|Whistler Film Festival 2015 Interview: FSM director Melanie M. Jones
by Jason Whyte
FSM - At #wff15
"FSM is about a woman not wanting to conform to traditional ideals about love and relationships, yet still bound by the universal need we all have for love. The film explores male/female friendships, hook-up culture, online dating, and the underground DJ scene in Vancouver through the eyes of its main character, Samantha (Vanessa Crouch). The eclectic soundtrack features Canadian musicians and DJís, ten of whom are Vancouver-based." Director Melanie M. Jones on her film FSM which screens at the 2015 edition of the Whistler Film Festival.
I am excited to have FSM world premiere as part of the 15th Anniversary at Whistler! Is this your first WFF experience and are you going to be here for your shows?
This is my first time at Whistler Film Festival. I will definitely be attending both screenings and I can't wait to watch the film with an audience! I'm participating in my first panel as well, entitled "Getting Reel With Women in Film". I will also be attending films; several fellow Alumni of WIDC (Women In The Director's Chair) are showing films this year. I'm working really hard to pitch and find funding for my next feature, which is a drama currently titled TARP.
Glad to hear you are coming up to Whistler as well as participating in a lot of what of the festival has to offer. I was wondering if you could tell me about how you got your start and your previous work?
I started out as an artist; really traditional sculpture and painting and later, installation art. Then I decided to go to film school and it changed everything for me. I really discovered what kind of creative person I wanted to be and that was a collaborator. I love working with other people to achieve something so film just felt like coming home. I graduated from film school at Langara College nine years ago and in that time I have directed twelve short films, and produced and worked on tons of peer projects like short films, features and so forth as a crew member, usually in the art department. I have done several genres like comedy, drama, horror, noir and documentary. One of the films I am most proud of is a short drama called REST STOP. It played on Air Canada's in-flight entertainment system. I didn't even know about it until a friend took a flight and told me she watched my film on the plane at 18,000 feet!
So with all of that, how did the feature film FSM come about for you?
The short answer is that I myself found it nearly impossible to have a satisfying dating life in Vancouver. So I wrote what I knew and then made a film about it.
And now, the long answer. About three and a half years ago I wrote my first feature, which is actually a sci-fi project. I work-shopped it at the Women in The Director's Chair program and realized that it was probably going to take me at least ten years or more to get that project off the ground. So I decided to write something that would be more feasible, more immediate to shoot, and something low-budget. I drew from my own experiences to make something that was contemporary and relevant, themes that I had a deep connection to but that could be done through a "talking heads" approach, versus big action set pieces with stunts or things that would be impossible to pull off without a big budget. I had planned to make it small enough I could shoot it on weekends with friends and in locations I had access to. Then the Indiecan10K Challenge came along and I initially just used it to motivate myself to finish the script on a deadline. I had no idea I would actually get chosen! I wrote the script in an intense burst; it took about a month, writing every day. And then suddenly I was selected as the BC winner and it was like, "Oh! We're making the movie now?" Winning the challenge came with mentors and sponsors but we still had to raise the cash budget. It was very intense and the schedule was brutal. We were crowd-funding while I was doing rewrites AND casting/in pre-production. From writing the first page of the script to completion, the film took about 16 months.
So with all that passion and drive behind you to make this movie, What keeps you going while making a movie? And how much coffee/sugar/tea?
I refer to being on set as "taking a temporary vacation into my dream life." There is no place that makes me happier than being on set, working with actors and crew to create. So I suppose I mostly run on the pure joy and creative exhilaration of the process of filmmaking! I also drink a lot of black tea.
So with all of that black tea in you, what was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment where you knew you had something?
The most obvious challenge was making the film for just $10,000. It affects everything from the number of shooting days, size of the crew, locations, wardrobe, etc. And crowd-funding is HARD. However, I think limitations make for better creative opportunities, so my challenge was more about staying true to the vision I had for the film, for the story I wanted to tell within these external limits and the pressure of making your first feature. Big ideas don't always work on a small budget but the core of the story made it through the gauntlet and I am extremely proud of that.
Iím about to get all tech on you, but I would love to know about the visual design of the movie, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed!
I had very clear ideas about the look of the film and myself and my DOP, Shawn Seifert worked together to realize the vision. He was an absolute genius at figuring out how to get what we needed, sometimes with one or even NO lights and/or just a bounce board and the right lens. A lot of the scenes in the film are two-handers and I personally like to shoot two-shots, to allow the conversations to feel natural and real and to give the actors room to breathe the scene. Shawn suggested angles and perspectives that would allow me to use my beloved two-shots without them getting redundant or boring within the timeline of the film. I really wanted to showcase Vancouver and locations that I feel a lot of love for in the city, so the shots were also designed to bring the world to the audience, just as much as it brings them the characters and the story.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie in Whistler?
The most exciting part about screening the film in Whistler is being able to have our World Premiere so close to home. Seeing the film with an audience for the first time is thrilling of course, but knowing that at least a few of those seats are filled by people who really care about us and the film...it's a wonderful feeling. I am also really proud to show my film at a festival that is so supportive of female filmmakers.
So after the film has its world premiere in Whistler, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to show?
We don't have any screenings lined up yet. But feelers are out to a lot of festivals. It would be a dream to see it play at Slamdance. I think it's absolutely our audience. Of course, I would love to have a Vancouver showing, perhaps a more extended run, since it is a Vancouver film.
With a Vancouver screening in mind, If you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, Vancouver or worldwide, which one would you choose and why?
There are lots of impressive theatres around the world that it would be fabulous to show the film at, but in my heart of hearts I would love to show it at The Rio in East Van. What can I say? It's a Vancouver film, I live in East Van and I want it to come home.
What would you say or do to someone who was being disruptive at a screening you were attending?
I used to work in a movie theatre so this is a funny question for me. I would ask them to respect the work they are seeing and the people who have come to see it. If they arenít enjoying the film, they should leave it to those who are.
Good answer! What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?
Figure out what you love to do, find some people who love it too and MAKE IT together. Don't wait for anyone to give you permission.
And finally what is your all time favorite movie?
I don't have a single favorite movie. I am a gigantic nerd so LORD OF THE RINGS is near the top of the list. Actually watching the behind the scenes of those films made me decide to go to film school in the first place. I love how homegrown Peter Jackson's entire process is, his approach to keeping the work local and building his industry up from the inside. It's very inspiring.
Be sure not to miss the #WFF15 world premiere of FSM at the following times; on Thursday, December 3rd, 9:30pm at Millennium Place, and Saturday, December 5th, 4:30pm at Village 8 Cinemas...the latter show of which yours truly will be hosting Melanie Jones & cast for a Q&A!
Follow the world of FSM in many ways, by visiting the official website, on Twitter at @FSMthefilm and on Facebook. You can also follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniemjones!
This is one of the many films playing at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival. For show information, tickets and for other general information on films and events, point your browser to the official website at whistlerfilmfestival.com!
Be sure to follow instant happenings of Whistler Film Festival on my Twitter account @jasonwhyte, including mini-reviews of films, comments on festival action and even a photo or two. You can also follow the festival on my Instagram at jason.whyte!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3874
originally posted: 12/03/15 03:16:15
last updated: 12/03/15 03:20:46