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Lesley Crewe, author/screenwriter: RELATIVE HAPPINESS

Lesley Crewe wrote the book RELATIVE HAPPINESS

Lesley Crewe wrote the book RELATIVE HAPPINESS

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of Relative Happiness, from concept to financing.

Alan Collins called me out of the blue and asked if I owned the movie rights to my first novel, Relative Happiness, which I did, but I was sure it was our neighbour down the road playing a practical joke. No joke. So started over six years of learning how to write a screenplay, going through endless drafts, and working with Alan, Deanne Foley, Jill Knox-Gosse and Lynne Wilson. I have to admit there were times I never thought it would happen, but these movie people never wavered. They are all incredibly patient!

2Q: Relative Happiness has done quite well at other film festivals. Will you be less nervous now at Cinequest? Does this process ever get any easier?

I’ve been nervous all the way along. I made up these characters in my head, and never imagined the story would be a book, let alone a movie. But to see the great reaction of all these movie festival audiences, it reassures me we’ve done something right.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making Relative Happiness?

The entire process was a fantastic learning curve for me, an opportunity that many novelists never get to experience. My best memories were meeting the characters come to life, and having my husband and daughter in the film with me, all of us pretending we were at an engagement party….mouthing words for a couple of hours was fairly daunting!

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

It’s funny and loveable and a feel good film. The characters are people you will care about. The Maritime look and feel is authentic, the music enchanting. You’ll be smiling coming out of the theatre. What can be better than that?

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Oscar for Relative Happiness. Give us your acceptance speech.

This is insane! Thank you to the producers, cast and crew for pouring their hearts into this film. Thank you to Lesley’s Crewe…..family and friends who always believed in my writing and surround me with love every day. This one is for John, Paul, Sarah and Joshua.

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Deanne Foley, writer/director: RELATIVE HAPPINESS

Deanne Foley co-wrote and directed RELATIVE HAPPINESS

Deanne Foley co-wrote and directed RELATIVE HAPPINESS

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of Relative Happiness, from concept to financing.

Here’s the Cole’s Notes version: Alan Collins, Nova Scotia producer, optioned Lesley Crewe’s hit debut novel, Relative Happiness, six or seven years ago. And, like all indie films, it was a tumultuous journey getting the film made with various people attached to the project over a 5-year period. I was approached back in the fall of 2011 by Collins along with Lynne Wilson & Jill Knox-Gosse to direct the film. At that point, I hadn’t read the novel, to be honest, and so I read a draft and just really connected with the main character, Lexie Ivy. She felt like someone I knew. Flawed yet lovable. So I came on board as director/writer and spent another year or so developing the script with Iain MacLeod, doing preliminary casting & location scouting and pulling together a package that our funders couldn’t say no to. We got the green-light from Telefilm Canada in July 2013, wrote a new draft, began a crazy search for the lead role of Lexie with US Casting Director Nancy Klopper, who’s amazing by the way, which lead us to casting Melissa Bergland in late August, then pre-production began late September and we began shooting the end of October for a mere 16 days. It was an intense experience but I had a committed, talented cast lead by Bergland, Aaron Poole and Johnathan Sousa and just the best crew. I’m proud of what we all accomplished.

2Q: Relative Happiness has done quite well at other film festivals. Will you be less nervous now at Cinequest? Does this process ever get any easier?

No, it never gets easier. I think every audience has its own personality. You never know how they will respond. If I did, I would be a millionaire. No, a billionaire. Let’s just say, I would have a lot of money. Damn, I wish I had that skill.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making Relative Happiness?

Going with the best experience here (my mom would be proud):
We were shooting in Hubbards, Nova Scotia and I was away from my family on my birthday (I have two small kids). It was such a challenging day that I almost forgot about it. But at lunch, I was completely surprised when the entire cast & crew sang me happy birthday and presented me a plate of sparkly cupcakes. The crew even had a happy birthday sign projected on the trucks. It was really sweet. A moment I won’t forget.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

It’s an embraceable, funny movie with a breakout performance by Melissa Bergland. You may not know her now, but you will before too long. She’s a star. Full stop.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Oscar for Relative Happiness. Give us your acceptance speech.

