Friday, September 23, 2011

If It's Wednesday, This Must Be Whitehorse!

Four... Three... Two... No, that's not me reading out the forecast highs for Whitehorse next week, that's actually me counting down to one of my most highly anticipated events to come out of this filmmaking experience yet...

Dolly Day Celebration Yukon, here I come!

I'm flying out this Wednesday to Whitehorse, where I'll be presenting the film (at both English and French screenings), meeting with the public as well as local filmmakers, journalists, and most importantly, Claire Derome . She's the woman who's responsible for bringing our film to the Yukon as the centrepiece of "Dolly Day" - a unique fund-raising event she created this year for the local chapter of the Imagination Library (read more here).

Originally founded by Dolly herself in Tennessee, the Imagination Library's mission is to fight illiteracy by providing one free book per month to every child enrolled in a local program from birth to 5 years of age. And Claire tells me that since its inception in 2006, her chapter of the Imagination Library has been in constant expansion. The overwhelming popularity of the program will see The Yukon Imagination Library distribute a total of 15,000 books to over 60 percent of the region's children by 2013!

In order for this non-profit organization to keep up with the almost viral demand, funds and awareness are always in desperate need of being raised. It was when Claire heard an interview I did on Radio-Canada about the film and Dolly's implication in it that she had the idea for bringing me and the film to the Yukon and creating the "Dolly Day Celebration" around it.

The event involves a screening of the film, a meet and greet with me and a whole evening's festivities featuring the fantastic blue-grass band, "Second Cousin" playing the film's music as part of their repertoire. Everyone involved has waived their fees (thanks again to @MongrelMedia!) and all proceeds of this event will go to the Yukon Imagination Library. I'm so thrilled to be able to contribute to this organization and its important work. And I so love the "full-circleness" of the whole thing - the film that Dolly helped to make has now become a way to help Dolly's cause!

I'm very much looking forward to actively "giving back" to Dolly in this small way. The fact that I will also, finally, get to experience a part of this country that has long-fascinated me from afar is just a really juicy cherry on top.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Birth Order

Much like the fate of a family's second-born, my recent experience in Frankfurt at Lucas Film Festival may seem to have suffered from a little attention-deficit just by virtue of coming AFTER my first international festival. Not that I was any less enamoured of the people, places and pleasures afforded by this latest experience - far from it! But let's just say I was a little less compulsive about photographing and documenting every little detail and hiccup of this trip than I was when I had my first.

Nonetheless, I do have images. And there are stories. And I flat out LOVED Lucas.

More to the point, I loved the vibe, the people and especially the community that spontaneously formed amongst my fellow filmmakers, festival organizers, volunteers and audiences. At the end of the week, we seriously felt like one big film-y family.

The fact that most of us were staying in a hotel smack in the middle of Frankfurt's red light district probably helped create that sense of stick-togetherness - especially when walking home through the Smack-riddled, never-ending nightlife - whether it was in the wee hours or at high noon. But even beyond the safety in numbers imperative, we really fused in a way that - even now, a week later and so many thousands of miles away - feels real.

And I have to say that coming home to the official word that Osiris Entertainment has picked up our film for U.S. distribution has done nothing to dim the glow I brought back from Deutschland!

But next up is a project I'm probably the MOST excited about - Dolly's Day in the Yukon. Inspired by the story of how our film came about and Dolly's role in it, community leader Claire Derome created Dolly's Day, using our film as a centrepiece to help raise awareness and funds for the local children's literacy foundation, Dolly's Imagination Library.

This is exactly the kind of thing that is so in keeping with Dolly's generous spirit and humanity. The fact that she helped me make this film has afforded me the chance to contribute to a really worthy cause. To give back. To Dolly. To kids. And their community. It's so full-circle it's gorgeous.

And, as the film's master mixer, Gavin Fernandes points out, the fact that tickets for this event are sold at M&M Meats in Whitehorse is so... Yukon Gold!

Sunday, August 28, 2011


With Irene churning up the Eastern Seaboard and all the emotions of Jack Layton's state funeral still churning in our collective psyches, it's not a stretch to say this has been a turbulent and eventful end to summer.

On the film front things are also pretty dynamic, albeit less dramatic...

The Canada-wide DVD release is not even two weeks old, our sold-out screening at the 1st annual Eastern Townships Film Festival is still a fresh and very special memory (thanks again, Pepita and company!) and in less than a week, I'm off to Frankfurt for the LUCAS Film Festival where the film is once again in international competition.

To top it all off, there's another, as-yet-unnamed, soon-to-be announced development on the near horizon.


Oh, and that's not all... at the end of this month, there's the first ever "Dolly Day" up in the Yukon! A unique initiative that Claire Derome and the folks at the Whitehorse Rotary Club have cooked up specially around our film and its connection to Dolly. I'll be accompanying the movie up there, where it will be featured in a celebratory day of movie, music and meetings dedicated to raising awareness and funds for the regional Imagination Library, Dolly's literacy project for children.

I'm thrilled to be part of it. This event is such a wonderful by-product of making this film and Dolly's involvement in our whole story. Not to mention, it's a very direct opportunity for us to give something back to Dolly by supporting a cause that is so important to her. To that end, thanks go to our distributor Mongrel Media, who graciously agreed to waive the screening fees.

So, lots still happening now and into the fall... Check back here or on our Facebook Fan Page for all the latest updates!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Coming Out

Today's the day ... another landmark in the long journey of making a movie is here... A whole new chapter in our film's life has begun. And even though many people put many long weeks of work into it, this morning it still seems to have happened a little magically.

Because in something reminiscent of "The Night Before Christmas", we all lay down last night for a sultry summer's sleep in a world where our movie existed only on film and in theatres.

