Interview with Filmmaker Jean-Marc Abela (ELIXIR)

ELIXIR was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the May 2022 EXPERIMENTAL Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

This film was created in the context of a small street dance festival in my home town of Montréal, as part of this dance festival, they fund the production of 4 dance films. When the organizer asked me to do one I wanted to do it right away. I primarily work as a documentary DP and I love it, but as a cinematographer its a job of compromise with limited budget, time and being documentary more natural settings. So the idea of doing something fully creative was exciting for me. The organizer said they had someone in mind to pair me with to make this film. This was Elie-Anne and we had never met before. So it was a real plunge for both of us to make this film together.

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

3 weeks, and that’s with us having other gigs at the same time. But we squeezed it in and I finished editing 2 hours before the first screening! What was interesting is that we met for the first time and we didn’t have a concept. I showed up with some techniques I wanted to explore and Elie-Anne had some ideas as well. But we didn’t have a concept. I went off to shoot for a few days and she came up with a concept. We met up again and brainstormed and I wanted to sculpt a film that had a story line, something to hold on to narratively. She didn’t have a choreography, she mostly improvised all he dances which to me is pretty incredible. So we edited together the first two dances, but wanted to preserve the last dance as a continuous shot. Which we only had two takes before the baseball diamond lights turned off. So luckily both of us where ok with take two. We would have done it again but alas that’s the time we had.

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

Letting go

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

Time and resources. Having very little money, we had a very small team so it was just a lot of work with the gear and planing everything together. Also as we had never worked together before we had to understand each other’s creative language and commitment and trust that the other was going to show up and do their part. But our common friend who paired us together did a good choice as we both were fully committed that if we where going to do this, we would go all the way and make it the best we can!

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

That was really fun! Really appreciated the specific feedback about Elie-Anne’s performance, the cinematography, the story telling. One thing

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

In high school. I was in drama class and I enjoyed directing actors, but then much more enjoyed directing for the camera than stage and then I fell in love with the camera and where you could bring it creating viewing experience.

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

Michael Mann’s «The Last of the Mohicans» I saw it over 20 times in high school. The camera work in the setting of the Northeast forest where I grew up, mixed with Native American culture and a love story was all that I needed.

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

Hmm, I’m not sure. From what I’ve experienced for far I think you guys are doing a great job of complementing traditional festivals!

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

Its great! Really efficient way of bringing all festivals on one platform.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Oh! Favorites are so hard to choose. I’ll say a cuisine: Japanese!.. Or Mexican, no, Thai! .. Indian.. pizza! Hamburgers!! See, I can’t choose favorites.

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

I’m DP a few documentaries this summer, one on the housing crisis, another on young activités making real change in their communities. But one really close to my heart is taking a Wholistic look at the education system in my province and showing solutions. I’m so happy to be lensing that film. I have a documentary in development, but its kinda on the back burner.. AND, I would love if someone would has me to make a dance or music video, cause its just so creative and fun!

By matthewtoffolo

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

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