A Wish Where The Wind Once Blew – Exclusive Interview with Director Stuart Gillies and Producer Magali Gillon

26 04 2011

This group (and a few more) braved the weather to bring about a touching project that remembers a dear friend to the production.  Director Stuart Gillies and Producer Magali Gillon chatted with PSD about their Cannes bound short film, A Wish Where The Wind Once Blew.

Director Stuart Gilles talks about how this personal project was his way of showcasing his friend Eva Markvoort.

” ‘A Wish Where The Wind Once Blew’ is a fictional story, it is my own interpretation of the way Eva lived her life, the attitude she had towards people around her and why she loved everybody so much. I tried to encapsulate elements of Eva’s life without being too specific. Characters within the piece represent different relationships she has had and the way she loved to live.”

A Wish Where The Wind Once Blew is a film project that was shot at the end of January 2011 by an array of local talent of British Columbia who decided to donate their time and experience to make this fantasy tale come to life in honour of Eva Markvoort who lost her lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis on March 27, 2010 and everyone else supporting the cystic fibrosis cause.

I’d like to share with you the interview I held with Director Stuart Gillies and Magali Gillon the producer on the film

1.  How did you first come to know about Eva Markvoort?

SG (Stuart Gillies):

I met Eva in the winter of 2008, her brother Hunter introduced us on a night out in Vancouver (Hunter and I were working a ski season together at a small resort called Manning Park). Then in early 2009 we travelled to California together and spent the summer living in Kitsilano whilst I played cricket for a local team. Eva was a very good friend and soon became one of the most important people in my life. 

2.  The short will include a lot of inspiration and material from ’65_RedRoses’, how did you all decide on what of Eva’s to highlight and showcase?

SG:

65_RedRoses is a fantastic documentary, Nimisha Mukerji, one of the directors of 65_RedRoses was the story editor on the short and her advice was very much respected on my part. “A Wish Where The Wind Once Blew” is a fictional story, it is my own interpretation of the way Eva lived her life, the attitude she had towards people around her and why she loved everybody so much. I tried to encapsulate elements of Eva’s life without being too specific. Characters within the piece represent different relationships she has had and the way she loved to live.  

3.  This cause is such a wonderful way to help with awareness of Cystic Fibrosis.  What are your hopes and expectations for the project?  Now with Cannes as a pedestal do you think the project has gained a huge opportunity to showcase awareness for Eva, Cystic Fibrosis, and of course the team behind the project?  Being a native of Montreal, I’m curious if you have any strong French ties and whether or not Cannes has a more personal meaning to you?

SG:

This film was always made with the intention for raising awareness for CF. I never knew of the disease until I met Eva and knowing someone with CF has affected my life tremendously. This film isn’t meant to spell out what CF is or what it does. But if the film intrigues people to investigate into the meaning behind CF, that would make me very happy. Cannes will be an amazing experience and we’re so excited to have been invited. Magali Gillon the producer on the film and Michael Krizaj (the DOP) are flying all the way over from Vancouver to attend the festival. I currently live in London so the commute isn’t too bad for me!

MG (Magali Gallon):

Cannes is for sure a huge opportunity to showcase awareness of the cause but also of everyone involved along the way. We look forward to the experience. I am not too sure what to expect but I will definitely try to promote as much as I can. I think we had an amazing and talented crew that helped us immensely to create the feeling and beauty in the story. Alex Waber as our Production Designer and Photographer, Christine Stathers the Costume Designer (who is also battling CF and recently got a lung transplant) and Carolyn Secord our Key Make-Up & Hair helped us make this film more beautiful to look at.   I have personally always wanted to go and be part of the festival. Cannes Film Festival is a nice recognition to anyone in the film industry and I certainly hope to be going again one day soon with other projects at the Official Festival. It will be interesting to see what the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival brings us. Coming from Quebec or even Canada, you always hear a lot about Cannes Festival. Like a friend of mine said yesterday “when you hear about someone making it to Cannes, you feel like they made it in life!” We’re not there yet but hopefully a step closer.

