FWC Celebrates Canadian Cinema at Palm Springs PSIFF15!

See the Photo Gallery from PSIFF15 HERE! was excited to attend the annual celebration of Canadian Cinema at Palm Springs International Film Festival, #PSIFF15!
Our FWC host/ producer, Alexandra Staseson attended the festival, along with Telefilm Canada and great Canadian filmmakers representing NINE Canadian Films which were honoured at the esteemed festival this year! Several Canadian talents were honoured at the Festival, including directors Xavier Dolan (Mommy), Sturla Gunnarsson (Monsoon) and Maxime Giroux (Félix et Meira). MOMMY actress, ANNE DORVAL received the FIPRESCI AWARD for BEST ACTRESS OF THE YEAR in a Foreign Language Film! The U.S. feature film BOYCHOIR, by Canadian director François Girard, was the closing night film at the Festival this year!

The NINE Canadian Films honoured at the festival, and screening to SOLD-OUT film-loving audiences, were

BACKCOUNTRY by Adam MacDonald,
FELIX et MEIRA by Maxime Giroux,
HENRI HENRI by Martin Talbot
IN HER PLACE by Albert Shin,
MOMMY by Xavier Dolan,
MONSOON by Sturla Gunnarsson,
LE REGNE DE LA BEAUTE (An Eye for Beauty) by Denys Arcand,
SOME KIND OF LOVE by Thomas Burstyn 
TU DORS NICOLE by Stéphane Lafleur.

Telefilm Canada celebrates tbe activity at PSIFF, as Palm Springs is one of the marquee events of the film-festival season and generates significant buzz owing to the fact that its line-up includes several contenders for the Golden Globes and Oscars, two events that take place not long after the Palm Springs Festival. The Festival is very well attended, welcoming more than 135,000 festival-goers every year.

“With Canadian films enjoying a high profile at the Palm Springs International Film Festival so early in the new year, 2015 certainly bodes well for Canadian cinema,” said Carolle Brabant, Executive Director of Telefilm Canada. “We are proud to support Canadian talent at the Festival, an event recognized for producing major promotional spinoffs in the United States.”
Added Helen du Toit, PSIFF Artistic Director: “Canadians constitute 0.5% of the world's population, but at the Palm Springs International Film Festival they make up 7 to 10% of our audience! So it is only fitting that we show a disproportionately high number of Canadian films. And with Canada's international wunderkind leading the charge to awards season, this is gearing up to be a very exciting year.”

There are close ties between Canada and the Palm Springs International Film Festival 
It’s worth noting that, in addition to the strong Canadian contingent at the Palm Springs International Film Festival each year, PSIFF Director Darryl Macdonald and Artistic Director Helen du Toit are both Canadian.

January 4th was an exciting day of specials events for Canada including, “Canada, A World of Talent,”  
Canadian cinema was particularly in the spotlight on January 4, as the day’s screenings of Canadian films included a special showing of Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, Canada’s selection for the 2015 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar; and in support of the Talent Fund, a private donation fund set up by Telefilm in order to stimulate investment in the production and promotion of Canadian films. Canadian philanthropists Carol and Paul Hill hosted the event, which brought together business persons and Canadian and international creative talents. Carol Hill is a member of the Talent Fund’s Advisory Committee.

About Telefilm Canada 
Telefilm is dedicated to the cultural, commercial and industrial success of Canada’s audiovisual industry. Through its various funding and promotion programs, Telefilm supports dynamic companies and creative talent here at home and around the world. Telefilm also administers the programs of the Canada Media Fund. Visit and follow us on Twitter at and on Facebook at

FWC Congratulates all filmmakers and Canadian Film Talent at PSIFF this year!
Follow FWC on twitter @1stWeekendClub for continuous news and coverage of Canadian Film and on

~Alexandra Staseson (@MoveThrough)
Host/ Producer/ Social Media Manager

Posted in Blog


Whistler Film Festival Spotlights Variety's 10 Screenwriters to Watch

Being an actor turned writer can have its privileges, as Chris Sparling, one of Variety's 10 Screenwriters to Watch can attest to.  "I knew at the very least which lines I'd hate to say," said Sparling, speaking with Variety VP & Exec Editor Steven Gaydos at the Whistler Film Festival presentation on Dec 6. 

Audiences got to glean insight about the art, craft, and business of screenwriting from the six writers in attendance - whose highly-anticipated projects have attracted some of the top A-listers around.

