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Victoria Film Festival 2013 Interview - PICTURE DAY director Kate Melville

Picture Day - At Victoria Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

"Claire (Tatiana Maslany) is repeating her last year of high school, and stuck between adulthood and adolescence. Funny, foul-mouthed and fierce, she bounces between two very different relationships: a push/pull sexy connection with would-be rock star Jim (Steven McCarthy) and a reunion of sorts with Henry (Spencer Van Wyck), a nerdy kid she used to babysit. PICTURE DAY is a rough-and-tumble coming of age story with amazing performances from some of Canada's top actors, a kickass soundtrack and a lot of dirty jokes." Director Kate Melville on "Picture Day" which screens at the Victoria Film Festival.

Is this your first film at the Victoria Film Festival?

It's my first film, period! I wish I could be there with PICTURE DAY in Victoria, but I am vicariously experiencing the festival via Twitter.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to the industry.

I've been writing stories since I could hold a pen. I won a short story competition in Grade Five for "The Maple Syrup Genie", a two-page epic saga, and my first and only foray into the fantasy genre. I still love making stuff up, and have made my living as a screenwriter for over a decade, writing for Canadian TV shows including BEING ERICA, DEGRASSI, ENDGAME AND REGENESIS.

How did this whole project come together?

Many, many years after graduating from film school at Concordia, I summoned the courage to direct. I knew that casting was key, and I wanted to try out an approach to filmmaking that allowed the actors to improvise and play within the parameters of a script. I chose my 'dream cast', sent them the script and was thrilled when all three agreed to be a part of PICTURE DAY. Our next step was shooting two small sample scenes and some concert footage to tempt funders. Showing people what the film would look like and how I would direct was a huge help in terms of securing funding. After seeing our pitch package, Telefilm got on board almost right away, and we were able to pre-license the film to Movie Central and The Movie Network. About a year after we shot the sample scenes, we were shooting the movie for real!

Please 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.

I was lucky to have a very experienced cinematographer for PICTURE DAY: Celiana Cárdenas, AMC is one of Mexico's most respected directors of photography. Celiana had just received her permanent resident status in Canada, and from the moment we worked on the sample scenes together, I knew I had found a creative partner. Celiana's eye for composition helped underline the story and relationships, and she has an amazing ability to make the everyday world look beautiful. We were a two-camera setup, a new luxury for the digital filmmaker. Running two cameras simultaneously allowed the actors to improvise and play within the scene, or we could break into two units and shoot one scene while lighting another. My Second Unit Director of Photography Ryan Glover was also invaluable, especially in finding the right camera. We shot on the Panasonic GH2 with RED lenses, and I believe we were one of the first features shot on that camera, though I'm sure the Internet will contradict me.

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

The hardest part was shooting so quickly...17 days in total. Time is a luxury on a set, but I was grateful we had a five-day rehearsal period with the three lead actors before we went to camera. It gave us a chance to discuss the script, improvise, and ask questions - time we didn't have once we were surrounded by crew and trying to make our days!

One of my favourite moments was the throwie party scene; a crazy gang of misfit actors, extras, friends and family ran through the streets of the city one night, putting tiny magnetic LED lights on everything. Ryan was shooting it all with a handheld camera, my friend Joey was playing the accordion and everyone seemed to having a great time.[br]

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

I love watching all sorts of movies - it's still my favourite thing to do! I adore Mike Leigh and Judd Apatow and Noah Baumbach for how much they trust actors and personal moments. I love the Dardenne Brothers and Andrea Arnold for how intimate their films are and how they revolutionized handheld camerawork (for me, at least). For PICTURE DAY, I was inspired by a Generation DIY Film Festival that featured low-budget films made by Andrew Bujalski, Lynne Shelton, Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig. When I went to film school, we shot on 16mm, and you had to count every second because it was so expensive. Ten years later, the whole world of production had turned around - HD video was so much cheaper that it levelled the playing field. The fact that all these filmmakers were going out on their own and making these tiny, hilarious and heartbreaking stories was hugely inspiring.

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

Festivals are vital because they bring out the film-lovers in a community; people with an appetite for something new. PICTURE DAY is playing in festivals across the country, and I'm always surprised and thrilled by the turnout and response. I think the smaller the film, the more important it is to get the word out. I discovered some of my favourite independent films, like JUNEBUG or BRICK, through a friend who also loved movies. Critics are like really popular friends that lots of people listen to…but still, I think we're past the point where one critic can make or break a movie. With the rise of social media, I'm excited about new ways to spread the word on independent movies; I've seen how it's revolutionized the music industry and I think film going in a similar direction.

If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?

The Castro Theatre in San Francisco. A gorgeous theatre and likely a good party in the neighbourhood afterwards!

If you could offer some advice to someone who wanted to make movies, what nuggets of wisdom would you offer?

If you're making a low-budget indie, shoot in your hometown; you'll be more flexible in locations because you'll know your options, and given you'll be asking a lot of favours, it can be unexpectedly helpful if someone knows your mom.

What would you do or say to someone who is talking, texting or being disruptive during a movie?

I have a line I use, it's very Canadian, but it almost always works: "I'm sorry, but I need you to stop talking."

And finally, what is the single greatest movie that you have seen at a film festival?

The world premiere of EVE'S BAYOU at the Toronto International Film Festival was incredible; 2000 people jumped to their feet in Roy Thomson Hall for an instant standing ovation. It was director Kasi Lemmons' directorial debut, and both the magical story and the audience experience made me feel like anything was possible.

PICTURE DAY screens with the Victoria Film Festival on Sunday, 7pm at the Vic Theater. You can read my thoughts about the movie in my Whistler Film Fest wrap-up HERE and follow the movie at its official website, on Twitter and Facebook as well!

Be sure to follow instant happenings of the festival and updates on my Twitter @jasonwhyte!

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 02/10/13 06:07:10
last updated: 02/10/13 06:08:55
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