On a different note, app-based car services say they want to make a city where we have less cars — Lyft’s vision of L.A.’s 10-lane Wilshire Boulevard looks a bit too much like Spadina. Whether this is in fact a good idea or whether these services are serious about better urban planning is, as of now, unclear: “According to a new, multi-city study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft might not be taking cars off the road at all. The work is based on 4,100 online surveys distributed to a sample of Americans in seven big metros: Boston, Chicago, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. The respondents are a mix of urbanites and suburbanites, and they answered the surveys between 2014 and 2016. Through their responses, the shifty picture of the modern, ride-hailing-packed city is beginning to snap into place. It might have more cars, not fewer.” –
As a lover of fashion, I’m well aware the often times, many designers veer into the cringe-worthy territory of problematic life choices. Recently, the Novella team sat down for a brainstorming session on some new weekly pieces we could all bring to the boardroom table. Among the friendly banter and ideas being thrown around, we came up with an interesting concept. Why not call out those within the fashion industry that need a little slap on the wrist. In the end, we came up with the concept of Dear… Where I have the wonderful privilege of being able to discuss (and tear apart) some of fashion’s most epic nose dives for all of our reader’s gossip needs. So without further adieu, here’s fashion’s Hot Goss.
Dear Marc Jacobs…
The question we’re all asking after New York fashion week isn’t whether or not you’re one of the most talented and influential designers in the world, instead, we’re all asking why you seem to focus all of your design talents on making collections that are essentially culturally appropriative marching parades. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve made some jaw-dropping collections in the past. Louis Vuitton Spring 2012, Spring 2003, and Louis Vuitton fall 2011 all come to mind. So I know he has the potential of creating collections that are beyond beautiful, so why is that Mr Jacobs has been insistent on creating collections that take vital aspects of minorities cultures, specifically black traditions and culture. There really is something inappropriate about placing women who aren’t women of colour in dreadlock wigs or 70’s and 80’s Harlem inspired clothing. This subtle borrowing of black cultural without having black designers assist in the design process is just careless in the fact that a designer, no matter how experienced the designer may be, will never know the personal experience of the culture they’re borrowing from unless they were born into that culture or grew up in that culture.
However, Mr Jacobs seems to look past the complaints of those around him and continues to push the boundary on what is acceptable as inspiration and what is full blown appropriation. Recently, for his last show in New York, Jacobs focused all of his design talents on creating a collection fit an elegant woman of colour. Sadly, the collection had only a handful of black women walk the show. Which wouldn’t seem out of the norm in the fashion industry, but it’s extremely unsettling to see so little black women walk a show where the models are dressed in African inspired prints and head wraps that resemble those worn by African and African-American women. Now to some, it may not seem like such a big deal, however, when a show includes models like Kendal Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and Taylor Hill wearing traditionally styled Gele and Ankara headdresses worn by women from countries like Ghana and Nigeria, it becomes extremely problematic because those specific headdresses are seen as foreign and are often gawked at by westerners. But when white models sport them it then becomes fashionable and trendy. The same can be said for his collections that featured heavy hip-hop inspirations and dreadlocks. On one hand, “urban” clothing and dreadlocks are worn by black men and women every day and it’s seen as ghetto and lower class, but when people outside of a traditional black environment decide to grow their hair into dreadlocks or wear clothing heavily inspired by black culture. It then becomes extremely forward thinking and ambitious.
What the moral of this entire gong show is, is that Marc Jacobs should look into the social consequences caused by the appropriation of culture, especially that of black culture in the United States. And then look into the global repercussions of appropriating the cultures of minorities around the world are before creating collections that are culturally and socially insensitive.Remember Mr Jacobs,
Remember Mr Jacobs, black women were laughed at and made the butt of the joke for taking pride and wearing their Gele’s and headwraps in public for decades now. Making them feel as if they shouldn’t be wearing their traditional cultural dress outside of their own country and making them feel shame and embarrassment for doing so. So why make it harder for black women (and all POC who takes pride in dressing in their homeland’s traditional garb) by making them feel as if the one thing they have to take pride on, isn’t even their own anymore. Because someone else can buy and be praised for it, while they get shunned and mocked for it.
