So proud of my dear old friend Joyce Wong and our producing team Matt Greyson and Harry Cherniak for bringing our feature film WEXFORD PLAZA to Turin, Italy this week. We shot the film, which is Joyce’s first feature, in August 2015 in the suburbs of Toronto.
WEXFORD PLAZA follows Betty, a young woman with a new job as a strip mall security guard, as she navigates the plaza by night searching for solutions to her boredom. She meets Danny, a charming bartender who works at the bar on the strip. His own feelings of financial and emotional inertia have got him eager to make a change. The two become acquainted in the nebulous waters of flirtation and enterprising ambition as they try to better their situations.
Inspired by our youth loitering in pre-gentrified Scarborough, Ontario, Joyce and I had a ton of common ground and personal experiences to draw from when we were conceiving of the film’s style. Joyce wanted to highlight the strange serenity of a place in economic stasis using static compositions and minimal coverage. We carefully storyboarded every shot, 300 of them or so, which is a relatively tiny amount for a feature film. Stylistically, we drew from Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy and our own documentary backgrounds to emphasize how the landscapes of the characters’ realities – their homes, their places of work, their unregulated shift schedules, their vehicles – generate both the energy and the apathy that shape this moment in their lives.
We shot the film with a small crew over the course of three weeks. Matt called it “family-style filmmaking” from the start, and that’s exactly what it felt like. Thank you and congratulations to my filmmaking family for this project.
The film will be coming to the U.S. soon – more on that later.
Really happy to announce that both Chelsea McMullan’s MICHAEL SHANNON MICHAEL SHANNON JOHN and Brett Story’s THE PRISON IN TWELVE LANDSCAPES will be having their US premieres at True/False in Columbia, Missouri in early March.
Kentucky 2014, for THE PRISON IN TWELVE LANDSCAPES:
Thailand and the Philippines, 2014 for MICHAEL SHANNON MICHAEL SHANNON JOHN:
THE PRISON IN TWELVE LANDSCAPES is a cinematic journey through regions across the USA where prisons, unseen in the film, affect the trajectories of lives and local economies existing in the shadow of the prison industrial complex.
MICHAEL SHANNON MICHAEL SHANNON JOHN tells the story of a murdered police officer-turned-bike gang one percenter who left a family in Ontario – including two young children named Michael and Shannon – and began a new family in Thailand, having two more children – naming them Michael and Shannon. Now adults, the siblings meet for this first time and try to decipher the patchwork mythology surrounding their father’s life and death.
It’s with great excitement that I announce that the feature length documentary/musical MY PRAIRIE HOME has been selected to compete at Sundance next month in the World Cinema Documentary program.
Many thanks to director Chelsea McMullan, co-DPs Derek Howard and Alejandro Coronado who were also on our various travels since 2010, our producer Lea Marin and everyone at the NFB and of course to Rae Spoon, whose courage to put their story on camera pushed me every day to do my very best.
Tomorrow marks the Calgary debut of My Prairie Home – significant because so much of the story takes place in the city. Chelsea and I will be in town to attend so come say hi!
The film also opens theatrically on Nov. 29 in Calgary at the Globe Theatre.
James Wilt of Fast Forward Weekly had this to say about the film, which screens tomorrow, November 22, at 7pm:
It’s tough to shake the creeping fear that My Prairie Home might only be viewed by fans of Rae Spoon; it is, after all, an odd biographical-ish film, complete with narration from the subject and returns to old haunts for some b-roll. It’d be a shame if the film didn’t find a wider audience, however, as it is about so very much more than a simple biography. My Prairie Home is, ultimately, what would happen if Wes Anderson made a trippy musical about a transgender folk/electronic/country singer who grew up in an abusive home environment with parents who fervently believe in the Rapture.
While featuring occasional conventions of the documentary genre — interview clips of Spoon sitting on a hotel bed somewhere on tour, for example — it’s far more often occupied by Guy Maddin-esque creations, blending fact and fiction to create something visually, sonically and intellectually enthralling.
In fact, Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg is an apt comparison. Both films are entirely about origin: bizarre, fragmented histories, but ones — through clever, gorgeous cinematography — that can speak to the most average of lives. Maddin and Spoon (via the talented Chelsea McMullan and ever-impressive National Film Board crew) tell some of the most universal of prairie tales. Especially the one of Spoon playing “This Used to Be the Bottom of an Ocean” on ukulele amidst dinosaur skeletons at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. That segment alone makes the film worthwhile.
Exclusive: Edgy, Unnerving Red Band Trailer For Slamdance Entry ‘The Dirties’ | The Playlist.
I am incredibly happy for my friends Matt Johnson, Evan Morgan, Jared Raab, Matthew Miller and Josh Boles of Echo Pictures Pictures for premiering their feature film THE DIRTIES later this month at the Slamdance Film Festival. I got the chance to do some additional camerawork alongside Jared back in 2010 on this project and it was a really inspiring and thrilling way to shoot: vérité on HD camcorders, and in the mindset of high school media arts students behind the lens capturing the horrors of bullying and the ups and downs of teenage infatuation.
See the Echo Pictures Pictures website here for more details on this tremendous film, additional press and screening times in Park City. Check out the link at the top of this post for IndieWire’s review and the official trailer.
Very happy to say that Inflo’s Broken Heart Syndrome will be playing the Toronto International Film Festival this year – click the still to watch a clip!
Congratulations to Dusty Mancinelli and Harry Cherniak of Inflo Films, as well as co-producer Brent Martin of Canova Media. And huge thanks to my incredible crew – we worked hard, and I hope you’re as happy with the results as I am. Thank you.
Happy to announce that both THE PEDESTRIAN JAR (dir. Evan Morgan) and PATHWAYS (dir. Dusty Mancinelli) will be premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival this year.
Congratulations to Evan and Dusty, as well as our wonderful producers Jamie Cussen and Harry Cherniak.
The Pedestrian Jar will screen on September 11 and 12 at TIFF Bell Lightbox and Jackman Hall at the AGO, and Pathways will screen on September 14 and 15, also at Lightbox.