While we slept though, all snug in our beds with visions of bonus features dancing in our heads, way off in the distance all manner of planes, trains and trucks were busy criss-crossing the country, tossing sacks full of something special into every Blockbuster, Future Shop, Walmart and HMV store in sight.

And as these stores open their doors this morning, what to our wondering eyes would appear.... but the brand new DVD of our film lining their shelves, my dear!

Very cool.

The movie is something else now. Something somebody can rent or own. Something somebody can take home. Don't know why, but that tickles me.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Outremont and Other Old, Beautiful Buildings

Last night's screening at the storied Théâtre Outremont was a very fitting, chapter-closer for our film and its makers.

We screened our French subtitled 35mm print to a largely francophone and very receptive audience. Then followed it up with a Q & A session that travelled back and forth between French and English with lots of smart, sensitive questions for Barbara, Rebecca and myself. Apart from the Outremont's savvy regular clientele, the house was also filled with many friends and family who had come from far-flung parts of the province to either see the last big screen screening for the first, second or even third time.

After the Q & A ended, we were gently asked to leave the theatre but only made it as far as the lobby where we all clumped up in the lobby - kisses, hugs, comments, questions continuing - and finally wound up closing the place down (much to the chagrin of some gracious staff who hadn't planned on a late night) by carrying the stimulating conversations out to the sidewalk.

A nice surprise of the evening: Quebec singing star, Isabelle Boulay had come along to the screening with some mutual friends. She was very keen to see the film especially because she herself has recently reached out and made a special connection with Dolly - the two of them are now set to perform a song together in the near future. Isabelle said that she too had received Dolly's gracious response and acceptance via fax!

So now that the last scheduled Canadian big screen projection of our film has come and gone, we can turn our energy and attention to...

- the DVD release! Coming out on rental and retail shelves across the country August 16th!

- being the Closing Film at the inaugural edition of Eastern Townships Film Festival, August 21st!

- being in competition at LUCAS Film Festival, Frankfurt, Germany, September 4 - 11!

- having the privilege of participating in a very special, Dolly-driven, Imagination Library awareness-raising event in Whitehorse, Yukon!!! September 29th

- being mindful and grateful for all the gifts this film has brought and continues to bring

And now that we've gone far into the future, why not journey back into the very distant past.... The third instalment of my Italian adventure's photo commentary is up here !

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Second Wave d'Italia and Last Picture Show de Dolly

Quick dispatch to tell you that the second batch of Italy pics (and commentary) are up here!

And, a reminder that the subtitled version of the film will be shown for one last-ish time in all its 35mm glory on the big screen here in Montreal tomorrow, Monday August 1st (coincidentally, also my dad's 70th birthday!). More info here.

One way or another, see you at the pictures!

And a very happy birthday, Dad! xoxo

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Primo Giorno

As I mention in the meatier post below, here then, is the first entry in the photo journal of my Giffoni Experience...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Are You "Experience"'d?

As I sit here awake at a ridiculously early hour on my first morning back from Italy, I'm filled with so many memories, impressions, opinions and desires, but only one real dread: having to face my first North American "espresso".

I was up for 23 hours yesterday travelling and have now slept a scant 5 back in my own bed in Montreal so I'm desperately craving a coffee to smooth out the jagged edges of my jet lag but oh god, I am loathe to do anything to corrupt or contaminate this still intense, sensory memory of the dark, hot, rich ambrosia I shamelessly binged on overseas!

Right. I know. Overkill. But can I just tell you that there is NO COMPARISON between theirs and ours? And I'm not just talking about the flavour or the texture or the intensity of the actual drink. Or about the majestic, offhanded elegance of their whole ubiquitous ritual. I'm talking about the buzz.

As in, there is none.

Well, at least none of that jangly new-world kind anyway. And even though I regularly exceeded my usual maximum intake of two per day while I was away, I never not once EVER experienced that raunchy, acid-stomach after-burn from any Italian coffee - espresso, macchiato, cappuccino or otherwise - that passed my grateful lips at all times of day and night.

It's like the difference between the pure stuff. And the stuff that's been cut with something.

Or, like the difference between a festival that exists for the pure celebration of films and their audiences. And the other kind.

"The Giffoni Experience", as it's officially called, is exactly that. 100%. Panoramic. Technicolor. 3-D. Experience. It's a full-hearted, richly textured carnival of (for, by and about) kids - and the many kinds of cinema they respond to.

And for those of us ex-kids who were lucky enough to be invited in, it's also a regular, written-down reminder that a festival of film can (and should) be a whole, living, breathing, 360 degree, multi-levelled, cultural and interpersonal EXPERIENCE!

As it was for me and so many of the people I met there. So in the coming days, I'll post photos, faces and some stories that go with them. I'm not reporting in "real time" I know. It's already all happened and behind me. So yeah, I'll be sharing it in slight retrospect and I realize that makes me a dinosaur in this, the "instantaneous information age", but so be it. I've always been someone who likes to eat slowly, savour the meal, then respond and recount (also, internet access was sporadic there and a bit of a pain in my lazy butt).

So, with the exception of any "breaking news", which you know I'd tell you as soon as I possibly could, I figure if I introduce you to some people, tell you some stories and show you some pictures after having been as present in the moment as possible, it will feel as instantaneous as it needs to for you - and as fully-lived as it needs to for me.

Meantime, it's not even 9 am here and I'm feeling all heavy with fatigue and "black bliss" withdrawal... so ... do you think it's the actual espresso machines over there that make all the difference?... or the beans? ... or the way they're ground? ... or the water?

...or the whole unbeatable, unrepeatable experience...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Is That Your Final Answer?

Had a great (late) interview with Tyler, Logan and Scott last night - otherwise known as the Reel to Reel crew on CFCR Radio, Saskatoon...

