meantime, I'll put up some photos I took on my inaugural visit to the Sound Kitchen Studios in anticipation of meeting, and working with the one and only, Ms. Dolly Parton!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dolly Dazzle

It happened in slow motion and yet was over in a flash. Everything was a blur and yet each moment was vividly sharp.

It's two days after the fact, and I'm still absorbing the very real and yet entirely surreal experience of meeting Dolly Parton.

She is everything people say she is - engaging, unpretentious, generous. A superstar with all the approachability of a good friend.

But don't worry, I didn't let that get in the way of my being star-struck! I think I may even have uttered the word "icon" at some point...

Will post photos and a little account of how it went down with the great Dolly Parton at the hospitable Sound Kitchen studios in Nashville, Tennessee this week - all the while rushing like a madwoman to get our "first cut" ready for the investors' screening in exactly ONE WEEK!

Go, Team J-F!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hello Dolly!

Before I can indulge in looking back on the whole complex experience of shooting a first feature, I need to chronicle for you what's coming up just around the corner...! And believe me, it's a doozy!

For the next little while here on the blog, I thought I'd be mostly just waxing nostalgic on the shoot and counting down the nail-bitingly few number of days until we have to present a strong "first cut" of the film to all our important investors and partners - all of whom have a big say in what they see - a high-pressure event which is scheduled, in a by the way, just two weeks from tomorrow!

But I am instead, now counting down the THREE measly days until I - little Tara Johns from Canada - will be meeting, face-to-face, the one and the very only, Dolly Parton!!! In Nashville, y'all. Not to mention, "directing" Miss Parton in her cameo for my humble film!

I was already a mild wreck contemplating this auspiciously surreal occasion - wondering things like, what's the protocol here? Do I curtsy? Bow? Do I take a gift? If so, what does one even give a dynasty? Can I ask for her autograph? On what part of my body?, etc. - and then Barbara called and said, "But what are you going to wear???"

Oh, god.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wall to Wall Wonders!

Well, okay, not quite wall to wall - there's still plenty of work to do! But, honestly, my virgin screening of Jean-François' well-built "first assembly" was - ... well, the only word I have for it is:


In fact, screening the 2hour 4minute foundation of what will become my finished film was far, far more energizing than these last two weeks of "vacation" I just put myself through! Yup, this was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Hallelujah, we're making a movie again!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


A kind of the best way I can describe my state of body and mind these two weeks following the official (or at least, ornothological) wrap of shooting our film.

I've had a generalized feeling of being completely emptied out that's actually allowed me to almost float through this recommended break from filmmaking without (very much) nagging guilt about what I should be doing next.

Today, however, it's time to snap out of that blissful ignorance, for the next phase has officially begun: Editing.

Even while we were shooting, Jean-François Bergeron - editor extraordinaire - was assembling the scenes. And this afternoon, for the first time ever, I will be able to sit down and look at the film, put together, from A to Z according to the script. No art, though. Just the bare, unflinching facts.

From all accounts, this part is hard on us director types. Because this is the moment we are faced, not with the "aspirational" version of the film we've been carrying around in our heads and hearts this whole time, but with what really "is". With what is our new reality. This, from now on, is all there is. Every frame of the film we've ACTUALLY made is all there - in its most raw, gangly and un-finessed state. Warts, wonders and all.

I'm secretly expecting there to be way more wonders than warts, but we'll see!

And then the real work begins after that.

I know I've been M.I.A. during the really exciting part - the shoot - and that I'm now back in the blogosphere just in time for one of the more tedious spectator sports to begin - the editing - , but I fully intend to use this next phase to work backwards - to get all nostalgic on your ass and write a bit of a reflective account on what shooting my first (and I'm currently using that term loosely) feature film was like.

Oh, and I'll be sure to throw in the occasional real-time account of any notable events as they happen - like my upcoming trip to Nashville to meet the one and only Dolly Parton!

Stay tuned...

Friday, May 28, 2010


WRAPPED. In the rain. Or was it tears? Such an incredible journey. So much to tell... First things first though, thanks to ALL our cast, crew and colleagues who gave everything they had here in the Peg and in Montreal to help realize such an ambitious venture.