The CAMINOS Festival kicks off next week at Aluna Theatre in conjunction with Native Earth Performing Arts. The festival showcases works-in-progress by local artists who work to push the boundaries of dance, theatre, and performance art. Each night of Caminos Festival offers something new for its spectators. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
We had the opportunity to chat with Aluna Theatre’s Artist Director, Bea Pizano about what to expect with this year’s lineup.
Kimberley Drapack: How is everything going at the moment?
Beatriz Pizano: It’s busy but you do accumulate knowledge during festivals. We’re in a better place than ever. We have a great list of artists that are showing their work so I am really excited.
We open on October 4th and we’ve been seeing a lot of artists because part of what we offer, because they are works in progress, is rehearsal space. We see them coming into our studio. Also, if they need any dramaturgical support, any consultation on direction, or design, we’re available for them. We want to make sure these pieces don’t die after a presentation.
This is just the second Caminos festival for the works in progress. We started in 2015 and back then, I invited some artists to present. This year, I put a call out and we got over 40 applications. This year is quite curated because what I saw in the first festival was a great forum for the work. Six or seven of the artists managed to get a grant based on the work that they presented. We provide them with a totally professional videotape of the work that they present. We don’t present readings, we do full performances for 20 minutes with design elements so they look really good.
One of the things that I find with people who are trying to enter the grant system, it’s really hard to have a body of work if you are just beginning. Most of them don’t have a really good record of anything they have done. Just the fact that you’re presenting in a curated festival makes it better, but if you can present 20 minutes of really great work, the possibilities open up.
K: It must be hard going through the application process.
BP: We try to keep it small, but it’s really hard to say no. Although we live in a time where more grants are given, there are a lot of artists. I really focus on people that I believe are going to take the work to the next stage. After many years helping, because we have put so much investment into artists, it’s OK. Some people try it and they decide that it’s not for them.
At this point, we’re at an important phase in our community that is really exploding. I am putting all the support into people that I know are going beyond. That’s what guided me this year. Those are the artists I’m fascinated to be around. I don’t like the word “hungry”, but they really believe in what they are doing.
We take care of their publicity and marketing to give them the chance to concentrate on the presentation. We take the heavy load.
We’re trying the same format that we tried last year. We present about three pieces per night. This year, we found that with this festival, that the Cabaret is a really important part of our festival. It starts at 9:30 on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and they are free. We discovered that it was important to have things that we can offer that are of no cost. We present stand up, short pieces and burlesque, and people who are experimenting and of course, we have to dance. We have really fantastic DJ’s and live music.
We have very affordable liquor thanks to our sponsors, so I’m trying to keep everything as afford as possible. You pay for one ticket for the entire evening, but if you only want to come to the cabaret you don’t have to pay for anything.
K: CAMINOS 2017 will also feature an international conference on Performance and Human Rights titled, ‘Unsettling the Americas: Radical Hospitalities and Intimate Geographies.’ Can you tell us what to expect from the conference?
BP: The conference is about how art talks to the outside world and to the community in which we live and to the world community. These conversations about performance and human rights have always been really important to us. This year, the graduate drama department at York University came to us and told us about a gathering they do with academics, registered students from all over the Americas every year, and it takes place in a different country. This year, they’re doing it in Toronto and they said they would love to partner with us.
We’re partnering with them, and the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics in New York. 150 graduate students are coming from all over the Americas and the conversations begin at 2:30 in the afternoon. They are free to the public on Thursday and Friday. They are bringing amazing panelists from all over the countries and will bring really good discussions about things.
This year we are talking a lot about the Latinx community. The Spanish language has a gender, things are either masculine or feminine, so this movement that has been gathering a lot of strength in the states and now in Canada, where they put an ‘x’ at the word ‘Latin’ so you don’t have to define your gender. I’m very excited about their proposals. We have one night that we are calling the ‘Latinx’ night, on the Thursday.
