Sunday, February 21, 2010

Interview - Day Before Yesterday director Patricia Chica

Yesterday at the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois in Montreal (a film festival for works by Quebeckers) the Quebec premiere for the very fine short film Day Before Yesterday took place at the Cinémathèque Québécoise as part of a selection of short films.  The film also won the Best Short Drama Award at the Magnolia FIlm Festival this weekend.  The following is my interview with the film's director, Patricia Chica.


Who and/or what was the initial impetus in getting the ball rolling on this film?

The project was initiated by Sarah Beckett, a very talented screenwriter. She was looking for a director for her short and I was the lucky one selected. I felt a strong connection with Sarah's story and vision. I feel almost like the script was written for me even though it wasn't. What struck me the most from Sarah's concept was the way the narration unfolded: the story is not told in chronological order but like a puzzle in the principal character's mind! I love psychological thrillers and I thought that I could bring the story forward by adding my own visual style and storytelling skills into the mix!

How was your working relationship with Sarah Beckett?

Sarah is a very respectful collaborator both as writer and producer. She gave me a lot of creative freedom and on my side, I tried to be faithful to her vision as well. During pre-production, we were able to have a lot of discussions regarding all of the creative aspects of the film, from casting to visual style, so we both knew what the outcome would be. I'm very proud of the results. It was totally a team effort!

This has been an exciting year for women directors, but your entire creative team has a strong female presence.  How did you assemble your cast and crew?

We surrounded ourselves with creative collaborators that we connected with both at an artistic and human level, regardless of their gender. It is true that our core team is dominated by women (producer, writer, director and lead actress) but we also found a balance by working with a male executive producer, cinematographer, editor and composer! I love working both with male and female collaborators. However, I have to admit that I always enjoy the male presence on set and in the edit!!!

Day Before Yesterday has a very distinctive, striking look to it.  How did you conceive the visual style?

Every time that I start a new project, I have a little ritual. I read the script and let it rest for a few days. The visualization process starts then. It's only when I'm able to see vivid images in my head or in my sleep, or hearing sounds in my mind that I know that I have found the right style. It's a feeling that's hard to explain. I visualize all the time. It is only when I'm able to “see” the film from start to finish (the colours, the ambience, the sounds, the music, the rhythm, the textures, from scene to scene, shot by shot, frame by frame...) that I know that I'm ready to write the visual treatment on paper. That is how I usually conceive visual styles for my films.

When I read Sarah's script, it was so inspiring and easy. I had the whole look figured out in my head as I was flipping through the pages!

It was shot on a number of locations.  Was it a very long, complicated shoot?  Were there any problems or unforeseen obstacles?

Shooting an 11-minute short in three days with various location, costumes and makeup changes was a real challenge not only for me but for everyone, I believe! What saved us was a strong and detailed preparation process. I was lucky enough to have had a full day of rehearsals with my actors. It allowed us to save a lot of time on set as we were able to try different acting techniques and directions during pre-production. That was actually my favourite part; working and experimenting with the actors.

One of the unforeseen obstacles was the weather. At first, we were supposed to film the actress in the streets fully naked, but the weather was tremendously cold the day of the shoot. Therefore the actress (Michelle Boback) had to wear a coat. That was a little readjustment that we had to make but thankfully it didn't compromise the story at all!

How did you find Michelle Boback and what was it like working with her?

I think that we called every Anglo actress in her late twenties and early thirties from Montreal and the surrounded areas! We had a very specific look in mind for the character: skinny, frail and pale. Michelle Boback is not skinny nor frail... she's full of life! She didn't correspond at all to the physical description of the role. However, she really impressed us during her audition. She was the only actress that gave me goose pumps; what a talent! After the the call-back audition it was clear to me that her amazing talent would overcome the stereotypes. I was not surprised when she won the Best Actress award for her role in Day Before Yesterday at the Director's Chair Film Festival. She totally deserved it!

It seems many of the characters are self-deceiving.  Do you see this as a pessimistic, possibly misanthropic portrayal of people's struggles?

I don't see Michelle Boback's character as self-deceiving because she is in full control of her destiny; at least the one that she's about created for herself. The only self-deceiving character is the one played by Leif Anderson (Paul) because he prefers to “settle” for second best rather than “accept” the truth of his fate. He serves as the “foil” in order for the story, and the main protagonist's life, to move forward.

How were you able to utilize your background in television to make Day Before Yesterday?

I have two different approaches in my career whether I work for an indie personal project (like Day Before Yesterday) or a commercial production. When I work in television, I'm usually hired to render someone else's vision. When I work on shorts, I put a lot of creativity and of myself in the films... It's a more intimate and emotional process.

I think that having worked on commercial television productions for the past ten years has enable me to make wiser decisions on set and in post – evaluate better my priorities and trust my instincts more. I also like to work under pressure! I get a little kick out of it!

What's next? Are you working on any similar, darker-themed projects? Or are you moving on to something different for a change of pace?

I continue to develop creative content aimed at the international film and TV market as well as my own author documentaries. However, my biggest dream is to direct a dramatic feature film. I'm presently looking to collaborate with fiction writers and producers and I'm always hunting for good stories with a highly visual and emotional potential! For those interested to collaborate with me, they can contact me via my website:

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