Thursday, February 23

The Art Direction

Colours, costumes, set pieces, props .... they all serve to set a tone, locate a place in time, reveal a little or a lot about the characters in the story. 

When I gave the script of Flowers in February to Julie Rae Tucker to look at, she came back with a palette of colours and a visual conception that matched what I had hoped the piece would feel like.

Not only did she have a wonderful eye, a creative way of working around our tight (read no) budget but she had a lovely way of engaging with the actors as she decided with them on their costumes.

It wasn't until months after the movie was shot, at an open house at her studio, that I saw the series of art pieces she had been working on.  Titled The Dark Kingdom (see photos below) I remember feeling transported to a world between Louis the XIV's chateau de Versailles and a mysterious alternate realm.  

To me the best kind of art takes you beyond your every day world, and makes you feel as though you've lived beyond your era, beyond your circumstances, beyond your own physical limitations; and this is the wonderful effect The Dark Kingdom has.  

Below Julie has answered some of my questions about her creation of The Dark Kingdom and her experience working on Flowers in February.
First - The Dark Kingdom.  

What inspired you to create this work?

Although, I am not quite finished, I'm glad you enjoyed the work. I am interested in societies in decline either through their own means or through disaster. What I mean is spaces that are abandoned by the people that once thrived in their environment, the buildings of Downtown Detroit are an example of this.

Keeping that in mind, I have repopulated The Dark Kingdom with an array of ghost like figures who live in a sort of fallen elegance. The figures are a representation of a paranormal occurrence where individuals have documented seeing so-called “shadow people”. I like the contrast between the architectural spaces and the organic and flat shapes of the ghost. In the future I hope to add another element to this work.

In the past you've created installations; this is completely different in style - what led to the change of direction and the choice of materials?

I was offered a small studio space with beautiful light and I wanted to get back to mediums I had used when I was younger which were drawing, painting and collage.

I remember one sketch you had (not shown here) that clearly defined the shapes of the shadow figures and if I remember correctly they were modelled after friends of yours. There is a wonderful feeling of spookiness and cheekiness in some of the prints.  Was that done on purpose?

I like to use humour to my work.  Imagining my artist friends as spirits and drawing what they would look like is extremely amusing to me.

Can you tell us a bit about the choices and suggestions you made on Flowers in February, along with the obstacles that were overcome in the process of creating a seamless look and feel visually?

I found a picture of a cabin in the snow and tried to choose the colours from that pallet. I thought the colours in the picture was the mood you were looking for.
A specific challenge was trying to tell the actors what to wear and what colours and fabrics to choose from their own wardrobes. Luckily, everyone tried to work with what they had. 

Did you have a favourite moment working on the movie?

I enjoyed the camaraderie of working on a set. I also enjoyed sharing in the experience of someone else’s creative endeavour.

I love the way you transformed the dining room from an everyday cafeteria to a morning tearoom. I didn't get to see much of that process since I was rehearsing with the actors, can you tell us what went into it?

The place where we shot the majority of the film was very accommodating and they let me have access to all of the furniture and pictures in the building. I went through their linen and beautiful teacup collections and chose items that fit in the colour pallet. And of course we only had a half an hour to set this up. So they were quick decisions. 

Thanks Julie for sharing your beautiful work (you know I want my very own Julie Tucker original) and your experience on set. I look forward to our next collaboration.

Julie Tucker graduated from the University of Windsor with an MFA in Visual Arts in 2006.  She has exhibited in Scotland, UK along with shows in Ontario and Nova Scotia.  She is a recipient of an Ontario Arts Council Grant. Currently, she lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. 

Sunday, February 5

The story

This blog is my shout out, my ode to all of the talented actors, crew, artists, and loved ones who helped me in creating Flowers in February; and to those who are creating fresh work that I find inspiring.

I was so lucky to find such fantastic people to work with on this project.  Thanks to you all.

Flowers in February was shot over two weekends in January of last year.  Pre-production began months earlier with the first challenge being finding a cinematographer with whom I could collaborate with, and begin building a great team.  I knew that was the key to this project - if all else failed it had to be really good fun. I think I whispered a prayer of thanks when I left my first meeting with Matthew A. MacDonald sensing that he was both a talented cinematographer and that he was going to be a pleasure to work with.  From then on I could breathe a bit easier knowing that my project was in good hands.  Matt also brought along some wonderful crew members - a crew that would brave shooting in freezing weather with snow falling all day long among many other challenges.

Casting and location were the second and third challenges. My film needed a minimum of 16 actors to play seniors in a residence. As I wondered on my way home one day where I could shoot the scenes and where I would find these actors my bus passed The Good Companions on Albert street. I followed up on this little sign and called The Good Companions. Not only were they open to us filming there but it turned out they had a drama club - the rest is history. Jim Gayfer, was actually part of a band at the GC along with a few of the other cast members, and his audition for Fred included such care and difficulty trying to light a cigarette that he instantly won me over. Everyone in the cast worked with such energy and commitment despite hot lights or freezing temperatures (Mike had to have snow dusted off of him every 5 minutes), long waiting periods... and having to put jam on the same cold piece of toast for the 15th time. 

Slowly more and more pieces came together....  Julie Rae Tucker as art director bringing her creative touch to the set, costumes and props; Catherine Lemieux as assistant director multi-tasking and solving problems as they arose (she would have brought in snow from the hockey arena to make it look like winter outside since there was no snow on the ground - luckily it snowed just in the nick of time); music by Cecil's Ground - a track that is so beautiful and mysterious I melt every time I listen to it.

As all of this was very new to me, I had the benefit of asking Ed Folger, Christopher Payne, and the whole team at SAW video any question that came up. Editing at SAW video became my weekly ritual through all of last winter and it is the most welcoming of places. It holds a special place in my heart.

I hope that you enjoy watching the trailer and getting a glimpse from the galleries on the Flowers in February website as to the adventure and great fun that was had making this short movie. I promise to keep you posted as to when the movie will be available online, and in the meantime to bring you little spotlights on the talented people involved in this project and the ones that fascinate and inspire me.