Wow! I was just happy to be invited to the party. But thank you so much to the Academy for this honor. I’m over the moon happy to share this award with my stellar cast & crew & team of producers who cared about this film as much I did.

It takes at least one person to believe in you in order to succeed in this business but I’ve been lucky to have so many believers around me. You know who you are. That includes you, Max. Thank you.

Lastly, I’m really hoping this means Ellen & I will do a selfie together backstage. Hope it’s cool to say that?

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Jilann Spitzmiller and Hank Rogerson, filmmakers: STILL DREAMING

Hank Rogerson and Jilann Spitzmiller take a break while shooting STILL DREAMING.  Photo by Genevieve Russell.

Hank Rogerson and Jilann Spitzmiller take a break while shooting STILL DREAMING. Photo by Genevieve Russell.

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of Still Dreaming, from concept to financing.

As documentary makers, we are really drawn to making ensemble pieces that are very character driven with a strong narrative that takes place over a period of time. We first began thinking about STILL DREAMING in late 2003, when a potential funder of our last film, SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS, suggested that Romeo and Juliet done in a nursing home would make an interesting film. We agreed, but we were busy with SBB, so we let the idea simmer for a few years. In 2009, we picked it back up and began researching theater being done in retirement homes. We contacted The Lillian Booth Actors Home in New Jersey, which is a retirement facility for people in entertainment and their family members. They had a Shakespeare club already, but were not doing full productions. The administration of the Home was very open to the idea of having the residents engage more fully by doing an entire play with an outside director. They were curious about how it would impact the residents’ quality of life. As for us, we fell in love with the residents that lived at The Home and their stories. Many of them have very rich histories of performing on Broadway and other very esteemed venues. They really lived in a golden age of entertainment and they readily share those stories.

Ultimately, we followed this ensemble doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the summer of 2011. A great element of the situation was that the troupe ended up being directed by two young co-directors in their 30’s – Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld of Fiasco Theater in NYC. It made for a very interesting situation, in that Ben and Noah really had no idea what they were stepping into in terms of the challenges of Aging that came up for the participants. Also for us, the dynamic of the two directors was great from a story point of view – instead of having to interview one director about what was going on, we could observe the two of them in dialogue with each other and learn a lot that way, which is usually more interesting than an interview.

The underlying theme of the film that really spoke to us was that Aging is something that we generally fear, both personally and as a society. We wanted to ask the questions: “How can Aging be a more positive experience and not just something that we dread? And can we still be creatively viable as we get into our 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Does creativity enhance the Aging process?”

2Q: Still Dreaming has done quite well at other film festivals. Will you be less nervous now at Cinequest? Does this process ever get any easier?

The film is still so new, but we’re gaining confidence by the day for sure. You can never really anticipate how an audience will receive a film. We just try to tell the best story we can and not worry about pleasing an audience, so that feels like high-stakes gamble sometimes. There’s so much on the line. You’ve put SO much of your heart, soul, spirit and likely, personal finances, into a film. So you want it to be embraced and loved just as you would your flesh and blood child! Success hopefully means the ability to make another film, and as an artist, that is always a very strong impulse – to keep creating. It’s been very gratifying to see audiences fall in love with the film and want to share it with others.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making Still Dreaming?