K: What else should we expect at the festival?
BP: We’re very lucky to have Lido Pimienta presenting her one-woman show, We’re in a Non-Relationship Relationship. She just won the Polaris Prize. She has played in all her festivals and this week she just received the most prestigious prize in music in this country, but she’s going to be acting. She’s hilarious. Lido is fearless. Every time I see her on stage I think she has so much guts.
We are also presenting part of our new work which is going to be produced next year at the theatre centers. Everybody has a little bit of everything which is really cool. Most of the pieces are from 20-25 minutes so that we can present many pieces during the night.
I also got a call from a dancer from Mexico, and I thought, this isn’t an international festival, but she sent me a tape and her work is really good so I am having her as a special guest.
I am also bringing a company from Montréal. As we grow, we want to keep grow this idea of Pan-Americanism and Canada is part of Pan-America. We are all part of it, we produce Indigenous, Latin, Latinx, and Canadian artists.
We are trying to expand these perspectives little by little.
K: It seems very inclusive.
BP: When I say that my Pan-Americanism includes Canada, it also applies that Canada includes the world. We’re all a Pan-American community. It’s really exciting. After I saw that we had over 40 applications, I understood that we were on the right track. Our sponsors have responded really well again and we’re starting to gain support.
Everything we do and all the support goes to the artists. That’s what it is for. The jump from being able to produce is the hardest, you may have a great idea but the production side is really hard, especially those who don’t have a body of work yet.
A festival of works-in-progress is a very beautiful place to present because audiences are very engaged. They really feel that they are part of the creation process. They’re crucial. In the exercise of presenting 20 minutes, you really have to distill what the piece is about. It really helps you to understand what you are doing with a piece.
K: It’s also a great beginning for an artist. You’re giving them the opportunity to develop an idea, one they may not have had the opportunity to fully develop into something yet.
BP: In a very professional manner. The competition out there is getting really tough. We have so many great artists in Toronto. You can apply for a grant and there are a lot of other people doing so. With younger artists who are starting out, sometimes they don’t look as good because they haven’t been able to develop their production value yet.
We try to emphasize that we try to bring as much professional support to the artists as we can. Everything isn’t just in the writing in theatre, it’s in the magic of all the elements coming together. I want everyone to feel very supported when they go on the stage because they deserve it.
K: How did Caminos first begin and what have you learned in the past few years of the festival?
BP: In 2014 we realized that our community of artists were not producing work because Aluna is about the only Latin-Canadian company that produces work. Aluna is a small company that can only produce about two shows a year, and I wondered what we could do with all these great artists that need to help to produce their work?
We thought it was important to maintain the presence of a festival, but how do we keep this momentum going? The first Caminos was so much fun. I didn’t expect to have such a great time, it was short and manageable and a lot of great new audiences came. It was a community.
We saw a mixed-audience. Contrary to belief, our audiences have been mostly Canadian. The last six years we have worked to build the Latin American audiences. This is the same with the artists.
My dream one day is to not have to speak about diversity anymore but that we all see each other’s work and we all work together. The divisions are necessary at the beginning, but for me, Canada is an exciting place.
The conversations that I see the conversations taking place in Toronto aren’t happening everywhere, but we are speaking a lot about diversity of perspectives and inclusivity. You never know how this opens doors for an artist.
It takes a very special person to make a musical come to life. The challenges are apparent even from the writing process — one works to intertwine an original story with lyrics and imagines it into something corporeal. Britta Johnson has mastered this difficult task, and is making waves in the Toronto theatre scene with her new production, Life After.
Britta, who’s been compared to the likes of Stephen Sondheim, is quickly making a name for herself and building a respectable brand most writers hope to achieve. Toronto’s Musical Stage Company was so impressed by her work that they have chosen her to develop and produce three new musicals for the next three years — something unprecedented in Canada.
We had the opportunity to chat with Britta just days before the opening of Life After.Learn about her story below and click here to purchase tickets.
Kimberley Drapack: How did you first get involved in theatre?
