Blog

16October

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!

Posted in Blog

30September

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. 

Posted in Blog

21August

Win a Double Pass to the Advance Screening of The Captive

First Weekend Club has 5 double passes to giveaway to Toronto members to see the advance screening of The Captive, with director Atom Egoyan in attendance for a Q&A.

Winners will be notified by Tuesday August 26th and contacted by email.
The screening is on Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Please note, winners must arrive at least 20 minutes prior to screening time to collect their double pass.

Show Time: 7:00 PM
Scotiabank Theatre Toronto
259 Richmond Street West
You must be 19 years of age or older to enter the contest

Here's How to Enter

Option A: Via Email

Step 1) If you are a registered FirstWeekendClub.ca member (you get our newsletters and e-mails regularly) simply send your first and last name, and email address to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. The subject line of your email must say: "The Captive" If chosen you will be contacted at the email address you provide.

Not a firstweekendclub.ca member? Click on the link and sign-up to become a member. It's free, and you'll receive our monthly newsletter, and email alerts when a great Canadian Film is coming to your city!

Link:   http://www.firstweekendclub.ca/site12/join


Step 2) When you receive your membership confirmation email, simply forward it to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , if you are a chosen winner, you will be contacted at the email address you forwarded it from.

 
Option B: Social Sharing Please

Facebook
Like us on Facebook.com/FirstWeekendClub and post the following:

"If you're a #CdnFilmFan, being a @FirstWeekendClub subscriber has it's perks! WIN TIX to see #TheCaptiv in Toronto. http://firstweekendclub.ca/site12/read/fwc-blog/my-blog-posts/submission/mysubmissions/blog


Twitter

Tweet the following :

Are you a #CdnFilmFan ? Become a @1stWeekendClub email subscriber for a chance to win tix to #TheCaptive http://firstweekendclub.ca/site12/read/fwc-blog/my-blog-posts/submission/mysubmissions/blog

Winners will be notified by Tuesday afternoon, August 26th.
Please note, winners must arrive at least 20 minutes prior to screening time to collect their double pass.

Watch the trailer

Posted in Blog

12August

Win a Double Pass to the Advance screening of The F Word

First Weekend Club has 15 double passes to giveaway to Vancouver members to see the advance screening of The F Word, a film by Michael Dowse and starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan.

Winners will be notified by Friday April 15th and contacted by email.
The screening is on Monday April 18th at 7:00 PM.
You must be 19 years of age or older to enter the contest.

Here's How to Enter

Option A: Via Email

Step 1) If you are a registered FirstWeekendClub.ca member (you get our newsletters and e-mails regularly) simply send your first and last name, and email address to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. The subject line of your email must say: "The F Word" If chosen you will be contacted at the email address you provide.

Not a firstweekendclub.ca member? Click on the link and sign-up to become a member. It's free, and you'll receive our monthly newsletter, and email alerts when a great Canadian Film is coming to your city!

Link:   http://www.firstweekendclub.ca/site12/join


Step 2) When you receive your membership confirmation email, simply forward it to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , if you are a chosen winner, you will be contacted at the email address you forwarded it from.

 
Option B: Social Sharing Please

Facebook
Like us on Facebook.com/FirstWeekendClub and post the following:

"If you're a #CdnFilmFan, being a @FirstWeekendClub subscriber has it's perks! WIN TIX to see #TheFWord in Vancouver ! http://firstweekendclub.ca/site12/read/fwc-blog/item/win-a-double-pass-to-the-advance-screening-of-the-f-word


Twitter

Tweet the following :

Are you a #CdnFilmFan ? Become a @1stWeekendClub email subscriber for a chance to win tix to #TheFWord! http://firstweekendclub.ca/site12/read/fwc-blog/item/win-a-double-pass-to-the-advance-screening-of-the-f-word

Winners will be notified by Friday evening, August 15th.
Please note, winners must arrive at least 20 minutes prior to screening time to collect their double pass.

Watch the trailer

Posted in Blog

28June

Q&A with Elan Mastai, screenwriter, The F Word


The road to getting a film made is never easy, but if you've got a great script, then you've got a jump start. Or so you'd think.

Elan Mastai's much buzzed about script forThe F Word has traveled in many circles, getting picked up by indie producers, and even Fox Searchlight along the way. Nothing quite stuck, until the right people got involved.

When the "right" people include director Michael Dowse, and actor Daniel Radcliffe, projects tend to go places.

The romantic comedy, which also stars Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis, and Megan Park, is set to open in August in both Canada and the U.S. (titled What If stateside).


