Screenwriter Carla Custance – Life After VIWIFF2016


Official Selection Screenwriters and Jurists at VIWIFF2016

This year was the second season for the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival’s International Screenwriting Competition. Carla Custance impressed the jury with her feature screenplay, Resurrecting Jane Doe, and walked away from the festival with the top prize.

We caught up with Carla back home in Ottawa for a discussion on her writing process and what happens next for Carla and her award-winning screenplay.

Your script, Resurrecting Jane Doe won this year’s Screenplay Award at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival. What’s the story about and how did you decide that this was an idea you wanted to focus on?

The logline is “When a lonely mortician identifies a Jane Doe, he tells her family a tall tale about her to help them grieve and falls in love with her sister. Things get complicated when he uncovers Jane’s real story – if he can’t keep it under wraps, it’ll break their hearts and end the only real relationship he’s ever had.”


Carla with her prize for Best Screenplay

I chose this story because it appealed to me thematically. I think that we all tell ourselves “stories’ so that we don’t have to face certain truths and this script allowed me to explore that.

What comes first to you in your process, the character or the story?

The character usually comes to me first. For Resurrecting Jane Doe, the idea for the main character came to me about a year before the story did.

How do you approach building the layers of your story?

I’m very structure oriented. I write numerous outlines, breaking the story into eight sequences or mini-movies and then layer in subplots that work towards the same theme. I use the outline as a starting point, but once I start writing script pages, I let the story take me where it wants to go. In my rewrites, I work with the various story elements until it feels right.

How do you come up with your ideas for your stories?

I find my ideas everywhere, as I go about my daily life. Often I’ll observe something or hear something that makes me ask, “What if?” Other times they come solely from my imagination. They often come in snippets.  A character, a setting, an obstacle, a statement I want to make. I write them all down in my “ideas” notebook and eventually when the right ones connect, I have my story.

What has this award meant for you?

Carla Custance

Carla is already working on a new screenplay.

I’m thrilled to have my work recognized by such an amazing festival. It gives me visibility and access to the industry that I didn’t have previously. Getting to spend a week with so many talented writers, directors and producers was inspiring. And it all happened the week that the National Film Board announced parity for women in film in Canada.

What has happened for the screenplay in the month since the festival? Have you been contacting production companies?

I’ve just started querying producers about the script. Interested parties can contact me via my website

What are you planning to follow this script with? Do you have another script you’re working on?

I’m working on a new comedy screenplay, which will be finished this summer.

By Michelle Muldoon

Celebrating National Canadian Film Day with Genre Films!

NCFD_Leaderboard_1024x150As we gear up for National Canadian Film Day, we caught up with several representatives of Vancouver’s film talent: actor Ariel Hansen; directors Gigi Saul Guerrero and Jordan Barnes-Crouse; and producer Carolyn Williams to get their take on horror films, women protagonists and the special event itself.

Ariel Hansen

Ariel Hansen in full horror make-up

Ariel revealed that unlike performing in other genres, horror relies a great deal more on imaginary circumstances.
“ As a horror actor, you draw from parallels to life rather than from real life itself” she elaborates, and she enjoys this challenge. Carolyn also enjoys overcoming the obstacles of creating genre films. She explains “Indie horror films in particular offer the interesting challenge of balancing stories with complex visuals and practical effects while working with very limited budgets!” Gigi adds that “in horror its so important to have just enough budget for certain departments to make your horror film stand out, such as Make Up effects. Blood and Gore is crucial to be pulled off if your horror flick requires it”

While comedies and dramas get labeled as “ chick-flicks” when they have a female protagonists, horror films remain horror films, which is another reason Ariel enjoys her roles in terrifying stories. Jordan adds, “It’s important to see more female characters in general, and in atypical roles.

Making of ARMS

Making of ARMS (directed by Jordan Barnes-Crouse)

When you do see a female protagonist, they rarely deviate from social norms, or are often exaggerated for marketability. I’d like to see women depicted in more diverse professions, being capable and proactive rather than simply strong or resilient. Despite the outlandish nature of genre films, I think they’re stronger when the core characters and concepts are treated believably.”

And there are many Canadian genre films to be celebrated on National Canadian Film Day, including Fido and Pontypool (two of Ariel’s favourites). According to her, these two are vivid examples of great Canadian genre filmmaking that, sadly, all too often fly under the radar. National Canadian Film Day is excellent not only because it showcases our talents, but also because it “can showcase how little exposure Canadian films usually get. More people need to see Canadian films,” she concludes, and Jordan agrees, stating, “The flavour of Canadian cinema is really unique, but is sadly underappreciated within the country. This is mainly due to a lack of exhibition, so organizing screenings and giving people the chance to see the incredibly diverse talent we have is fantastic.”

Gigi has her plate full, with her successful short film “El Gigante [being] developed into a feature film”


Gigi Saul Guerrero on set

She plans to begin filming later this year “or immediately in 2017”. Jordan and Carolyn are also working on a new film, Red Sanare, a “wilderness survival tale of sorts that wanders into cosmic horror”, while Ariel is slated to appear in another genre film – Valley of the Rats, directed by Vince D’Amato. This time, she’ll be taking on the role of a private investigator, a woman with strength and agency. Before we see her kick ass and take names in Valley of the Rats, check out Ariel’s performance in ARMS, a dark genre short that screens at NCFD, along with Madre de Dios and O NEGATIVE, presented by Shivers Film Society & Cinemafantastique and WIFTV

By Alina Koval