This year's Screenwriters to Watch included Ben Schwartz (Major!), writing duo Chris Bowman & Hubbel Palmer (Loomis Fargo), Chris Sparling (The Sea of Trees), Graham Moore (The Imitation Game), Matt Charman (co-writer of Suite Francaise), Melissa Stack (The Other Woman), Michael Starrbury (The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete), Phyllis Nagy (Carol), and Suha Arraf (Villa Touma).

Bowman and Palmer have a special advantage when it comes to avoiding writerly procrastination, they keep each other accountable -- and competitive. However, they caution, pick your collaborators carefully.  "Every note [Chris] gave me didn't feel like a compromise," says Palmer.

Melissa Stack also recalled the collaborative nature working on 'The Other Woman,' where she spent most days on set. "They had amazing chemistry and were very generous and kind to each other," she said, "The more they played together the better it got." Stack also revealed the true 'troublemaker' on set, "Leslie [Mann] stirred the pot."

Phyllis Nagy, a long time playwright, had resisted jumping into the screenwriting fray for a long time, turning down projects, insisting on also directing. That tactic seemed to have paid off. Her first pic, 'Mrs. Harris' earned her two Emmy nominations.

Sparling doesn't see writing and directing as mutually exclusive either. "You see the movie in your head," he insists, so you're already directing it in a sense.

Meanwhile Nagy's next project is a screen adaption of her late friend Patricia Highsmith's "Carol," out in 2015. She says that while working on this film she had become more aware of a shifting trend with financing becoming more global than before. 

Variety's 10 Screenwriters to Watch are presented for the third year at the Whistler Film Festival.

Posted in Blog


Spotlight on: The Whistler Film Festival

When it rains, it snows – at least in Whistler. This year, the Whistler Film Festival will showcase 41 features.

Canadian selections include TIFF favorites including winner for Best Canadian Feature Film, Felix and Meira, and stylish sci-fi musical Bang Bang Baby, which took the Best Canadian First Feature Award. There’s also Sean Garrity’s After the Ball, a fairy tale retelling of the Cinderella story set in the world of fashion design, Cameron Labine’s comedic/dramatic tale of survival in the harsh Rocky Mountain winter, Mountain Men, Deanne Foley’s Relative Happiness about an overweight but feisty bed and breakfast operator in Nova Scotia, and Sophie Deraspe’s Wolves. All of the films will compete in the Borsos Awards.

Amongst this year’s lineup are also several potential Oscar contenders such as The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game. The festival will also host the Canadian premiere for J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, as well as the Western Canada premieres for Still Alice starring Julianne Moore about a woman dealing with an early onset of Alzheimer’s.

Documentaries include award-winners such as The Backward Class (audience award winner at Hot Docs), Point and Shoot (best documentary at Tribeca), and ’71 (9 British Independent Film Awards nominations).  

Paul Gratton, WFF’s artistic director, attributes the festival’s ability to secure films to good relationships with distributors. “Managing the relationships with the main distributors in Canada is the key to having a good festival, without them it’s impossible, you really need their support,” he says.  

According to Gratton, aside from good word-of-mouth and filmmaker loyalty, the festival also benefits from its timing and an existing vacuum for a real market for Canadian films to be showcased and scouted by distributors.  

One film that’s hoping to draw some attention is The Cocksure Lads Movie (one of the pitches vying for investors on “Dragon’s Den”), about a UK band that breaks up ten minutes into their North American tour. The pic is written and directed by musician Murray Foster (Moxy Früvous) who says that beyond taking advantage of the “hot-tubbing” and networking opportunities, he chose the festival because “they’ve got a great indie vibe and are also very supportive of Canadian films, it just seemed to make sense.”

The Industry Summit is also a big draw. Here the focus isn’t so much on the creative process but rather the nuts and bolts of film financing, distribution, and alternative platforms – all necessities for success.

The China Canada Gateway for Film® Script Competition, which returns for its third year, has also been a big draw, says Gratton, and he hopes to also generate some excitement with the newly launched India-Canada Film Forum, given Canada’s co-production treaty coming into effect.

Each year WFF also turns the spotlight on talent, with honorees to include Kim Cattrall, Dean DeBlois and Don Carmody, and Sarah Gadon, in addition to Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch.

For more details and tickets, visit:

Posted in Blog


Whistler Film Festival to Showcase Its Rising Stars

The Whistler Film Festival has unveiled its new Rising Stars program (sponsored by UBCP and ACTRA). Four Western Canadian actors were chosen - all of whom also appear in films premiering at the fest.  The new initiative is not only part of WFF’s strategy to spotlight emerging homegrown talent, but to also nurture their careers through an immersive professional development program that includes industry meetings/networking opportunities, public events, and more.

