Behind the scenes of Julian Papas’ behind-the-scenes doc

Filmmaker Ingrid Veninger and director Papas on inspiring the next generation of filmmakers with The Other Side of Porcupine Lake.
December 5, 2017

It’s almost certain that Canada’s queen of DIY-cinema, Ingrid Veninger, will go down in Whistler history. People still buzz about how, in 2013, she got on a podium at the festival’s awards show and demanded someone in the audience, that moment, step up and pledge $6,000 to fund six scripts by six female directors.

The bold move, which got actor Melissa Leo’s attention — and funds — resulted in not one, but two, films that screened at this year’s Whistler Film Festival. Veninger’s Porcupine Lake, about two 13-year-old girls navigating new friendship, and Julian Papas’ The Other Side of Porcupine Lake, which premiered Dec. 2 at the fest and documents the making of the film.

For Veninger, who grew up in front of the camera on projects like Hockey Night and Friday’s Curse, the impetus for the documentary was to capture the filmmaking experience for her adolescent stars (Charlotte Salisbury, Lucinda Armstrong Hall who play leads Bea and Kate, respectively). With so much focus on the final product, the memories of actually making the film can sometimes get lost, Veninger told realscreen‘s sister publication Playback Daily at the Whistler Film Festival.

“I really wanted to time-capsule the entire process for them to look back when they were 20 or 30 so they could remember the dinners we had around the picnic table and the way their friendship formed from the first day to the last day,” she said.

But it was also important to her to document the process of making Porcupine Lake, her sixth feature and one that came together on a budget of roughly $250,000.

“This way of making features – direct-source art, small intimate crew, where everybody’s doing 14 jobs because there’s only six people on the entire production team – is a way I’ve been making films from the beginning,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll continue making films this way. I’m doing my masters right now at York University and I have no idea what kind of filmmaker I’ll be on the other side.”

In many ways, The Other Side of Porcupine Lake serves as behind-the-scenes look at how indie filmmaking in Canada is done, said Papas and Veninger. And with Telefilm’s newly revamped and expanded Talent to Watch program, which will offer 50 emerging filmmakers the chance make films with $127,000 in Telefilm coin, it could also serve as an instructional example.

“I hope [the documentary] inspires young filmmakers to make films,” said Papas. “Actually seeing people doing it can be really helpful, [because you think], ‘I see this person making it, why can’t I?”

Papas said Veninger gave him free rein to capture what he felt was most important and for him, that meant focusing on moments of process – the big and small moments from casting to prep, to production and post, that, as a whole, document the spirit of the film.

Had she been documenting the process of someone making a feature, Veninger said, there would be a lot more “personal stuff.”

“It would have been a completely different film,” she said, but added the result is an inspiring and insightful look into filmmaking.

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