Mission accomplished!

Now, back on earth, I'm looking up at the
stars and feeling blessed. Not to mention, completely exhausted.

Back to the blog next week to start to tell the tales (with a little perspective and rest to make it coherent).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Deal

Just overcoming a major handicap - had no internet in my Winnipeg digs until just now. So, hi all! Sorry I'm late. Am right in the eye of the hurricane here in the Peg (wrapped shooting in Montreal Saturday night, had some sausages expertly grilled by Claudine The Sizzler Sauvé with the crew and then hopped on a plane Sunday night in flip-flops to arrive in the prairies expecting snow).

Since then, we've been on a marathon two-day tech survey - ranging across the province to show - and in some cases see for the first time - the locations we'll be shooting at here in Manitoba. No rest for the wicked as they say. Under the expert guidance of Jack our driver and Manchester Mike our locations manager, we criss-crossed the southern half of this province and I really feel like I've only begun to scratch the surface of all the rich vistas and period-perfect locations Winnipeg and environs have to offer.

Today, am racing to see and approve the final props, decor, casting and costumes we need in order to start shooting on Sunday. Still have changes to make to the script (to better fit locations, time, budget and credibility). And try to unpack somewhere in there!

It's all going incredibly fast and I wish I could put a camera in my forehead and just share all the moments with you as they unfold as I am in a race for time before we start shooting again, but I'll do my level best to drop as many anecdotes along the way as I can.

Beyond that though, we now have a fabulous writer/photographer embedded with us. Sue Chappel has already started posting on our Facebook Fan Page. Check her out - she'll keep you really plugged in as we go!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Snapshot of a Typical Morning on the Shoot...

Permanent jet lag.



CCM (costume, coiffeur, maquillage)



Crisis of confidence.

Creative euphoria.



Stage fright.

State of grace.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week One

The irony here is, now that the really exciting bit - the actual film making - is happening, I have no time or energy to talk about it! But I'll try...

We have put in five hard, exciting, scary, thrilling, fun, moving and ultimately REWARDING days already on this shoot. I have been surrounded, supported and impressed by my cast and crew on every level. There have been only a couple shots we weren't able to get and we went one hour over on Friday due to the capricious bands of rain that decided to hold off until the second we were very ready to shoot our only exterior here in Montreal.

All in all, a really good first week on a first, and by all accounts, ambitious feature.

We've got a great set photographer, Sebastien and soon a very engaged filmmaker in his own right, Rémy will be shooting the "making of", so hopefully I'll be able to share some of their images with you.

Until then, though, I'll just say this:

I've never had a child of my own, but from what I've heard, this experience is very akin to that of being a new mother. You're perpetually sleep-deprived, you can't even remember what it's like to drink a coffee when it's still hot, let alone tepid. And shower? what shower? Your roots are showing, your toenails are growing and you ultimately don't care (or don't have the energy to). Because the thing you gestated and brought into the world needs your every cell and every second of your attention to survive right now.

I'm well aware, however that most new moms don't have the good fortune of being surrounded by a crew of thirty or so skilled professionals all assembled to ensure that that baby not only survives, but grows and thrives.

Now I know how Angelina feels!

So a huge thank you and good night to each and every one of my nannies! I couldn't do this without you!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fade Up:

On the day before...

... the big show begins.

In the wee hours between tonight and tomorrow morning, a whole huge, gangly, good-willed machine made of people and costumes and make-up and muscle and lights and film and gray matter and caffeine will shudder to life and will proceed to run full-time at breakneck speed from now until June 1 - all to make this crazy dream of mine a celluloid reality.

And as I try to take a "day off" today before running away to join my circus, I find myself in some weird place between Kansas and Oz, sitting here in my bathrobe (the same one in which the idea for the film was conceived lo, these five years ago), drinking my coffee (different one than the original) and just trying to grasp what is actually happening...