Rising Stars Camille Sullivan and Niall Matter both co-star in WFF’s Ally Was Screaming. If you’re flipping channels, you’re likely to spot Sullivan playing detectives on shows like “Rookie Blue” and “Shattered.” Most recently Sillivan has landed a supporting role in Sturla Gunnarsson’s Ice Soldiers, starring Dominic Purcell and the lead in indie drama The Birdwatcher.

Matter, a series regular on “Remedy,” has previously portrayed the Mothman in Watchmen and is best known for his roles on “Eureka” and “Primeval: New World.” His other credits include “Rizzoli and Isles,” “Motive,” “Melrose Place,” and “90210.”

No Clue, Gunless, Repeaters, and Sisters & Brothers are just a few of Dustin Milligan Canadian film credits, but he’s a familiar face in the U.S. too thanks to roles on “90210” and In the Land of Women. He will soon be seen opposite Maria Bello in Demonic and in Max Landis’ Me Him Her. Milligan just wrapped a Budapest shoot on the first season of CBC’s “Schitt’s Creek,” co-starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. He co-wrote, co-produced and stars in his own feature film Bad City, debuting at WFF.

Best known for her work on popular shows like “The Vampire Diaries” and “Primeval: New World,” Sara Canning has had a busy career working in both film and television. Most recently, she starred in Jeremiah Chechik The Right Kind of Wrong, and her latest film, I Put a Hit on You, a dark comedic thriller co-starring Aaron Ashmore, will be receiving its Western Canadian Premiere at WFF.

Posted in Blog


Select up to 25 Canadian Film Hits for your personal film library!

Thanks to our friends at eOne entertainment, we can offer auction bidders 20 films from the following list of Canadian hits. Most of these films can be found in the FWC database where you can find synopsis and trailers to help make your selections and build your home entertainment library.

3 Days In Havana
388 Arletta Avenue
A Dangerous Method
Amal (2007)
Barney's Version
Being Julia
Casino Jack
Daydream Nation
Double Happiness
Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson
Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster
Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action
Fugitive Pieces
Gabrielle (English Subtitles)
Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed
Ginger Snaps III: The Beginning
Global Metal
Highlander III: The Sorcerer
Home Again
Inch'Allah (English Subtitles)
Leslie, My Name Is Evil
Lost and Delirious
Louis Cyr: The Strongest Man in the World (English Subtitles)
Love, Sex & Eating the Bones
Maps to the Stars
Margaret's Museum
Metal: A Headbanger's Journey
Molly Maxwell
Monsieur Lazhar (English Subtitles)
Necessities of Life
Partition (2007)
Poor Boy's Game
Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Shake Hands With the Devil
Starbuck (English Subtitles)
Super Duper Alice Cooper
The Bang Bang Club
The Burial Society
The Cry of the Owl (2009)
The Custody (English Subtitles)
The Entitled
The F Word
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
The Lesser Blessed
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
The Right Kind of Wrong
The Samaritan
The Statement (2003)
The Whistleblower
Toronto Stories
Victoria Day
Walking the Dead
When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story
When We Were Boys (English Subtitles)
Where the Truth Lies
Year of the Carnivore
C'est pas moi, je le jure!
J'ai tué ma mère
Afghan Luke
Angel and the Badman
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
Black Robe
Blindness (2008)
Cafe de flore (English Subtitles)
Cell 213
Eastern Promises
Facing Ali
Felicia's Journey
Fubar (2002)
Fubar 2
Good Neighbours
Hard Core Logo 2
Hobo With a Shotgun
I Am Bruce Lee
It's All Gone Pete Tong
Last Night
Mommy (English Subtitles)
Moving Day
Naked Lunch
No Clue
Our Man In Tehran
Rare Birds
Resident Evil: Retribution
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
Silent Hill
Silent Hill: Revelation
Small Town Murder Songs
Snow Cake
Stone of Destiny
Suck (2009)
Surviving Progress
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
The Barbarian Invasions
The Colony
The Grand Seduction
The Moth Diaries
The Red Violin
The Snow Walker
The Stone Angel
The Trotsky
The Whale
Trailer Park Boys 3: Don't Legalize It
Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day
Trailer Park Boys: The Movie
Whale Music
Young People F***ing

Posted in Blog




First Weekend Club is celebrating BIG news! And our news comes with a FUN CONTEST! wants to send you and a guest to see Whistler Film Festival, and stay at Whistler's Hotbed Boutique Hotel, The Summit Lodge! See all the great Canadian Films with your festival passes, meet and mingle with celebrities, and enjoy the comfort of a boutique Whistler resort hotel! Details below!


