Hello again all, for this post we catch up with NL’s First Lady of the Arts, Ruth Lawrence, who has a film in the SJIWFF. Her film, QUELLE AFFAIRE, plays Friday night, October 17th, at 7pm – the same night as SADIE. What’s this First Lady business you ask? It’s not really a term here, I just made it up for Ruth and refer to her as this often since she is a writer, director, producer, actor, AND singer. She also works on many community projects that makes the arts scene all the more richer here in St. John’s, and island-wide. She also volunteers her time in a healthy capacity. But don’t take my word for it, maybe take the Queen’s, since Ruth was awarded the 2012 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal last year, for her contributions to the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador. Her 3 minute short has an air of whimsy and a dream like quality, I asked her some questions about this little gem, here’s what she said:
How did you get the idea for Quelle Affaire?
I saw some beautiful cinepoetry pieces at the AFF in Halifax and found out that it was a project of AFCOOP to pair poets with filmmakers. So with the Nickel’s support, I applied to the Telus Fund. The idea was to make films from poems using mobile and digital technology. I was really excited about the possibility of shooting with an iPhone. Part of my proposal was that, if we were successful in getting the grant, I would get to be the filmmaker but they could choose who to pair me with in the jury selections. They chose Danielle Devereaux. I was familiar with her work, we knew each other and we turned out to be great partners. So once we were paired, she gave me her chapbook, Cardiogram; a gorgeous collection in every way. I played around with a couple of poems but kept getting drawn back to the shortest one in the book. It was so evocative with visual imagery, I couldn’t resist it. Finally, I broached her with my choice and told her why I chose it for this process. She agreed and came along for the whole ride.
In terms of the story idea for the poem, I loved the gut-wrenching aspects of the affair and the inner conflict/digesting of those feelings and it really appealed to me to have some fun while also making a poetic statement about the nature of love affairs.
Who are your main actors?
I was so fortunate to have Stephen Dunn and Meghan Greeley in my film. They are close friends and are so easy with each other, easy to watch. They were both home for Christmas last year so I scheduled the shoot around that and we got lucky! I was really pleased to have you, Latonia, make a special sneak appearance! It was so quick you’ve probably forgotten about it.
You used minimal equipment and lighting for your film, but it still looks dreamy! Tell us more about how you accomplished that.
We used ONLY an iPhone 5 to shoot the film because that was the challenge I set for myself. I worked with Brad Gover, who shot it for me. Danielle offered us her & Chris’ gorgeous house as our location so we scouted to make sure the light, if we had a nice day, could work. We set the cafe up in her living room. Brad brought along some lights but we didn’t need to use them, we didn’t even use a tripod. We shot it silent and we recorded the V/O in Justin Davis’ upstart radio station, KEEP. We may have used a bounce board for the light but yes, it was incredibly simple. Brad worked really well with Mother Nature.
It was great to have Stephen on set as an actor because he did double-duty. As we were setting up the shots, I’d say “let’s get the lace pattern on that paper” and as we were setting the shot, Stephen (who is best known as a filmmaker) would be playing around with the angles to get the best reflection for us! It was important to have a handful of keen and knowledgeable people around us that day.
Perhaps I should also divulge that we shot this film on January 6, the day after #DarkNL, the day after Brad & I finished a web-series that we shot through those storms and power outages. So this one was a breeze! (We did have to charge the phone at one point.) It took about 4 hours to set up and shoot, it was winter so it was all shot in mid-afternoon sunlight and that made it so beautiful. There was too much snow outside from the storm, so we shot only Meghan’s close ups and then for the travelling shots, I subbed in for her a couple of weeks later while Brad shot from the car, again just holding the camera outside the window. No camera mounts for us!
The props in your film are organic and ‘edible’ in a way are they not? Describe their unique nature for our readers. Do you have a favourite prop?
An essential part of my plan for the film was to make as many of the cafe and jewellery items edible. It’s a becoming a theme with me, using food in films. (See Sweet Pickle) We used everything from olives, caper pods, cherries, pearl onions (we had an onion ‘ring’!), bacon, icing sugar, strawberries, oranges, grapes; there’s even a purse made of cabbage! And although it’s not edible exactly, Gary Thomas painted my bike helmet into a watermelon for me. My favourite? The simple sculptural beauty of the rice fettuccine necklace made by Danielle.
How did you find time to make all those props with your busy schedule?
Oh, I had lots of help. We gathered some friends for a prop-making party. Danielle hosted and Sherry Ryan (who later composed the music), Wanda Nolan (also a screenwriter), and I did most of the assembly of jewellery with her, you made the bread napkin holders for us, and Danielle bought a few special items. We had even more pieces than we could use but we do show them all in the opening scene.
In the rapidly growing suite of films you’ve directed, what makes Quelle Affaire special?
This one is special because, as you’ve said, the dreamy quality is magnificent. I was aiming for simplicity- just a phone, great imagination, and a few dollars. I spent my $600 artist fee on the production. When you consider the talent in the team we pulled together, that is outstanding value. It’s not possible with every project, obviously, but I’m thrilled with the result on this one. I had a small, multi-talented team; lots of friends who did several different things, pitching in wherever it was needed. As a special bonus, after the filming was complete, we ate all the leftovers!
To see more of Ruth’s films view Sweet Pickle here: http://www.nsi-canada.ca/2012/02/sweet-pickle/
Another recent short Talus and Scree http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/More+Shows/Download/ID/2421151575/
And OF COURSE be sure to come see the film at 7pm Oct.17th (LSPU HALL)!!
Post by Latonia Hartery