Before moving to Newfoundland I had seen a number of short films, but not nearly as many as I have seen since I landed on the rock three years ago. I made a few, mostly awful, short films for high school projects, and studied a few, mostly awful, short films in a few of my undergraduate courses. My first real look at Canadian short film came out of a philosophy of cinema course, where my professor was deeply disappointed that none of us had seen Neighbours by Norman McLaren, especially since it is available for free on the NFB website, as are many other really amazing Canadian films. Even after the twenty minute talking to I got as a nineteen year old on why it is important to care about Canadian short films, it didn’t really stick until Newfoundland showed me how necessary they are.
Here in town, festivals like the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF), The Nickel Independent Film Festival and the Granite Planet International Film Festival all program short films made by local, national and international filmmakers. Not only did coming here allow me to see local short films in theatres, it gave me access to the filmmakers making them. My haphazard, dumb luck landed me exactly where I needed to be, working with the SJIWFF assisting a film education program. I was making short films with real filmmakers. I very quickly saw how this province, particularly its film community, cultivates creativity.
I watched every film in the 2013 SJIWFF program. Some of them twice. A few three or four times. Over the course of a few months short films were my life. I had favourites. I had criteria for those favourites.
I knew more Newfoundland filmmakers’ names than I did actual Newfoundlanders. The first Nickel screening I ever attended I felt the way you do when you recognize people from your friends’ Facebook photos, except I recognized these people’s stories. That person made that, and they are sitting right there, I would think to myself, I’d love to talk to that person about their film. Then I would.
One of the first local short films I was lucky to see at the SJIWFF in 2013 was Martine Blue’s Me2. Since then this NIFCO Picture Start film has had a very successful life. Me2 has screened at all of the local festivals, as well as the Atlantic Film Festival, the LA Comedy Festival, and the Williamsburg International Film Festival, just to name a few.
Now Canadians, many like myself who have never really watched short films, will be able to see Me2 from the comfort of their own homes. This short comedy has been selected as part of the 2015 CBC Short Film Face Off! The SJIWFF said, “We’d love for you to talk to Martine about her film.” So I did.
SJIWFF: Your film, Me2, has been an official selection at a number of film festivals, including the 24th SJIWFF. For anyone who has yet to see Me2, can you please sum up the film in your own words.
MB: A novelist gets herself cloned so that she can spend more time with her family. The problem is that the fun loving clone is a better writer and the family likes her better!
SJIWFF: What was your inspiration for writing this story?
MB: I don’t have any kids so I wondered what it would be like if I did have kids and resented them. Then I thought of a solution – get a clone!
Phil Churchill, Susan Kent and another Susan Kent in Martine Blue’s ‘Me2′
SJIWFF: Your website describes your early career as a ‘do-it-yourself’ filmmaker. Me2 was made with NIFCO’s Picture Start Program, stars big names like Sue Kent, Phil Churchill and Cathy Jones, and uses some cool special effects. Did working with such a large team and budget change the way you thought about making films? If so, how?
MB: Yes it has totally changed my approach. I now put a lot of time and thought into the art direction, the sound design and the film’s tone, what I want the film to look like, sound like, how I want the audience to feel after watching it. I have also discovered the huge importance of a story editor. What is my film actually saying to people? A great story editor adds depth and layers to a script and asks hard questions that make the writer dig deeper. Also now as a director I break a script down and do a thorough a detailed script analysis on characters intentions, their spines, their subtext, etc before I go into auditions, rehearsals and the shoot.
As a DIY filmmaker, I was basically a one woman crew, so I was more concerned with getting all the technical aspects right, the sound, lighting, camera work etc. I also fed all the actors myself, so I would be running around sticking a frozen lasagna into the oven between takes. My approach back then was to write a cool script, shoot and edit it, funded out of pocket, within a few months. I’m super glad I started out that way though, as it gave me a technical awareness that is really helpful now.
SJIWFF: Me2 is competing against eight other films in the CBC Short Film Face Off this fall. How did you get involved with this competition, how does it work, and how do people vote?
MB: I submitted Me2 to the regional jury, then it went on to a national CBC jury. The show is taped in 4 episodes. For the first 3 episodes, the show’s jury discuss and rate 3 films each show. Then the top 3 films from the 3 shows go on to compete in the last show. The whole country can then vote on those films to choose a winner when the show airs in September.
SJIWFF: Did you get to be involved in the taping of the episode your film will appear on? What was that experience like?
MB: The way the show operates is that the judges tell you what works and what doesn’t work for them about your film, while cameras tape your reactions. The audience also gets to share their thoughts on your film. I never mind criticism of my work and really appreciate all feedback, positive and negative, as my goal as a filmmaker is to constantly improve. It’s a whole new level to get this kind of feedback in such a public way, in front of an audience, with cameras rolling. That part was a bit daunting, especially as I am just now starting to get over a fear of public speaking. I embraced the challenge though because I am now entering the world of making a feature, and I realize that feedback is part of the process. I might as well get comfortable with hearing folks’ real opinions about my work, and start working on learning how to not take it personally. You can tune it to see how well I handle it when the show airs in September.
The whole experience of being on the show, working with all the terrific folks who put the show together and getting to hang out with incredible filmmakers from all over the country, as well as the wise judges, was really, really incredible and many thanks to CBC for choosing Me2 to be a part of it!
SJIWFF: What projects are next for you, Martine?
MB: I am in preproduction with a short fantasy drama called The Perfect Family as well as a feature film, a gritty drama titled Hunting Pignut (generously supported by Telefilm and the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation). Both go into production this fall and I will edit both over the fall and winter. It’s a busy and very exciting year!
SJIWFF: Thank you so much, Martine! Good luck in the competition.
Last year, Newfoundland’s Ruth Lawrence entered the competition with her short film Talus and Scree. To get a taste of how the CBC Short Film Face Off works, you can watch the episode Ruth appeared on last year.
Tune into the CBC this Fall to see Me2 and don’t forget to vote!