A true, Canadian film "first", on December 5th, 2014 at the Whistler Film Festival, proudly presents our newest initiative,  
"Canada Screens" & #FWClive. It's the first Video On Demand (VOD) service to launch a new film immediately following a Canadian World Premiere!
Whistler Film Festival will host the World Premiere of AFTER FILM SCHOOL on
December 5 at 7:00pm PST at Millennium Place.
THEN Immediately following, at 8:30pm PST, the film will be made available on VOD for $9.95 for a limited time at, with additional content and exclusives from the festival by FWC, bringing the festival experience to YOU online!


FOLLOW the filmmakers, the festival and FWC live, online and at  @1stWeekendClub for coverage from the events using hashtag, #FWClive. will be on the ground covering Whistler Film Festival, bringing exclusive content from Whistler to our Canadian Film-loving audiences across the country!

“Canada Screens is unlike any other VOD service. Our goal is to provide content, as well as connect filmmakers and talent with online audiences through moderated Q&As, panel discussions, exclusive behind the scenes footage and interviews,” says First Weekend Club’s
Executive Director Anita Adams. “Canada Screens engages viewers in a way that will keep them coming back for Candian Content."


AFTER FILM SCHOOL, a hilarious mockumentary directed by Joel Ashton McCarthy, is about the travails facing film school graduates as they try to find money to mount their first features. A rather talentless, would-be hack substitutes his own script for the work of a deceased roommate
who actually has some financing in place, and the result is a hilariously
tasteless film within a film, High School Murders-The Musical.


Summit Lodge Boutique Hotel is Whistler's Hotbed For Creative Explorers!
With an eye for all “the little things”, Summit is perfectly tailored to the traveller who finds joy in life's everyday moments.  Summit makes it  easier for their guests to enjoy all the adventures Whistler has to offer by providing complimentary perks like wi-fi, shuttle service, pet stays, equipment storage and bike rentals.

Make friends with the Summit,
visit or call 1-888-931-8811

Get social with The Summit!
 Twitter:     @WhistlerSummit
 Instagram: @SummitLodge


DEC3 - DEC 7, 2014, Whistler BC.
Celebrating its 14th edition in 2014, the Whistler Film Festival is an international film competition that places Canadian films at the heart of the event. To recognize the vitality of this art form, the 2014 Festival will feature six juried competitive sections and eight awards over $31,500, plus one audience award selected from up to 1,000 submissions.
For complete festival information, schedules, industry features, news highlights and more, visit

Get social with whistler film festival


Show your support for Canadian Film!
JOIN * for free and ENTER TO WIN a Canadian Film Getaway in Whistler, BC. (open to new and existing members)


-Two Industry Passes
(value: $300/each) to the Whistler Film Festival (Dec 3-7)
With the pass you can see all the films you want at the P&I and public screenings, attend special events, as well as the Industry Summit.

Industry Passes include access to the following:

    Festival Screenings
    Press & Industry Screenings
    Industry Summit Programs
    Networking Receptions
    Opening Gala
    Access to Industry Centre, Delegate Lounge & Online Industry Community
    Festival Program, Industry Schedule & Delegate Bag
    Pre-registration for 1+1 Meetings
    Access to WFF Music Café

-2-night stay at The Summit Lodge Boutique Hotel,
Friday December 5th and Saturday December 6th, 2014.


1) Become a member of First Weekend Club for free, when you sign up here

2) When you receive your welcome email, simply fwd it to us, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and state your full name, email address and a telephone number you can be reached at. Let us know which film(s) you hope to see at WFF and for bonus points, tell us the name of the film we are launching our Canada Screens initiative with!

*If you are an existing member of, simply 'reply' to the email you have received about the contest. Let us know which
Canadian Film(s) you hope to see at WFF and for bonus points, tell us the name of the film we are launching our Canada Screens initiative with! Maker sure to include your full name, email address and a telephone number you can be reached at.


Suggested Tweet

Coolest Contest! Join @1stWeekendClub to win a #Whistler #CdnFilm trip to @WhisFilmFest @WhistlerSummit! #FWClive!

