Still is the contemplative sci-fi thriller by Slater Jewell-Kemker, part of the Short Cuts Canada Programme 5 showcase. It is photographed in a wooded snow-covered wonderland, and focuses on a young woman, Sadie, who is trapped in an abusive relationship but catches an alternative glimpse of things could be. Jewell-Kemker recently spoke with Toronto Film Scene about the experiences of making this film and the challenges of shooting on location.
Describe your film in 10 words or less.
We get the love we think we are worthy of.
What inspired you to make this film?
I’ve realized that filmmaking is a way for me to expel darkness and sadness from my own body, and that by taking that darkness and making it into something beautiful, I feel better about myself, I feel worthy of writing these love letters to humanity.
What was the best thing about production? Most frustrating?
Still was shot over five days in early March of this year – remember the polar vortex? The cold, the very thing which I believe defines and shapes this film, was the biggest challenge. My team and I would be outside in -40 weather all day in the snow, shivering in our Arctic coats and boots. Our camera froze, the 1st A.D. got frostbite, the equipment truck itself froze, it was crazy. But that pushed us as a team to come together and do our best work.
The film takes place in a picturesque woodland covered in a fresh blanket of snow, was it difficult trying maintain the pristine snow conditions?
Early on we had an idealistic view of keeping the snow pristine and having paths the crew and cast walk on and everything else off-limits. My production designer had a fleet of sleds and brushes and gathered snow to cover up our tracks. Gary and I quickly realized how naive we were in thinking it’d be as simple as you see in the movies!
What’s the one thing you want people to know about your film?
Giacomo, Emily and I felt it was incredibly important when we were workshopping the film that we didn’t want to look at this story from a victim/abuser standpoint. We wanted to convey just how much Sadie loves Jake – and vice versa – and their need for the other in validating their existence. And how sad that is. That sometimes we choose to be in unhealthy or destructive relationships because we can’t bear to be alone with ourselves. Sadie so desperately wants to be loved that she’s killing off bits and pieces of herself and falling into the same patterns in order to even be worthy of love. I think that’s something we’ve all experienced, however mild or extreme, and it doesn’t help that the most romantic love stories teach us that love is worth dying for, love is worth suffering for. We are worthy and deserving of love simply because we exist and we should never believe otherwise.
Your film is screening as part of TIFF — what are you most excited about seeing or doing at this year’s festival?
Being at TIFF is insane. I don’t think I’ve fully realized that it’s happening. I’m really excited about the moment when my team sees the film we poured ourselves into playing on the big screen at one of the top film festivals in the world. It’s for them I made this film, it’s for them I keep making films. They’re my family.
Still screens as part of Short Cuts Canada Programme 5 at TIFF 2014. Check the TIFF website for more details.