Britta Johnson: I grew up in Stratford. My parents were both pit musicians and I grew up in the theatre seeing all the plays every year. It would often be substitute for babysitting. When they couldn’t find someone to take care of us we’d go see Hamlet again.
It was a really big part of my youth. The culture of Stratford, most of the people you look up to are making a comfortable living in the arts. It felt like a natural progression.
There are three of us in my family and we all went into it not thinking it was strange. Now that I’m an adult I see that it’s a bit strange but I didn’t know it at the time.
I started writing for my high school kind of as an excuse to get out of class and hang out with my friends and it slowly became a big part of what I do.
K: It seems as though you grew up with a great support system within a creative field.
BJ: Absolutely. I was the youngest in my family and both my sisters were really good at piano, and it was partially me being competitive that I wanted to get good at it fast.
K: What facets of musical theatre first drew your interest?
BJ: It wasn’t ever a decision that I really wanted to be a musical theatre writer. I was always really interested in theatre and storytelling and I’m a musician and a pianist. I used to want to become a writer for The Simpsons and it happened through writing for my high school shows that I learned I had a knack for it.
I think storytelling is important and there are all kinds of things that are made possible when you use music that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. It’s always the work I’m most curious about. I certainly don’t unconditionally love the form but I do think that when you get it right telling a story with music, there’s some honesty there that wouldn’t otherwise be possible without music.
K: When you’re writing a script, do you find it a tough process to jump from dialogue into a song?
BJ: It’s generally kind of rare that I’ve done all three, writing scripts and then the music and lyrics. I’m usually more of a songwriter, which makes it easier because someone else is making those decisions and it’s an active collaboration. With this piece, it’s not a super traditional musical, it’s mostly music and really plays with time and space. It’s not a super narrative-driven, linear thing. It was really about mining the emotional moments that were important to musicalize and then just making sure that they audience could stay on board and it felt like it had a natural progression and a satisfying arch.
That’s always the hardest part to write: the moment before someone starts to sing. It’s so strange.
K: How did your writing process begin for Life After?
BJ: It started as a series of songs about a loss of the same person. A story started to grow around it, but really music is the central driving feature. It was an organic process because I didn’t walk in knowing what the story was. I walked in knowing what I wanted to explore, which was what grieving feels like when you face it for the first time. Figuring out what story to hang it off of, because I do think you need some kind of foundation to let it live in and then figuring it out what that would be to earn the musical moments and to earn the emotional world that we were trying to set up.
K:How does it feel to be compared to the likes of Stephen Sondheim?
BJ: I mean that’s insane. I can’t really take that on board or I’ll have a nervous breakdown. I think he’s the master and the reason why I write what I do. That’s always exciting to read and I think he manages to do amazing things with his music. I’m honored by that, but if I think about it too hard I’ll need to leave town.
K: Not only is Life After well underway, you will have a busy next couple of years with The Musical Stage Company developing and producing three new musicals for the next three years. This is unprecedented in Canada. How does this process work? How do you feel at achieving such a big accomplishment?
BJ: Well, talk to me when I’ve written them, so who knows?
It’s crazy. It’s totally unprecedented and I’m keenly aware of how lucky I am to get this kind of support and I know I’m lucky to be coming up at this time where in this country it feels like people are starting to get excited about musicals again. I think what happened with Come from Away is part of that and I think that The Musical Stage Company are really unique in their vision and they’re so smart and ambitious. I’m lucky that my aesthetic lines up so much with theirs.
It’s huge and so exciting. Usually, as a freelancer, you have to finish one project and then have a nervous breakdown because you don’t know what the hell is going to happen next. To know where I’m landing after this is so huge. I get to turn the page and work on the next thing and to build my brand along with such an incredible company. I’m so thrilled I hardly know what to say.
K: How do you continue this flow and begin the next process? Do you have ideas in the back of your mind of what this process might entail?
BJ: Both musicals are already kind of on the burner. The next one is well underway and we’re doing a workshop of it in the winter. Life After is the only musical where it’s just me. The other two musicals will be with collaborators.
