The Alumni crew of CFC does filmmaking right.
Misha is the second short film in less than a month that focuses on a mother and daughter relationship where one of the two becomes ill and the powers that start to wonder. Directed by Andrew Jeffrey and screening at this year’s Blood in the Snow Film Festival, Misha, played by Daiva Johnston, is worried for her daughter June, played by Taylor Belle Puterman, who is has been stricken with an illness. It has been five days since June last attended school. The school officials have been notified the state who has brought this to the attention of the Bureau of Order and Safety. Two agents Kay, played by Jamillah Ross, and Whitford, played by Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, are sent to Misha’s house to do a further investigation into the sickness. Misha is worried that they are not only there to determine what type of sickness June has but whether or not there is evidence in the house that they are witches.
You can tell that this is a polished, smooth and crisp film that does not make you question the amount of budget that they had for the film. Director Andrew Jeffrey, producer Lindsay Blair Goeldner and editor Rick Bartnam are part of the alumni of the Cineplex Film Program offered at the Canadian Film Center in which they were taught great filmmaking habits which you can tell in this film. Even though this is a short film, Misha stands out and sets the mood and the atmosphere correctly for the audience to engage in the mere seconds that the film crew has to offer. We become all invested in the characters in the film which is not an easy task. The film was made pre-COVID-19 times but the film can scare the wits out of you as you wonder if this is the type of behaviour and activity the government could conduct upon us during these troubling times. You just never know right? Intentional or not, kudos to the filmmakers for making the audience think this way.
Toto steals everyone’s hearts in a robotic form.
One of the best shorts of the year that is brilliant and heartwarming is Toto from director Marco Baldonado which should receive awards after it runs in the festival circuit. Screening at this year’s Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival, Tota focuses on a 90-year old Italian grandmother named Rosa Forlano, who plays herself in the film, who is given a robot named Toto to give her companionship and to help her around the house. A quick friendship is built between Toto and Rosa that she has the robot doing things that she wishes. Starting from a tabula rasa state, Toto begins to understand Italian, making pasta from scratch, cooking spaghetti and setting the table up for dinner. Nonna Rosa passes on the Italian traditions to Toto that she has the robot right where she wants and needs him. Unfortunately, she has to babysit her grandaughter Santina one day, played by Gabriela Francis, where her selfishness and naivety change the home and stop those traditions of her grandmother.
Do you remember those feelings that hit you in the heart when you watched a film like E.T., The Extra Terrestial which made you want to watch the film again and again? Those are the feelings you will get when you watch Toto because it is so charming in its narrative. You want to watch the connection between a futuristic artificial intelligent life form like Toto and a nonna who in the last stanza in her life and ready to teach what she knows. It should come out as awkward but it is surprisingly beautiful as two opposite forms of life working towards making the perfect pasta. Director Marco Baldonado will make you want to relish every minute you have with your grandparents and paradoxically to teach your children to not be foolish. It so funny when Rosa talks to Toto in Italian without a care in the world if he understands or not. So brilliant but God do I miss my grandmother.
Canadian Actress Lauren Beatty is clawing her way to the top.
In an already difficult time where many of us are starving for content but not paying attention to who is manifesting it can be frustrating for those who bring it. Those who work hard at their craft and dot their I’s and cross their t’s may slightly get that opportunity to get noticed. Actress Lauren Beatty has gone above and beyond to raise the audience’s awareness and have them engaged in these unforgiving times. Performing as Grey in Bloodthirsty and Emily in Bleed With Me which are both directed by Amelia Moses and both screening at this year’s Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival shows the diversity of roles that she can perform.
Whether she is in a lead role like in Bloodthirsty where she plays a struggling musician or a supporting role in Bleed With Me where she plays a conniving friend, Lauren Beatty sets the stage and the tone for the film. Amidst the backdrop of darkness and blood in both films, Lauren Beatty comes out shining with her smooth and pulsating performances. She steals the show and doesn’t look back knowingly that each second or moment that she is performing is crucial to her career and journey to success. Lauren Beatty is an actress where filmgoers or cinephiles should keep both of their eyes on because she can play on both sides of the coin. FERNTV spoke with Canadian actress Lauren Beatty who can both sing and act and we are not even too sure if she actually dances to make her a triple threat. If she does, then you know she will be dancing with wolves!
FERNTV: In both films, there is a small number of actors/actresses, so what does that do for the confidence of an actress when there is a tight-knit group involved and if you wish to speak about both films separately please do.
