Mia (Canada | 2016, 1 hr 30 min)
Directed by: Jeremy Guenette
Mia is the story of Alain, a private detective from Manitoba now living in Montréal. Forced to leave Winnipeg ten years ago, he is called upon by a local gang to return to Winnipeg and find a missing girl.During his many years away from his native Winnipeg, Alain has had a troubled life and is haunted by his past. With mounting debts this job could be the answer to his prayers. Despite the demons he left behind, he reluctantly accepts the case and returns home.Upon his return to Manitoba, Alain is reunited with Jeanne, the love he left behind, only to discover the young girl he must find is hers. Alain now faces a daunting choice: help the criminals and accept their money to pay off his debts, or help Jeanne and Mia escape a terrible fate.
Interview:An Interview with Jeremy Guenette and Gabriel Levesque, Director, Cinematographer and Writers of "Mia" with Caleb Dawdy
CD: Mia is a film that feels full and exists in a universe much larger than the snapshot we see on screen. What was the process of writing this feature like?
GL: HARD!!! It was a first experience for myself and it was a very difficult one. Would love to have another crack at it sometime.
JG: It was an interesting challenge, the pace for the micro-budget fund we received is fast, so trying to get as much as we could out of the story but keep to the reality of our budget was definitely difficult at times, but exciting to flush out as much as possible from the characters. It was my first time co-writing a script, so that too was a challenge at times but a really great experience to shape a story with someone else and constantly exchange creative feedback.
CD: What elements did you find essential to creating characters that felt full...with backgrounds and intersections that have happened before we meet them?
GL: There were many discussions about backstories in prep. Helped us figure out how our characters relate to one another. Also helps in figuring out what they would do or say in any particular.
JG: I always like when characters have a lot going on and they can convey so much about themselves in a few actions or a few lines. I think the characters all had to carry a lot of baggage, and much of it in this case stemmed from a single event that completely altered their lives. That history between them puts that much more at stake in their present reunion.
CD: What are a few of your major influences in cinema and storytelling?
GL: I don’t know that I’ve developed my skills enough to really have a style yet or, at best, it’s awkward and only beginning to develop. I do really like the Coen brothers and Roger Deakins. They make magic together.
JG: Terrence Malick is one of my film heroes. His poetic style in all that he does has always captured me. I try to introduce that introspective nature into the characters that I write. Jeff Nichols is a contemporary filmmaker whom I think tells incredible stories, and in his early films, they were smaller, contained stories that felt much bigger because the characters were so intense and present. In Canadian film, I very much enjoy Atom Egoyan who maintains a very distinct style that is always recognizable.
CD: Which of those influences do you feel you pull from the most in telling this story?
GL: I would never dare say there’s any hint of their talent in my work.
JG: It’s hard to say, I feel influenced by film in general. I love watching movies, and absorbing the stories and characters on the screen. When I write, I feel like it’s a combination of all those movie experiences and my own personal experiences that jumble around and become the story in front of me.
CD: A large area of believability in your story seems to strike from the costume, production and character design. What were some elements you focused on in those regards and how do you think that affects the way an audience receives a story?
GL: We were very lucky to have very skilled people work with us.
JG: Well we were very fortunate to have a fantastic Production Designer and team working with us. I think the overall tone of the film was something we focused on quite a bit, to make it gritty and dingy to match the characters themselves, but also to try and give a sense of timelessness. It’s present day, but it still feels less than contemporary, like the characters are slow to arrive to modern times. I think for the audience, it makes every character seem like they have that much more of an uphill climb to find success or happiness. It’s a long road for each of them.
CD: There seemed to be a lot of great natural photography with spots of experimentation in this film. Could you describe the process and intent of the cinematography in this film?
GL: We chose to use as much natural lights as possible to be able to make our schedule (producer part of the brain talking). The cinematographer in me really wanted to create something contrasty and gritty. I felt natural light could provide that kind of grittiness in how imperfect it is. I think it worked for us sometimes. There are very nice moments in the movie where things come together quite well.
JG: We wanted to shoot in a neo-noir style without being a full-on noir film in genre. The cinematography ties in well to the production design and the world of the characters. Gab is an incredible DOP, and we made the choice to shoot almost the entire film handheld so that it would never be static, and the energy and tension of the characters would always be present in the photography.
CD: What were some of the largest hurdles to overcome in the writing and shooting process of this film?
GL: The timeline and balancing work/family/this movie life on an itty-bitty budget
JG: Definitely the timeline and the budget. The fund we worked with had a term of one year to write the script, shoot, and post the film to completion. Trying to manage it all and maintain the level of quality that we wanted while sticking to a tight budget was a big challenge.
CD: Would you be able to speak to your choices for how the film ended and if there were any other versions of the ending for this film?
GL: There were slight variations in the ending but that was always pretty much where it was going.
JG: The very end of the film for me shifts from Alain’s story to Mia; it’s now about her and where her future will take her. I always wanted Alain to choose her, above himself, but as we got through the script, we had to decide if he would be a part of her future. In the end, we felt like with all the trouble that seemed to follow him, or be caused by him, that he had to resign himself to let her go. There were multiple options for endings to the film that we discussed and pursued on paper, but we made the choice and this is the only ending that made it to camera.
CD: Are there any projects you and your team are working towards that we can keep our eye on?
GL: We are working on a few things but nothing really off the ground yet. Hopefully get something going soon enough.
JG: I’m developing a few more projects currently with Gab that we are looking to submit to funders. Our hope is to get another project off the ground soon.