To Our Army of Hearts (or the jerks who made the tear-jerker)

Behind-the-scenes snap by the talented Ola Cholewa

Remember when I asked everyone I know to vote for a grant for a short film I wanted to make (AGAIN!)? And then I won (AGAIN!)?! Well I’m so excited to say – THE FILM IS DONE! With my co-sister/director/producer Alex Duncan we made her illustrated children’s book, An Army of Hearts, into a 4-minute short film that you can watch RIGHT NOW:

And although it is only 4 minutes long, here’s the thing: Making a short film (for passion, not commercially) is still really hard. It can be tough for a myriad of reasons, but personally I find the hardest reason is this: you ask SO MANY PEOPLE (loved ones and strangers!) for SO MANY FAVOURS. And we even had a budget of 10k for this film thanks to the generous team at Storyhive (although that money mostly went to gear rentals)! We asked people to work for far below what they normally get paid or for free, we asked an old drama teacher to film with his class of high school kids, we asked friends to help with locations, find random props, do make-up, take photos, do costumes, bake 2 cakes as props because we were going to smash one, film in New York for 2 two hours even though he was about to hop on a flight to Africa the next day (big shout to my forever partner-in-film-crime Brent Hodge), and the list just goes on and on and on!

I will never fully be able to thank everyone for the countless favours. But I can at least try. And continue to say thank you, and be grateful for the immense amount of kindness and generosity everyone showed being a part of this project (or voting for it!) and making it a truly beautiful film.

So let my love-fest continue, with the following heartfelt thank-you’s (that don’t come close to thanking everyone involved, but I gotta start somewhere):

Alex (co-director/writer/producer) – This project has so much heart, because Alex has so much heart. She radiates. She’s talented behind and in front of the camera, she’s quick witted, and she’s strong-willed. This project is her baby, and I feel so lucky she has shared it with me. Oh and last but not least, she uses the world “flirty” better than anyone I know.

Liam (DP) – Liam is one of those people that is insanely talented, and ridiculously humble and generous with his time and skills. He also has the two best traits I think a DP can have, which is being simultaneously a perfectionist with his shots, yet also easy-going and flexible. So much of the film’s beauty is because of him.

Caitlin (Production Designer) – When you want to take a film to the next level, CALL CAITLIN. She is an absolute pro, and can make a set come alive. She also makes a wicked spaceship out of cardboard boxes.

The Crew – Also our lighting team, cam assist, sound, PA’s – everyone worked long days with a smile on their face and so much class.

The Cast – Oh man our cast. We asked a lot of our cast (to basically bleed emotion, without the use of any dialogue), and they completely rose to the challenge. They were all a joy to work with, and I feel so indebted to their work.

Mere (Editor) – Mere is a creative powerhouse. She directs, acts, writes, produces…and in her spare time she edits short films as a favour for her friends. Her eye and instinct in making creative decisions are incredibly strong. I also pulled multiple shitty moves on her during the editing process (which was a crazy time during the holidays, on top of not having care for my crazy toddler), and she handled it all with such grace. I have huge respect for her, and the work that she does.

Cayne (Composer) – I don’t know any other way to describe him except to say he is a musical genius. The music in this film was so, SO important (as it is in any film), and when Cayne said he would do the song I knew without any doubt in my mind that it would be perfect (with the musical aid and stylings of the one and only Ashleigh Ball of course) . And I love what he made so much that I sometimes put our video on in the background on my computer just so I can hear the song.

Derek (Titling) – Derek was the animator wizard behind my short film Big Lew, and when I asked him to do a title for An Army of Hearts, he went above and beyond. He hand-drew our title, which means he made 52 hand-drawn frames! He is exceptional, as a human and an artist, and I love everything he touches.

Brendan and Ellen (Photographer/Designer) – Brendan took absolutely stunning portraits of our actors, and Ellen designed our poster in the exact heartfelt manner we envisioned. They are both clearly extremely talented at their crafts, and we were so lucky that they agreed to work on our project.

Also a giant thank you to my husband, Chris, who is always leading my army of hearts.