Or at least I am poised on the very pin-thin precipice of beginning to shoot what I trust will eventually turn into a feature film! It's all so surreal and all so very, gut-wrenchingly real at the same time that I'm a study in simultaneous states of stoned and stimulated.

And alliteration.

The writer's dead. Long live the writer.

But seriously, it's now time for the director of this show to take over. And tomorrow, I know the director will be looking to find her footing. Even though this is not everyone's first time making a film, it is most definitely everyone's first time making THIS film, so I figure we'll all be finding our way, figuring it out together.

And even though we haven't had near the time we all would have liked to get us here, here we are all the same.

And I sense we are ready.

It's time...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Knock, Knock...

I know I've been a little scarce these days... It's not because I have nothing to say - it's because there never seems to be enough time to say it!

I started this month of pre-production by saying that I would be dismounting from my regular weekly posts in favour of a more "lightning round" style of blogging... i.e. little blurts here and there.

Last time I "blurted", it was to let you know that Julia was in town for fittings and hanging outs and some script work. In the blink of an eye, she's back. For good this time! Because in five short days, we will be make-upped, costumed, decorated, crewed, lit and shooting our first scene on location.

Like my sound guy, Pierre Bertrand said, we're in the sling shot now - and the film is just about to let go!

I don't know how to begin to express the crazy range of emotions I'm experiencing as the first day of principal photography on my first feature film looms larger and larger on the horizon. As I picture us all being catapulted into the cosmos.

From wanting to shout from the rooftops to wanting to curl into a little ball might start to sum it up though I think.

It's a crazy, scary, thrilling, paralyzing, moving time. As Fellini famously said, "You start out thinking you're going to direct your movie, then you realize, your movie is directing you."

Having the strength to pull it all together is one thing, but knowing when it's okay to let it go is another...

...who's there?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Julia in Town

Just spent a great working weekend in Montreal with Miss Julia Stone and Macha Grenon. "Daughter" and "Mother" had brunch together on Saturday and Julia learned much from her fellow actor and mentor, Macha, including a great Dolly quote. Apparently, when asked how she came to be so successful, Ms. Parton replied, "Well, I guess everyone thought I was as silly as I looked!"

We left Macha and went to Mariane Carter's well-hidden studio in Lachine, where we proceeded to play dress-up with our living doll, Julia!

Two weeks to the day before we go to camera and looks like Elizabeth and Ruby have tons to wear!

Thanks to Julia, her mom Sue, Macha, Mariane, her seamstress Marielle and Artful Art for a very rich weekend of work and wardrobe.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

If Wishes Were Horses...

...we'd be having a stampede!

Sweaty but smiling, Barbara, Claudine and I emerged from the production office today - triumphant. Finally, we have determined that we will be shooting our film on - wait for it - FILM!

All Super 16mm of it.

We could never have made this piece of the puzzle work within our budget were it not for the generosity of Gaston at Kodak and the hard work and determination of Barbara.

Thanks to you both, we now have film stock to shoot on! And a few more fish to fry before the whole package is in place.

So let's turn up the heat! Because apparently, we do love to sweat.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Win a Place in the Film's Climax!

Attention: All Dolly Lookalikes, Worshippers and Wannabes - win a chance to be in the film we're making in Montreal!

Go to our Fan Page and read all about it! Can't wait to see you knock our socks off!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Right This Way

Hi! Welcome to the production office.

The beginning of last week, the offices were up and running and looking swank - big shout out to JEAN-MAURICE who gave us the ways and means and walls and light to start us off with a bang. He worked miracles to get us out of the gate on time.

So now that you're here, come and meet a few of the gang:

Virginie (leggo of my P.O.) Léger!

My faithful sidekick, first assistant director, Francine (already seeing double) - Langlois.

Always looking on the bright side of life, D.O.P., Claudine Sauvé.

First crew read through.

From Fracine (left to right) Mariane (costume designer), Pierre (props), Suzanne (art dept. coordinator).

Tough room.

But lots of love!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hubba Hubby!

As of 3 pm EDT, we have our Phil! Our entire Gray family is cast!

Gil Bellows (Shawshank Redemption, Ally McBeal, Love and a .45) is now officially husband to Macha Grenon's Marion and dad to Julia Stone's Elizabeth.