While I struggled on my end to put together complete sentences at 11:30 pm (way past my bedtime!), on their end those boys were alert, alive and eerily well-informed about me, the film, and my every move before, during and after its upcoming run in their fair city!

So in case you haven't been able to do the same exhaustive research that the Reel to Reel guys have, I'll lay some of it out for you here:

The film (partially inspired by my childhood spent in the backseat of our family car, crossing the prairie between Calgary and Saskatoon) opens tonight at the Broadway Theatre right there in Saskabush (as we fondly called it)! Yet another "homecoming" of sorts for a film that has its roots spread practically right across this country (with apologies to the Maritimes and Northern Territories).

And then directly on the heels of this, our final Canadian stop on what's been a great first run for our little film, it's on to international screens - starting with (sigh) Italia...! I just found out that I'll be staying in Salerno right on the Amalfi Coast, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and commuting by shuttle every day to the Giffoni Film Festival. There, I'll be able to take in all the screenings and networking opportunities provided by the likes of such an internationally reputable festival as this.

But while I get all my promotional materials together and brush up on my (non-existent) Italian, I'm also studying a little of the history and geography of the area - hoping to take in a some of the local flavour and "spirit" while I'm there.

Beyond that - well, there's the DVD coming out very soon (just gave final comments on the art work and text!) as well as a one-night-only screening at our very own Théâtre Outremont here on August 1st. Then later that month, the film will have the privilege of screening at the inaugural edition of The Eastern Townships Film Festival!! After that, it's back to Europe for for the Lucas Film Festival in Frankfurt. And then... who knows...?

Meantime, I'll sign off by putting to you the same final question the Reel to Reel boys put to me last night:
What upcoming film are you most looking forward to in 2011?


My brain seized up on that question on the radio at midnight. But this morning(!) I woke up with at least two that I'm salivating to see when things calm down a little:

"The Tree of Life"


"Cowboys and Aliens"

I like a nice balanced diet.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Viva Italia!

If you're following us on our Facebook Fan page, you know by now that the film's international premiere is slated for Italy!

While the venerable Venice Film Festival had also requested copies of all Canadian films that were shortlisted for Cannes (of which we were one!), we weren't going to get an answer from the programmers until late into the summer so with time a-wasting and playing the odds, we made the decision to accept the gracious invitation from the Giffoni Film Festival. I'm heading there via Rome in mid-July and can't wait!

This will be our first appearance on the international circuit and we're very proud to have been chosen in competition at the oldest, most prestigious children and youth film festival in Europe. From there, we will be going to the Frankfurt Film Festival in late August (while not October, still a good time for beer and sausages, I'm told) where we're also in competition.

And after that, who knows?

In honour of this new and exotic phase in our film's career, I'd like to share this little "film" with you. A "festival" cautionary tale of sorts....

Click here and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fight, Flight or Festival?

First, I wanted to say a big THANK YOU to our own self-proclaimed, social (media) butterfly, Theresapedia for filling in on the blog last week. And I'd like to extend an official invitation for her to "guest post" any time the mood strikes - especially now that she's going to be just lounging around doing nothing on mat-leave for the next whole year!

Yes, that's right. The time has come, or the term is full... either way, we must now bow to the will of the wild and reluctantly bid adieu to one of our key collaborators and most eloquent cheerleader as she leaves us to embark on a whole new kind of production - a "reproduction" if you will.

Wishing you and your growing family all the very best, T! You are going to be soooooo missed by me and everyone at Dolly HQ. Your contribution to this whole adventure has been more valuable than you can know. xoxo

But now, we must go back to the business... of show.

For things are starting to move ahead at a brisk pace. In fact, the summer is looking very warm and sunny for the second act of our film's story!

Fresh off its hearty "homecoming" in Winnipeg, the film is set to play in Victoria at the end of the month, and to my own admittedly sentimental satisfaction, we're booked to open in Saskatoon in July! Both sets of my grandparents, a beloved aunt and uncle as well as my closest cousin, Trevor lived in Saskatoon as I was growing up. So my childhood is crowded with memories of long, frequent car trips between Calgary and Saskatoon to visit them.

To this day, the smell of egg salad sandwiches still evokes the special mix of tedium and anticipation that characterized those trips toward the "Paris of the prairies" for me.

So the news that my film will be playing at Saskatoon's Broadway Theatre makes me a little nostalgic. Especially because that's the first theatre I ever went to without my parents - at the age of 8 my cousin Trev and I snuck out of his house and walked across the river, in the waning daylight to go see "Cinderella" at the Broadway. Who would've thunk that almost 40 years later, my own film would be playing at that very cinema...? Now that's a fairytale!

That Saskatoon seems to be the final Canadian city our film has been booked into doesn't make for an ending to this film's story though - oh no... far from it. As I mentioned in my Second Acts Can Suck post, there's still the festivals. Ahhh, the festivals. In that same post, I alluded to the challenges of navigating the international festival circuit... Let me explain what I meant: It's a bit of a chess game really, because what are known as the "A" festivals require that your film be at least an international premiere to be considered for selection. So, if you're in serious running for Cannes let's say (which we were - our film was one of only 7 Canadian films short-listed for two sections of the world's most prestigious film festival!!!), you cannot accept any other festival's invitations until you hear whether or not you're in Cannes. And so on...

So, starting with our short-listing and then our coming-up short (spoiler alert: we did not make the final selection) at Cannes, it's all been a bit of a waiting game - a juggle, a gamble, a weighing of the ifs, ands or buts... Do we say no to yet another lovely festival because we're being "considered" by an even bigger festival right around the corner? Given that our film was technically completed in Dec. 2010, our "best before" date is quickly approaching - so we've been facing the question: when do we finally close our eyes and finally just jump into an international premiere and start swimming in those warm waters?

