Director Lulu Keating about finding inspiration and the lack of female filmmakers

LuluKeating- colour by Christine Buijs

Lulu Keating – Photo by Christine Buijs

When I think of filmmaker Lulu Keating, I see splashes of colour—from the flaming red hair to the bright wardrobe and warm Antigonish, Nova Scotia accent—she’s truly unforgettable and a tsunami of creativity. The award winning writer/director calls Dawson City, Yukon her home, and it’s there she finds inspiration for such shorts as Her Man Plan and Dawson Town Melted Down. Between her narrative films and documentaries, Lulu’s work has screened internationally for years and her most recent feature film, Lucille’s Ball (which runs at Vancouver’s Rio Theatre Nov. 23), unravels a signature style—highly stylized, innovative work that pushes the bounds of cinematography to a new realm.  Continue reading

Director Interview: Lulu Keating

Portrait of Lulu KeatingVWIFF CHATS WITH WISE + WILD CURATOR LULU KEATING

by M. A. Clarke Scott

MACS: I notice from your website profile that you began film studies pretty early at Ryerson Polytechnic. How did you discover, as a young woman in 1976, that this was what you wanted to do, and did it occur to you then that it might be challenging for a woman in the film industry? Have you found it to be especially challenging as a woman to do the projects you want and to get recognition for your work?

LK: I always knew I was an artist – that was my vocation, and perhaps because of having 10 siblings I wanted attention.

I never asked my self if I’d chosen something challenging – I didn’t feel I had a choice other than to follow my destiny and work in film.

It has been more difficult as the years progress. Definitely males are rewarded and green lit more than females. It’s easier for us to make short films, but when there’s a lot of money involved, the doors are harder to pry open and the stats prove that few women’s voices are heard.

MACS: You’ve studied, lived and worked in very diverse parts of Canada, from Quebec and Ontario, to the Maritimes and BC, to the Yukon. How does this cross-continental experience influence your vision, and your work?

Film still from The Moody BroodLK: I was born and raised in Nova Scotia and lived there many years. At one point I thought that I had to be there for my whole life because it was where I drew inspiration from, where my stories were. But the move west, and then to the Yukon have been part of my creative development. I needed to challenge myself. I needed change. Living in the Yukon has been exceptional for me creatively.

MACS: Was your residency at the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, in Dawson City, Yukon, April, 2003 what took you to the Yukon or were you already there? If not, how did you find yourself in the Yukon and why did you decide to stay?

Still from Ladies In Waiting Short film by Lulu KeatingLK: Before the Residency I’d been to the Yukon on a film shoot in 2001. That was the year one of my films played in the Dawson City International Short Film Festival. After the Residency, I was so entranced by the people and the land that I stayed on for a few months. The next year I was awarded a Canada Council Research Grant for a film and I returned to Dawson City. I continued to come until I moved here permanently 8 winters ago.

MACS: The films and filmmakers that make up the Wise + Wild program are incredibly talented and diverse. What criteria did you use to select the films for this program?

LK: I looked at a lot of films and selected the program for those various reasons: talent and diversity. I wanted some that showed the Yukon and the issues here, the lifestyle. Others are personal expressions.

MACS: What do you see being distinctive about the Yukon filmmakers voice, if anything? Does the landscape, history, culture or lifestyle, or something else, have a significant bearing on the work that is produced there?

LK: The Yukon, in my experience, rewards strength of character. This place is demanding and challenging on all levels. The women who live here are incredibly strong and self-sufficient. And these qualities are reflected in their films.

MACS: Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I imagine the film industry is small and intimate in Dawson City. How well do northern filmmakers know each other and how much collaboration and cross-fertilization of creativity is there in such a place?

LK: The Yukon has a population of only about 30,000. The film community is small but quite well-knit. We all know each other and there is a lot of support, especially among the women. Many of us have taken workshops together, or been in the 48-Hour Film Competition or the 1-Minute Film Challenge.

Klondike Kalahari imageMACS: Tell us something about the two feature films you currently have in development: Based on a True Fantasy and Klondike Kalahari. What about these projects is unique or close to your heart? Your filmography is so diverse. Do you find yourself leaning more towards drama these days or does it depend upon the moment/project opportunities?

Image still from Midday Sun filmLK: I have always wanted to make feature films. I wrote and directed The Midday Sun in 1989, and I’ve been writing script since. Finally I’m close to shooting another – True Fantasy will go before camera this spring. Every year I try to make a film, even if it is short, and I like to work in every genre. The subject dictates whether it is experimental, dramatic, animated or documentary.

MACS: Lulu, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for our members, fans and readers. We look forward to meeting you at the festival on March 9th, and to seeing the great lineup of Yukon short films awaiting us there.