4.  How did Stuart get involved in the process?  A producer/director relationship can be one of close communication or a more decent relationship, how would you define your working relationship with Stuart on the short film?

SG:

Magali and I met in a coffee shop in summer of 2009, I was actually living with Eva at the time although unfortunately they never met. I could not have done this project without Magali, she has been the organization and strength behind this production. Her belief and faith in me as a director has made me feel extremely comfortable with myself and all of the success “A Wish” has should go to her, (she’s awesome)

MG:

I met Stuart when I was working on the Olympics. One morning, I went to get a tea and met him. We were both interested in filmmaking. I suggested that we keep in touch in case one day we want to make something. He was moving back to London and I just thought he’d be a good contact one-day. That’s when, about 1 year later, Stuart emailed his friends and myself telling us about his project. I was immediately interested to be part of it. Stuart is an amazing director; he’s multi-talented, creative, genuine and he knows what he wants. I would love to work with him again! He was the heart and soul of the project. We couldn’t have done it without him. I think we have developed a wonderful professional relationship and a great friendship for life.

5.  How has having Eva’s family involved in the process has helped with the process?  Specifically Bill playing a role in the film?

SG:

The film making process would not have been the same without all of Eva’s friends and family being involved. As well as being in the film, they helped crew the film and support us financially. The main actress in the film Kirsten Slenning had genuine interactions with the family throughout the process and I really enjoyed those moments within the piece, especially with Kirsten and Bill. The CF foundation were also amazing throughout the whole process, they helped kick start the project and really showed belief in us from the beginning.

MG:

Being one of the few that didn’t know Eva personally, nor her family and friends, it was overwhelming to be part of it. It gave us a purpose, a reason to make this film the best we could. I remember our production meeting on the first day of shoot (it was one of our biggest day with the most crew and actors); Eva’s parents and Stuart made beautiful speeches’ thanking us all for being involved. We all felt privileged to be part of the project and lucky to connect with everyone involve. The energy on set was always so friendly, happy at times, sad at others. Overall, it felt like Eva was there on set with us every day.

6. What’s up next for the film?  What other Projects do you have going on?

SG:

The film will be doing the festival rounds this year and there are plans on creating a feature script based on the short. As for other projects, I have just finished writing my first feature script “Make or Break” with my friend Walles Hamonde and I am currently working on a documentary about the Falkland War called “The Desired Right”, which is currently seeking funding. I was lucky enough to be signed to a London based production company called Great Guns and am very excited about 2011. Saying that, I would love to go back to Vancouver later in the year and film another short with the same crew we had for “A Wish” It was a life changing experience and one I’ll never forget.

MG:

I would love for us to turn this short into a feature; I think it has great potential and could easily reach everyone. I would love to help raise awareness of the Cystic Fibrosis disease and find a cure. The Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Vancouver is so involved and dedicated. The month of May is there busiest time so hopefully I can help spread the word on my end as well. I’m also working on a few short films at the moment and on the look out for an amazing script to make as a feature.

Links:

www.saffronfairy.com

65 Red Roses

I also talked with Magali about her unique history in the producing world.

7.  For us Americans can you talk a bit about the film/tv atmosphere in Montreal where you got your start?  You have a communication background with your degree being in Marketing/PR/Journalism, how key was your schooling in pushing you into the commercial industry and eventually into film production?

MG:

Montreal has been on the rise and booming for the past 20 years. It’s such a creative and talented place. The province of Quebec even has it’s own very successful film market and is getting more and more recognition internationally. It is though a very small industry, which makes it really hard to get in, and sometimes it is sad to see that people need to leave the province or the country to get recognition. (but that’s pretty much everywhere right)  As for my schooling, I always knew I wanted to work in the entertainment industry; I just didn’t know doing what exactly. At the time, I didn’t think making movies was a real job and kept putting that idea aside until, one day, I decided to listen to my dream and go for it once I finished school. I first started working for a Casting Director, which was my way in the industry. I am very happy about the journey I took to get where I am now. My degree is definitely a very useful addition to my practical experiences because it gave me a good sense of what promotion is all about.