I am ecstatic about Gil's valuable addition to our film. A wonderful actor, he's also a red-blooded Canadian boy who's always stayed true to his Canuck roots by working on homegrown productions, while still spreading his wings far beyond our borders.

Welcome home, Gil!

Manitoba Moments

Day 3 of our 3-day Manitoba scout:

Just as the omnipresent fog had lifted, we backed our 12-seater beast up to take a good look at the flat splendor before us, and... well, when they say a picture is worth a thousand you-know-what's, I think they had something like this particular picture in mind...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Posting Pics from the Peg


As I said on the Facebook Fan Page:

"I am just now starting to realize that this is actually really happening! Walking in to a production office all up and running just because I had an idea over coffee in my kitchen about 5 years ago was a pretty effective way to bring it all home to me today, though! The thought, "What have I done?" briefly crossed my mind.

But then it went away. And left an overwhelming sense of wonder. Which was then quickly replaced by a feeling that I was catching on fire..."

We returned yesterday from our intense and oh-so fruitful scout of Winnipeg and outlying areas only to walk in to our brand new, very own production office - created solely for the purposes of making this movie. And let me tell you, the whole thing is a major rush!

Speaking of rushes though - now that it's almost midnight here in Montreal, we are four weeks less a day out from our first day of principal photography. Untold amounts of big, medium and small things to do and think about and lock down between now and then. And they're all important.

So I'll be changing things up a bit here from now on - instead of keeping to my regularly scheduled weekly posts, I'll be flash blogging! Basically just spitting out pieces of news how, when and where I can.

For tonight, let me introduce you to a few of the places and people we were lucky enough to see and spend time with these last few days in Winnipeg... (pictures below). A big shout-out to Manchester Mike (our fearless, resourceful Locations Manager), Larry La Art Director (and a shrewd problem-solver) Wanda-ful (our production manager out Manitoba way), Marlow (the man so mysterious even his wife calls him by his last name), Martin Ellis (2nd Assistant Director who moonlighted to scout a lot of our locations together for us at a distance - Quit your day job, Martin! Come play with us!) Jim Heber Master Caster, Joe and Monique running the office and of course, our Buffalo Gal producer, Liz (Loves Her Art) Jarvis. WE WOULD BE LOST IN THE PRAIRIES WITHOUT YOU!!!

With all the crazy fog every single day we were there, we were almost lost in the prairies WITH you!

One big happy, full family...

And of course, the Manitoba mammothness in the dessert department continues...

Stay tuned for more of our adventures on (and off) the road!

Monday, March 8, 2010

What a Woman!

I cannot think of any greater poetic justice than Kathryn Bigelow's historic win at the Academy Awards last night.

For the first time in its 82-year history, the Academy saw fit to honour a WOMAN in the "Best Director" - and 5 other categories - including the really big kahoona, the one so glorious they save it for dessert: "Best Picture"!

Even though 1 in 82 still equals a lot of catching up to do, there is undeniable justice to be celebrated in this recognition.

The poetic part though, comes in the timing.

And I don't just mean that in the way, as Babs opined, "The time has come", but in the way that it happened at exactly the right moment in time to really give it some poetry ...

I mean, how delicious that this very resounding and very public shattering of such a solid glass ceiling took place on the "eve" of International Women's Day?

That kind of irresistible coincidence really only happens in the movies, after all...

And how fun, that on the eve of us making a movie called, The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom - which is nothing if not a film for, by and about women finding their voices - that this historic breakthrough is ringing in our ears as the camera is about to roll on a Dolly-driven dream?

Finally, and here's the best part, Kathryn Bigelow's acceptance speech... Given the same podium and opportunity others before her have taken to make all manner of loaded political statements, here is what the first woman ever to win an Oscar for Best Director in 82 years of the Academy's existence had to say:

There is no other way to describe this. It's the moment of a lifetime. First of all -- this is so extraordinary to be in the company of such powerful -- my fellow nominees -- such powerful film makers who have inspired me and I have admired for -- some of whom -- for decades. Thank you to every member of the Academy. This is again the moment of a lifetime.