Well, let me announce here that we are finally, officially poised to get nice and wet!

Stay tuned to find out where!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Post from the Peg!

Hi everybody!

This is Theresapedia (Associate Producer and social media butterfly), filling in for Tara today as she is currently in Winnipeg for the film's opening out there.

She sent me the following photos to 1) make me jealous and 2) so that I could post them here to share with y'all!

As an nearly-8-months pregnant person, I can confirm that pictures of cake are always a win for me. But even for all you non-knocked-up readers, these photos will make you drool because look! It's a The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom CUSTOM-MADE CAKE!

Is that amazing or what?

Thanks to the folks at Cake-ology, the cast-and-crew party last night had an extra dose of awesome. (Bonus: if you squint a little, you can also spot producers Barbara Shrier and Liz Jarvis in the background of this photo having lunch.)

This is the designer whose name I don't have (if you know her, send me an email at but look how cute she is!

**UPDATE: Pamela from Cake-ology let me know that this lovely lady is Samantha Repa, one of their talented cake decorators. Thanks Pamela, nice work Samantha!**

Super cool.

Were you at the screening in Winnipeg last night? At the party? Did you get to try this fabulous confection? Drop us a line on the Facebook page, I'm DYING to know how it tasted. No, seriously, I NEED TO KNOW.

The film opens at the Cinematheque tonight in Winnipeg and plays until June 12 and then again June 15-16.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Happy Anniversary

One year ago, we wrapped principal photography on The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom. On a secondary highway about an hour and a half outside of Winnipeg in the rain and fading light, we shot our final scene of the film - and of the whole production.

Even though I remember that moment like it was yesterday, so much has transpired in the 365 days or so since. But now, quite appropriately, a year later we are marking our first year production anniversary by heading back to the Peg - to where it all wrapped up. With a finished film tucked under our seat - or in the overhead bin, I'm not sure... Where does one stow a 35 mm print representing the labour of love of so many people over so many months and years? Truth be told, it deserves a seat in first class.

One way or another, the film is finally going home. Going home to the other half of cast and crew that helped create it. With the exception of our dear co-producer, Liz Jarvis, none of the Manitobans have seen the fruits of their labours yet! So I am totally looking forward to our cast and crew screening at the Cinematheque next week - to show the film of course, but also to see these amazing people again! Because through all the film's "coming out" moments these past months, we've been missing them. We've been accepting credit and compliments in their stead. The whole experience hasn't felt really and truly complete as long as the Winnipeg group hasn't been part of it.

So, full circle here we come! And after our private screening, the film will play for the rest of the week at the Cinematheque in the Peg - with hopes of staying on a little longer if luck and numbers are on our side. If Manitoban hospitality is anything to go by, I think it will have a long and very happy stay!

P.S. Has anyone seen a missing blog post titled "Priceless"? It was last seen in this very spot - until sometime on May 13 (Friday, May 13 that is) when it up and disappeared without a trace. If you find this post which is of sentimental value to its owner, kindly contact us at:

Monday, May 2, 2011

New(s) Cycle

Okay, so I'm throwing my own bulletin into what is arguably the biggest mother of all news days in recent memory.

That's right, I'm choosing this very noisy news moment to jump in to the fray even though my little blurb can't hope to be heard over the reports of the long-awaited capture/assassination/burial-at-sea of the World's Most Wanted Man. Nor can it hold a candle to the Orange Wave blowing political winds of change (and shamelessly mixed metaphors) across an unexpectedly electrified Canadian electorate. In fact, it probably can't even stand toe to toe with whatever "shocking" thing happened on Celebrity Apprentice last night...

But share it I will, because my news is really more like a feeling. An intuition if you will - based on anecdotal, if carefully catalogued, observations. Coming off the circuit of Canadian cinema these last few months, I'm getting the feeling like there might be the first whisperings of a gentle, yet persistent shift in perception...

And if you listen very closely - that's it, with your ear pressed firmly to the ground or the tree - you too might hear the earliest, most primordial creakings and yawnings of a new trend emerging. In one word, that trend is ...


Canuck Chicks, to be geographically exact. Making movies. Gaining in numbers and recognition and respect. Starting, slowly but surely, to take their rightful place in this country's cinematic landscape.

Case in point: In these last few weeks alone, no less than FOUR feature films by Canadian female writer/directors have opened in Canadian (and some U.S.) cinemas : From Katrin Bowen's "Amazon Falls" to Deborah Chow's "High Cost of Living" to Penelope Buitenhuis' "A Wake" to you know who's film, it's slowly starting to feel like women's voices and views are occupying a slightly more proportionate amount of theatrical real estate than ever before! Maybe the captain of the Orange Wave, Jack Layton's whole "proportional representation" thing is catching on in more than just the political arena...

Anyway, as "Dolly" leaves Regina and Charlottetown and heads to Ottawa - with stops tonight in Vaudreuil-Dorion, Friday in Hudson, before moving on to Winnipeg in June, etc. - it feels more and more like we're coming home.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Second Acts Can Suck

Notoriously the hardest chunk of story for any writer to tame, the daunting spectre of the Second Act often looms like a large and blurry bête noire between the Snappy Opening of the First Act and the Satisfying Ending of the Third. Between those distinct narrative bookends that are usually the first to form themselves in the writer's mind - because these are the things that get them juiced and keep them going when the going gets tough - lies the vast, often arid, seemingly unnavigable land of The Middle.

Its name alone is an onomatopoeic omen of the murky challenges to come: "middle" is so perilously close to its ambiguous cousin, "muddle". And not too genetically far removed from "muffle", "waffle" and thus, "wander"...

And so, it is often the place where a good story can go astray. Or, at the very least, lose steam.

