On the eve of TIFF 2016, we interviewed DGC Director Nathan Morlando about his feature film Mean Dreams, shooting in Northern Ontario and more...
Can you tell us about your experience shooting Mean Dreams in Sault-Ste.Marie, Ontario?
NM: Making “Mean Dreams” in Sault-Ste Marie was a gift, just as it was making my first film “Edwin Boyd” there too. For “Edwin Boyd” Sault-Ste Marie provided vintage 50’s Toronto streets and buildings, and for “Mean Dreams" it provided vast farms and beautiful landscape diversity. The community is incredibly welcoming and caring and willing to help in any way they can. It’s a very positive experience both professionally and personally. Professionally the community strives to facilitate all the production’s needs, truly; it is a real community effort. Personally, weekends in “The Soo” are relaxing, beautiful, and tasty — they have some very fine restaurants!
Can you talk about what it was like shooting up north in comparison to a big urban centre?
NM: When you are making a film up north the entire community is aware of the production’s presence — they are very intrigued, friendly and caring and these are qualities of experience that benefits any film crew. The crew never feels alone or at odds with the surrounding community and infrastructure. Also, the experience feels like production “camp” - the film team is away together (for those who have traveled) and the reduced distractions of a smaller community, I believe, helps with the team’s overall focus creating and fulfilling the vision of the film.
What were the most memorable and the most challenging aspects of the shoot?
NM: The most memorable moments were also the most challenging. Mean Dreams was largely an outdoor shoot. In many ways it’s an homage to nature. Being in nature all day and night, rain, snow and sunshine is as extraordinary an aesthetic experience as it is a challenge to photograph it. Eighteen hours of rain in the deep woods is quite a special experience to witness — it’s also quite a special experience to share it with a dedicated team of artists. The outer beauty is enhanced by the inner beauty of the efforts of the hard working team. The aesthetic experience is made possible because of the team. For me that is the most significant take away; it is what fortifies the overall aesthetic experience and meaning of making cinema — it takes a team.
Your film Mean Dreams was at Cannes and was also at TIFF this September. Can you tell us a bit about the film? What was the inspiration?
NM: Mean Dreams is a coming of age crime thriller about a young teen who falls in love with the girl next door and soon realizes that there is some wrongdoing going on at her home that she needs rescuing from. Together they run away (with a bag of stolen money) and her corrupt police officer father hunts them down across the countryside.
The script was sent to me and it was a page turner. And I wanted the film to be a tense thrill ride. But for me Mean Dreams is also a fable or metaphor of first love that explores the darker and more painful qualities of the emotional and psychological disconnect teens must make from the strong parental hold — a noir dream a young teen might have after first falling in love.
Can you talk about the process of getting the film into these festivals and what you’ve learned?
NM: The process is actually quite simple and there is a lot of assistance available. Telefilm organizes screenings in Montreal for the Cannes programmers over a two-week period in February in a state of the art cinema. Producers submit the film to Telefilm and Telefilm completely looks after the process. What could be a hugely intimidating task is made quite simple and friendly.
In my experience submitting a film to TIFF is also a very straightforward process for producers (for which I am grateful!). TIFF is eager to find and promote Canadian cinema that they believe is worthy to be screened alongside the best in world cinema; they are passionate advocates of Canadian cinema. I believe Canadian film teams are very fortunate to have the ease of access to the world’s most influential festivals.
How was directing this film different from your first film, Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster? How was it similar?
NM: The biggest difference was that I had already made a film. Experience is a very fortunate guide. Experience also reinforces the need to be practical; one’s idealism has to be rooted in realism. Don’t fight the schedule and don’t fight the constraints of the schedule. Embrace it and believe you have everything you need. It’s a miracle to have a film green lit. Every day I reminded myself to believe that.
How has the DGC helped in the realization of your projects, past and present?
NM: The DGC is always there to help and guide the production with their needs and goals. The DGC is a protective, obliging organization, and in the Indie world, film teams need all the help they can get from production stage to distribution. I’ve seen the DGC be there at all stages.
Is there anything you learned in the making of this film you’d want to share with other up-and-coming directors?
NM: Surround yourself with the smartest and most talented and committed and passionate artists you can find and invite them into your vision; share your vision with them and listen to their offering. Making cinema is making art with a team.
Award winning filmmaker Nathan Morlando’s most recent film Mean Dreams received its World Premiere at the 2016 Cannes Director’s Fortnight. The critically acclaimed coming of age crime thriller will make its North American premiere as a Special Presentation at TIFF 2016.
Morlando’s debut feature film as writer/director, the true crime drama Citizen Gangster (IFC Films), won the Toronto International Film Festival's Best Canadian First Feature Award, went on to earn 5 Canadian Screen Award nominations, two DGC Award nominations including Best Feature Film, and was honored as one of Canada's Top Ten Films of the year. Morlando is most proud of the film receiving Belgium’s Liege Crime Film Festival Special Jury Award — the Prix de la Coeur (“The Heart Prize”) — given to the film in special honor of its humanist look at the subject of crime.
Morlando has also directed for television including BBC America's Copper for Executive Producers Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana.
Nathan Morlando graduated in Philosophy and Religious Studies from the University of Toronto and specialized in Existential Philosophy for his Masters.
He is represented by UTA and Gang, Tyre, Ramer and Brown.