I think the best experience making the film was going to The Lillian Booth Actors Home every day and being with these amazing elders. Joan Stein would always play her piano for us – you could ask her to do anything and she would give you some background on it and play it from memory. Extraordinary for an 87 year old woman with Parkinsons and Scoliosis! Such an inspiration. In particular, one day she and Charlotte Fairchild were doing some songs in the middle of the day at the piano as they often do. They launched into “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Rodgers and Hammerstein from Carousel. The rehearsal that day had been particularly difficult and to hear them do this song, which is very challenging vocally, and to listen to its message just made my hair stand up on end. It was perfectly fitting – that even in the hard times there is hope. That was my favorite moment of my favorite day, and of course, it plays a great cathartic role in narrative of the film.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

This film has it all – humor, drama, heart. Great characters and a roller coaster of a narrative. And if you’re freaked out about aging, you should see this film! It will give you hope and a new way to think about your own aging process. If you have aging parents or grandparents, it will give you some ideas about how their quality of life could be better. We hope to really help people reframe the idea of Aging – to feel hopeful and proactive about it, not in denial and fear! And if you’re a Shakespeare lover, then you have to see this ensemble’s take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s awesome!

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Oscar for Still Dreaming. Give us your acceptance speech.

It’s a true honor to be given the gift of a story to share with the world. It is a privilege when real people let you into their lives and show you their struggles and vulnerabilities. We all learn from that and it knits us together in this crazy, often difficult life. We would very much like to thank all of the residents and staff of The Lillian Booth Actors Home for trusting us with their stories. We are forever grateful!

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Daniel Armando, director, and Adrienne Lovette, actor/writer: WHEN I’M WITH YOU

Adrienne Lovette and Daniel Armando direct and star in WHEN I'M WITH YOU

Adrienne Lovette and Daniel Armando wrote, direct and star in WHEN I’M WITH YOU

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of When I’m With You, from concept to financing.

DANIEL: For me as the director I came into the process of creating When I’m With You when Adrienne Lovette sent me a script and invited me to a reading of one of the drafts she had written. It was great for me because I was able to hear the entire script out loud and visualize the film in my head. After that we kind of discussed what the look and feel of the film would be. I approached my good friend Ryan Balas who’s a very talented director and cinematographer and asked him if he would jump on board as DP. He had previously DP’d a film I directed a year ago (What It Was) and thought he would be interested in this story… which he was!

The shooting process was very quick and Adrienne was very good about making sure everything came together efficiently. I enjoyed working with Adrienne. I’ve admired her as an artist for years and am very fortunate to have her as a friend and see her bring her first film to life.

2Q: Cinequest Film Festival is hosting the World Premiere of When I’m With You. Explain to us how it feels to bring this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?

ADRIENNE: Well, we have one more screening on Thursday March 5th at 2pm so make sure to check out! It’s a surreal experience because you just never know if your film could make it into a festival as big as Cinequest. We were very nervous because we weren’t sure how the film would be received and just hoped we did our job in conveying the message we wanted to convey. Since our first screening we have experienced audience’s reactions to the film and have been getting some incredible responses from the patrons that have seen it. One gentleman let us know that we succeeding in making an ‘uncomfortable subject’ for him comfortable to watch, and he didn’t feel the urge to leave at any moment because he related to the characters and their situations. We succeeded in educating him on the LGBT community, the human condition and how everyone is searching for acceptance and love. We are extremely proud of that, and hope it continues on in more festivals!

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making When I’m With You?

DANIEL: It was an awesome experiencing making this film. Adrienne loves working with her friends so for all of us we knew how important this was for her and we just wanted to help her make this beautiful story she created a reality.

Of course making a film on a shoe string budget can be a challenge and it makes way for some creative thinking on how to make things happen, but for everyone on set, creating is our passion and making movies is what we do. So we welcome the challenges.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

ADRIENNE: WHEN I’M WITH YOU is a film that talks about acceptance, love, heartbreak and relationships. Each character has their own struggle, and some of the characters happen to be gay, but you can still relate to their situations. Many people can relate to being in love with someone that’s not in love with you, many people can relate to losing a family member you love dearly, and everyone can relate to regret and fear. It’s about people, and people searching for a family. People are afraid to say I love you, and these characters struggle with that, but what kind of world would it be if we let each other know? That’s why people should see this film, because it might inspire you to say the three words that can create such a positive change.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Oscar for When I’m With You. Give us your acceptance speech.

