Atlantic Filmmaker Focus: Andrea Dorfman

Nova Scotia filmmaker Andrea Dorfman

The Atlantic Film Festival is a champion of Atlantic Canadian filmmakers. In keeping with this promise, every month we profile some of the most incredibly talented people in the filmmaking industry today. This month, we look at Nova Scotia filmmaker Andrea Dorfman.

Andrea Dorfman

Birthday: October 29th
Where are you from? Toronto, Ontario
Where do you currently reside? Halifax, Nova Scotia
What are you currently working on? I’m always juggling a lot of different projects at the same time. Right now, the project that is taking centre stage is a documentary with the NFB (National Film Board). For the past four years I’ve been following the incredible work of a legal justice human rights project where, with the help of a Kenyan-Canadian legal team, 160 girls took the Kenyan gov’t to court for not protecting them from rape. Otherwise, I have two feature films in development and I am having fun making a short animated PSA for the arts non-profit, Art Bridges. 
What got you first interested in film? I don’t think it was any one thing… I think it was the collision of a few things. First of all, the pure magic of watching a film in a theatre – especially the first few films I saw as a child. Of course the storytelling and how it took me, as the viewer, on a journey. Also, I loved the technical side of filmmaking. As a child, I was interested in cameras. We had a dark room in our basement and my dad gave me his old Super 8 camera when I was 12. These were my toys.
When did you first decide filmmaking would be a career path for you? It was when I was at NSCAD that I thought I could actually be a filmmaker… I remember seeing the films of Jane Campion and being completely taken by the characters and the style. Her voice was so strong. To me, there was clearly a person behind the film. I wanted to be a person behind a film.
What, in your opinion, makes a good film? A good story can make a good film… but of course that’s not it. I think a good film also comes from a specific perspective; a point of view. And of course a strong character. I think great films are often told through the story of a character, someone whom we can imagine ourselves being.

What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker? Just do it! The only difference between a filmmaker and a non-filmmaker is that the filmmaker made a film! Everyone has a story to tell and with equipment being more and more accessible, there is no excuse to NOT make a film.
What was the inspiration for HeartbeatEver since Tanya Davis and I collaborated on the short video-poem How To Be Alone, I had the idea of writing a feature film that she could be the star of. She is such an amazing talent, I knew her music would carry and elevate the story and she’d be able to pull off the acting. So, in a way, the original inspiration was to make a feature film with her and wanting to make a musical. But the story of the film comes from something I’ve thought a lot about – that the things that mean the most to us make our hearts beat fast and furiously and this can be confusing, making us run away when, really, we should move towards it.
How involved was Tanya in the production of the film? Can you tell us a little bit about your working and creative relationship? Tanya is a great friend and collaborator. Over the years we have worked together on a handful of projects and it’s always a wonderful and positive experience. Although I wrote the script, Heartbeat could not have been made without Tanya. Her performance and music were the soul of the movie.
Heartbeat was shot in Halifax, NS. How important was it to shoot there? I don’t have a car so I ride my bike and walk all over town. I love this city and am always taking note of interesting streets and unique houses, the way the trees reach up to the sky or, in the case of the Citadel, how an expanse of green hillside creates a sweeping swash of green. I’m endlessly inspired by Halifax.
How many members of the Heartbeat film crew are from Atlantic Canada? The only crew member, who wasn’t from Atlantic Canada, was Stephanie Weber-Biron who hails from Montreal.

Is there any local talent you haven’t worked with that you are hoping to in the future? I think there is so much amazing talent in Halifax. There are so many actors, musicians, visual artists, technicians, and animators…. There isn’t enough room to list them all! We’re lucky in Halifax to work within such a rich talent pool.
What were the key themes or messages that you wanted to convey to the audience? That we need to move towards the things that scare us the most in order to become the fullest version of ourselves.
Were there any other pieces of work that you took inspiration from for Heartbeat’s atmosphere and style? I can’t think of anything specifically but I draw on everything and anything around me. I am surrounded by artists and musicians and am fortunate enough that they rub off on me.
What were your favorite scenes of the film? Was there a special moment during the making of the film that you will always remember? 
One of my favourite scenes of the film was the Frisbee scene. I loved how Tanya, Stephanie and Naomi were so playful throughout and, a little bit of trivia, when I was writing the film, I took a break (I was writing at a Dal library) and when I was walking beside the soccer field, a Frisbee fell at my feet. Pretty much the exact same scene ensued!
Heartbeat screened at the 34th Atlantic Film Festival. What does that experience and the Atlantic Film Festival mean to you? It was a perfect night. I’ve always thought the biggest success of the film would be to have people who worked on it to be proud of it and so many people who contributed to the film, were in the audience and loved it.
When is the next opportunity people will have to watch HeartbeatHeartbeat opens at Park Lane this Friday, November 21st!!

Thanks for chatting with us, Andrea. We can't wait to see Heartbeat on the big screen, again!