Popular wisdom goes that, in order to avoid these classic Second Act pitfalls, there is just one prescription: Raise the stakes. Throw increasingly bigger obstacles in the protagonist's way.

In other words, put your hero(ine) up a tree. And then proceed to throw rocks at him/her. Start with pebbles, go to gravel, continue to work your way through the various geological mineral formations and finish with a nice, fat bolder.

According to the pundits, that'll keep the narrative moving through the marshy, mushy landscape of The Middle to usher the story artfully and effectively to its ultimately satisfying Third Act.

Here then, is about where the river stones should start coming at us. Having sailed through our opening act of major openings in Montreal, Toronto, and most recently Vancouver, our film's theatrical life is now hitting the middle of its story.

With many scheduled, if limited engagements coming up in various places across Canada, we are entering a hopefully long and steady second act. And happily for the sake of sustaining tension in the story, despite generally fantastic press and good word of mouth, all our efforts to build audiences and box office in our snappy First Act are being challenged by the movie-going audience's increasingly solicited entertainment dollar and sundry other sticks and stones in the Second Act.

Duly following the prescription for a tight, tense narrative though, we have raised the stakes by also trying to navigate our way through the unchartered and sometimes mystifying territory of the international festival circuit. And according to the rules of good storytelling, we are still winding up in more valleys than peaks, but on we trek - jumping from tree to tree and working on our stone-dodging techniques.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Homing In

Vancouver welcomed me with clearing skies and shimmering seas. And cherry blossoms, like pink popcorn lacing the trees.

This town always seduces me and turns me into a bit of a pastoral sap. It lifts my spirit. Fills my lungs with fresh, tangy air and my head with visions of a healthy lifestyle and a hard body. When the sun is shining, the ocean is pungent and the mountains are lording it over all us latté loving Vancouverites, the only thing we want to do is be out in it.

But when it's raining - where better to be than out of it and in a cinema? Keeping dry and dreaming different dreams... Right?

I hope. I hope for rain. All weekend. For we open our film here on Friday and it's not been an easy Spring for the Lower Mainland. Beautiful weekend weather would be a box office death knell.

Since I have absolutely no control over the weather however, I came out here a bit early to press some palms and plaster some posters around my old hometown.

So far, my door to door director schtick has mostly been met with a very laid-back nod, a half-smile and a casual point to where I can put up the poster wherever I go. In contrast to Montreal or even Toronto, where it would cost me a good half an hour every stop because people were so eager to talk about the film, my role in it, what it was about... Maybe because this is a bit more of an industry town, people take films and their makers more in stride. Sort of like patrons in a Los Angeles restaurant finding out their waiter is really an actor....

Anyway, so far, that part has been very sociologically interesting - not unpleasant, but not on fire either. The flip side of this, though. is the reaction we've had from acting schools, filmmaking students, filmmaking collectives and local press... There is a real hunger in those circles for the stories behind making movies. And I've already been met and welcomed into a very vibrant fold of filmmakers - spearheaded by people like Paul Armstrong of the Celluloid Social Club, Javier of Raindance (a filmmakers' networking organization originating in Britian and making its way across Canada to Montreal). At their event on Monday, I met Katrin Bowen, writer/director and one-woman powerhouse behind the lauded film, "Amazon Falls" which débuted at TIFF last year and is opening in Vancouver April 15th - an exciting event to which yours truly got invited!

Also this week Julia's mom, Sue Chappel has been gathering likeminded people together for a sort of film-y "salon" at her place on Thursday night, not to mention organizing and throwing the after-party with husband Wayne in honour of our first night's screening on Friday. Sue's sort of like a den mother/mentor/booster to many burgeoning actors, writers, directors here in town and has also hooked me up with an inspiring young man, Julian LeBlanc (alias "Gossip Boy") who is on the rise as an actor and filmmaker but also as a strong voice for Canadian cinema on his blog of the same alias.

Finally but not leastly, my terrific publicist Bonne Smith has created many media opportunities for me here even though she's based in Toronto. If the stimulating, in-depth interviews I've had to date are anything to go by, well then there is actually more to Vancouver than meets the eye. And already, what an eye-full!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dispatches from a Door-to-Door Director

By far the best part of promoting the film has been the face-to-face part...

After shaking hands and kissing babies all the way around the Cineplex that's showing our film here in Montreal (held over now for a fourth week!), I loaded my poster-ettes, my CD's and my thermos into my car and hit my 401.

I arrived at Toronto's Cumberland theatre in time to see people getting seated - and man, were there ever a lot of seats. In fact, the seats outnumbered the people about 6 to 1. But what they lacked in numbers, the people made up for in enthusiasm and warmth. Only two people left when the credits ended, everyone else stayed behind for the Q & A session after. It was lively, engaged and engaging. And then even after that, people came to talk to me one on one - and buy a CD of the soundtrack.

Nonetheless, the low attendance on our "opening night" in the T-dot had taken its toll... Holed up in my hotel room the next day with a bad cold, ear infection and tender morale, the last thing I felt like doing was venturing out into the naked city to show my blotchy face - let alone engage with anyone. But I needed an espresso something bad, so finally my taste for caffeine triumphed over my pride and off I set - grabbing my bag of posterettes on my way out the door...

And in less than an hour, I'd not only put up four posters in busy shops, but met a fellow filmmaker who's got a company called Sharona Films, met a fellow prairie girl hailing from Winnipeg who invited me to another Winnipeg'ers art opening that afternoon and Joanne Kim, who owns City Bakery next to the hotel, and has the warmest, most open smile of any human I know.

And she has a running group! After I signed a poster-ette to hang on Joanne's "wall of fame" just above the coffee condiments, she told me she was going running the next morning with her group, going for brunch, then taking them to see my movie.