8.  How important was your time at JET FILMS, did it help form your skills as an eventual producer?

MG:

Jet Films played a great role in my desire to become a producer. After working closely with Producers and Directors coordinating numerous commercial shoots in Montreal and other locations in the world for 2 years, I realized that that’s what I wanted to do. Jet Films helped me get a “Production” structure and showed me the business side of the industry. The young and creative ambiance made it so easy and inspiring to work for as well. I was proud to be part of the company. 

9.  The move to Australia seems like such a drastic and bold choice that paid off with the feature film “Green Fire Envy”.  What was the process like in seeing this film come to its completion and how was the reaction down under?

MG:

Now that I knew I wanted to become a Producer and saw it would take years at Jet films to get there (there’s not often an job opening), it was time for me to move on. I went on holidays with friends and by talking to them realized I was turning 30 and never lived anywhere else! Making a film and living abroad were my 2 biggest dreams. So, I did some research and found this program where the class’s goal is to make a feature film. You start by writing a story, you pitch it to everyone, best story is picked and then you make it. It sounded like exactly what I needed and wanted to do – I applied; got a scholarship and was gone 2 months later in Sydney, Australia for 1 year. The program was very interesting. I have lots of good things and bad things to say but overall an amazing opportunity and experience. The film premiered at Fox Studios and was screened around Australia the following year. It wasn’t a huge success but it’s impressive to see what we made together as new filmmakers. As for Australia, I fell in love the moment I got there. It’s also where I met the love of my life. 

10.  Ok I’m extremely intrigued by your connection to the 2010 Winter Olympics.  What was your role and how was the wonderful experience?  Any fun stories?

MG:

Coming back to Canada from Australia, I decided to move to Vancouver. Sydney was such a nice city next to the water that I had to find something similar in my own country.  Lucky enough, Vancouver has a great film industry and was about to host the 2010 Olympic games, which made it a really easy sell-out for me. And funny enough, I got to work for the Australian company David Atkins Productions that was in charge of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. It was incredible! Not only I got to work with my Australian friends again but I got to work alongside worldwide experienced producers and team as the office coordinator. I even got to meet all of the Head line Talent and took care of them which was a nice surprise. To be part of an event this big was definitely a great addition to my experiences. Vancouver had a fun fever vibe! We miss it.   My most memorable experience is probably when I was asked to be the stand-in for one of the lead singer at the dress rehearsal night on the Wednesday in front of all the volunteers. I had to pretend to be her the hole night: so I got to hang out in my trailer, in the VIP lounge, then I was escorted to the green room and then asked to go on stage in front of thousands of people. I was told to lip-sync and to put on a show but only realized a 2 hours before that she was an opera singer!! OPERA! It was a very surreal and funny moment. My friends and colleagues said they enjoyed the show! At some point, I saw myself on one of the big screen and remember thinking: Is this song ever going to end?! I have so many good memories and interesting stories of this event. 

11.  Vancouver seems like such a film friendly city, how has it been for you in British Columbia?

MG:

Vancouver is definitely film friendly! But it was still hard. Moving here with no contacts, starting again from scratch made my first year a nice challenge. It’s all about meeting the right people at the right time; it’s also about trying all opportunities that come your way and never giving up. So far I’ve worked on a feature, a movie of the week, a TV pilot, a documentary and short films. A bit of everything. I can say that I’m finally getting my name out there but it is still not easy. I always have to look for the next project and I am not the only one who wants in. I consider myself lucky to have been able to work on “A Wish Where The Wind Once Blew” because for once it was a non-profitable project that had such an amazing back story and for such a great cause. These types of projects are very hard to find and they are the most worth it! I think anyone involved that donated his or her time and experience will cherish the experience forever.

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