Visit our Facebook page
and SHARE this contest news and image.
Make sure to tag/ mention us in it! And comment on which films you want to see at the festival!

The contest is open to Canadian residents only.
The prizes listed above are non-transferable, exchangeable or refundable for any dollar amount. Prizes do not include transportation to and from Whistler, BC, around Whistler, BC, meals, or any other expenses associated with the getaway outside of the prizes listed above. Prize winner will be contacted and announced on or before November 27th.

Posted in Blog


Nov 13-14: Content Means Business at Merging Media 5 Vancouver

Nov13-14 Content Means Business at Merging Media 5 in Vancouver!

November 13-14, 2014
Vancity Theatre, Vancouver International Film Center
If you've not experienced the world of Merging Media, this week in Vancouver is your chance to expand your horizons! Now in its 5th year, Merging Media 5 is Canada’s only conference and marketplace dedicated exclusively to online digital content.

For five years, the Merging Media conference has been gaining a growing reputation as a leading Canadian networking event for cross-media digital content. We focus on promoting Canadian content, and providing the information, tools and strategies you need to develop, package, pitch digital content and to take your career to the next level.

The innovative conference is a must-attend event for experienced TV producers, digital content creators, and business development executives. With two days of power-packed professional development and networking sessions, expert speakers series, and high-level discussions providing insight into the ever-expanding multiverse, inspiring creativity and business.
MM5 serves as a busy market for digital online programming.  

Why attend?
MM5 is based in Vancouver, so it’s a cost effective way to get one-on-one access to buyers, distributors and funders.  It’s a fabulous opportunity to network with top industry executives who are keen to connect and make deals.

2014 LineUp

-B2B Market, provides you with direct access to top buyers from across North America – top commissioners, distributors, aggregators and acquisition executives.

-Intimate networking sessions, with commissioners and distributors to gain insights into what they are buying.

-Expert Roundtable sessions that address today’s most pressing digital online issues.
 -Presentation Parlour sessions with key media executives, buyers and distributors.
 -Keynote Talks by renowned creative strategists and industry experts.
-A comprehensive series of TED-style talks, with business insights and industry intelligence to take your project to the next level.
-The Digital Extensions Story Lab – Mentorship by SundanceTV and storycentralLABS executives, to compete and develop a cross-platform experience for a live commercial property!

November 13-14, 2014
Vancity Theatre, Vancouver International Film Center

o stay up to date on the future of the entertainment content industry – don’t be left behind.


The FWC Vancouver team is looking forward to seeing you at MM5 in Vancouver!
Be sure to come say hi to myself Alexandra, @MoveThrough or Anita Adams @AnitaFWC!

Follow and celebrate Canadian Content with on Twitter
@1stWeekendClub #FWC #CdnFilmFan #EyeOnCanada

Alexandra Staseson
Social Media Manager / Producer
Canada's Ticket to Great Film

Posted in Blog


Toronto Shorts Fest Screens Gems from Around the Globe

First Weekend Club is proud to join forces with Toronto International Short Film Festival, which opens November 12th at the Carlton Cinemas and runs till the 14th. This year Toronto Shorts Fest will feature over 60 films from twelve countries from around the world in a range of genres. Each film program is 90 minutes in length, followed by a Q+A with directors and producers.

Priya Rao will host the Q&A after Program 3, on Wednesday November 12 at 9.55pm. Tickets can be found here.

We're especially excited to be supporting Toronto Shorts Fest this year as one of our homegrown films will have its World Premiere at the festival.
Baby Braina short film written, produced by and starring First Weekend Club's Anna Hardwick, was also produced by our Priya Rao and directed by FWC alum Mars Horodyski (Ben's At Home). Lu Asfaha, FWC's web wizardress, also did the post production sound on the film. First Weekend Club is made up of a team of people who are so passionate about Canadian film that they can often be found creating their own projects, and often together! 

Toronto Shorts Fest is happy to offer First Weekend Club members the All-Access Film Pass for $30 (regularly $40) and the individual film program tickets for $10 (regularly $13.50). Just mention First Weekend Club at the festival ticket booth to get the discount. Follow us on Twitter @1stWeekendClub for your chance to win tickets to the Festival! 
See you at the Festival!

Posted in Blog


Xavier Dolan talks about 'Elephant Song'

First Weekend Club's Katherine Brodsky got a chance to sit down and interview Xavier Dolan for AICN at the Toronto International Film Festival, below is an excerpt: 

In cinematic circles, Quebec-born XAVIER DOLAN is known as a bit of a wunderkind filmmaker. At just 25-years-old, he has already accomplished what most filmmakers rarely do in a lifetime.

