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VIFF 2016 Interview: TO KEEP THE LIGHT director Erica Fae

by Jason Whyte

"I rarely ever get involved in convincing people to do things. I feel like people will be drawn to what they are drawn to. And in many ways, just looking at one still from my film will do more to pull someone in than anything I would say. Though; a visually gorgeous piece about a strong, brave woman in an era before women's rights were even on the table, though it's more about her internal life than the external world she's in." Director Erica Fae on TO KEEP THE LIGHT which screens at VIFF 2016!

I am thrilled to welcome you to VIFF this year. Is this your first VIFF experience and will you be in Vancouver to attend your screenings?

This is my first time at VIFF, my first time in Vancouver at all, and I'm very honored and happy to be coming! I will be at the screening on Sunday, October 9.

Great to have you here! Tell me a bit about yourself and your background?

I make film and theatre, have performed in some big film and TV shows, in independent films, and on stage. I also now teach physical acting at some pretty fancy schools. I have been in this work for as long as I can remember and love wearing all the hats I wear.

How did TO KEEP THE LIGHT come together from your perspective?

Well, that's a big question. I sat down to write what I thought would be a short; a short based on some research that I came upon while working on another project set in the same era. Most of my work is based on stories of bad-ass women from history. Though the first draft was 60 pages, so I knew there was something more than a short in there. From there, it was an epic amount of work; like, for real, epic. Too much to write in a paragraph. It's work that keeps going even now!

While you are working on a movie, what keeps you going? What drives you, creatively?

It depends on the project. With this film, it was truly the landscape and the women who had lived their stories with that landscape. We shot off the coast of Maine, so even in the midst of crazy long hours or difficult moments on set, there was always the salt air, the rocky coastline, that ocean hitting up against it all. These things kept me going.

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and how did you over-come it?

The shoot was the most challenging part of this project, mostly as we worked long hours on little budget in very difficult circumstances, far afield from rental houses or stores if/when we needed back-up. I mean, we literally took a 45 minute boat ride to and from the island every day to set, and the island had no power. So we were lugging gear, power, costumes, etc. And landing on the island was only possible at medium to high tide, so timing was limited. And one day our normal boat couldn't get out to pick us up because of rough weather, so miraculously someone arranged for a lobster boat to come get us at the end of the day. It was kind of insane. As for how we overcame it? Oh, I suppose because filmmaker types, especially the folks who work on sets, are all adventurers otherwise we'd work jobs 9-5. We may not be climbing Everest, but we are climbing nonetheless. And you know, when you're climbing a mountain, there are very few things that make the adventurer quit. It's just not what the adventurer-type does.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?

There's a chunk in the middle of the film that I just love. Actually, every time I watch the film, it still gets me. There's something in the layering of score, visuals, and story that just sings, to me. I can't name the moment here, as it could leak elements of a very spare plot, but once you've seen the film, I'd be happy to share in private.

For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the technical side of the film!

We shot on an Arri Alexa. We considered shooting on film, though given our circumstances it seemed wiser to go with digital. And the decision to go 4:3 came once we were on location, and really started living in the landscape and how the landscape plays on the main character's mind.

Where is this movie going to show next?

We are screening at over 20 festivals, about 13 of them just this fall, so it's a busy season for us. And we're still sorting out distribution!

There are many aspiring filmmakers reading us for our articles and reviews on If you could offer a nugget of advice to them on how to get their start, what would you say to them?

Go deep within and find the gem in there. It doesn't have to be articulate. It doesn't have to make sense, yet. Just go deep and feel that spark in there that wants air time. And begin. Make the things. Tell the stories. Work within your means and make magic happen. The world keeps spinning at this incredible pace, and why wouldn't you simply do what that gem spark inside wants to do? Why wouldn't you?

And finally, what is the best movie you have ever seen at a film festival, and why?

I don't have a favorite movie, rather a pretty long list of loves. BUT a recent favorite festival experience this summer; I saw JACKSON by Maisie Crow at Marfa Film Festival and it just cracked me open. We saw it in the morning with my husband and left the theatre all messed up; snotty, teary-eyed, cracked-open messes, and just walked around the hot, dry, desert in a kind of daze of emotion. Super powerful.

More info on the film can be found at!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival taking place in beautiful Vancouver from September 29th to October 14th. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 10/07/16 19:07:11
last updated: 10/08/16 20:02:01
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