Four Sisters, three ladies: How the little film that could, did.

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NL's support system for beginning filmmakers is rock-hard

The iron-strength infrastructure in Newfoundland and Labrador's film industry just goes to show that if you are a hard-working, talented, optimistic individual, your filmmaking dreams can come true.

Wanda Nolan wrote the screenplay for Four Sisters last spring. In May 2009, the script received a Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Government Arts and Letters award for Best Dramatic Script. That award then became the springboard that launched the film into production, funding, and onto the festival circuit. The film now has a debut date on both sides of the border – September 20 in Halifax, and October 15 in Los Angeles.

When Norma (Janet Michael) arranges a lunch-n-learn for her ailing sister Theresa (Deidre Gillard-Rowlings) in an attempt to bring the family together, none of the sisters show up, not even Theresa, leaving motherly Norma feeling angry and unappreciated. On her way home, yet another blow is delivered when she sees her youngest sister Clara (Ruth Lawrence) kissing Nish Feehan, the one-time fiance of their sister Lily (Janet Edmonds). When the women gather later at the family home, Norma corners Clara into telling Lily about Nish and inadvertently exposes her own past with the man causing a blow-out between the siblings that’s been long coming. When the tables are turned, the sisters are finally forced to look at themselves and each other for who they really are.

Undoubtably, a vast amount of talent is involved in transforming the film from the page to the screen. But I would argue that the voracious film and arts funding that is available in this province is a huge boost for those wanting to branch into the world of filmmaking.

I have written before about the NIFCO First Time Filmmaker program, which is in a class all by itself – no other program like it exists. But if you look at Four Sisters history and evolution, the film may not have moved as far as it has, were it not for the professional development programs and unbelievably enthusiastic local veteran filmmakers that love helping the fledgling filmmakers in this province.

Since Nolan won the Arts and Letters award in May of '09, the film was selected for the Nickel Film Festival’s Live Reading Screenplay Series in June 2009, which would have worked wonders in terms of refining the timing and dialogue in the script. It was then chosen to be a part of the amazing PictureStart program (a partnership between NIFCO and Telefilm Canada), and has received funding from the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, CBC, the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, the city of St. John's, PS Atlantic, and of course, through the generous time donations of many professionals who are more than happy to share their experiences.

Nolan had asked her friend Dana Warren, who has been working in the industry for 20 years, to direct. Lynn Andrews signed on to produce shortly thereafter.

All of the above funding agencies and raw talent are based in this province, and it is because of organizations and individuals like those listed above that this province has such a lush pool of talent. And it is thanks, in large part, to the above organizations and individuals that this little film will debut south of the border next month.

Four Sisters will debut on September 20 at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax, and will also show locally at the St. John's Women's International Film Festival on October 27. On October 15, it will play in Los Angeles at the LA Femme Film Festival.

Just goes to show that if you're determined, tenacious, perseverant and tactful (like Wanda Nolan is), the film community in this province is more than happy to help you make your dreams come true.

Check back regularly for more Four Sisters news and tidbits!

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  • Patton MacDonald
    October 04, 2010 - 07:30

    Try as I might, I can find very little about this film anywhere on the web, except coverage of the intitial screenplay / story line types of awards. I have been curious how the film did at the atlantic Festival recently but their website does not provide such information. Perhaps you know how the film did and can provide an update. I am pleased to see that this story has received traction and it sounds as if NL still offers a forward thinking atmosphere for at least some of the arts community. I cannot comment on the film, never having seen it, but am wondering if a webpage with some preview capability might provide stronger interest and support for this and other films. However, this current process still provides a path for beginning and practicing storytellers to at least gain some modicum of recognition and skill enhancement. Financial resources are very limited in this world, as you well know, and anything which provides assistance to begin and develop work like this is immensely valuable. As for the premise of the story, I find it quite interesting, and perhaps further development could be made by the author to elaborate on it in some way. I have been very intrigued as well by the TransCon treatment of you and other bloggers. For a publishing firm which relies so heavily on attracting new and ongoing readership, TransCon is doing an abysmal job of encouraging what could be an important revenue and communication tool. I have wondered of that is why the bloggers have provided fewer posts.