ADRIENNE: Oh boy! Wouldn’t that be a dream come true! I guess I would first and for most thank my husband, mother and sister for being such strong and supportive people in my life. They are the reason why I am able to follow my dreams and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. I would thank my amazing cast and crew who put so much of there heart and soul in this film! I would thank my composer Sean Balas for the beautiful music and all of the singers/musicians like Michelle Armstrong, Matt Cusson, Chuck B. , Mikey Hynes, and Richard A. John Jr. for donating their talents to the film! The incredible visual artists like Lydia Pfeffer and my best friend Sean Baumgardner. And last but not least I would thank John Rice (KARL/Script Editor) for his wisdom and guidance, my incredible Director of photography for capturing the beauty of each character, and my extremely talented director Daniel Armando for his direction, support and unremarkable vision and for always believing in me and encouraging me that I could do it. There would be too many people to thank quite honestly, so I would probably get cut off by the music…and refuse to leave until I finished.

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Kahlil Silver, director and Shogi Silver, writer: IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN

The Silver Brothers wrote and directed Paul Eenhoorn (center) in IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN

The Silver Brothers wrote and directed Paul Eenhoorn (center) in IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN, from concept to financing.

Shogi Silver– my brother and I had each gone through some very life-changing events in our respective romantic relationships. I had just broken up with my fiancée and my mind was swirling with these concepts of my life before and my life after because it felt like such a chasm had opened up. I wanted to find an outlet for these feelings and to explore them. Hence the writing of a film about the myriad ways in which women shape the lives of men, often without realizing it. We sought private financing and, because we got such a positive response about the screenplay, we were off to the races with a high six-figure budget, just enough to get us through principal photography.

2Q: Cinequest Film Festival is hosting the World Premiere of IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN. Explain to us how it feels to bring this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?

Kahlil Silver– it’s always a nerve-wracking and intimate experience when an artist reveals his/her work to the world. I’m excited though, because there is nothing like revealing something of oneself and having that appreciated and reflected back. I think there will be a positive response and I can’t wait to hear the feedback. I think there is something that everyone in an audience can connect to.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN.

Kahlil– My best experience making IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN for me was my relationship with Paul and Shogi off the set. There was an ease and a closeness that allowed me to make directorial decisions that may have made me uncomfortable with many other leads. It is always a gift for me when I can work with people that I know well. For me that was the best part of making IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

Shogi – This is a great festival with a lot of great films. I think IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN is one people should see at Cinequest in particular because it’s a film that will stick with you. I think it’s a film that speaks to men and women of all ages and takes a look at relationships from unexpected perspectives.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Oscar for IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN. Give us your acceptance speech.

Kahlil – Well, first I would stumble on my way up to the podium and then pretend it was an accident. Then: “We’d like to thank everyone involved in every aspect of IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN. A film is a massive undertaking and it’s remarkable how many people and how much collaboration is needed to make a film. It’s not possible to thank those behind the scenes profusely enough. They don’t get the chance to shine or get the appreciation they deserve. So thank you.”

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Patty Ann Dillon, writer/director: THERE WILL BE NO STAY

Patty Dillon directs the documentary THERE WILL BE NO STAY

Patty Dillon directs the documentary THERE WILL BE NO STAY

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of There Will Be No Stay, from concept to financing.

In 2008 I wrote a 13 part documentary series intended for television called “Dichotomy of Death.” Each episode would explore different facets of execution and explore the dichotomies in and surrounding the practice. The first episode out of the gate was called “To Kill The Killer,” focusing on the journey of the executioner. That episode is now the film called “There Will Be No Stay!”

