Interview with Filmmaker Mistaya Hemingway (AT LAKE)

AT LAKE was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the April 2022 EXPERIMENTAL/DANCE Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

The idea came to me about a month into the first lockdown. We had left the city and moved to our chalet- a very privileged situation. But after about a month I started to get a bit stir crazy and I was thinking about making a film. I also had a lot of insomnia and so I would find myself wandering around youtube late at night. I started to delve into the videos by Maya Deren and I found her 1944 film At Land. I thought it was the perfect structure for me to study and explore within the surrounding lake environment. Also, the other dancer in the film, Isabelle Poirier, has a chalet beside ours. I wanted to do a project with her and the other people who were coming by the lake that summer. Her husband, Claude Lemay, was the editor.

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

The idea came to me at the beginning of April 2020, and I delivered in January 30, 2022.

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

Meditative / Surreal

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

The composer Merewenn Nero had offered to make the music for the film. Initially I had a selection of pieces of music I wanted to use- especially Become Ocean by John Luther Adams, but it was impossible to get the rights to the music. So I decided to work with Merewenn, even though we didn’t really know each other. Because I had little to no budget, I had to wait for her to have free time to make the music, so it took quite a long time. But once we started working together, she was very open to change and trying new things which made the process easier in the end. Music is really important to me- equally as important as the dance or the image- but I’m happy with the music now. Also- the ambient sound design was a huge job. We recorded most of it on site- but putting it together was a lot of work. Nick Kuepfer was extremely patient and diligent and Chris Léon did a super mix. I really enjoyed the sound design process.

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

Overwhelmed! It was so lovely and interesting to hear people talk about their impressions of the film- it made me quite emotional. I love hearing what people see- it brings my attention to things I hadn’t even considered.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Pretty early in my dance career I participated in a dance film called Amelia. It was a whole new experience for me- but I loved all the elements that came together to make it. Eventually I realized that I could start to try to make them myself- mainly because at a point I looked around me and realized that many of my friends had the skills I didn’t have, but that together we could make something.

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

It might not be appropriate to say this anymore, but I’ve probably seen Annie Hall and Manhattan more than any other films. I can also quote The Princess Bride verbatim.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Any kind of activity that bring us into contact with other filmmakers and curious minds is great. Networking events, I guess.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?


10. What is your favorite meal?

Spaghetti Aglio Olio with Peperoncini or a spicy Thai curry

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

This summer I am taking on a big film project in collaboration with two other women (Isabelle Poirier is one of them). We will shoot a film outside in a unique park in Montreal with 11 other dancers using the movement of Merce Cunningham as a base vocabulary.

I’m also working on a longer term project which is a multimedia dance, architecture, immersive reality experience about my father’s architecture. I’m going to the Banff Centre in May for a creative residency to work on it. For me, this is an opportunity of a lifetime.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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