Atlantic Filmmaker Focus: Caley MacLennan

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 Halifax filmmaker Caley MacLennan.

Caley has taken on many roles in the filmmaking industry, including writing, directing, producing, and editing. His current project, NOON GUN, was recently selected for the Indiecan10K initiative.

Caley MacLennan

D.O.B: October 13th 1974.
Where are you from? I’ve lived in many places, but have been in Halifax since my late teens.
Where do you currently reside? Halifax, Nova Scotia.
What got you first interested in film?
I studied history in university. I have always been a writer and was very interested in film. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that a friend of mine encouraged me to pursue it.
When did you first decide filmmaking would be a career path for you?
It all happened at once, within a very quick time frame of about one year. I had been searching for the proper creative outlet for myself. The minute I stepped onto a film set, I knew it was where I was supposed to be.
You’ve worked in the industry as a writer, editor, producer, and director. What is your favourite role to take on and why?
Editing is really fun and a great way to gain experience in the industry and develop skills. However, in a dream world I would be writing and directing, which is the role I am taking on for my film, NOON GUN.
What, in your opinion, makes a good film? Overall, the story and performances rule supreme. It is so important to have a well-written piece that speaks to people. Good art draws a comparison to humanity in general and touches our hearts. It can be further strengthened with strong editing techniques, good music, and other valuable additions, but those first two are so essential.
What advice would you give an aspiring filmmaker? If you want to be a filmmaker, you have to make films. As a filmmaker I had to make mistakes and learn from my experiences until I started to make work that I was proud of. I like to compare it to skateboarding: I attempted to do an ollie probably over a thousand times until I figured how to do it properly. You have to get that experience and have faith in your ideas.
Have you had a mentor that has helped you become the filmmaker you are today?
I have been mentored and guided by several amazing people in the industry so it is difficult to just name one. Scott Simpson is a local producer and director who encouraged me from the very beginning. Christopher Cooper not only taught me about editing but so much about filmmaking in general. In fact, my ideas for NOON GUN really came together after an office chat we had as co-workers.
Your film NOON GUN was selected for the Indiecan10K initiative with Michael Melski on board as your mentor. How important is this program for your film?
The Indiecan10K initiative is so important for NOON GUN for many reasons. First of all, it accepts the idea of control that I want to have for my film and allows me to take on writing, directing, and producing roles. It also offers much more than $10,000 with the addition of lowered insurance and rentals, which helps a lot with costs. It also has to be completed by the end of this year, which is a well-known fact that outlines the legitimacy of the project. Lastly, the program offers distribution, mentorship, official recognition by Telefilm Canada, and a theatrical release, which most low-budget independent films don’t get.
What was the inspiration for NOON GUN?
I was walking down Gottingen Street over 5 years ago with my co-worker Jeff who was the Director of Photography on a shoot. He told me that I really understood the North End neighbourhood. I had this idea in my mind of an overlapping moment being told through several different perspectives that change the audience’s view of the main character. I got the idea of the noon gun going off that night and couldn’t stop thinking about it.
How long did it take for you to develop the script?
I kept thinking about the film and stalled with the story several times. It wasn’t until that moment in the office with Chris Cooper that things really started to come together. The story had its own weird evolution and eventually changed to focus on a whole new group of characters. I have done many other things in the mean time, including six films and music videos, and now it is finally happening. I really feel that this film is my opus and culmination as an artist – which is scary because every decision feels rather weighted, but also very exciting.
What stage of production is your film in now?
We are currently in pre-production. An IndieGoGo campaign will be launched in June. I’m also finishing the script with a major re-write scheduled for the end of May. The initial casting phase will soon begin, and I will be looking for realistic and relatable North End people to play characters. We’ll be shooting in a quasi-Dogme style, setting the stage for strong performances and attempting to capture those moments, rather than doing many takes. The film has to be completed by December 31st, 2014, which isn’t a lot of time, but I love the pressure of the initiative’s deadline. It suits me.
Several of the films you’ve worked on have screened at the Atlantic Film Festival. You also worked as an instructor in the first-ever VF Film School this year. What do these experiences and the Atlantic Film Festival mean to you?
Halifax has an amazing film community, and so much content is made in Nova Scotia. It would be impossible to make films here without the festival – not only does it give our filmmakers the chance to show their films, but with its reputation as one of the better film festivals in North America it brings a wider audience to the screenings. Additionally, the festival’s outreach programs like ViewFinders help to foster the next crop of Halifax filmmakers.

For updates on NOON GUN, follow the film on Twitter (@NoonGunFilm) and Facebook