First Weekend Club caught up with the busy scribe, recently named one of Variety's 10 Screenwriters to Watch:

How did you come to write the F Word? What was the inspiration?

I'd been screenwriting professionally for several years and had a few movies made, but I felt like I hadn't really written anything that had my distinct voice, point of view, and sense of humour. I'd mostly been doing work-for-hire gigs for various producers and directors. So the inspiration was to take what I'd learned working for other people and write something more personal, even if it never got made.

The project went through a long process in terms of finding a studio home, and casting... Did you always feel like, yes, it will eventually get made? What kept you going?

Actually, the project found homes quite quickly, it was getting it made that took some time. It started with Sheep Noir Films as a low-budget Canadian indie. But then the script caught heat in the US, landing on the annual Black List of Hollywood’s best screenplays and got acquired by Fox Searchlight. Where it came agonizingly close to being made as a studio movie but fell apart for various reasons. Which turned out to be very good for the movie because then director Michael Dowse and the producers from No Tracing Camping got involved and we put it together as an international co-production — and actually made it.

Which is all to say, I was fortunate that there was never a lack of people who wanted to make the movie over the years. It just took a while to cross the finish line. The other thing is, as a working screenwriter, the script for THE F WORD became my main writing sample. So while I was trying to get it made, it was also helping me get hired on other projects.

Why was Michael Dowse the right person to direct, did you know right away?

I was a big fan of Michael's films before we ever met to discuss THE F WORD. I knew with him at the helm the movie would be as hilarious as I wrote it to be, but that he'd also pull rich character work and genuine emotion from our cast, which he definitely did. I'll admit that in light of his movies like FUBAR and GOON, I didn't expect Michael to want to make a romantic comedy, but that's also why THE F WORD turned out to be much more than just another throw-away rom-com.

How do you feel about writing a so-called “Rom-Com”?

I love the genre. When done well, romantic comedies are funny and moving and speak to a universal longing for genuine connection that we all share. When done poorly, well, they can be painful. And I think that comes down to the simple fact that basically everyone is an expert in this stuff. Love, romance, flirtation, heartbreak, infatuation, bittersweet longing, everyone has real, honest life experience in these things. Unlike almost every other movie genre, everyone is an expert in romantic comedy. So that means everyone intuitively knows when it's phony.

What do you find often doesn’t work in “Rom-Coms”?

Being phony. Having characters act in ways no real human being ever would just to make some plot contrivance work. Like a character concocting a ridiculous and borderline sociopathic scheme to trick a person they supposedly love into doing something they don't and shouldn't want to do. All the crap. I believe most of us are more than capable of making a colossal mess of our love-lives while still behaving like normal people. Because at some point in our lives, all of us do. The more real a romantic comedy, the funnier and more moving it is.

Any favourites in the genre?

THE APARTMENT. HIS GIRL FRIDAY. ANNIE HALL. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL. SAY ANYTHING. KNOCKED UP. And the trilogy of BEFORE SUNRISE, BEFORE SUNSET, and BEFORE MIDNIGHT.

How much of what you write tends to be autobiographical? How much of yourself do you put in writing something like The F-Word, which is a more personal seeming story?

I write a lot of autobiography but then I mischievously cloak it in fiction. Everything I write comes from personal questions, some issue or conflict I'm trying to work through in my own life. Writing the movie is my way of working out my personal dilemmas through the vivid conflicts of drama.

What was it like to see it with the great cast? Did the actors fit the roles how you thought they would?

Our cast isn't just great, it's AMAZING. It was a thrill, every day, to be on set watching my words come to life with such a killer ensemble. I tend to write with no particular actor in mind because I don't want my preconceptions of some specific actor to limit where the character might need to go on the page. So, sure, I wasn't imagining Daniel Radcliffe as the lead because at most points in the development process it would've been insane to imagine a movie star of his stature playing the part. But once we cast him and he so effortlessly embodied the role, it became impossible to imagine anyone else. And that's the same for the rest of our cast, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis, Megan Park, Rafe Spall, everyone.

Did anything surprise you (in terms of what the cast brought to the roles)?

Of course. All the time. Because they're all fantastic actors bringing the scenes to life. As opposed to, you know, black ink on a white page.

As a writer, what was your involvement in the production process?

I was on set every day. I was fortunate to work with a director like Michael Dowse, who has a very strong vision and is commanding leader on set but is also a genuine collaborator. So, I was at the monitors for the whole shoot, giving my input when necessary, talking through whatever challenges we faced on set that day. When we improvised, I was part of that process, contributing ideas and riffing with Michael and the actors. Michael's an immensely talented director, so I knew my script was in good hands. But I couldn't have asked for a more inclusive role in actually making the movie, not just in production but also in post-production and leading up to the release.