We then spent some time swapping titles of our other favourite "sleeper" films we'd discovered by happenstance (hers is "Unthinkable", mine "Junebug"). I polished off the best avocado, hummus, brie sandwich on multi-grain in town and headed out to find the gallery where Winnipeg artist, Janet Werner was opening her show.

When I walked into that gallery, the woman I'd met in the bakery was there with her daughter, holding the poster-ette I'd given her and talking about our meeting to a circle of - as it turns out - other prairie girls! We're everywhere!

After chatting to them for a bit, about the movie and other stuff, I had to get back to the hotel to meet Brad Horvath (my first door to Dolly) for a "congratulatory" drink before presenting the film at the Cumberland again. At the bar, I took out a poster-ette to sign for his office and the bartender came over exclaiming, "The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom! That's the movie my girls want to see! We saw the trailer last night and they said, 'Daddy, can we go to see that?'"

I mentioned that if he didn't want to disappoint those moppets with impeccable taste he would have to hurry, because it was likely the film would not be playing long. He brushed my worry aside and asked if I would sign a posterette for his girls. He ran out to the lobby and came back with a Sharpie. Then offered us another drink - on the house. No self-respecting door-to-door director should ever turn down a free drink but alas, I had to get to the theatre.

Buoyed by all this good will and synchronicity, I jumped in a taxi and sped to the Cumberland...

Where the seat-to-people ratio was even higher than the night before. The valiant, seriously outnumbered people who had come out, stuck together though and every single one of them stayed afterward to participate in another lively, even longer Q & A. And I sold twice as many CD's as the night before!

Despite the dismal box office, I still drove out of Toronto the Trying the next day, the trunk of my car - and my heart - lighter than when I drove in. All because of the people.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Missing Metaphors

Try as I might (and I really have tried), I just cannot come up with a better way to describe the whole process of writing, directing and promoting a feature film than the old tried and true saw: It's a lot like having a baby.

As dramatic as it may sound, child birth seems to be the most appropriate metaphor to explain what a life-changing, all-absorbing experience it really is.

Even though I am not a mother myself in the biological sense, I do have enough friends and family who are mothers to know that once you have a child you are constantly inhabited on some level by the responsibility, love, concern and yes, guilt you feel toward that child. That helpless being you brought into the world haunts your consciousness 24-7. Its welfare is the last thing you think of before you fall asleep at night and the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning.

Such is the experience of making and then nurturing an independent film. In fact, so many parallels can be drawn between parenting and low-budget filmmaking that no other metaphor comes close to being a viable contender. So I've surrendered myself to just going with it...

However that logic does break down when you consider that even after gestating the film for an unbelievable six years, it still ends up in an incubator as soon as it enters the world.... its life literally hanging in the balance from the second it's born.

And you wonder, how can something seemingly so "ripe in the womb" still be so incredibly fragile once it finally emerges?

Then again, they say it takes a village to raise a child.... And everyone knows how hard it is in this day and age to rally a whole village to take care of any one thing, let alone someone else's baby.

Okay, there's that damn metaphor again.

Don't get me wrong, plenty of people - family, friends and strangers alike have already gone out of their way, dropping by to see the "baby" during visiting hours. Almost all have had warm, positive and emotional reactions to it. They've written newspaper articles about it. Featured it on t.v., radio and the web. They've wanted to know more about it, about how it was made, about what hopes we have for its future, about how it makes them feel. They wish it well. They tell their friends about it.

It's been a joyous, but equally tenuous, time. The reality is that incubators are at a premium in this country and our visiting hours have already been cut back. Only a week into its life and I know my "baby's" days are numbered.

So like any mother would, I lay awake at night - still counting my many blessings - but wondering if there's something - anything - more that I should have done, or that I still can do, to keep my baby alive... No metaphor intended!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Yet Another Eve

Poised for another "big step" on this last leg of the filmmaker's journey, I feel like I really should have written about the previous "big step" while the afterglow was still hovering at nuclear levels. Because, frankly by now I'm a little strung out about what's around the corner...

So before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's just dwell a little on the past, shall we? It's nice and warm and cozy there...

Our "world premiere" was last Saturday night when the film made its début by closing our beloved Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois festival. The "big" theatre at the local Cineplex was full of well-wishers and warm smiles worn by friends, family and fellow filmmakers. The best way to bring our baby into the world really.

After the big love fest that was our "premiere" faded into memory and hangovers, some advance press - positive at best, benign at worst - came out and naive, novice filmmaker that I am, I thought that was it - the ultimate test... And it was feeling like we passed.

Not so fast.

If you're lucky and the press has been paying attention (which we are and it has), then the day or two before the film takes up official residence in its respective theatres, early reviews start coming out. Yup, just like in the movies.

And the calls and the emails and the posts start flying... we got 3 stars here, 3.5 stars there, oh don't read that one, you'll see stars - and not the good kind... Yup, just like in the cartoons.

But even though my head is swirling with stars and a few scars, I'm more buoyed by the many, "real-people reviews" we received after our premiere and "word-of-mouth" advance screenings last week... If all the unsolicited, often emotional outpourings of comments are anything to go by, the film actually touches a lot of people. It makes a lot of very different kinds of people feel a lot of things - good things.

And I've been lucky enough to be there to hear both men and women, young and old talk about it. That's like a spa for my tired, but now satisfied soul. And it's already more than worth what it took to get this little story told.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Flurries of February

Batten down the hatches...

I knew February was going to be intense, but so much seems to be happening all at once now that our (really well-reviewed!) album has been launched this week, the film is poised to close the Rendez-vous festival tomorrow night and then is scheduled to come out in Quebec theatres next Friday - with a preview screening this Monday thrown in for good measure ...