Lauren: I think most actors would agree that working with a smaller, more intimate group of people is always preferable. As actors, we have to throw ourselves into make-believe worlds and situations on and off all day, and often it is incredibly vulnerable – so there is definitely something to be said for how a smaller cast & crew can make you feel much safer within your craft.
I personally felt this on both Bleed With Me and Bloodthirsty. There was an intimacy and a feeling of ‘we got you!’ on both sets. I was also very lucky to work with Amelia who is such a patient and giving director. In both films, she let me play some scenes instinctively and also knew when her input was necessary, which as an actor makes you feel a lot more like a contributing artist than just a canvas.
And lastly the actors I got to work alongside (Lee Marshall, Aris Tyros, Greg Bryk, Katharine King So…) were just so loving and generous. It was impossible not to feel safe with them!
FERNTV: I’m not too sure what came first Bleed With Me or Bloodthirsty but your main character of Grey is very similar in character to that of Lee Marshall’s character in Bleed With Me. Did you help Lee to become Rowan or did you learn from Lee to get into the character of Grey?
Lauren: What’s crazy is that Amelia realized while shooting Bloodthirsty, that we had actually started shooting Bleed With Me exactly 1 year to the day prior! Which was a total fluke, but still blows my mind…
To be honest, I hadn’t actually thought about the juxtaposition between Grey and Rowan until reading this question, but I think that’s an interesting observation! It’s safe to say I had no hand in helping Lee become Rowan – she drew from her own brilliance and also had Amelia’s support in that, but perhaps I did subconsciously bring some of that experience of witnessing Rowan with me to set on Bloodthirsty. If you really think about it, both Rowan and Grey could both be defined as ‘prey’ at the beginning of both films, and ‘predators’ by the end. This is really interesting because these are two words Amelia had me focus on for Grey’s character growth/transformation throughout Bloodthirsty!
I credit getting into character for Bloodthirsty to several things; first I had Amelia’s help in sending me some great reference clips/films to watch (Raw, An American Werewolf In London…), and then my own work on digging into Grey’s backstory and really trying to get to know her and put myself in her shoes while also drawing from things in my own life that I could relate it to!
FERNTV: You’re also a musician as well as we can see in Bloodthirsty. Can you comment on how you can relate to the character of Grey and how young artists get taken advantage of in the music industry?
Lauren: Yes I am! I have been songwriting/singing longer than I’ve been acting actually! I don’t have much experience professionally in the music industry but I have friends that do – and from what I’ve seen, women getting taking advantage of seems to be a very common theme. Age can obviously play a part, but I think women of all ages/experience levels in the music industry have experienced some form of abuse from their male counterparts and the industry in general.
That being said I think I can relate to Grey in a few ways, one being that struggle to really find your true self and your own voice through your music & art. It’s something I’ve personally struggled with for years. How do you balance empowering yourself and your truth as an artist, while also trying to fit into the societal pressures women face to be and act a certain way? It’s a delicate balancing act that I’m not so sure I’m keen on being a part of any longer… The other way I can relate to Grey is that women are constantly having to ‘transform’ themselves in a way to fit certain scenarios & expectations of them in their lives, so the idea of ‘transforming’ is definitely not at all foreign to me. Embodying that physically in Bloodthirsty was almost cathartic, like seeing the manifestation of your true self literally burst through your skin making it impossible for you to ignore any longer… I feel like I’m on the brink of this ‘transformation’ in my personal life as an artist – which is an exciting feeling.
FERNTV: Tell us how you met director Amelia Moses and how you become part of both of these films?
Lauren: I first met Amelia in Montreal a few years before we filmed Bleed With Me! We were both working on a mutual friend’s short film and she had asked me if I’d be willing to help her shoot a teaser for a film she was trying to get a grant for. The teaser concept was a couple who bring their friend to a cottage, drug her, and steal her blood – the night we shot this is when I first met Lee Marshall as well! Obviously, the concept ended up evolving into the script for BWM, so when Amelia found out she got the grant she reached out and asked me if I’d like to reprise the role of Emily! I read the script with the updated concept and I was so impressed with it and obsessed with the story of this disturbed female friendship – I was 100% in immediately. Especially after she told me that Lee Marshall was also going to be reprising Rowan!
FERNTV: What is one thing that you learned from Amelia Moses?
