Shaw Media Fearless Female Director Month begins

We kick off December’s Shaw Media Fearless Female Director Month in the NSI Online Short Film Festival with two award-winning short films by directors Ashley McKenzie and Jordan Canning.

Shaw Media supports the Fearless Female Director award in our film fest, presented to the best film by a female director four times a year. To honour the award, we’re bringing you a month of our favourite films by female directors.

Each week watch two fantastic films by talented Canadian female directors: they’ve all been in the NSI Online Short Film Festival, some have won awards and all are totally worth seeing again.

Our films this week – Not Over Easy and Rhonda’s Party – previously won the Shaw Media Fearless Female Director award.

Not Over Easy

Not-Over-Easy

Not Over Easy is directed by Jordan Canning

A scrambled story of love and heartbreak as a woman starts to fantasize about a second chance with her boyfriend after a forgotten refrigerated gift leaves her picturing them as a couple of eggs.

Produced with a grant awarded by bravoFACT (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent), a division of Bell Media Inc.

Jordan Canning says, “Not Over Easy is about relationships and breakups, and how sometimes you should trust your instincts and NOT give someone a second chance.

I always had this idea of a woman breaking up with her boyfriend and feeling very certain in her decision only to have her anger turn to nostalgia when she finds these two caricatured eggs in the fridge. It was co-writer Jody Richardson who came up with the idea of playing out her fantasy of a reunion using the two eggs.

Because the concept for the story is pretty bizarre we felt that animation was the best way to create this ambitious alternate reality. Cinematographer Sam Pryse-Phillips and I had always been huge fans of stop motion. The hands-on, organic look and process was something that really appealed to us. We wanted the transition between “human world” and “egg world” to be seamless, and stop motion felt like the best way to accomplish this. We built a miniature replica of the live action apartment and designed and shot the animation exactly as we would a live action film.

We had an incredible team working on the puppets, sets and miniatures for about three weeks leading up to shooting. Tara Murphy designed and built our eggs, Brad Archdekin built our table top sets, and Tiffany Barnwell made all the incredible miniature props and set pieces within them. This was definitely a different filmmaking process than I was used to. Compared to the insane size and pace of a live action production, animation takes a lot fewer people but so much more time.

After we had filmed the one-day live action shoot, Sam, animator Mike DeCroock and myself essentially barricaded ourselves in our apartment for four weeks. Our apartment served as both the set for the live action portion and our animation studio.

We had to cover all the windows with black garbage bags to control the light and we couldn’t use the air conditioner because it caused fluctuations in power. This wouldn’t have been so bad had we not been shooting during a heat wave! This certainly made for some hot and sweaty days. But even with day after day of overheating camera equipment – and overheating people – the storytelling process remained an incredible experience.

Because there is no dialogue, the soundscape and music had to be involved and dynamic.

Jody Richardson and Grant King composed the complex orchestral (and now award-winning) score. Before we even began shooting, Jody and I talked at length about the music for this piece. Inspiration was drawn from classic films like Double IndemnityTouch of Evil and the work of Carl Stalling (Looney Tunes). Truly, Grant and Jody’s score is the third character in the film, acting as a musical narrator and bringing so much emotion and life to the story.”

Rhonda’s Party

Rhondas-Party-598

Rhonda’s Party is directed by Ashley McKenzie.

Rhonda, a reclusive nursing-home resident, has spent months planning her best friend’s 100th birthday party with the help of a young nurse, Amy.

The band is booked, the cake is ordered, and everyone is invited. But when the guest of honour dies, Rhonda must decide whether the party will go on.

Ashley McKenzie says, “Rhonda’s Party was a first film for myself and my core creative team. Together we made the film through the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative’s FILM 5 training program in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The first time I read Christine’s script, I was taken by a certain abrupt and unsentimental quality in her writing style. This drew me in, because on an aesthetic level, I too wanted to treat the sweet and melancholic qualities of the story without embellishment.

I was inspired to give the film a delicate amount of emotional distance and to focus on the peripheral elements inside Rhonda’s world that I found to be meaningful.”

• • •

This week we’ve also programmed two new films in the NSI Online Short Film Festival: Clear Blue by Lindsay MacKay and Somnius by Denver Jackson. Watch them now.

The NSI Online Short Film Festival is made possible through the support of Presenting Sponsor Shaw Media, Program Partner Telefilm Canada, Comedy Award Sponsor Blue Ant Media, Female Director Award Sponsor Shaw Media, Overall Best Film Award Sponsor A&E Television Networks, and Supporting Sponsor Netflix.

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