If I was doing three musicals alone, I wouldn’t have time to be speaking with you right now. (Laughs). I also want to go outside and sleep and stuff. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say about them, but we’ve decided what they are and they’re on their way.
K: How do you continue to stay inspired while writing and producing multiple works at a time?
BJ: The lucky thing about my work is that it’s all very different from one another. Nothing else sounds like Life After. When I’m working on something, I try to immerse myself with things that make me feel the way I hope to make the audience feel.
I’ll often make myself playlists of music that gives me the feeling that I want the world of the show to have, and read things about the topic. I always try to immerse myself a bit in the feeling and the world of the show. I’m lucky and think I’d burn out a lot faster if I didn’t get to work on such different stuff. Nothing is like each other, or else I’d totally run out of ideas. I can turn the page and then think about the next thing I need to think about.
K: Do you ever start on one project and find that there are similarities with another? Is it ever difficult to have those moments?
BJ: Absolutely, and I do run into those. That’s when I need to cleanse my palette and try to listen, watch or read new things. I struggle to write more than one thing at once. I usually like to fully immerse in one and then fully immerse myself in another and I haven’t quite figured out how to do the juggling act but I’m working on it. Otherwise, there is a bit of bleeding that happens.
K: Life After has some sadness behind it, but there is a lot of honesty and truth in sad stories. They’re important to tell because a lot of people can relate. Do you find that when you’re writing or going through the process of developing a show you’re looking for something that an audience can grasp onto?
BJ: Absolutely. I think honesty has to be key, especially when you’re working in as heightened a form as this. You start feeling like you’re manipulating or lying to people pretty fast when what your characters are singing isn’t truly rooted in something about the human experience. Even if it is a comedy or a tragedy. I always hope, even if I’m working on something totally outlandish there is something within it that people can find to relate to. Especially when you’re talking about something like loss, or grief, something that literally everyone in the entire world has to walk through. You really want to get it right or else it feels like a disservice to your audience.
K: Do you ever feel as a writer you have a certain amount of power? Do you feel an added pressure?
BJ: Absolutely, and then I have to remind myself that nobody dies if they don’t like my show or if it doesn’t speak to them. Also, it would feel like a wasted opportunity if it didn’t. I want people to feel glad they came. You can only ever try your very best.
K: What’s your favorite part of opening up a show?
BJ: I’ve never got to work on this scale before. These are big companies involved and it’s a very extensive and impressive team. I’ve never got to collaborate on this scale before where everyone in the room is the very best at what they do.
It’s been really thrilling at how quickly things can happen and I trust everyone in the room so much and the collaboration has been so exciting. The piece has grown at such a rapid speed.
Getting into the rehearsal room was something that’s been in my head for so long and has been so great. It really is a team effort and that’s what I love about theatre, even though I get to do all the interviews. It’s good for my ego.
Midnight Madness is certainly not for the weak of heart. But those who were feeling a little brave this year decided to take part in the Toronto International Film Festival‘s lineup of horror films, led by Peter Kuplowsky. No stranger to the festival circuit,Peter trained under Colin Geddes for four years before taking the reins himself.
At just 30 years old, Peter already has quite an impressive resume. Heis not afraid to take risks and, because of his meticulous planning, creates a safe space for a memorable movie-watching experience for all to enjoy.
We had the opportunity to chat with Peter about this year’s lineup, and to see where we can find him next.
Kimberley Drapack: How did you first become involved in film?
Peter Kuplowsky: I’ve always been interested in movies and I’ve always wanted to make film. When I was eleven years old my mom took me to the TIFF offices back when they were at 2 Carleton and I interviewed Steve Greystock, not realizing that over a decade later that I would be working with him. TIFF seemed in the cards for a long time.
I was an undergrad student at the University of Torontospecializing in Cinema Studies and at the same time I was helping out with an emerging festival called Toronto After Dark. I enthusiastically volunteered after just having come back from Montréal and experiencing the Fantasia Film Festival. It was an eye opening experience to me and was my first introduction to film festivals because back then Toronto was an 18+ festival and I couldn’t get into any screenings, although I definitely tried and was turned away.
