FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT - Emilie Mannering

February is upon us and our submission portal is officially OPEN.  This year we are excited to open our festival up to any emerging female director (no feature films on your resume yet!), with a special ‘New Generation’ category for women 18-30.  The programming team is looking forward to seeing what you are all up to!

You can submit via our website or directly through our Film Freeway page.

We are also stoked to announce our new partnership with Red Square Motion, who are coming aboard to offer even more post-production goodies for our 2017 grant winner!   Submissions for our post-production grant close March 15th.  Submithere and you may be eligible to win $2500 in cash and services!

Breakthroughs is about supporting you and everything that you do.  Keep working hard, sisters, and we promise to show up for you.

And now… our February filmmaker spotlight with recent Canadian Screen Award nominee and Breakthroughs alum, Emilie Mannering!

An audience favourite, Emilie Mannering’s ‘Star’ is an innovative and deeply disturbing portrait of male aggression set in Montreal. The film’s intricate depiction of emotionally-charged youth has had the chance to wow audiences around the world.  ‘Star’ is Mannering’s cinematic debut – which makes this powerful film all the more stunning.

Check out the trailer!

Below, Breakthroughs’ newest board member Shonna Foster chats with Emilie about her debut film and where she sees herself fitting in the Canadian film industry.

1. What was the inspiration behind creating "Star" and why did you choose to tell this story now?

I wanted to write something about a young teenager who was going from boyhood to manhood and how he tries to live with his male identity and so I created the main character Tito. It was me really thinking about the model we propose to those young boys, with their cell phones and this kind of super masculine identity. They often believe that being powerful means being masculine and being tough and how that all factors into how they want people to see them with their cell phone. Sometimes it can be super creative, like at the beginning of the film where they are photo bombing strangers and they use their cell phone as a very creative tool. But sometimes as in the case of Tito – it plays against him because he wants to be in control and be seen as in control.

2. Star seems consciously aimed at a specific generation, can you speak on the feedback you've received from youth and adolescents who have seen the film?

I worked with the boys for four months rehearsing. I put a lot of energy into trying to create something that felt authentic within the limit of cinema. It’s not a documentary and so I was really nervous about this feedback and the feedback of other teenagers. I remember when I was younger, I hated when I would see “teenage movies” that think they are showing me. I would think “I don’t talk like that”, “I don’t act like that”.

Most of the feedback and the kids in the movie, they really love it. They think it is hilarious and they loved to watch themselves. They are very proud of the work they have accomplished. This crowd, they live with the movie. They react. Some kids come to see me after and it’s the first time that they feel the way the characters do. It seems real. They see themselves.

3. Star depicts a strong diverse cast. In the Canadian film and television industry, how do you believe writers, producers and directors can work to ensure our screens are inclusive and representative of all people?

I feel like what is most important, especially in this time after Trump, after the [Quebec City mosque] shooting we just had a couple days ago, the alt-right rising and everything – diversity is so important in front of the camera but more importantly behind the camera.

We kind of started creating more initiatives to have more women as directors and we should create those same initiatives to have more diversity in key roles. That also means more diversity on judging panels.  The people that make the decisions have to have an open mind and also be diverse and come from different backgrounds.

In terms of color, in terms of sexual orientation – because if it’s always the same kinds of people who make the decisions – if it’s always white men making the decisions on what is important or interesting to see or to watch or to read – the stories will continue to be the same.

4. Why do you think there are few Canadian female filmmakers and what advice do you have for those that are emerging?

 I know that in university in Quebec, fifty percent of the students are girls in cinema and I know that in accessible movements like Kino, there are also fifty percent female filmmakers. When it’s accessible the girls are there. So I don’t understand why they are not there when it is higher up the ladder. It is not a lack of interest because they are there in school, they are there when it’s accessible.  [If I were to] give advice to female filmmakers, I guess my answer would be:

1- Don't wait for recognition. 

2- Do your things, stay focused, trust your vision.

3- Don't be afraid to speak your mind, even if your voice shakes (I know it's a quote from Maggie Khun, but it is so true)

This whole industry is a bit more conservative than they like to believe. It's good to shake them sometimes.

Having said all that, it's still an uphill battle with a lot of men up there at the top. One a positive side, I feel a real and honest solidarity between women in the industry. We must keep fighting forward and making really the best films possible. And stay strong together

5. There has been an ongoing rhetoric that audiences lack an appetite for Canadian film which is why it has struggled to succeed compared to our neighbours to the south. How do you see this rhetoric changing in the next 5 years?

 In the next 5 years? I really hope so. I feel like the structure that is there right now is very rigid and maybe if we put more initiative like having more diversity maybe this will help.

Cinema is a very expensive medium. Like, Telefilm and [Quebec government agency] SODEC – they put so much money into film but nothing is there to promote this to the public. Not in our culture, our education – we don’t put value on Canadian films. I feel like distribution also has its responsibilities. I’m not sure that Canadian films are accessible everywhere in Canada. I feel like the problem is big. Which is why I’m like “five years?” (laughs). I just feel like we should change the whole structure and really try to put value on our culture and to make it accessible to people and teach it in schools, especially with how much money we put into it in the end. We have to change the structure and diversify the medium.

Produced by Colonelle Films, Emilie Mannering’s “Star” is nominated for Best Live Action Short Drama at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards (Canada’s version of the Oscars), taking place in Toronto in March. Emilie is currently directing the feminist web-serie Les Brutes,  in addition to developing her next cinematographic projects.