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Island Imagemakers
by Dave Stewart

Louise LalondeDave: How did you get involved in filmmaking?

Louise: At the age of 48, I found myself at a crossroads when a friend came along and offered me a producer assistant job on a feature film being shot in Halifax, The Magic of Marciano, starring Nastassja Kinski.I’ve never seen the final cut, and as far as I know, it never even made it to video, but that doesn’t matter because by the end of the eight-week contract, I had the bug. I knew I had stumbled onto a real opportunity to combine my lifelong interest in photography with my work experience.Now, all I had to do was figure out how to go about it.

As the next logical step, I applied and was accepted to the Film and Television Production Program at the Trebas Institute in Toronto, and I spent a year there learning about the industry.This was in the year 2000 when we knew something was going to happen with web productions, but nobody was quite sure how anybody was going to make money, kind of like it still is today.I found it a fairly steep learning curve to really understanding this industry’s system of financing and the procedures associated with the beast, and I really admire people who can make this industry work for them.

While I was at the Trebas Institute, it also became clear to me that what interested me the most was screenwriting.I have five feature-length scripts in the works and all at varying stages, but these five seem to have passed the test of time and I keep going back to them as my main body of work. It took a while for me to realize what a long process it can be to develop a script from seed to shooting script and to find the money to produce it.You can’t be in too much of a rush, and you have to learn and practice your craft every day.

Dave: How would you describe yourself as a filmmaker?

Louise: I still have a lot to learn.Directing is not for the faint of heart. I’ve directed a few shorts, some on Super 16, some on video, some on green screen on HD—all of them with very different challenges.It boils down to having a vision and holding your ground not matter what happens.You have to be prepared to fight the necessary battles and until you have some serious money to work with, learn to beg and borrow.I’ve discovered that I’m not crazy about being on set during production, but I would love to write the script and have someone of my choice direct the film.That could work out well since the writer is usually banished from the set once the director takes over.That’s how I feel right now, and that could all change tomorrow.I’ve recently had a revelation that I’m finding some experimental work that I like.It feels good to know I still have an open mind.

The scripts that I’m developing are the kind of films that I want to make.One thing I would like to state categorically is that there will never be a weapon in any of my films and no one will ever be murdered.My favourite genre is comedy, but my ultimate favourite is when you have a blend of drama and comedy.Those are the kinds of movies I would like to make.

Dave: Of the projects you’ve directed, which are your favourties?

Louise: My favourite project for sure is Looking for Mr. Right, a five-minute Super 16 mm short that is a quiet  nod to Looking for Mr. Goodbar, a 1977 socially relevant film about sexual deviance that left a lasting impression on me.Another film that made me stand up and pay attention was My Brilliant Career, an Australian independent film that was a beautifully produced story.Somewhere between those two films are the films that I would like to write and very possibly direct.In my opinion, creating shorts is the absolute most important step in advancing your career either as a writer, director, or any crew position, and shorts are difficult to write.Mostly they are based on activities around an incident so that there’s no time for character development, and the best shorts are usually twelve minutes or under and disturbing or funny.

I had a lot of fun making a short documentary of Chris Corrigan, in 2007 when he won an East Coast Music Award for Musician of the Year.The documentary also won a challenge from the Island Media Arts Coop for best ECMA documentary that year. 

Dave: What other film-related work have you done?

Louise: The Canadian Antiques Show is where I learned how to herd people, which might come in handy some day if I ever shoot a reality show.I did a lot of craft services work for the first couple of years, and I was always heartened by the stories I heard of how just about everyone in the crew right up to the production manager had done some craft services work to get where they were.So, encouraged, I continued to soldier on.The first non-student video I produced was a French re-enactment of an Acadian tradition through the Arts Smarts Program, which is a fantastic program for learning through the arts.

Dave: Tell us about your Bootcamp.

Louise: After attending the Trebas Institute, I found that there was nothing available in terms of mentoring and training for emerging screenwriters.Everyone wanted you to have screen credits before they’d invest in you, but you really needed the mentoring before you could get the credits.This gave me the idea to develop a project through the Island Media Arts Coop that would be fully funded and barrier-free to writers from Atlantic Canada who have a flair for writing and a solid idea for either a feature length script, teleplay, adaptation, or series.

What we have now is the PEI Screenwriters’ Bootcamp that runs for five days and provides intensive mentoring in developing an idea through to the stage of writing a treatment for a feature or an outline for a web or television series.Our aim is to bring in the best teachers we can find and ensure that the writers who are invited to attend are here to advance their careers. A big part of Bootcamp is also to introduce the writers to pitching their ideas in order to secure the interest of a producer and funding, so on the last day, we bring in producers and broadcasters to meet with the participants and hear their ideas.

Once these writers have been through Bootcamp they are then better equipped to apply to other programs such as Inspired Scripts at the Atlantic Film Festival and the National Screen Institute to get to the next stage of their professional development.Our workshops are made up of small groups and only open to writers from Atlantic Canada and each province helps their respective constituents with expenses.Our main funders are Telefilm Canada and Innovation PEI as well as the Independent Production Fund, Astral Media, and the Bell Fund and their goal is to develop a pool of talented Canadian writers telling Canadian stories.As we enter our sixth year, we are seeing incredible success with several writers obtaining development money.

Dave: Where can we see some of your work?

Louise: You can view Looking for Mr. Right onthe Island Film Factory site Other works are available through the Island Media Arts Coop film library and the spoken word piece, Hole in My Heart, based on a poem by Laurel Smyth is in post and should be ready for screening at this spring’s Island Media Arts Festival.My biggest challenge yet this year has been to learn to shoot on green screen, which is certainly what I did on this last project.I learned all the things NOT to do, and it has been exceptionally unnerving, but I have a genius editor, Dave Bennett, working on it.  So, I’m hopeful.

Dave: What’s in the future?

Louise: I will keep on writing every spare moment that I have and keep networking until someone pays attention or die trying.The PEI Screenwriters’ Bootcamp will continue to be an annual event and I’m hoping that we can develop the training components further and offer online introductory training sessions as well as an incubator program that would follow a writer through the all the steps in developing a final draft of a script or bible for a series.

As much as things are changing in the industry, much is staying the same since you can’t have a good product without a good script and that means that screenwriters will always hold the key to a successful production whether it’s on the silver screen, television or the web.Even reality television requires some scripting.  I’m not a fan of reality tv, but I will admit that I’m hooked on The Amazing Race, and I even have a wager on this current one.I have an idea for a cooking show that has been simmering for a while and I’m hoping to pitch it to the right broadcaster soon and make it happen.Of course, in the midst of all this, I have to earn a living, so, until I get my big break, I continue to look for work in media production.

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