U of T had a student union that had a very generous budget to rent movies so I became a programmer there, selecting films to the student union to show other undergrads. I heard that Colin Geddys, who used to run the midnight madness program, had a large kung fu film collection and I was really into Hong Kong cinema, I reached out to him and started renting prints from him and at the same time I was working at the Bloor cinema as a concessions jockey. I really wanted to start putting on movies there, specifically this one film, Troll 2, considered one of the worst films ever made. I found it so entertaining. I ended up booking the Bloor and putting on a screening of the film there, it was a big success and got Colin’s attention, and he referred to me as the “T2 kid.” We organically began to hang out in the same circle and he noticed my enthusiasm for film programming and putting on shows and eventually asked if I wanted to be an assistant and help him on some of his projects. Initially, it wasn’t Midnight Madness, we collaborated on a festival in South Carolina called Action Fest, I think it was sort of a trial run. We worked on the festival for two years and then after that, I had just finished another job and didn’t know what I was going to be doing and that’s when he suggest I start working with him on the Midnight Madness program.
For the last four years I was the the programming associate, working with Colin. In January he retired, and he generously passed the position to me, which I was completely thrilled about. As bittersweet as it was, I’ve been such a huge fan of this program since I first started attending, I’ve always felt that it was kind of a state of the union of genre films for the year because it was so tightly curated and it spans such a diverse array of different type of genre films, not just horror movies, but martial arts films, films from the around the world… it’s surreal to have that responsibility now but it’s something that I feel really privileged and excited about.
K: Your goal for Midnight Madness over the next five years is to create a lineup of not only horror films, but also a broader genre of films and to emphasize movies that discuss important hot topics. What does this mean to you?
PK: My favourite kinds of genre films or “movies to watch at midnight” are movies that really upset expectations because one of the attractions or appeals of great genre cinema are not really their generic properties, or the generic formulas you expect, it’s the stuff that you don’t expect and the fun is watching the movie that starts in a very familiar place, as many horror movies and action movies do, but it’s how those movies subvert the formula and subvert the expectation of what people are really looking for when they watch genres. They’re looking for something that’s recognizable and familiar but they’re looking for something to surprise them and I think the best genre films do that. I’m very interested and passionate about the films that go out on a limb and take those risks and try to challenge expectations and transgress those boundaries. In putting together this year’s lineup, I was really interested in finding a mix of film makers who had a history with the program and filmmakers that were brand new and trying new things. I think I achieved that with films like, Let the Corpses Tan and The Crescent, respectively, one is an action film and one is a horror film but they are told in very esoteric and eccentric ways. The style and form in which they articulate and express their story has it’s own identity and is not something you can compare easily to other films.
K: It’s great that you found films that deliver important messages and aren’t just there for their jump-scares.
PK: It was important for me to deliver a wealth of different experiences. I have a film such as David Bruckner’s, The Ritual, which is a traditionally scary movie about campers getting lost in the woods, it’s also from an emerging filmmaker who has spent the last ten years has making a number of short films and anthology projects but he has yet to make a feature. He was someone I wanted to support but his film differently assumes a traditional trajectory, where as, a film like The Crescent is a lot more esoteric and psychedelic and unpredictable.
K: When putting together the line-up for this year, or previous years, is there a certain way in which you go about choosing your films?
PK: I think that a good programmer, especially one that is putting a section together that is as tightly packed as something like the Midnight Madness section, it’s something that I learned from Colin, you have to consider how they flow together. You don’t want a program of ten zombie films or ten martial arts films. You want to deliver a different experience each night and in putting this line up together I was thinking about how I wanted to start, what I want to do in the middle and how I wanted it to end. There is an audience that tries to come every single night so I’m very considerate of their experience each night so I want to change things up.
