Starring Miranda Richardson, Callum Keith Rennie and Katherine Isabelle
Directed by Scott Smith
Opens Friday, November 21
Aspiring filmmakers probably wont want to hear this, but according to director Scott Smith, by the time you make it to the first day on set, the movie is almost already made.
Dont be mistaken Smith knows the importance of editing and admires directors who can understand photography, but for him, its all in the casting.
"I dont know what I would do with a film where I couldnt select the cast," says Smith. "I think that is 90 per cent of the job, especially when you are talking about the performance of the actors."
Based on the novel by Barbara Gowdy, Smiths second feature, Falling Angels, introduces us to the Fields family, an emotionally demolished suburban unit at the height of 60s Cold War stress. With an ensemble cast against a period backdrop, the film offers universal themes tempered with a Canadian voice. Smith says his sensibilities and sense of humour are in line with those of the novel and while some would say that this contributes an almost intangible "Canadian" quality, he has a more concrete explanation.
"When the budget goes down, the amount of time you have to shoot something goes down, the camera moves farther away. I think that is what people react to a lot when they see Canadian stuff. The Americans can put you right in the action times 10. So there is a huge difference in the (way we) experience films when watching them. It literally has to do with the camera moving farther away."
And with a cast like the one assembled for Falling Angels, who needs a close up. Oscar nominee Miranda Richardon, film festival darling Katherine Isabelle, former Kid in the Hall Mark McKinney and Callum Keith Rennie all turn in great performances. Finding this cast proved challenging, but for Smith it was the most rewarding aspect of the shoot. Finding the right actors for the roles isnt easy on a meagre $4 million budget.
The first step was getting Richardson, who Smith tracked down at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival when she was promoting Spider. Once she agreed there was the task of casting the three teenaged daughters at the core of the film. There were extensive casting calls in Vancouver, Toronto and Regina and when Smith wasnt casting the main parts he pulling actresses off the streets of Moose Jaw to appear in supporting roles.
"I probably saw 700 teenage girls last summer," says Smith, who eventually found Kristin Adams and Monte Gagne and Katharine Isabelle in auditions.
"When I cast them, I was thinking, Oh my God, these girls are as different from each other as they could possibly be." That may have suited the antagonistic nature of teenaged siblings, but Smith didnt know how that would translate into a working relationship. As it happens the three girls, who were all only children, bonded quickly.
"They were inseparable for a while," says Smith. "They are these three really different girls who only have this movie in common and who have kind of been sisters ever since."
Smiths relentless hunt for actors was balanced by some fortuitous word of mouth when it came to casting the male leads.
"People like Callum (Keith Rennie) and Mark McKinney kind of chased it down. In both cases I hadnt thought of them specifically, but when their names came up, I thought, Wow, thats interesting," says Smith. "It was a varied casting process for sure"
Despite the challenge, Smith would never complain about having to assemble such a large cast, especially considering the talent he amassed. For him an ensemble like this is where he gets his strongest inspiration.
"Its sometimes difficult for me to imagine a movie that is about one relationship. When you try to envision a film in your head, you envision these physical strands that make it up, and how they contribute to a larger structure. That is easier to see when I have more than one piece.
"There is always more meaning and meat in between things than there are in them. The more opportunity there is to go between things, to cut back and forth between things, to make connections between characters and storylines, the more room for resonance there is."