Marked by the opening of the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois and interview requests starting to trickle in from across Canada, finishing the French version of the film (have I mentioned how really good it is?), hammering out the finicky details of the poster in both official languages, preparing the film's coming out in Quebec and then R.O.C., this whole, foreshortened month of my birth as well as my film's, has been a breathtaking whirlwind.

But the winds of whirl turned up to hurricane force this past week...

Our young star Julia and her fabulous mom, Sue (notably referred to as "Ju and Sulia" by yours truly during a thank you speech recently!) landed in town on Tuesday just in time for the album launch party. Then along with Macha and Barbara, we spent the next day doing a carousel of multi-media interviews at a great Mile End diner called Nouveau Palais. You have to be in it to believe it, but the game of musical chairs they call a "press junket" I can only liken to "speed dating" - of marathon proportions.

For Julia and I, this was our first press junket experience. So we were both a bit nervous. But at the end of that long day (10 am to 3:30 pm) of sitting in a booth in front of one journalist, telling our story into a microphone (or cell phone, or camera), getting the tap from Mélanie Mingotaud (publicist extraordinaire) to get up and move to the next booth and start all over again... after doing that ad inifinitum all day, we were naturally exhausted. But also, exhilarated.

For the most part, it seemed that the journalists really wanted to talk about the film. Many of them talked to us about their experience watching the film, how they felt, what touched them. Unless these reporters are better actors than my actors - whose performances many of them noted are downright remarkable - I think there was a very positive vibe in the room. Okay, those warm, homemade mango-cranberry muffins supplied by Nouveau Palais might have softened a few of the crustier types up, but all in all, if this HAD been a speed-dating event, I'm pretty sure we would have got lucky!

Since then, it's been a non-stop sprint toward the first of our many imminent finish lines, the closing night gala screening of our film tomorrow. This "closing" marks our beginning... the first time our film will go out in the world, on its own. In the flurries of February.

I feel nervous and protective and excited. I'm trying very hard to stay "in the moment". Every single one of the many million of them. Wanting to soak all of this goodness, all this newness, up.

There is only ever one "first time". And so far, mine has been ALREADY been all I could hope for - and more....

Happy Birthday, little movie. I love you and wish you, many, many happy (box office) returns.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Swinging Both Ways

In the wake of Arcade Fire's now infamous French/English thank you speech at the Grammys AND the sound mix of the frankly fantastic French version of our film, let me tell you, "Bi" is in, baby!

Okay, time for full disclosure here - I've always been straight. Always liked my movies the old-fashioned way : original, the way the creator intended them. Don't give me any of this foreign monkey business - laying strangers' voices over actor's faces. It's just wrong. And downright unnatural.

Here in Quebec, this kind of thing is a far more common occurrence than many of you living in less "bi-friendly" places may realize. For example, all the big Hollywood films are dubbed into French by local actors so that when Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts or Brad Pitt opens their mouth, someone else's voice and language and even breathing comes out!

Lots of people are fine with that. But for my money, even if the whole movie's in Serbo-Croatian, it's always better to experience the original version with subtitles. That way, even if the specific meaning of their words escapes me, I still hear the actual actors' voices, intonations, colours, subtleties. So I can rest assured that the original intentions of the people on the screen - and behind the scenes - are intact.

Well yesterday, I took a walk on the wild side and have to come clean about something ...

It's actually not so bad once you try it.

But - and this is a big but - it really depends on WHO you try it with.

And as I understand it, ours was not your run-of-the-mill dabble in alternatives. This one was special. Yes, we had a wonderful director and team taking care of us. And yes, we had great actors who specialize in the very particular art of oral filmmaking - the most outstanding of whom is Macha who can actually "dub" herself...

But the final outcome still goes far beyond just a reasonable French "copy" of the original. It is instead, its very own, original "version" of the original. With its very own particular charms and subtleties and delights. The French version of our English film is, in my wide-eyed opinion, every bit as faithful to the creator's intentions as the original.

And like I say, it all depends on who you do "it" with. There's no doubt in my mind that this first experience and the finished product was largely so gratifying and successful because Barbara never once lost sight of the film's essence, never once let go of any step in the process - from the translation to the casting to the performance. Not a single detail. Along with a team that was able to rise to this rather unprecedented challenge, she achieved what could be, and hopefully will still become, the gold standard for this necessary step in our national cinema - creating a living, second language alternative that can stand toe to toe with the original. And offer up its own set of goodies for those in the club.

Dolly has a line in our film that goes something like this: "I don't care if you're black or white. Or both. I don't care if you're gay or straight, bisexual or whatever... Whatever you are, just be that. And be good at it!".

As usual, Dolly has her finger on the right pulse...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

An Offspring is Born!

...or at least, delivered...

Early this week I packed my car with a very small but precious cargo, printed out a Google map and drove very carefully, following many convoluted directions, to a barren building on the side of an industrial freeway just outside of Montreal.

I protected my thin little bundle from the frigid winter winds by holding it under my coat all the way across the vast parking lot. Once we got inside the building, I carefully cradled it in the palm of my hands, transporting it across the lobby, up the stairs and through the doors to a non-descript office, where I personally handed off the MASTER of our soundtrack to the woman who will see that it goes forth and multiplies - into many beautiful, bouncing CD's!

What this all means, is that the OFFICIAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK of The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom featuring Dolly Parton, Nelly Furtado, Martha Wainwright, Coral Egan, The Wailin' Jennys, Geneviève Toupin and Luc Sicard's original score will be obtainable, listenable, available to everyone by February 22nd - four days before the film premieres at Les Rendezvous du cinéma québécois!

The long and completely joyous process of "building" this creation officially came to an end last Sunday night when Luc and I finished the mastering of the album with the mother of all masterers Ryan Morey (check him out at:, he's worked on some of the most groundbreaking indie albums of our time).