You’ve worked in LA as a writer, as well as Canada... What are some of the major differences in how the industry operates in these different geographical areas?

Well, on the one hand, you're still just writing movies. Three acts, 100 or so pages, courier font. On the other hand, they're basically the opposite in nearly every way. When I'm writing a movie for one of the Hollywood studios, there are vast financial resources but they come with rigid commercial necessities. And that's not a criticism. If you want someone to spend a hundred million dollars on some funny little idea you came up with, they'd better make their money back. In Canada, the resources are much more limited but that lack of money buys you creative freedom. Which I think sometimes our filmmakers don't always appreciate, because not having experienced working in the studio system and what that entails, they can't help but focus on all the resources we don't have here.

In LA, they're also a lot hungrier for new voices. Nobody wants to be the person who missed out on the hot next thing. My career in the US took off because people I don't know, all these nameless execs working for dozens, even hundreds of different companies, passed my script around and talked me up without ever having met me. That's kind of crazy when you think about it. That's a lot less likely to happen in Canada. On the other hand, there's a real sense of community in Canadian filmmaking, because it's tough and you have to be scrappy and everyone needs help. I think Canada is a way more supportive environment in terms of how filmmakers relate to one another.

Let’s talk a bit about your writing process... 

Where do you write?
In my home office.

Is there music playing the background? If so, what kind?
I think of a movie like an album, and the various sequences are like individual songs. So I’ll often make a playlist of songs that “feel” like the sequence should. And then I’ll listen to that same song over and over and over again while I’m writing the sequence. By the end of it, I’m pretty sick of the song, but everything I loved about it is hopefully now in the sequence.

How many hours a day?
I write 10-5 every weekday with an hour for lunch. I treat it like a job, not a hobby, because it is my job.

How disciplined are you?
Very. Nobody owes me a screenwriting career. I have to earn it one word at a time.

Do you wait for inspiration or deadlines?
There's a W. Somerset Maugham quote I like: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

I’m a big believer in just sitting down at my desk and writing through the suck. I’d rather get something crappy written than nothing at all, because I can rewrite something crappy, but I can’t rewrite a scene that doesn’t exist.

How many rewrites do you usually go through?
A lot. It depends on the project. Rule of thumb, I write three drafts for every draft I show anyone.

Do you read your script out-loud as your characters?
Yes. I also like to do regular live table-reads with a cast of actors to help fine-tune the script.

How do you make sure that a screenplay has your own “voice”?  
You think to yourself — what’s the version of this that nobody else could write? And then you do your best to write that version. And you never stop challenging yourself, even on the umpteenth rewrite, to make it better, more unique and specific and true. It seems like the easiest thing in the world, write it your way. But it's hard. And it's normal for it to take a while to close that mental gap between what it sounds like in your head and what's coming out on the page. You just have to keep writing until you close that gap.

What makes you different than any other writer?
My DNA. Literally and figuratively. I am different, physically, biologically, genetically. But also in terms of my influences, my history, my experiences, my cultural background, my taste, my point of view. All of that goes in the mix. I try to write to specificity, because every universal experience is also hyper-specific. Your personality makes you different than everyone else. Your writing should feel like that too. It should be you.

What’s next for you? What are you working on?
I sold a TV series to the FX network in the US, so I’m writing the pilot. And I’m adapting an episode of the Peabody-winning radio show “This American Life” into a movie.


(Photo credit - Caitlin Cronenberg)

Posted in Blog

02June

Q&A with Liane Balaban on 'The Great Seduction'



(photo credit: Entertainment One Films-Max Films-Marlène Gélineau Payette)


In Don McKellar's The Grand Seduction actress Liane Balaban has to work hard to resist the charms of a certain young doctor, played by Taylor Kitsch.

First Weekend Club caught up with the busy actress for a quick Q&A about her latest film:

Have you seen Seducing Dr. Lewis? Why do you think that story needed to be told another way? (And this time in English)
It was a great film with universal themes that resonate perhaps even more strongly 10 years later: chronic long-term unemployment, loss of rural ways of life, and how communities need to band together in times of strife.

What seduced you most about the project?
Everything! I was already a fan of the original. Working with Don Mckellar was a career dream, and also the stellar cast: Taylor kitsch, Brendan Gleason, Gordon Pinsent, Mark lcritch, Mary Walsh who played my mother in my first film, New Waterford Girl.

What did you enjoy most about shooting in Newfoundland?