I would not be standing here if it wasn't for Mark Bohl who risked his life for the words on the page and wrote such a courageous screenplay that I was fortunate enough to have a great cast bring that screenplay to life. Jeremy Renner. Anthony Mackey and Brian Garrity.

And I think the secret to directing is collaborating and I had truly an extraordinary group of collaborators in my crew: Barry Akroyd and Kelly Juliason, and Bob Murawski, Chris Innis, Ray Beckett, Richard Stutzman. And if I could also just thank my producing partners, Greg Shapiro and my wonderful agent Brian Suberal, and the people of Jordan who were so hospitable to us when we were shooting.

And I'd like to dedicate this to the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world and may they come home safe.

Thank you.

Spoken like a true girl. And how awesome is that?

Monday, March 1, 2010

We are Family...

It's the day after those thrilling Olympic Games ended and there's most definitely something new in the air...

Something about Gold. Something about Canada. Something about Vancouver.

Something about Julia.

Throughout this exhaustive casting process, we've been blessed with many very strong, very talented candidates for the role of Elizabeth from all across Canada. After seeing and/or spending valuable time with all of them, the very difficult choice has been made at long last:

I am thrilled to announce that young Ms. Julia Stone from Vancouver, BC is our Elizabeth!

Some of you might remember - we first saw her on the Facebook Fan Page. Her tape was posted just before Christmas. Even as we continued to explore our short list of possible Elizabeths, there was something to Julia's tape that made us want to see more of her. We requested another self-tape - and in the space of the six or seven weeks between the first and second tape, we saw some really exciting growth in Julia's acting skills and on-screen presence.

Then as we continued to narrow down our choice bit by bit, this bright, soulful young lady came out to Montreal from Vancouver with her dynamic young mom on a complete act of faith to workshop with us! We all understood it was a long shot. Nonetheless, it didn't take long for everyone in the room to feel she had a real shot. Macha (who will play Marion), Barbara and I all felt and saw very quickly that Julia had that "je ne sais quoi" that, with a little work and time, translated into - Elizabeth.

So, I'd like to officially say here, Welcome, Julia! Or as they say in Vancouver: Bienvenue!

We are SO glad to have you on our team, and in our family - both on and off-screen...

I'd also like to say a big thank you again to all the girls who auditioned. It's been a real privilege for me that each of you would give your time and your talent to audition for this character. I just wish I had a movie big enough for every one of you to have a role! If you love to act, though, please just keep doing what you love - it's bound to pay off in some way!

Monday, February 22, 2010


It's a beautiful day.

A day of reckoning. And recognizing.

A while back, I talked about how at one point the film itself starts dictating what it needs. How, regardless of external forces or preconceived notions, there comes a time when the film starts calling its own shots.

A very vivid example of this phenomenon happened last week - around the casting of Marion.

Let me say here that Theresapedia assures me the kind of "call and rejection" process we've been dutifully pursuing happens on all kinds of projects all the time. She said that on almost every other production she's done, countless numbers of impassioned and sincere letters go out to remote "names" on a list - proposing the given role, one at a time, to a raft of potential actors who have some kind of "cachet" according to some of the people, some of the time - until some one of them finally says "yes".

Well, by last week, by my calculations, we'd invested a very respectable amount of time and energy going down a respectable, yet remote list. And except for the very genuine interest expressed by Rachel Griffiths, we still had not much to show for our efforts - except experience.

And if experience has taught me anything, it's to listen to my gut - or the film - whichever talks the loudest. So when it happened that we put out a breakdown for the role of Stella and hometown darling Macha Grenon was submitted for the part, my gut started growling. Or maybe it was the film confabulating... Either way, something had spoken.