The financing was a bitch as it is for most independent filmmakers. It is the most extreme version of hoop jumping I have ever endured. If I found an executioner, we would be funded. I found two and nearly lost them because the hoops never stopped piling up ahead. I had simplified my life to a degree that I could still pursue the film full time and take low paying production gigs on other people’s films while learning the craft of producing and coordinating as I went. Ultimately, someone stepped up with 10k, then another, then I was able to make a concept trailer, and then gather the rest. We shot it in a guerrilla fashion dollar by dollar, location by location. A bad ass team of private and very trusting investors backed it.

2Q: There Will Be No Stay has done quite well at other film festivals. Will you be less nervous now at Cinequest? Does this process ever get any easier?

Cinequest will be our second festival. It is absolutely surreal to work on something for so long and then watch people watch you birth it! Every person I see walk in the theatre I want to run up, hug them, and thank them for being there. I’m too tired and exhilarated to be nervous I think.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making There Will Be No Stay?

The best experience I think is still going strong. My relationships with Terry, Bax, and all of the incredible people that made this film possible. I am a total jack ass at heart so while the subject matter is intense, I tried to keep a light and super positive set. We spent a lot of time laughing believe it or not.

The worst…hmmm. When I wasn’t writing, I was spending a lot of time watching crime stories, researching executions, methods, everything, every day, death, death, death. Additionally, I was hearing very personal stories from the victims’s family, the family of the condemned, and mostly from the executioners who have now become my family. It is such a heated topic and we have conditioned each other to take sides, divide, etc. Being present at an execution (exterior) watching people chant for the death, chant for the life and ultimately standing in opposition of each other was difficult. Meanwhile, we are strapping someone to a table. I can’t unsee or unhear any of it. Time for vodka and popcorn!

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

The film tackles a highly controversial subject, but it is explored from a completely different perspective: that of the executioners. In some states they still wear a hood. The only executioners I could find during my search were made public only after killing themselves. From their journeys to, through, and out of the “job” we give these guys a platform to share their stories which are beyond compelling. While it sounds insanely dark, I have had several people tell me that they have to see it again right away. It always surprises me and it’s always humbling.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Oscar for There Will Be No Stay. Give us your acceptance speech.

“Where is Ashton Kutcher and his hidden camera crew??”

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Kenny Riches, writer/director: THE STRONGEST MAN

Kenny Riches directs THE STRONGEST MAN

Kenny Riches directs THE STRONGEST MAN

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of The Strongest Man, from concept to financing.

The story developed as I would visit Miami year after year before eventually moving here. Much of it is based on my own adventures with my friend Robert ‘Meatball’ Lorie, who I ultimately ended up writing the film for. He plays Beef. I wrote Miami itself as kind of a character as well since most of the situations and characters are specific to Miami. Most of the characters were written for friends of mine, including Paul Chamberlain, Ashly Burch, Davy Rothbart, and Patrick Fugit. Patrick helped me attach Lisa Banes because they had just completed another film together called Gone Girl. We financed the film independently and the rest is history.

2Q: The Strongest Man has done well at other film festivals. Will you be less nervous now at Cinequest? Does this process ever get any easier?

We just premiered at Sundance, which was a really amazing experience. I think screenings get easier. I’m not good at public speaking, but after a few screenings I feel a little less nervous in front of the audiences during the Q&As, but I usually still find a way to make an ass of myself.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making The Strongest Man?

At the end of a long day when everyone on set was wiped out, Paul improvised a scene by a swimming pool that involved spilling beer on my girlfriend’s lap was a really hilarious and wonderful moment. I looked around at all of my best friends laughing their asses off. The worst experience involved a camera and the ocean. You get the idea.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

I’d like to think it offers something a little different. It has a lot of symbolism and visually striking imagery. It’s funny too, in a sad, weird, existential sort of way. Thank you in advance for checking it out.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Oscar for The Strongest Man. Give us your acceptance speech.

Thanks friends and family that I love. What am I doing on this weirdo TV show?

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