For the last 5 WEEKS, I’ve been at an artists’ residency in the town of Vallauris, in the south of France, the French Riviera…aka Paradise. In between French wine, French food, and good-looking guys speaking French to me, I’ve been working on storyboards for TWO short films for when I get back to Canada.
Part of the reason I applied for my current artists’ residency was its location: the French Riviera is among those almost mythical places you read about. Where the gargantuan artists and authors worked, where water, sky, and wine blend together. And, it’s 5 minutes from Cannes.
Cannes is very polished compared to Nice and Antibes, and normally I don’t like that. But it works here – the beaches, trees, ancient buildings and colour of the water aren’t overcome by the opulent hotels, fancy cars and designer shops. Everything goes together. The city isn’t remotely shy about playing up its glamorous image – the Palme D’Or symbol is on the roads, there are banners and murals of movie stars everywhere. They’re saying: “Of course movies happen here, of course the world’s most prestigious film festival is here. Because it’s beautiful!”
To (tangentially) follow up yesterday’s post: there was a director named Matt Kowalchuk, who was hanging about Walterdale Playhouse around the same time I wrote Crushed. He directed a number of shows, including one of my favourite productions ever, of Morris Panych’s Seven Stories.
Another fellow I knew ages ago, named Daniel Arnold, wrote a show with his wonderful U of A classmate Medina Hahn, called Tuesdays and Sundays, which has now been performed pretty much everywhere.
These two gentlemen have made a film of Morris Panych’s play Lawrence and Holloman, which has been playing festivals all over North America. And now Telefilm Canada is showing it at Cannes.
When I heard this…I was caught between my brain short-circuiting and crying with happiness. These guys are SO GOOD at what they do, and they more than deserve this. Cannes is like the Edinburgh Fringe – it’s one of those events you’ll hear about as soon as you decide to enter the industry, it’s the peak. And these wonderful guys I knew in Edmonton are going. YAY TIMES 1 MILLION!
I was absurdly pleased when, this week, my director of Take a Bite redux, Amy DeFelice, e-mailed me some salient facts she’d unearthed in her research for her Fringe show this year, about Aphra Behn. Theatre/English Lit geekery! Amy directed the staged reading of my one-woman show that I’ve been intermittently trying to rewrite since…it’s about a woman who may have known Katherine Parr (the evidence is scant, but there). One of the comments from the audience that night, was, point-blank, he hated period pieces. Period. I was amazed by that; HATES anything non-contemporary? Really? WHY?
Everyone who’s read this script of mine has been very impressed with how in-the-time it is. I worked hard to make sure I knew what life for these people was like. There was the suggestion that, maybe, that’s its problem — I’ve done all the research, and now I have to FORGET I know all that, and just concentrate on the story. I think there’s more to it than that, however. Another problem I keep running into is HOW to show how serious heresy was. I tell people about the story, and they’re intrigued, but there’s also the sense of: how quaint. Religion doesn’t matter nearly as much now, at least in this part of the world, as it did in England, circa 1547. This play has an absolutely astounding female lead character, and the issues it shows are still, unfortunately, very present. But without being able to show what the conflict really was for this woman…it will never mean anything to an audience NOW.
Maybe that’s the problem with period pieces. Robert McKee said in Story, pg 83: “What is past must be present”; but the way most period pieces do that is by playing up the sex and violence, which a modern audience easily gets, and de-emphasizing the “period”.
This is one of the many reasons I’m fascinated by A Field in England, a brand new film that’s just been released — on EVERYTHING — in the UK. I’m not a fan of out-and-out horror movies, so I haven’t seen any of Ben Wheatley’s previous films. This one sounds absolutely bonkers. And I can’t find any details about when it might be released here (that’s for another post/rant); I’m going just by what I’ve read. Here’s the thing that’s interesting to me: it takes place during the English Civil War, and yet there seems to be little direct history involved. Four deserters from a battle happening just offscreen find themselves trapped — the whole film apparently takes place in one open field, outdoors — by a genuine alchemist. The kind of man who was hell-bent on turning lead into gold and living forever…things people in that time honestly believed were possible. This self-possessed, manipulative, authoritative man believes it, and because the easily swayed, battle-weary people around him believe it, he’s able to force them, by will, into digging up this field for him looking for treasure. That’s all that “happens”…but judging by the reviews, what really happens is the audience gets uncomfortably close to these characters whose honest-to-God beliefs make them go completely mad. It sounds like the filmmakers have successfully set the time and place, and then just let the ground-state of what these people believe run its course.
Somehow, that’s what I have to do with my script: put the audience in this woman’s time, and place, and then just let the story pull them further in with her.
I’m taking a page from fellow blogger Andrea Beca’s virtual book—-I will be posting now and again about my adventurous four years in Scotland.
I lived in Edinburgh from November 2004 to February 2008. I was about to turn 30, and absolutely hated where my life was at, so I applied to film school, and for a UK Ancestry Visa. The visa is the one I got. I quit my job, gave away or sold all my stuff, and flew one-way to London in June of 2004. It amazes me now to remember I was THAT crazy.
Not completely crazy—I had the first two months there fully planned out before I left. I spent a week in London, took the train to Edinburgh, and after a week there I meant to visit some distant cousins (whom I’d never met!) in Belfast. On my third day in Edinburgh, I trudged up Arthur’s Seat, got caught in a rainstorm, and on trying to carefully pick my way down an extinct volcano of sheer granite, I slipped and did…something to my left hand. Understand that I had never broken a bone before in my life, and had no clue what it felt like. So when in just a few minutes I lost feeling in my hand and it swelled and, I thought: “You’re in a foreign country. BE a hypochondriac and find a hospital.” So I tracked down the double-decker bus and made my first of several visits to the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary, where they confirmed I had broken TWO metacarpals, the thin bones below my pinky and ring fingers. My visit to Belfast was pushed back, and I had a cast on my hand well into my Fringe job that August.
When I was told at the hospital that I wouldn’t be able to get on a plane to Northern Ireland until they had done a second X-ray, my reaction was kind of odd. (And yes, I was actually thinking about my own reaction at that moment, because it was so odd.) I was told I couldn’t leave Edinburgh, and I immediately thought: “Okay.” I had come to the UK with an Ancestry visa which would allow me to work there, but I by no means had a job lined up, or any plans at all, for after summer. But I had been in Edinburgh at that point for 10 days, and had already decided I never wanted to leave. My hand’s broken, my plans and job at a Fringe venue might have been screwed up, but I was “stuck” in Edinburgh, and I couldn’t have been happier.