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Whistler Film Festival Interview – “Joanna Makes A Friend” director Jeremy Lutter

"Joanna Makes A Friend" - At Whistler Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

““Joanna Makes a Friend” is a film about a lonely nine year old girl who is ostracized by the other kids at school due to her love of the macabre and a fascination with Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft. Joanna ends up making a friend out of spare VCR parts in her father’s garage. A robot friend. She then finds out if robots make better friends than people.” Director Jeremy Lutter on “Joanna Makes A Friend”, a short film that has a screening at the Whistler Film Festival, 2011 edition.

Is this your first film in the Whistler Film Festival? Do you have any other festival experience? Do you plan to attend Whistler for the screenings?

Two years ago, I had a short film in the Whistler Film Festival called "Get Off Dog" that I co-directed with actress/writer Casey Austin. I have had short films and music videos in quite a few film festivals around the world. I do plan to attend the Whistler Film Festival this year as it is a great destination for a film festival.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to wanting to make films.

When I was 15 years old, I caught a case of "filmmaker". I must have contacted this at school. My guess would be Multi-media Class. There was shared computer and video equipment in that class and a very easy place to catch such a case. The doctors have been unable to cure me, so I have had to live with it ever since. The symptoms include a constant desire to tell stories, a willingness to work all hours of the day, and an attraction to the perfect lighting. Thankfully my teachers in high school were very understanding, as my condition caused me to convert every assignment into a video. That general acceptance of my condition has continued into my adult life.

Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please!

When I grow up I want to be the best person I can. It might sound cheesy, but it is the only thing I have learned. In order to make a positive mark in the world, all you can do is change yourself.

How did this whole film come together? Please give me a run-down, start to finish, from your perspective.

Last year at the Whistler Film Festival, I pitched my friend Ben Rollo’s script in the MPPIA short film competition and we won. This gave us funds and in kind services to make our film. It has been an amazing experience. I recommend to any BC Filmmaker to pitch a short to MPPIA short film award. I then teamed up with a group of producers to make this film a reality: Talitha Cummins, Robin Chan and Kate Green. I could not have made this film without their help.

Tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.]

“Joanna Makes a Friend” was my first time working with the film’s cinematographer, Tony Mirza. I had been following his work and wanted a stylish look to the film. We shot the film half on the RED MX and half on the RED EPIC due to the slow motion scenes. I prefer shooting digital because I like to be able to look at the footage right away. It let Tony and I talk about different looks right on set. Technology is awesome.

Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making this film? Also, what was the most pleasurable moment?

The most difficult part of this film turned out to be the most rewarding. At film school they will tell you that the two hardest things you can have in a film are children actors and animals. But there’s a third thing that should be on the list: Child actors, animals and robots. The robot character in our film, Edgar Allan Poe-bot was the hardest part of the film. He took three months to design and build and luckily I had the help of Paxton Downard and Derek Lewis. We have a series of behind the scene videos on our website that show the progress of the robot at different points. We raised the money for the robot with an IndieGoGo campaign and found 45 founders. But all the hard work of building this robot paid off. The first day on set was magical. Just watching the character come to life and interact in the scenes was amazing.

How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings? If this is your first festival, what do you expect at the film’s screenings in Whistler?

I actually have no idea what to expect from our premiere screening at WFF. I know that I made the best possible film that I could, and I can’t wait to know people’s reactions. I hope that this festival is just the beginning of a long life for the film.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

My two biggest inspirations are David Lynch, because he does the unexpected, and David Fincher because he is a concise visual storyteller. This particular project also has a bit of Tim Burton in there somewhere. On a personal level I am inspired by director Carl Bessai because he is so driven to make Canadian films and find an audience.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

I think that any response is a good response. If you have made a film that people love or that people hate, you have done your job as a filmmaker. It’s important to have the media or anyone thinking critically about your film.

No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start?

Making films is hard work, and it’s only one third of the work. However much time or money you spend making your film, you should spend an equal amount in two other areas. The first: writing and planning your film. Especially the writing, make sure you have a good story to tell. And the second is promoting your film. It is important to go out there and find your audience.

”Joanna Makes A Friend” screens as part of “Shortwork Three” at Millennium Place, today at 1pm.

This is one of the many films playing at this year’s Whistler Film Festival. For show information, tickets and for other general information on films and events, point your browser to the official website HERE

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 12/04/11 05:36:38
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