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Film

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.

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Over the past 3 years I’ve been snapping photos of things that have been left on the side of the road for a series called “Discard”. Sometimes a photo happens because the upholstery creates an interesting contrast against its bland surroundings. Other times it’s not about the furniture as much as it’s about the environment in which I find it. Sometimes it’s the strangeness of the arrangement itself, like this pyramid in Langley, B.C:

Recently I decided to cut the prints up and start arranging them as collages. Here’s an example of how that got started:

I’ve shot banished couches, shelves, electronics, beds, pianos and TVs in downtown Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, San Francisco and Los Angeles, but my favourite are the collages of the suburbs of Toronto. Maybe it’s because I grew up there, so the dismissed items seem to have more personal history attached to them, as if they’d once played an important role in their homes before being ditched so unceremoniously to the curb:

AND LOOK! I’ve taught myself how to make an animated gif so that we can observe the collage process IN MOTION:

The Toronto International Film Festival will be screening two films that I had the pleasure of shooting, “SOAP” and “DEADMAN”. Both will be presented in the Short Cuts Canada Programme 3.

You can find more info on both of these films on the old NEWS section of my website

SOAP was directed by Dusty Mancinelli and shot on S16mm. DEADMAN was directed by Chelsea McMullan and produced by Vision Entertainment and the National Film Board of Canada.

See the schedule and synopsis for SOAP and DEADMAN by clicking on these links.

Production on the 35mm narrative short “A Display of Emotion” wrapped back in June 2009, and now post-production is also complete. Writer/Director Stéphane Dirschauer wrote a charming situational piece about a man who unwillingly finds himself trapped in a slew of emotions ranging from anxiety to anger to contentment, all within the real-time story of six minutes. Coming from a devotion to French New Wave cinema, Stéphane was eager to involve lush close ups using the shallow depth of field specific to 35mm film, an earthy colour palette in the production design, and the immediacy of handheld camerawork in some of the more spontaneous and suspenseful scenes in the film. Camera operating on this project was my good friend and collaborator Mike Dawson. Gaffer Michael Armstong achieved our cool, soft window lighting look and helped me subtly supplement the available fluorescent lighting in an underground parking garage. Knowing we would have to rely heavily on the practical lighting in this location I opted for the Vision3 5219 stock, which worked wonders with the shadow detail and allowed us the flexibility to follow the action spontaneously.

All camera, lighting and grip gear was supplied by Curtis Petersen at PPI Camera here in Toronto. Stéphane and I completed timing of the film to HDCAM with colourist Brett Trider at Technicolor.