Macha and I first met last summer just as she was finishing filming a biopic about André Mathieu, a famous Quebec child prodigy. Back then you might remember, we had just received the bulk of our financing and we were actually considering maybe trying to shoot by August. Macha and I had a wonderful meeting of minds. Shortly afterward, she told me that she would have loved to get on board as Marion and I would have loved to have her, but the role required a flawless English with a little prairie music to it. Although she is completely bilingual, Macha is still a native francophone so was uncomfortable taking on such a role without more preparation time. So we agreed to stay in touch and she went off to shoot "Barney's Version" with Paul Giamatti and I went off to wend my way through getting this film made.

Much water has passed under the bridge since that first meeting and there's been a drifting into unchartered territory on our part. But Macha's always remained the "prototype" for Marion - for the kind of actor I should be so lucky to make my first film with... And when she came back into this film's life by way of submitting for Stella's role, well, let's just say - it suddenly felt like coming home.

So to finally cut to the chase then, the wonderful Ms. Macha Grenon has just been cast in the role of Marion. She has a heart and soul as wide and open as the prairies where this film is set and we are all thrilled to have her, to have Marion - right here in our own backyard.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy President's/Family/Louis Riel Day

Although last Monday was our official deadline on Will's offer, the deadline came and went and there was no news at all and then there was "all hope is lost" kind of news and then there was, no wait, no news doesn't necessarily mean no and then there was - no news. And then there was President's Day.

Wonder what tomorrow will bring...?

Worse than no news, there was also some sad news last week - yours truly got her computer stolen. Nice. I'm still a little discombobulated and generally out of sorts with the kind of world that actually invents a device discreet and sensitive enough to detect the presence of a laptop in some random dark and locked car.

Apparently, all thieves have to do is walk through a parking lot with this thing and they can get an exact read on whether there's a computer in any given vehicle and where exactly it is hidden. Then it's one quick smack of something (probably the same device that detects the computer in the first place - sort of a multi-purpose, Slap Chop kind of thing) to break the window and presto -

Pure chaos.

At least that's how it feels for the first while after it happens. But order is slowly being restored now and all my energy and attention is back on making the movie - as well as a few new memories (that you can be sure I'll be backing up)!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Making Time

It's only 3:00 pm in L.A. ... still 3 odd hours before our offer to Will Arnett "expires". So far however, the silence is kind of deafening.

Not that it's been a complete vacuum... After a few false starts, we successfully made contact early last week. We were informed that Will's "people" indeed received our package. The appropriate agent subsequently read the script and agreed to pass it along to his client. But he threw us no other bones.

So, we shall see... and I will, of course, let you know when I do.

Meantime, I am preparing to shoot a commercial tomorrow - a tampon commercial!! As one of only a few women directing commercials in Quebec, I figured it was only a matter of time before I got tapped to do one of those. But it's completely cool - a fun concept, sort of "in your face", anti-advertising kind of thing. A nice challenge. And helps to keep my mind off waiting to hear from Will He or Will He Not...

Having been down this road a few times already, however, I am ready for anything. No matter what happens, there will be a next step to take - the main thing is to just keep moving forward... (any resemblance to Wile E. Coyote making good time running in mid-air over the chasm - until he looks down - is pure coincidence). 

Meep! Meep!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Blog blah blah

This is one of those.

A touch-base, update...

No news from Will or Will's people yet.  Our electronic package has been getting to see a lot of beautiful downtown Beverly Hills though; passing from one agent's assistant's laptop to another - very scenic route, I'm sure.

Meantime, we're starting the casting in Montreal for some of our other key roles - Stella, for one. Ideally, we wanted to try and cast her AFTER we had our Marion as the two characters are intended to be "counterpoints" to one another, but seeing as the role of Marion could still be said to be waiting for its perfect fit, we have decided to move ahead on the other characters. We tell ourselves that by putting one thing in place, we are bound to create an avalanche of action on several other fronts. 

More than that though, what I'm really starting to believe is: There just comes a time when - above all the hoopla and blah, blah - that the film itself will finally tell you what it needs... . And you just have to be quiet enough - long enough - to listen. 


Monday, January 18, 2010

All 401 and 401 for All

Been there, done that. But this time, I saw a different side of Toronto...

In the on-going process of casting Elizabeth, we long-ago screened many self-tapes, did some call-backs in September and now we're finally following up on the short list of girls we selected for a second round of call-backs from that first round. 