His directorial debut in 2009, the largely autobiographical I Killed My Mother, won him the Art Cinema Award, the Prix Regards Jeunes and SACD prizes at Cannes, and he continued the trend with Les amours imaginaires (10) and Laurence Anyways (12), which earned the Cannes Prix Regards Jeunes and Queer Palm, respectively. Last year's Tom à la ferme won him the FIPRESCI Prize at Venice. 

Then once again, this year, he returned to Cannes to win the Jury Prize for his latest film, Mommy - which also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and has been announced as Canada's official entry into the Oscar race.

Dolan is most certainly on fire, and he'll soon have Jessica Chastain on his side as he makes his English language debut with The Death And Life Of John F Donovan, a satire set in the gossip magazine business.

But, this year, at TIFF, Dolan has been performing double duty. He stars as the lead in Charles Binamé's big screen adaptation of an award-winning play, ELEPHANT SONG, opposite Catherine Keener and Bruce Greenwood.

In it, Dolan gets to play a little cat-and-mouse game:  When a colleague goes missing, a psychiatrist (Greenwood) gets tangled into a complex mind game with a disturbed patient (Dolan) who may have the key to the disappearance.

Even though over the years we've gotten used to hearing about Dolan for his filmmaking accomplishments, he's actually been acting since he was just 4 years old and considers himself an actor first and foremost.  His role in Elephant Song allowed him a chance to play outside of his own movies, and bring his fiery, charismatic personality to the screen.

It's hard not to fall for Dolan's quirky, off-kilter, playful demeanour. Not often do you meet someone who completely lights up the room with electric energy, travelling at a million miles a minute. But wherever he's taking you, you know it's going to be an interesting trip getting there. 

KATHERINE:     Usually, I see your name attached to movies that you've directed. I hadn't originally realized that you also have an acting and voice-over career…

XAVIER:     I used to, way before I started directing movies on my own. I started to direct movies on my own to act in them and then I got caught up in the whole filmmaking storm or whatever - the rhythm and pace of it, but originally I was an actor.

KATHERINE:     So was your intention originally just to make films so you can act in them so that you would have your own projects…?

XAVIER:     Yeah, yeah. Because when I was a kid, I was a child actor and everything worked. I was on a roll and I was like…Let’s say in the good favors of mostly, like everybody.  I mean, it’s Montreal, it’s local, but still, there was a lot of things, a lot of shoots, lots of TV shows and I was one of those child actors. And then my mom sent me off to boarding schools… 

KATHERINE:     Did you get kicked out…?

XAVIER:     I did not. I got kicked out of schools when I was super young because I would fight constantly.

KATHERINE:     Did you win at least?

XAVIER:     Yes! 

KATHERINE:     Okay.

XAVIER:     Yes, because I was cruel and weird.

KATHERINE:     Did anything change?

XAVIER:     Sure. Sometimes I thank God that I am small in size because I think that if I’d be tall, I’d be one of those fucking bastards in the bars who always stirs the fucking brawls and gets into the fights or whatever.  I’m sure I’d be in jail.

KATHERINE:     Out of anger?

XAVIER:     Yeah. I have anger, I have a lot of anger and I do channel it through the movies. That’s how I evacuate it.

KATHERINE:     So I guess it’s good for all of us that you've chosen to channel it through film.

XAVIER:     Probably, I guess. Good for me too. But when you leave for like a week on vacation or whatever, casting directors, people, whoever, forget about you. So imagine when you leave for like six years. So I came back to town and I was completely this has-been-act at 15. And it’s hard because shooting movies as a kid, it’s like a hard tough drug. 

The adrenalin of movie sets and then the ambience and the people…They treat you like an adult and they’ll mention their abortions and snorting coke in front of you - And you're like 6 thinking, “Oh my God, this is real life.” So there’s something trashy in it and there’s something extremely real and adultish about it and I missed it. I wanted that back. All the auditions that I wouldn’t pass, it would always end up the usual, classic, too young, too old, too small, too tall, too Arab - because I am.

KATHERINE:     Yeah?

XAVIER:     Egyptian, actually. Anyway, so, I was like, the only way is to direct a movie and produce it myself and no one will have the authority to tell me that I’m not good for the part or that I’m not cut out for it. Well I was cut out for the part. It was the story of my life in I Killed My Mother.

