Canada: Talent tout court – Not Short on Talent | 2019
Marty O'Brien & Naomi Mark: "This allowed for us to build up a deep and shared understanding of the story and our characters so when it came to shooting one of us was able to focus more on performance while the other focused on the frame."
GREY MOUNTAIN | Canada 18’
Grey Mountain follows the story of Beau, a 14-year old girl living in an isolated Yukon community and dealing with the recent loss of her mother. A shocking discovery at the cemetery throws Beau’s world into chaos and sets her on a journey to get to Pioneer Creek, a remote community 100km away.
Hi Naomi & Mark, thanks for talking to TNC. Grey Mountain is part of the Not Short on Talent selection what does it mean to be bringing your film to Cannes?
Its an exciting opportunity for us – we’ve just started making the shift into drama films from documentary and Grey Mountain is our first fiction project in many years so we are thrilled that its debut presentation will be at such a prestigious market festival.
Will there be any nerves ahead of the festival or are you just taking it all in your stride?
Its always a bit nerve-wracking to share work for the first time, especially work that comes from the heart, so there are definitely some nerves but we are mostly just excited for the incredible opportunity.
What do you hope to take away from your time at Cannes?
We are looking to make connections for the development of a feature film and to get back into the swing of fiction filmmaking. It’s a great opportunity to share work we are excited about, make new connections and also to get inspired by other filmmakers works.
Can you tell me a little bit about Grey Mountain, how did this film come about?
We wanted to explore the concept of how people keep loved ones close once they leave them. We had a draft script for Grey Mountain and an opportunity came up at the Available Light Film Festival in the Yukon. We pitched the concept at the festival event and won some production funding so that really allowed us to move forward with the project.
What was the inspiration behind this film?
Having both experienced profound loss, we sought to tell a story about grief and the process of reconnecting with the memory of a loved one as a way to overcome it. We wanted to tell a raw story about a character learning how to keep the person they were missing most closely with them in their life.
What was the most challenging part of bringing Grey Mountain to life?
Our remote location and a lack of resources in our area was the most challenging aspect in the making of Grey Mountain. We work in the Yukon which is in Northern Canada next to Alaska. Although we have a well-developed documentary industry in the territory the service and supports required for drama and fiction is more difficult to come by. That said, the industry is fast developing in the Yukon and each year it seems to become more and more feasible to take on large scale projects in the north. It was a challenge but we were overwhelmed by the support we received and can’t wait to take on the next one.
What have been the important lessons you've taken from making Grey Mountain?
The importance of adequate prep time. Allowing time for rehearsals, tech reccies, location access and pre-production, in general, is so key to the success of a film. We learnt valuable lessons along the way and had some very stressful late nights in the lead up to the shoot that we could have alleviated with more prep!
"Always have one project in your hand and two in your pocket."
As co-directors what was the experience like for you both working together on this film?
Throughout our development period, we worked on and discussed the script, characters, motivations etc. at length. This allowed for us to build up a deep and shared understanding of the story and our characters so when it came to shooting one of us was able to focus more on performance while the other focused on the frame. It was a wonderful working experience and we look forward to collaborating in the same way again.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Absolutely. We are a filmmaking couple who met through filmmaking and before meeting both of our lives were quite squarely set on developing our film careers.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut film?
Its been an interesting journey for the two of us as we both studied fiction film but then ended up working in documentary for many years. Grey Mountain is our first effort towards getting back into fiction production and it was an incredibly satisfying endeavour. I think working in documentary changed our approach to storytelling and helped us to focus on creating authentic looking images and a style of cinematography that aims at making things feel as real and lifelike as possible.
Is there any advice you've been given that's stuck with you?
“You can only know how talented you are by how hard you work” – No matter how talented you are you can only progress your career by putting the work and time into perfecting your craft.
Do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Always have one project in your hand and two in your pocket. As soon as you release a film people want to talk about what your next one will be and it's good to have an answer. Not only that but its always good to have more than one thing cooking as you never know which project will get some momentum and when.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Grey Mountain?
We hope the film helps people consider that although we lose people we love in life, there are always ways to keep them close with us.