On making a truly indie feature film
The first day of shooting the entire cast and crew all gathered in a circle. It was my intention that each day before shooting we would all gather together and smudge—burn sweetgrass and align ourselves in ceremony. The night before I had prepared an elaborate speech to bring the troops together and get us focused on the weeks ahead. In my mind’s eye we were a massive team. But on that first morning as we all gathered around and I was set to speak I had to laugh—there were ten of us in total (that includes our caterer and production manager…the same person). It was a really intimate group of people. By the end of the production, on our last day, as we gathered for our last smudge together and my last pep talk for the day, I couldn’t help but be choked up as I spoke: we had come together as such an incredibly small production unit, with everyone overlapping in their multiple departments seamlessly. I said then that quite possibly we’ll never make a film in this way again, where on one day the Art Director/1st AD/Wardrobe/Boom Operator (again, just one person) would make the crew a Thai curry dinner.
So a big chi miigwitch to the crew for so wholeheartedly pitching in wherever needed. Tkaronto couldn’t have happened otherwise. In addition, the entire production was only made possible by the new paradigm of filmmaking. We shot the feature on a prosumer HD camera (Panasonic HVX), edited it in Final Cut and handled all the post-sound needs in our basement Breath studio with equipment we picked up at the local music store. I can’t help thinking of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola and how they’ve worked with companies to create new technologies to “democratize” the filmmaking process, to make it so that anyone can pick the equipment up and edit at home and create a moving picture of professional quality without the trappings of big business to make it happen. Who would ever fund a film like ours, about two people exploring their Aboriginal identities in an urban environment? It’s not really sexy. But it came together as an indie film precisely because of the new technology available. And for any marginalized community whose stories should be told—like Indigenous Peoples the world over—it’s not only an exciting time, but a vital time for us to make these works. And now we can, independently and cheaply.