KATHERINE:     It seems to me that you were meant to make films, you've got this mastery, especially over visual storytelling, that's rare. Especially at such an early stage. It seems like that’s what you were destined to do.

XAVIER:     Yeah. I really feel that my real passion was really acting. Even when I direct movies, the real thing that really animates me to the point where I become hysterical is when we shoot a scene and the performance is great and I’m like, “Yes! Yes!” And that’s really what drives me and the focus is on. So even as a director, even in those boots, wearing that director hat, I’m still the actor.


KATHERINE:   How did 'Elephant Song' happen?

XAVIER:     ...Nicolas Billon who is the playwright behind all this… His father is a friend of mine and he mentioned the fact that this play was being made into a movie and there was an adaptation in the makings and I was like, “Really?’ And he said, “Yeah, my son is working on it, there’s a producer and everything. There’s no director attached.” Yada, yada, yada. 

So I read the play and fell in love with the character. It was obviously a very playful and painful character for an actor and I really wanted to do it. So I called the producer and we went for lunch with my agent and I told him, “This guy is me, it’s got to be me.  Whoever directs this, please put your faith in me for this part. I want to do it. I will have so much fun doing it and I know I can do it.” And he said, “All right, that’s a good idea.” And everybody he would talk to about this idea didn’t seem to be repelled by the idea, so it made its way from director to director and when Charles finally inherited this project he loved the movie and loved the idea that we could work together and I loved it too and that’s basically how it happened.

KATHERINE:     And how did you go about getting into the mindset of a mental patient exactly?

XAVIER:     I didn’t really have the time to, I was shooting Mommy three days before getting on set, so...

KATHERINE:     So you just…

XAVIER:     He is not mentally ill. He is, but he is not…there’s no real mental challenge. So it’s not like I’ve got to work on the sort of composition of someone who’s mentally challenged. He’s not handicapped, he’s not schizophrenic, the whole preparation is a little less time consuming and thorough than for any other form of mental illness. 

Now it’s just about this guy who is very manipulative and who loves to do impressions of people and who’s an actor himself. So the only real concern I had was, whatever you do, don’t forget to have fun because he is an actor. But the line can be thin between overacting, as the actor you are and overacting as the character you are. You understand that?

KATHERINE:     Yeah, yeah. What did you enjoy most about it?

XAVIER:     Well, he’s everything. He’s the fun. He’s got all the funny lines, he’s got the funny looks and Charles just embraced all the ideas, all of them. Not the text, but the ideas, you know. He loves to have fun and he respects & loves actors. He would remind me if I was too much or whatever, but he mostly felt that my ideas were funny and he accepted them and embraced them. I had a lot of freedom. I wouldn’t say I had utter and complete freedom because that would’ve been wrongful and ultimately negative, but he was very generous with me.  

 Click here to read the full interview!

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Q&A with Jeffrey St. Jules on BANG BANG BABY

When you live too much in your fantasies, reality begins to look like a nightmare...

That is the premise behind Jeffrey's St. Jules' BANG BANG BABY, which made its premiere at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Canadian First Feature Film.

The film is a unique, stylized blend of sci-fi and a musical about a girl named Stepphy (Jane Levy - EVIL DEAD, SUBURGATORY), who is trapped in a sleepy 1960′s town taking care of her alcoholic father (Peter Stormare - FARGO, 22 JUMP STREET). Stepphy dreams of escaping to a better life on the stage and screen, and when rock star Bobby Shore’s (Justin Chatwin - SHAMELESS, WAR OF THE WORLDS) car breaks down in Lonely Arms, it seems her impossible dream might actually be coming true. But when Fabian (David Reale), the town creep, tells Stepphy that the local chemical factory is leaking dangerous purple fumes that can cause human mutations, Stepphy becomes obsessed with hiding these dark secrets from Bobby until they can escape together and make all of her fantasies a reality.

In many ways, Bang Bang Baby is Jeffrey St. Jules' fantasy turned reality.  An alumni of the Canadian Film Centre, St. Jules is also the only Canadian ever to have been selected for the Cannes Festival Residence.  His innovative, bold short films have played festivals across the world, including TIFF, but with this film, he finally brings his vision to a feature length format.

First Weekend Club caught up with Jeffrey St. Jules to discuss what it's like to write a musical and bring to life a truly unique one-of-a-kind cinematic vision:

FWC: First of all, thank you for making a musical. There are not many of those around in Canadian film history. Why did you decide to approach your film as a musical? 

