Posted on: Friday, March 9th, 2012
If you’re looking for someone with an interesting answer to “Whaddayat?” give filmmaker Jordan Canning a call. Her short film, Oliver Bump’s Birthday, was just chosen as the best of the best at the Vancouver International Short Film Festival by Press+1, and when she’s not wowing the national media, she’s busy writing feature film scripts. Two of them, actually.
I was lucky enough to get her on the phone a few weeks back to see what she was up to.
So, how’s it going?
It’s going well. It’s going really well.
You originally moved to Toronto to study at the Canadian Film Centre, right?
Yeah, I went to Toronto to study at CFC, and that finished in June of 2011. Since then, I’ve mostly been writing. I went to Mexico to teach a filmmaking workshop in July, but other than that I’ve been writing two feature film scripts. One of them is Come, Thou Tortoise [a film adaptation of Jessica Grant’s novel of the same name], and I’ve finished the official first draft of that, and it’s ready to be delivered.
Sorry – this might be a stupid question – but what does it mean for a script to be “delivered?”
Well, we got funding from Telefilm and the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation (NLFDC) for me to write the first draft, and so I wrote it and now I’m delivering it to them. We’ll be going in for a second round of funding now, for a second draft. Knock on wood that they will like it! The draft is very different fom the treatment I submitted.
Are you working with Jessica Grant on the script?
Jessica’s not working on the script. She was very gracious when we optioned the book and said, ‘I know this book and this film are going to be two different peices of work.’ I’m very grateful that she trusted me, and hopefully she’ll still trust me after she reads this draft! [laughs]
But, no, she hasn’t been writing the draft. I’ve contacted her a couple of times just to check in, but she’s been working on her next novel, which I can’t wait to read.
Was it tough to adapt this to the screen?
It was the first feature script that I’ve ever written, so I don’t know if it was any different than if I wasn’t adapting something. But to be perfectly honest, Jessica’s book had so much good stuff in it that I feel like it was an easier process. I had her characters and her words and her dialogue to draw from, a lot of which is in the script.
So you didn’t have to deviate too much from the book?
Yeah, it stayed quite true to the story and certainly to the characters. I mean, it was a challenge, for sure; reducing something like that down into a 90-minute script is tricky.
Why did you choose this particular book?
For a couple of years, I had been looking for a novel or a play or a short story to adapt. I think that’s a great way to make your first film and it’s a great way to collaborate with another artist and build on a peice of already established art. But I never found anthing that grabbed me by the throat. Then, two Christmases ago, I bumped into my friend at Chapters, and he was holding two copies of Jessica’s book and he said, ‘Oh you might like this, I’ve heard really good things about it.’ So I went home, and I read it in a day, and I knew that was the story that I wanted to turn into a film. The characters and the world that she created – the sort of magic realism St. John’s that she built – really spoke to me and spoke to my taste and inspired me; I could see the film.
So I found Jessica right away, and we had a coffee and talked about it, and she seemed game. Then Pope came on board, and the NLFDC and Telefilm, and now we’ve got a first draft.
What are your dreams for this film – do you have a cast in mind, do you know exactly how you want it to look?
I definitely have some ideas for cast, but it’s bad luck to say anything about it until it’s fully formed.
What’s so great about the book is that there’s a great combination of St. John’s and England, so there are some excellent parts for a couple of British actors, perhaps even vaguely recognizable British actors. But we’re still just trying to make sure the people at Telefilm are happy with the draft and that they’ll want to come back on board for another draft.
What about your other feature?
My other feature is a really personal one that I wrote – well, it kind of poured out of me in the last couple of months. So that one is much more – well, we could do it on a much lower budget. The plan is to shoot it next winter, with or without the traditional funding groups. If we can raise the money, that’s great. If not, we’re just going to shoot it anyway.
*We worked on the pun in the title for a while. Have a better one? Send it my way at email@example.com