Lauren: JUST ONE!? Haha, This is the hardest question yet… Honestly, though, Amelia is so gifted and inspiring and she’s such a hard-worker. With artists like her in the mix, I feel really hopeful for the future of female filmmaking. I think the biggest thing I’ve taken away from working with Amelia thus far (because there’s no way we won’t work together again), is the importance of collaboration and going with the flow. Amelia is a TRUE collaborator in the sense that she never lets her ego get the better of her and she’s always open to change, input, and new ideas – she’s willing to do whatever she has to for the greater good and the best interest of her projects. I think this quality as a filmmaker is SO vital. Not only is Amelia ready and down for anything, but she does it all with such grace and gratitude – and I really look up to her because of that.
FERNTV: Both of these films take place in cold, dark and desolate places. Describe what it is like to play amongst these elements?
Lauren: Well let’s just say at this point I think I am a PRO at being covered in fake blood in the winter and pretending I’m not cold… Lee and I often say there’s no one else who we would willingly do that over and over for other than Amelia. Haha! I really do think though that the elements/atmosphere in both BWM & Bloodthirsty truly lent themselves to the film’s overall energy. In both films, you could almost even consider the weather to be another character.
In Bleed With Me, the extremely harsh conditions really drove home that feeling of being trapped and isolated, because essentially we really were! There was actually one night where some cast & crew had to just sleep on set at the cabin because the snow had piled up so high that they were afraid to drive back to base and get stuck on one of the desolate roads with no service or light.
In Bloodthirsty, I think it also really lends itself to the performances and overall feel of the film. For me personally, I despise winter and it always brings this darkness and almost a sense of evil with it.
FERNTV: Your IMDB profile states that you gravitate towards work geared to the LGBTQ2S community. Can you comment on that?
Lauren: For sure! I’m a proud member of the queer community and one of the things that are really important for me as an artist is to represent my community whenever I can. I want to play a part in normalizing queer people and queer love/relationships, so I am always so excited when I get an audition for a queer role. Being able to represent my community in Bloodthirsty was really special for me. I remember thinking, “Wait so this character is a werewolf, pop-star AND a lesbian!? I’ve PEAKED!!”
Working alongside Katharine King So who played my girlfriend Charlie in the film was also such a rewarding experience. Katharine is also queer in real life, and we had many conversations about how important and special it was for us to portray our community – and the importance of casting queer artists in queer roles!
My long-term goal is to also write/direct LGBTQ2S+ content to help tell our stories and create more work for queer actors.
FERNTV: What is it like to be part of two films here at Blood in the Snow?
Lauren: It’s pretty damn cool!! Haha, Even the name of the festival is SO perfect for these two films! It really is such an honour though – I think Greg Bryk (who played opposite me as Vaughan in Bloodthirsty) also has 2 films in the fest this year which is so crazy! I never thought I’d go from never having played a lead in a feature, to playing 2 within one year, and then ALSO having them both in the same festival at the same time!
I am SO proud of both of these films. I really hope everyone gets a chance to see them!
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Clout shows the downslide of influencing.
Bad Cookie Pictures makes their return to this year’s edition of the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival with a short film with a tall order. Director Ariel Hansen gets behind and in front of the camera and plays a social media influencer named Lyra who seems to have it all. She is all the terms that every influencer wants to be such as Instafamous or Pinterest-perfect. The Kardashian like Lyra gets into all the biggest parties, knows all of the biggest names, wears the biggest name brand products and has a huge amount of followers. Lyra has got a lot of game and she has that confidence where nothing or nobody can get in her way of social media success. Until one day she has a photoshoot along with her friends Mara, played by Lindsay Navarro and Destiny, played by Alisha Dhillon, to accrue likes and gain followers on Instagram. Little does she know beforehand that she has been bitten by a bug and that all those little things that you try to accumulate while being an influencer start to head in the wrong direction. It gets so bad for Lyra that even her own boyfriend Tom, played by Caitlin Franks, starts to ditch her to get into one of those VIP parties.
The approach to this film is so honourable but yet has a black comedic look of those who eat, sleep and breathe social media. The audience does not know if they should laugh or cry when it comes to the downfall of Lyra but it is hilarious seeing this all take place from the lens of a phone which is brilliant on the part of Ariel Hansen‘s vision for the film. When you see Lyra go down like Seth Brundle in The Fly, the audience gets an up to date version of how we truly are to one another in the social media world especially when that person is struggling. We all tend to kick that person when they are down or we disconnect from them when we feel that they have no longer something to offer within our social circle. Cyberbullying is real and it comes in many forms that we have yet to learn about. The lesson that we learn from the film Clout is that nobody is untouchable and things can get bad in a matter of seconds despite how many followers you have. Bad Cookie Pictures strikes again with a different dose of reality on a subject that is not easy to convey.
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