JEFFREY: There is something inherently absurd about musicals. It is a very strange business breaking out into song and I love the strangeness of this convention. But there is also an opportunity to express emotions overtly in a way that grabs audiences directly. Musicals give you license to be brazenly melodramatic and absurdly humorous at the same time. I love this combination. 

Which musicals inspired you the most?

My favorite is probably Umbrellas of Cherbourg. It is a sad and beautiful expression of the fleeting nature of romance. It is so human and down to earth, but tinged with a sad romantic beauty. It is like life, but elevated to a more beautiful sphere. While it is obviously a very different film than Bang Bang Baby, I did look at it a fair bit in prep for the use of color and costumes. Also, I felt it was very important to bring the audience and Stepphy to a more grounded place by the end of the film. I wanted to capture the feeling that life has went on, not quite as she expected but she is okay with that, which is a much more real place to land than I'm sure people might have expected. I love the way Umbrellas of Cherbourg ends on a similar note of life just moving on not as expected, but real. It is both sad and happy at the same time and I wanted to capture some of that in the final scene of BBB.

You’re credited for much of the lyrics. What was the process like, writing the songs, collaborating with composers?

I wrote lyrics while I wrote the script. To do this, I had to also write rough musical ideas to go with them. I brought this to the composers and they used the musical ideas I wrote as tonal references and rewrote the melodies and chord progressions. In some cases, the chord progressions and melodies I wrote made it through in some form to the final songs.

Bang Bang Baby mixes the very dark, with the musical and campy – there’s also surreal sci-fi - why did you decide to go in that direction? You really seem to be into mixing genres.

It is an expressionistic film about fantasies and nightmares. When we are experiencing Stepphy's fantasies we are in the poppy musical world. This is a very tenuous world because it relies on willful ignorance of reality. When reality rears its head, it comes to her in the form of nightmares. This is the darkness and the mutations that feel similar to 50s sci-fi. I intended to use genre as a stylistic tool to express the inner states of the character.

Because your vision is so specific — how were you able to communicate it to the rest of the cast and crew? I’m assuming telepathy is out of the question...

Making a film that draws a lot from other films makes this much easier. I used a lot of references from films like Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Far From Heaven and the photographs of Gregory Crewdson to get across the tone I was going for. For the cast, I just wanted to make sure that they took these characters and this world seriously and cared about them. Everyone seemed to get what I was going for instinctually though.

How did Jane Levy get involved? Were you familiar with her beforehand?

We sent her the script, through our US casting agent, Heidi Levitt, and she seemed into it. We had a Skype conversation and I think we knew we were both on the same page about the type of film we wanted to make. Her instinct was that the tone was not meant to be ironic, but sincere which is how I approach every film. No matter how weird it is I always want to approach it with sincerity and compassion for the characters.

She seemed to really care about this character from the get-go and I was very happy about that. Honestly, I'm still amazed how perfectly this casting choice worked out. She brought a lot more depth to this archetypal character than there was on the page and it turned out that she could also dance, which we didn't know when we cast her. I had also only heard her sing a short folky song on her TV show, so we got lucky that she was actually able to pull off these songs so well.

What is it about her that embodied your protagonist?

Jane was my first choice for this role and I had a very small list. I had seen her in her TV show, then did a little research and watched Evil Dead and a few of her other roles. I felt that she had something iconic and timeless about her that would fit into this era and into the world of my film and she is also super charismatic and sweet.

From watching Evil Dead I knew she would not be scared off by becoming mutated. She has a unique ability to radiate strength and vulnerability together and this is what I wanted for Stepphy. Even though for much of the film she is losing her head, she is actually the only one who makes it through all the craziness in one piece. She is actually a very strong character, even though she doesn't know she is at the beginning.

You’ve made several short films that also played in TIFF, but is there anything about the transition from short to feature that surprised you or caught you off guard?

I wouldn't say there was anything totally unexpected. I did find it fascinating to see how actors come into their characters even more through the course of shooting in a way that they just don't have time to do in a short.

Looking at the final vision on the screen — is it like what you imagined in your head? How close it?

If it was exactly what I imagined there would probably be something wrong, like I didn't allow people enough freedom to give creative input and collaborate and it would probably feel too controlled and static. The tone and themes are what I imagined, but we were tweaking the script right up untill the final week of shooting. Seeing the actors inhabit these characters changed a lot of how I was thinking about the script, so I felt compelled to make changes all the way through.

What’s next for you?

I'm writing a mystery film about two teen detectives set in 1959. 

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