In terms of how I found these films, you watch a bunch of films that have been submitted to the festival and you’re watching films that you have been contacted about, sometimes by the filmmakers themselves, or their sales agents/distributors. We’re also going out in the world and looking for these movies. I have a background in short film programming, I programmed short films for the Toronto After Dark festival for eleven years and I currently do short film programming for Fantastic Fest. One of the other things that I do when I first started working on the Midnight Madness programwas that I emailed a lot of short film makers that I had been a fan of to see if they were working on features and a few said they were, such as David Bruckner.
I try to be thoughtful in terms of putting things together. For instance, it was very important for me that the first film be something that would have a lot of impact, and the film that I chose, Joseph Kahn’sBodied, is a movie that I thought wouldn’t make sense to have anywhere else but at the start of the festival because I think it’s a sort of film that can start a conversation that can carry through the festival.
I wanted to end the festival on a lighter and fun note, and Vampire Clay ended up being my choice because I really like the story behind the making of the film, it’s the first feature of a filmmaker who is in his late forties, and has worked in the industry of special effects and as a makeup artist on much lower budget productions and I have seen some of his short films and I was really impressed with them and excited to see what he would do with a feature. I found the film really resourceful and fun and unpretentious. I think it is a great counter note to some of the other films in the program where this is a fun way to end the festival experience, not a heavier way.
K: Do you have a particular film that you are most excited for audiences to see this year?
PK:I’m excited to see how the audiences will react to Brawl in Cellblock 99, simply because I’ve broken the tradition. Historically, every Midnight Madness film begins at midnight, or 11:59 PM, but I’m starting this film at 10:45 PM. The reason is that I really feel that the first hour and seven minutes are not really delivering the Midnight Madness experience. It’s more of a gritty crime drama that’s rather sober and measured and deliberately paced, but about halfway into the movie, a big plot detail emerges that begins to escalate and bring a momentum to the story that makes it feel a bit more Midnight Madness oriented. When it finally gets to the climax and delivers a really brutal and bloody sequence, that I think is going to shock and satisfy the Midnight crowd. I’m looking forward to see how that plays in the room, the steady escalation where people aren’t going to be sure of where the movie is going and then what the movie will deliver in its final scene.
K: Are there any current trends in the horror genre that you were hoping to include or avoid within the lineup?
PK: It’s interesting, while watching the submissions this year, I did see a few trends emerge. I think that you can look at a number of films this year and see a lot of parables of broken masculinity taking place. At the same time, what I was hoping to see more of is women working in genre, and I did see a small, but a presence of women that is just great. A lot of this is a systemic problem where a lot of emerging female directors just aren’t getting a chance to make that jump from short films to feature films as quickly as their male peers are. Last year, we had the amazing film, Raw, directed by Julia Ducournau, and this year we have Hélène Cattet returning for Let the Corpses Tan along with Coralie Fargeat’s debut, Revenge.
A really common genre that gets submitted to a genre festival is the rape-revenge film, or a sort of female-vengeance story, but the fact that this was directed by a woman had me really interested and I think Coralie gives you a really new perspective on how this story gets told, specifically in how she puts the scrutiny and the gaze of the film more centred on male bodies than female bodies. In a rape-revenge story, that’s a really substantial detail.
I’m hoping for the industry to allow more voices to tell stories, because I do think we are seeing the same story over and over again. The amount of times I’ve seen a horror movie or action movie hinge on a protagonist that just wanted to ask a girl out and the whole movie is just so that he can win that girl… it’s a trope and it’s been around for hundreds and hundreds of years and there’s nothing wrong with that type of story, but there’s more than that.
I’m encouraging filmmakers to think about their films and if it’s a story that’s already been heard before, then why do they feel they should tell it again? What do they want to add to the conversation? That’s something that I’m interested in finding in future editions of the program.
K: Along with your many years of experience as a festival programmer, you also have a lot of producing credits, such as: Manborg (2011), the concluding segment Z is for Zygote in the anthology film The ABCs of Death: Part 2 (2014), The Interior (2015), The Void (2016), and the short film adaptation of Dave Eggers short story Your Mother and I (2016). Do you see yourself more as a producer, or would you rather be programming festivals?
