Well, the 21st annual St. John's International Women's Film Festival gets underway today. The Festival's opening gala includes Red Ochre, How Eunice Got Her Baby, and Barbara Doran's documentary on Gordon Pinsent, Still Rowdy After All These Years.
Starting tomorrow I'll highlight what I think will be the most exciting screenings and topics, and will try my damndest (while juggling one full-time day job with this part-time night one) to chat with as many filmmakers and pull together as many fun facts, tidbits, insider info (or whatever you want to call it) as I can!
But one night I can't wait for is the Wednesday night screening of local short films. On the roster are:
Trolls, What Remains, Four Sisters, Brad, Cardboard Junction, Do I Come on Too Strong, L'Hybridee, and That's Right Diana Barry – You Needed Me. All are from young and fiery local women, and I hope to chat with most of them throughout the festival.
I was lucky enough to nab Jacqueline Hynes, director of Cardboard Junction – the story of a little girl who finds herself at a crossroads. I've worked with Jacqueline before, and am well aware of her endless energy, passion, and thirst for knowledge when it comes to all things film. She possesses a great love of the form that's necessary in anyone who wants a career in filmmaking.
I hope you enjoy the below Q&A with one of this province's finest up-and-comers, and make sure you get your tickets for local night at the LSPU Hall on Wednesday night. It's a rare chance to see the kinds of films that come from Newfoundland and Labrador and get recognition from around the world.
Heidi Wicks: Can you describe the tone of Cardboard Junction?
Jacqueline Hynes: The film is about uncertainty and the fear of what’s going to happen next. There’s a slow rising tension that sets up that feeling. It’s pretty dark.
HW: Where did the idea come from? Anywhere in particular?
JH: The idea came from an image of myself as a child on Bell Island, playing in the dirt with my dinkies for hours on end, imagining worlds outside of my own. That image of a child playing alone became the basis for a short story I never quite finished because I immediately saw it as a visual film.
The writing process took care of the rest.
HW: This is your second film I believe (please correct me if I'm wrong!)? How did this experience compare with your First Time film (One of Us Cannot Be Right)?
JC: Cardboard Junction was one of three projects chosen by the Nifco/Telefilm Picture Start Program -and it’s a far more ambitious film in terms of its storytelling and filmmaking. We also had a larger budget and a much larger crew, and I was working with a child for the first time.
And it was my second official film, there was a lot at stake.
Cardboard Junction was the first project I’d done for its own sake-I’d made several ‘training’ films in between which were more about getting to know filmmaking. And One of Us was more of a discovery in terms of an experience. This time I had a story to tell, I had a world for actors to inhabit and ideas about how to create it. I was working with Producer/Filmmaker Kelly Davis-All I had to do was not screw it up! There was certainly more incentive to work really hard.
Fortunately I had the honour of working with ridiculously talented professionals-Shelley Cornick as the Production Designer (Crackie, Grown Up MovieStar) and Nigel Markham as the DOP, Phil Goodland whose haunting harmonica score kills me everytime, for example.
And working with and learning from the likes of Susan Kent, Brian Marler, Neil Butler and the lovely Julia Kelly as the cast…It was intense and really beautiful.
HW: What are the most helpful pieces of advice you've received from people (and feel free to name names) since you started?
JH: I was really excited and nervous about working with Shelley as the production designer. I would send her spontaneous rambling notes on various elements of the design and wonder if I was making sense or if there was a ‘proper’ way to work with a designer. But she told me to just keep the ‘flow’ of ideas coming, not to worry about structuring anything too much, and working from instinct and intuition and that’s really important.
Justin Simms was a story editor and mentor on this project. He told me to trust the people I hired, to let them do their part, because at this level, you the filmmaker don’t have to know everything, and the experts need a job to do! He taught me a lot about trust, which is so important in film, as in life
HW: What's your experience in filmmaking, what got you started and initially interested in pursuing it as a career, and how has the local industry helped you move your career forward?
JH: I wanted to be an actor but I was way too insecure. I’d started out in theatre and really just found myself on a few film sets as an extra and then as an actor in a Nifco First time Film by Monica Walsh. I started to get curious.
I made my first film, and I never felt more at home. I finally had a way to express those thoughts and feelings that never quite found an outlet. I was never happier.
I owe a tremendous amount of thanks to the Nifco training programs and continued to volunteer for a time until I could finally begin working on sets and with other filmmakers.
I did everything and anything I could get my hands on and I asked a lot of questions. I just wanted to learn.
HW: Any particularly special moments you had while filming Cardboard Junction?
JH: We auditioned more than thirty talented little girls for the role of Leia.
We discovered Julia Kelly accidentally while waiting for another girl to show up. Her father protectively lead her away with her brother for hot chocolate, with no interest in coming back, but they did, Julia insisted, and she was it, she was Leia. Technically we found her on the street.
Funny story-there’s a scene in the story when it pours on the little girl and her makeshift town in the mud-I wanted the rain to drown her, metaphorically. We spent weeks trying to find the water source and the rain tower we needed, meetings with everyone over the logistics of it all-in the end we had to do a reshoot and all we used was a tiny four inch water dropper and it worked, it made the point, the sound did the rest. It’s my favourite ‘rookie mistake’ to date.
HW: Where/when/how long was the shoot?
JH: We shot for three days over Easter this year in this beautiful house and property in Logy Bay. Joe and Gerard Doran took us in and let us have the run of the place and the setting was perfect.
HW: Anything you're working on next you'd like to talk about?
JH: I’m currently developing an short documentary called My Island. It’s a personal investigation into the past and places that are important to us. It deals with memory and mythology.
Otherwise, I continue to train and to write, but I am making a special effort to hone my directing skills because I feel that’s where my strength lies.
I don’t know if I'll ever really understand this art form, I only know I have to do it.