I drove to Toronto to meet with them this weekend and in spending time with each one, got treated to a "girl's-eye-view" of some parts of the Big Smoke I would probably never have visited on my own.  

However, as every trip I've taken to Toronto throughout this filmmaking journey has resulted in some kind of loss - points on my license, my keys (temporarily), my newly acquired iPhone - I was of course braced to part company (involuntarily) with something again this time around. It's become part of the deal.  

But here I am now - back in Montreal and although I have not done a complete inventory - I do believe I came back with everything intact. The tides, dare I say, seemed to have turned.

Even before I got there, in fact, things "felt" different than usual. On my drive down the 401 on Friday, I spotted  wave after wave after wave of geese flying BACK north to Canada after wintering down south. Wait - but it's JANUARY! What's going on? Upside Down world.

Then when I flipped on the TV in my room that night, there was a woman standing on stage at the Broadcast Film Critics Association with an award in her hand - and she wasn't a movie star, or a presenter - she was a director. Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman ever to win for Best Film and Best Director in the history of Hollywood. 

Upside Down.

Okay, so maybe none of those are airtight signs for a complete reversal of fortune - and in fact the geese may quite possibly be harbingers of environmental catastrophe - but one way or another, it still feels to me like there's a slight shift in the wind...

P.S. Have you read Wednesday's post (below)? It was an exceptional mid-week edition.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chicken and Egg. And Beans.

Okay, I've got news. 

Before I spill my beans, let me say I'm well aware that what I'm about to divulge is likely going to rattle the cages of our most vocal and articulate followers to date. I am referring of course to that resounding and passionate population who made it abundantly clear that casting anything other than all-Canadians on a Canadian film would be something close to a travesty. (see all 31 comments in response to September 28, 2009 post: What Do You Think?) 

While we all agree that this country is full of crazy amounts of under-used talent, and that audiences will only cultivate a taste for something they're properly presented and consistently fed. And that Canadian filmmakers should, in theory, be able to cast 100% Canadian actors to help them tell their stories, the reality is that in many cases the financing, as well as the level of exposure, of the film is still very dependent on the casting having "Marquee" value.

While none of what was said here, or in my broader cinema/Canuckophile circles, has fallen on deaf ears - there's just one problem, the lead adult role in our film is for a woman : And to date, no Canadian WOMAN is considered enough of a marquee name for the powers-that-be. And yes, I fully recognize the chicken-and-egg irony in all of this. 

But in this restless place between what should be and what is, I have, above all, to think of my film - what's best for the film, the story and the characters that inhabit it. Like any director, I primarily want to find the right actors to bring each one of my characters to life - to realize their fullest potential. To lift this story off the page and make it alive. And I also want this film - what amounts to a long labour of love for so many of us - to be seen by the greatest amount of people possible when it's finally all said and done.

So, while the all-Canadian door is not closed, I am obliged to fully explore the Marquee portal. Without further ado, then, here's what's been going on behind the scenes on the Casting Couch :

Last November, with the help of Heidi Levitt, we got our script into the hands of Rachel Griffiths (an Australian native with wide-open, frontier topography in her blood, Rachel is best known for her roles in the Oscar-nominated film, "Hilary and Jackie" and HBO's "Six Feet Under"). Word came back quite quickly that she really liked the script, and she suggested we speak. She and I had a stimulating, thoughtful, fun! phone conversation about the script, about me, about Marion, about her and about the next steps toward her accepting the role. I was elated and full of admiration for the actor, and also the woman who had just had her third child and was actually considering doing my film in her upcoming hiatus!

Finally, however, as much as she loved the project and our exchange, Rachel could not come to terms with the logistical realities of our multi-week, "remote shoot", three children under 6 and us needing an answer so far (in Hollywood terms) in advance of the shoot, that she regretfully and graciously had to pass. 

