Atlantic Filmmaker Focus - Marc Almon

The Atlantic Film Festival is a champion of Atlantic Canadian filmmakers. In keeping with this promise, every month we will be profiling some of the most incredibly talented people in the filmmaking industry, today. This month, we look at producer/director, Marc Almon.

Marc's latest film, BLACKBIRD, is a film that explores the power and the danger of social media and cyber-bullying while showing that the worst prisons are often the ones we create for ourselves.

MARC ALMON - DIRECTOR/PRODUCER

DOB: March 21 1978
From: Halifax
Currently residing: Halifax
 
Working on:  A film called “Chenu” which takes place in India.  About a 14-year-old boy whose sister has terrible things happen to her.  In an act of retaliation and revenge, he joins a gang and a class war is ignited.  Also, I am working on a local indie romantic comedy called “A Good Girl” which is about a 34-year-old man trying to hold on to his youth by dating an 18-year old girl.  I am also working on an erotic thriller as well as a sci-fi film.

 
AFF: What first got you interested in film?
 
MA: I’ve always loved movies.  I was interested in making them when I was in high school.  In my first year of university I made my first short film and it got accepted into the Atlantic Film Festival.  I thought, “I want to do this for a living.” I got my start from that and I love the Atlantic Film Festival.
 
AFF: What in your opinion makes a good film?
 
MA: A good film entices an emotion and entices thinking.  It evokes an emotional and an intellectual response.
 
AFF: What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers?
 
MA: Follow your dreams but be prepared for the long haul.
 
AFF: Is there any local talent you haven’t worked with that you would like to?
 
MA: I just had a meeting with Ian Macleod talking about a project.  That was exciting and I hope that that happens.  I would like to work with Andrea Dorfman in the future as well as Ashley Mckenzie and Nelson Macdonald.
 
AFF: Where did the inspiration for Blackbird come from?
 
MA: I was involved right from the beginning. It ‘s based loosely on a true story.  Jason Buxton was doing some research for the National Film Board with the possibility of making a documentary on kids who say things online and get in trouble for it. The documentary didn’t move forward, but it was a compelling idea, and we thought, “Wouldn’t this make a great film?”
 
AFF: Were there other considerations chosen for filming or was Nova Scotia the only consideration?
 
MA: Well it was about 50/50 for Halifax and Windsor.  Originally we were going to shoot in Bridgewater but it would have been a long drive everyday for the cast and crew, so we went with Windsor.  But it was always going to be filmed here in Nova Scotia.
 
AFF: How much of the crew was local and how important is the idea of hiring local talent to you?
 
MA: Most of the crew was local and I think it’s very important. I like working with a local crew.  We have an incredible source of talented crew and actors here in Nova Scotia and I think we should take advantage of that as much as we can.
 
AFF: What are you looking for in actors when casting a film?
 
MA: That’s a hard question to answer.  It really depends on the film and the role… It’s hard to explain.  There’s a vibe, a feeling and you really need to be in the room to witness that.  Some actors are great at that but for some reason the camera just doesn’t capture it and vice versa.  But ultimately, you need an actor who can provide an amazing performance on camera. Both Jason and I were excited about Connor Jessup, who plays the lead role.  We saw his audition and both thought he was THE ONE.  We were also really excited about Alex Ozerov who plays Trevor, the troubled kid.  We kind of felt like we ‘discovered’ him because he had never been in a feature, before.  He just has this presence that sticks with you.  We called back Connor and had him and Alex do a scene together and it was electrifying.  They were so into their characters and worked well together.  That’s the kind of thing you pray for when casting a film… That incredible collaboration.
 
AFF: How did your experience as a filmmaker inform your role as a producer?
 
MA: For me, having been a filmmaker, writer and director on shorts gave me experience that I was able to bring to producing this film and in my interactions with Jason Buxton.   
 
AFF: What were some of the challenges of making this film?
 
MA: The budget was challenging.  We had a budget of 1.2 million; which may sound like a lot but we had over 40 speaking roles.  There were times when we thought, “Oh my God, we’re going to run out of money and get shut down.”  There were some very scary periods like that.
 
AFF: What were some of the film influences for Blackbird?
 
MA: There were a few.  ELEPHANT, which is a 2003 drama, written and directed by Gus Van Sant.  THE DEAD POET’S SOCIETY had a minor influence because it was a story showed in high school that all ages could appreciate. L’ENFANT (THE CHILD) was a major influence, stylistically.
 
AFF: What were some of the key messages/themes you wanted to convey in this film?
 
MA: It’s important to remain true to yourself. That was an important one for us.  Also, it’s important to step outside yourself and to have empathy for others.
 
AFF: What were your favorite scenes of the film? Was there a special moment during the making of the film that stood out and that you will always remember?
 
MA: The last day of filming and not because,  “Oh thank God it’s over,” but because it was an amazing accomplishment. We had to shoot a lot of scenes on the last day and they had to be filmed in 12 hours.  Connor was 16 at the time, so we had a race against the clock.  We got this amazing scene with Connor and Trevor and there just happened to be a thunderstorm happening.  It was amazing… Like biblical. It made the scene so intense.  It was one of those times when you are standing there, yet racing to get the shot, but just in awe knowing that it is going so well.
 
AFF: BLACKBIRD was chosen for the Viewfinders: Atlantic Film Festival for Youth opening Gala. How do you feel about that? Do you think it’s a good fit?
 
MA: I feel very honored and I think it’s a tremendously good fit.  Early on, Jason and I had a debate.  Jason saw it more as a film for adults.  It was an intense film and it wasn’t made specifically for a younger audience. I said, “Fine. Make it that way but it’s going to be of interest to youth.” I find it gratifying that it has gotten such a great response from youth AND adults.  Based on the success, it’s achieved both of our hopes.  It’s a film that’s seems to be connecting with everyone.