The breathtaking landscapes of Trinity bite & the warmth of the Newfoundlanders.

Don McKellar directed this film, but he’s also very well known to audiences as an actor. How is it different working with a director who comes with this deep understanding of acting, not just filmmaking?

It's the best! I think actor directors are more intuitive and understanding of the best approach for each actor. He also understands how naked and vulnerable we all feel - how a confident actor with a sense of freedom and play is a better actor.

Did anything surprise you about the response to the movie from audiences so far?

I'm just happy they are loving it as much as I do! (And also the fact that it's still laugh out loud funny to those who have seen the French version and know what to expect next).

What’s next for you? Any exciting projects, film or otherwise?

I'll be appearing on Rookie Blue in a few weeks and just got back from Paris shooting a secret project!

Posted in Blog

27May

Win a Pass to The Grand Seduction

This Friday, The Grand Seduction opens across the country. This charmer from the Rock stars Taylor Kitsch as a new doctor in small town Newfoundland. The film also stars Canadian icon Gordon Pinsent, as well as Brendan Gleeson and Liane Balaban.

Based on the French film Seducing Dr. Lewis, this Canadian remake is directed by Don McKellar and written by Ken Scott (Starbuck) and Michael Dowse (Goon) -- a Canadian comedy heavyweight team. A hit at TIFF where it premiered, the film was also well received at the Atlantic Film Festival and the Calgary International Film Festival. 

How can a film set in a place called Tickle Cove not warm your heart?  


Win a pass to the film by entering our CAPTION THIS campaign on our Facebook Page and add your wittiest caption to the still from the film.  

Join the game on our Facebook Page here and see you at the cinema! 

Posted in Blog

24May

Xavier Dolan Awarded Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival

Canadian director Xavier Dolan was awarded the Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his film Mommy, a French-language drama about a mother looking after a teenage son with ADHD, shot in 1:1 aspect ratio (a square). It is the remarkable 25-year-old filmmaker's fifth full-length feature. He is the first Canadian to win the coveted award since 1989.

Dolan made an emotional speech thanking his family and the jury president, Jane Campion, whose film The Piano was one of the first he saw: "She made me want to write roles for women, beautiful women with souls and will."

The jury also included directors Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Winding Refn, as well as actors Willem Dafoe and Gael Garcia Bernal.

He shares the award with legendary filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard for his film Goodbye to Language.

David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars was also recognized by the jury on Saturday with the best actress award going to Julianne Moore.

The Palme D'Or was awarded to Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Turkish epic, Winter Sleep.

Posted in Blog

14May

Alan Thicke to Receive Canadian Award of Distinction at this year's BANFF Festival

Alan Thicke

Canadian actor Alan Thicke will be this year's recipient of the Canadian Award of Distinction at the Banff World Media Festival, which takes place at Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel from June 8-11th.
 
The award is handed out each year to a Canadian whose body of work illustrates outstanding achievement and is presented in partnership with Entertainment One (eOne). Past recipients include Will Arnett, Howie Mandel, Eric McCormack, and Martin Short. 

Thicke will be presented with the award at the annual Rockie Awards Gala.
 
Thicke is a seven-time Emmy® nominee, most famous for his role on Growing Pains. He also composed and performed the themes for Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes, and is the father of musician Robin Thicke.
 
“I’m truly honored to have been chosen for this year’s Canadian Award of Distinction at BANFF. Both as an actor and a proud Canadian, I am humbled to be joining such a prestigious and talented group of individuals,” said Thicke.
 

Posted in Blog

29April

Canada goes to Cannes!

Getting into the prestigious Cannes Film Festival is no small feat, but three Canadian filmmakers accomplished just that-- with a record three Canadian films in competition for the Palme d’Or. (In contrast, Americans only have two films in competition!)

The three filmmakers are familiar names. The films competing include David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, Atom Egoyan’s The Captive, and Xavier Dolan’s Mommy.  

We, at First Weekend Club, already know and love Canadian cinema, but being part of Cannes means that our talented filmmakers will get to stand in the international spotlight. It also means that Canada is being recognized as a major cinematic powerhouse -- all good reasons to celebrate.

There are three more films screening at Cannes, just not in competition for the Palme d'Or. 
Tu dors Nicole, a dark comedy by Stéphane Lafleur is part of Director's Fortnight, as well as two other short films from Quebec.

Although not technically a Canadian film, Ryan Gosling, who is Ontario-born, will make his directorial debut with Lost River in the Un Certain Regard sidebar program.

The 67th annual Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera takes place May 15-25.

Will you be keeping an eye on Cannes this year? Leave us a comment!

Posted in Blog