After this news, we took some time to regroup and eventually submitted the project for Maggie Gyllenhaal's consideration right before Christmas. Maggie is admittedly on the very young side of Marion, but she has such an old-soul energy that makes her a very compelling, timeless actor. Our script was first read and greeted with enthusiasm by her manager. It was then sent on to Maggie.  Early yesterday we learned that Maggie passed - explaining that she did not see herself playing the mother of a child hitting puberty.

Fair enough.

Every time it's a little bit of a heartbreak, but ultimately I am really grateful to EVERY actor who has ever read, auditioned, considered, even passed on this project - because in doing so, every single one of them has given me something of themselves. Every one of them has caused me to stretch my mind, open my imagination a little bit more in order to encompass something they offer, something they represent. It is all a gift and an experience - for me, and I trust, for them as well. It's all part of the creative process.

And so, onward...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Time Zoned Out

I've been trying to stall this week's post for as long as possible - hoping against hope I would have something to tell you! Something good!

But, alas, I am being held hostage by a part of the population that apparently works on a different clock than I do. 

As I've so often been on the other end of this request I'm about to make, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about doing it to you, but I need to ask for a slight extension. In the interests of (hopefully) having something concrete to report, I'll get back to you here by Wednesday (EST) at the latest with a more complete post. 

Meantime, for those of you who are lucky enough to get HBO, check out "Bloodletting", a new Canadian-produced mini-series based on Vincent Lam's Governor General Award-Winning fiction AND starring a very gifted Canadian actor and dear friend, Kim Bubbs. It's airing tonight!

If you do see it, have your people contact my people and let me know what you think !

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year's Revolutions

In the sense of turning...

As of tomorrow, we will have made one complete turn around the calendar with this blog. This, then, is our first year anniversary.

This is also the year The Year gets made. 

So in the spirit of anniversaries and in the tradition of new years, I'd like to take a look back at how far we've come. 

Here then, are my Top Ten Highlights (in chronological order) of the year before The Year becomes a movie :

- Infiltrating the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time - consequently meeting Melanie Hartley, the heart of Telefilm's English program in Quebec and being kissed (on the cheeks) by Viggo Mortensen while he was wearing Alex Kovalev's Canadiens jersey.

- Receiving the key to Dolly's inner sanctum from producer extra-ordinary, Brad Horvath.

- Receiving that heart-stopping and heart-swelling fax from her Dollyness, giving me her boundless blessing in her inimitable voice.

- Seeing the look on Barbara's face when she saw said fax.

- The two of us hopping in the car and barreling to Toronto to meet the people we hoped with all our hearts would want to be our distributors. An exhilirating experience topped only by finding out a few weeks later that they did - Yay, Mongrel! (Locking our keys in the car at some lonely highway McDonald's in a snowstorm on the way home should get an honorable mention here - or rather, a dishonorable one.  Same must be said for the intestinal crisis I succumbed to later that same night because of McSomething I ate.)

- Liz Jarvis and her fellow BUFFALO GALS showing us big love and becoming our prairie production partners!!!  

- Making my first Telefilm and SODEC submissions for production financing of my first feature film. Popping my pitching cherry some weeks later.

- Getting the blurry, beautiful, improbable news that BOTH Telefilm and SODEC said a big, fat, generous YES!!! Followed closely, and no less beauti/bountifully by the Harold Greenberg Fund and the Shaw Rocket Fund.

- Going to Manitoba to meet our own personal Buffalo Gal, Liz Jarvis for the first time, see that part of our country's assets, meet the area's top film personnel and be treated to the sparkling company and generosity of Ms. Carole Vivier, our Manitoba Film and Music benefactor. (Bonding with my two key creatives, Claudine and Normand was a Buffalo-sized bonus).

- This final category is ex aqueo - shared equally amongst the fabulous people who have wholeheartedly embarked on the project - each and every one of them a highlight in their own right: Andrea Kenyon and her casting team, Claudine Sauvé - D.O.P. , Virginie Léger - Production Manager, Normand Sarrazin - Art Director, Peo Rousseau on locations, Francine Langlois - 1st Assistant Director, Mariane Carter - Costume Designer, Heidi Levitt - US casting, Pierre Bertrand - Sound Dude, and YOU... 

To be continued...