PK: Both roles I’ve stumbled into somewhat organically. I’ve always wanted to make movies but early on I found myself more preoccupied with showing other people’s movies. While doing that I’ve made a connection and friendships with short film makers and then those friendships eventually turned into collaborations where I asked a short film maker what they were working on and they would start talking about their process, and because I was gaining contacts and experience working alongside distributors and exhibitors and sales agents and financiers, I was able to parlay some of that experience and some of those contacts into helping some of these short filmmakers make new projects including features.
I found that in my desire to want to make movies I feel like I realized that maybe I’m better at other people make their movies. I really enjoy that sort of collaborative process. Career wise, I’m trying to see if I can balance programming for festivals six months of the year, and helping people get content and getting their films off the ground the other six months of the year.
The most valuable thing about programming is seeing what other people are making and the quality. A lot of the stuff I’m seeing, by objective or conventional standards, might not be up to snuff, or “great works”, but I feel like they’re always teaching me something or establishing trends, some to potentially follow or some to maybe avoid. They are also revealing filmmakers, actors, or cinematographers that I may want to work with. It’s one of the reasons why I want to continue programming other festivals because I feel by watching short films, it’s allowing me to see a couple years into the future because I’m looking at filmmakers that are starting out. I hope to notice them and put them in touch with people that can help them make their films.
K: You’re part of that process with them.
PK: A lot of programmers see a movie well before it’s finished. A few of the films I saw this year, in their assembly versions, or their first drafts. There was a back and forth between me and the filmmakers and their producers about what I thought was working and what I thought wasn’t. While I never intend to say, “I think you should do this,” I try to be candid in terms of what my reactions are. Sometimes it has an effect on someone and sometimes it doesn’t. There’s a real feedback loop between festival programmers and filmmakers these days.
K: It’s always best to do what you love.
PK: Fortunately enough I still like movies. There’s always that period where I’m in the eye-of-the-storm watching stuff and maybe haven’t seen something in three weeks that I’ve liked, and that’s when you get worried because at that point if something good comes around you’re not sure if you’ll notice it because you feel so beaten down. The thing is, every time I’ve gotten that feeling, every time I do see something that I think is strong and good, you notice it within a few seconds. It can be the subtlest decision on the director’s part but I feel that it’s so apparent. As subjective as it may be, there is a way to direct a movie or a way to tell a story that can immediately convey to the viewer that someone is in control and steering the ship.
When someone asks me what I consider as constituting a good film, or what I look for as a programmer, it sounds like a simple thing, but I look for direction. I look for a film that I feel is articulating it’s ideas of clarity. Whether it’s the movements of the camera or the staging factors, I don’t feel like things are arbitrary or left to chance. Even if it’s a movie where things are improvised, or a documentary, the assembly or decisions that are made in putting the package together just feel like decisions.
I like hearing the voice of the filmmaker or the collective voice of the team that has made a certain movie.
K: It must be like a lightbulb that comes on when you do see something special.
PK: When I do see something I like, I have a tendency to stand up and start pacing a bit. I get rather excited when that lightbulb goes off.
K: It must be really exciting to be in the screening and to see the same reactions that you first had.
PK: I love watching the audience watch something in a program. Going to Fantasia in Montréal and then my first Midnight Madness in 2005… it’s the reason I do this. I love sitting in an audience that for ninety minutes or two hours there is a feeling of complete unity where everyone is in line or joining the wavelength of the story being told.
I think Midnight Madness is one of the programs that really delivers that because it often plays with big emotions and is able to create that feeling to get everyone as energized and charged.
K: What’s next for you?
PK: I go straight intoFantastic Festwhere I do a shorts programme that is broken up into three sections. There is a horror section, a general comedy section and a section of more experimental, arthouse genre exercises.
After that, the machine sort of beings to start up again for next year but before it does, in earnest, I will likely be trying to work on my many projects with various filmmakers and it kind of depends on what is ready and what needs the help.