And now, in a matter of a few short weeks, it's all going to be out there for the listening... and the talking about.... across the whole country.

Stay tuned here and on the Facebook fan page for exclusive sneak previews of some of the coolest cuts COMING SOON!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Big News Day!!! (or "Here Ye, Here Ye!")

Not only did one of our favourite sons and his film, "Incendies" just get nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category - yay, Denis! (and cast and crew) - but a relatively small, quiet, powerful film written and directed by a woman got four major nominations, not least of which is Best Picture. Bravo, "Winter's Bone"!

Also, members of our own extended family, Dolly distributors Mongrel Media and Métropole Films boast a total 7 films in official Oscar contention. Congratulations to them!

Oh, and even closer to home, a huge exclusive just hit our Facebook Fan Page!!! Click HERE to be one of the very first people to see the official trailer for "The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom" - hot off the ... - machine of some kind - and not yet in theatres. Let us know what you think!

You might think all that excitement would be enough for one week, but wait - there's more!

Tomorrow, Barbara, Macha and I are heading up to St-Sauveur in the Laurentians for a very important event called, "Ciné-Québec". This annual film distributor's convention is a 24-hour do or die "do" where the province's distributors get to showcase their roster of upcoming films for theatre owners in the market for movies to show.

So, splashy theatrical trailers, big artwork, name actors, producers and directors will be on-site for theatre owners to look at, listen to, do a little tire-kicking thereof, and thereby decide to which films they want to give screens, and then how many and for how long. It's a mighty big deal.

But we feel pretty prepared - as you know - we already have ourselves a trailer! (Have you seen it lately, by the way? If not, you can check it out again here...) We also have a pretty rocking banner-sized poster and one of the best speech-givers in the business (hint: Barbara).

So, Macha, Barbara and I will have a few minutes to get up and do our little pitch during a luncheon hosted by our Quebec distributor, Métropole Films (whose name you will have noticed in our trailer when you last saw it - what's that? You didn't notice their name? Well, then, why not check it out again here and make sure I've got my facts straight?)

And, once that's all done, we'll move into another room, where a rumour of alcohol has been circulating to speak with journalists, who will hopefully be interested in talking to us about our film.

That's tomorrow.

The next day, my attention comes back to putting the finishing touches on the soundtrack album - whose launch, you will of course hear about here first! And, maybe even get a little preview, a taster, an appetizer of the full meal deal before it hits stores and the cybersphere at large!

Y'all come back now, y'here?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Closings and Openings

Well, it's now official!!! I can say it out loud! The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom has been selected to be the Closing Gala Film at Les Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois!

This is a very special invitation for many reasons... Les Rendezvous is a hometown festival that celebrates Quebec production and nurtures homegrown talent. They gave me my first window on the world way back in 2001 when my short film, Killing Time was screened in front of Denis Villeneuve's much acclaimed second feature, Maelstrom. And look where it got Denis! (for those of you who aren't familiar with his name, Denis is the director of a very important and by now almost notorious film, Incendies which is Canada's Oscar entry this year).

Seriously, though, beyond the fact that they have been very good to me in the past, and despite the visibility this kind of prestigious platform will provide our movie in Quebec, it is very significant and, in my mind, very courageous of the programmers to select an English language film to close this particular festival. However, Ségolène Roederer, the elegant director of Les Rendezvous admitted she is possibly most excited about the "female factor" of this film. She is totally grooving on the unabashed "chickness" of not only the story, but the crew and the cast that put it together. Apparently this is still a rare recipe in the indie cinema world!

Anyway, no matter what made the package extra attractive, I know both Ségolène and her colleague Dominique Dugas first loved the film enough to invite us to close their festival.

And that can only open other doors!

Merci beaucoup aux Rendezvous! And if you're in Montreal on February the 26th... Rendez-vous!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dolly Déja Vu All Over Again

We're baaaack!

First thing this week, a valiant few of us emerged from our cozy warrens, where we'd retreated to take a little snowy r and r over the holidays and we jumped right back in where we left off... The album!

Still with a little glow-on from the amazing musical compliments that Dolly sent along just before Christmas (see previous post), we began the New Year by mixing the last remaining cuts destined for our soundtrack album - specifically, six tracks of selected score from Luc's original compositions...

Just before Christmas, we were faced with the difficult task of having to pick only half a dozen out of 15 equally beloved pieces of score that would make it on the album. About as easy as choosing favourites among your children... But with a little creative mixing, matching and titling, we managed to come up with ways to group the cuts that I think really respects the palette of the whole score - and leaves very few children out.

Then over the holidays, Luc found time to revisit those lucky cuts. By tying a few movements together in inspired ways, re-playing and re-recording some instruments to give the occasional track a longer life or more elegant end, he came up with the final 6 mixing templates.

And so as I write this, Élie (Ely) Jalbert is madly sliding back and forth across the floor in front of his analog mixing board at Studio Victor - balancing, tweaking, wetting, drying, delaying and washing his way through the lush, intimate instrumentation that characterizes our score. Getting closer and closer to a real, honest to goodness record all the time...!

That full, finished album - which combines Luc's original compostions with Dolly's tunes (as reinterpreted by Nelly Furtado, Martha Wainwright, Coral Egan, The Wailin' Jennys and Geneviève Toupin) - is due out a few weeks before March 4, which is when the film is scheduled to hit screens in Quebec and then the rest of Canada soon after.

So even as we finish mixing tonight, we're already looking towards mastering the album with Ryan Morey next week, finalizing poster art and graphics with Alexandre Renzo, designing the CD cover and inserts, oh, and attending a press conference where a very special announcement will be made - (more on that when I can officially talk about it...!)

So far, feels like a very Happy New Year!