Interview with Filmmaker Mitchell LeBlanc (MELODY)

MELODY was the winner of BEST FILM at the August 2020 HORROR Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I’m primarily a screenwriter and I tend to write mostly feature length projects so I spend a tremendous amount of time working on stories that won’t be seen until years later (if ever). There’s a certain sort of loneliness in working that way. When people hear you’re a screenwriter, they always ask “anything I can see?” (never “anything I can read?”) and before you’re able to convince other people to convince other people to spend millions making your projects, you don’t really have anything to show anybody. That’s an uncomfortable and isolating position for any artist since the act of sharing one’s art can often be the only payment received at the beginning of a career. So, after a few years of this, my friend (and cinematographer on the film, Sandro Pehar) upgraded his gear and said let’s make a thing and we did.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

My ideas typically swim around in my head for months — if not years — before they are committed to paper, so it’s hard to say precisely when the idea happened. The first draft of the script was finished in November of 2018 and the short was more or less completed by late May, 2019. Around 6 months.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Artistic defiance.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

We shot in an old house that was slated for demolition. It was the dead of winter and there was no heat or running water. It was so cold (-35 celsius on one day, if I recall) that we frequently couldn’t focus our lenses because they were literally freezing. I am still impressed that our cast and crew endured that with as much grace as they did. Especially James Thorne (The Stranger) who was required to be 99% nude for all of his scenes. If not the cold, then I’d say acquiring and moving the piano onto the set. If you’re ever wondering why there are all these free pianos on Craigslist and Kijiji, it’s because moving them is no joke. Our first attempt had myself, Sandro Pehar, and Aaron Maxwell Williams (my AD, but an actor/musician in his own right) strap harnesses across our bodies and try to heave an old piano out of someone’s basement. It must have been a thousand pounds coupled with an impossible incline. It took all day and we only got it about halfway, leaving it wedged in the staircase of these Kijiji people’s house. We helped pay for its proper destruction and had to get a piano elsewhere.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It’s incredibly fulfilling to hear that some of the stuff you tried to imbue into the film was picked up on by an audience. It was also great to hear the multiple interpretations of the film and see people filtering our work through their perspective, I think that’s when art has its longest life. But the part I keep coming back to (to the annoyance of everyone around me) is the astute audience member at the end who mentioned that they were getting Edgar Allan Poe vibes. Anyone who knows me knows that he is one of my literary heroes and takes up much of my bookshelf real-estate. I’m sitting next to a bust of him as I write this, not a joke. It’s a very cool feeling to hear that something you made has remnants of the things or people that have inspired you.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I’m not sure I can explain how I’ve come up with any idea, to be fair. Most of the time it isn’t intentional. It’s more like there’s this creative engine running internally 24/7 that gets refueled when I watch, read, or listen to something and occasionally it spits out some synthesis of elements it’s been fed. The real work, I find, is knowing which ideas are worth pursuing and how to pursue them — the ideas are easy, it’s cultivating taste that’s hard. In this case, I think the idea was more of a question — what does an artist do if there is no audience and no tomorrow?

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I don’t know for certain, but if pressed, I’d say it’s a tie between Before Sunrise by Richard Linklater and Sunshine by Danny Boyle (writer: Alex Garland). Two movies with sun in the title, that’s weird.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I think it’s fairly easy-to-use and it has a pretty extensive catalogue of festivals, so being able to upload your film details once and have most of your submissions consolidated on one platform is very convenient.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I wonder if anyone could ever really answer this and know for sure. My gut tells me that Chain of Fools – Aretha Franklin is up there, even if not the one I’ve listened to the most.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I’d love that. One of my features has been optioned by a studio in L.A. so I’ve got my fingers crossed. More locally though, I’ve written an anthology of horror shorts I’m hoping to get on its feet before the end of this year. No shortage of ideas, just a shortage of material resources.

And on that note, if I could, I’d like to give an acknowledgement to Katheryn Blundell, Adam D’Angelo, and Cory Gasparotto who agreed to help fund Melody instantaneously, solely because they believed in me and my bizarre ideas. May all filmmakers be so lucky to know people like these.

Mitchell LeBlanc

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