Yukon Wise + Wild Special Showcase of Short Films

THURSDAY, MARCH 9, 2012  6:30 pm – 8:30 pm | SHOWCASE OF YUKON SHORT FILMS WITH TALKBACK

Have a look at the lineup of fantastic Yukon films that ill be screened on March 9th at the VWIFF. Stay tuned for an exclusive pre-festival interview with show curator filmmaker Lulu Keating.

GOLD RIVER | 2:10 mins

2011, Canada, directed by Veronica Verkley

Gold River: A rapid fire mash-up of the sights and sounds of the mythical and literal landscapes of Dawson City Yukon. Over 200 edits in 2 minutes shot on a digital still camera, overlaid with an original composition sampling local musicians.

SOFT SPOKEN | 5:38 mins

2011, Canada, directed by Aubyn O’Grady

In Canada’s northern Yukon Territory, the winters are long and the month of January feels even longer. For the 1500 residents who reside in the town of Dawson City year round, sub-zero temperatures and little daylight are way of life. This unique scenario inspired two young filmmakers to document a whimsical and uplifting event – learning to ride a bicycle – in the middle of winter.This film was shot and edited over a two day period and submitted to the 48 Hour Film Competition, an annual film making event in Dawson City. It went on to win both the ‘People’s Choice’ and ‘Best Picture’ Awards. More recently, it won the ‘Emerging Artist’ Award at the Dawson City International Short Film Festival in April 2011.

Ayaygooyay still image

AYDAYGOOAY | 5:00 mins

2007, Canada, directed by Mary Code

Live-action footage and animation recreate a Sayisi Dene legend told to her by her father.

This combination of live action and animation illustrates that ancient legends circle the present like a ghost. New technology has opened storytelling to a contemporary audience.

Timelines film stillTIME LINES | 3:30 mins

2010, Canada, directed by Suzanne Crocker

The story of a middle-aged woman who is disgruntled with her wrinkled face…until she looks at her wrinkles from a different perspective.Time Lines was hand-drawn using a home-made light box, a felt pen, 2 crayons and 2000 pieces of office paper. Time Lines won Best Yukon Short in the 2010 Dawson City International Short Film Festival.

Last stop for miles stillLAST STOP FOR MILES | 6:55 mins

2007, Canada, directed by Clara McBride

In a small city north of 60, a woman named January hits the road and the bottle, running from a man and heading nowhere fast. A series of curious events begin to unfold, forcing her to make an unexpected change in plans.

Our changing homelands still

OUR CHANGING HOMELANDS OUR CHANGING LIVES | 26:45 mins

2010, Canada, directed by Arthur Mercredi

Climate Change is having a drastic effect on the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation’s traditional livelihoods; this film takes you on a journey from nearly 20 years ago to the present, with a community whose very survival is at risk.

ice road to tuk stillICE ROAD TO TUK | 3:47 mins

2010, Canada, directed by Meg Walker

The Arctic winter brings miracles. You can walk on water – even drive on it. Ice Road to Tuk offers a poetically paced, wordless response to being a blip of humanity on the daunting Mackenzie River Delta between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. An ice highway trance in two seasons.

embroidered guy stillEMBROIDERED GUY; A BUSINESS CARD FLIP BOOK ANIMATION EXPERIMENT | 3:00 mins

2011, Canada, directed by Meshell Melvin

Embroidered Guy, in a flip book sequence, tossed to the winds, reassembled, animated and coaxed into dancing.

Longest Dream stillLONGEST DREAM | 3:44 mins

2011, Canada, directed by Kim Beggs

Longest Dream is a colorful music animation video that features a tiny tiger, a beautiful old rusted circular saw blade, lots of glass beads coming and going, emotive claymation and painting on paper. The lyrics (about letting go and other things), are poetic and wrenching. The voice is unique and pure. The music is sparse, with powerful harmonies. The pedal steel, bass and drums, come in part way through and stay until the end. The song, Longest Dream (from the album Blue Bones), received Honorable Mention in the 2011 International Songwriting Competition.

THE WILD AND THE UNTAMED | 1:28 mins

2009, Canada, directed by Rachel Weigers

A nightmare becomes a Dream Come True.

THE ROMANCE OF HELEN TRENT | 4:54 mins

2011, Canada, directed by Trina Buhler

Romance of Helen Trent film still

The Romance of Helen Trent, created by Frank and Anne Hummert in 1933, was a radio soap opera which ran for a total of 7,222 episodes, more than any other radio soap.

Re-released as a lip-synced, one-woman, comedic-drama for the Dawson City 48 Hour Film Contest, The Romance of Helen Trent explores Helen’s ongoing search for romance after age 35.

FORTY-EIGHT HOUR SONNET | 3:05 mins

2011, Canada, directed by Kathryn Hepburn

Swirls of finger-paint and layered recitations of Shakespeare’s Sonnet #56 meet in this animation, which creator

Kathryn Hepburn considers to be the apotheosis of her incessant doodling during English class.