WFF17 – INTERVIEW WITH MACKENZIE DONALDSON – DIRECTOR OF ‘THE DEFINITES’

The Definites is Mackenzie's directorial debut and the feature film will be released by Mongrel Media in 2017.

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DIRECTOR’S BIO: Mackenzie Donaldson is an award winning Canadian director, producer, writer and President of The Donaldson Company. Named “One to Watch” by Playback’s Top 5 in 2015 and a 2016 TIFF Emerging Canadian Filmmaker, Mackenzie is most well known for her work producing the critically acclaimed;Emmy, Peabody and CSA award-winning; and Golden Globe nominated show Orphan Black. As well as her work executively producing the award-winning digital series Whatever, Linda, which is in development as an hour long series with Graeme Manson executively producing. The Definites is Mackenzie’s directorial debut and the feature film will be released by Mongrel Media in 2017. Most recently Mackenzie finished writing and directing her first short film, Little Black Dress, starring Sheila McCarthy. And began development on her first feature documentary for Showtime. In 2017 she joined the scripted development team at Shaftesbury as a producer and scripted development executive.

FILM: THE DEFINITES

DIRECTED BY:  Hannah Cheesman and Mackenzie Donaldson

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR FILM?
The film came about because Hannah Cheesman, my co-director/star, and I wanted to make a film set in Miami during Art Basel that centered around female sexuality. We decided to approach it with a collaborative nature first, and so we brought on 2 more producers/actors to star in the film and all 5 of us broke the story together and all of us contributed to the development in different ways. Personally, I was in the early years of grieving my father when we developed the story and my father’s death inspired a lot of the relationship issues between the sisters in the film, as Anna and Bernie are grieving over the death of their mother. And my own relationship issues are sprinkled throughout the film, as are all 5 of ours!

WHAT WERE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING THE FILM?
The hardest part of this project was just keeping going. The film took 522 days from first shot to last shot to get done, even though we only shot 13 days in total. The continuity was a nightmare and we had to source wigs for actors that changed their hair and wardrobe that went missing over the 3 years it took to shoot the film. It was also challenging to be in Miami, a city none of us had ever been to, shooting completely guerilla style on a shoestring Budget. But when we returned from Miami and assembled the 5 days worth of scenes we had shot it was clear we had something very unique on our hands and that we had to work our asses off to find the rest of the money to finish the film. And through all of the struggles it was worth it! I couldnm’t be more proud of what we accomplished with our amazing team. You’d never guess our budget!

WHAT APPEAL DO YOU THINK YOUR FILM WILL HAVE FOR AUDIENCES
The film is about a really lost person who is trying her best to figure out what happiness looks like for her and I think that’s something anyone can relate to in their lives and not just when you come of age at 18, but throughout your life. People also relate to the sibling relationship at the center of the film. Both Hannah, my co-director, and I have sisters so I think that relationship rings very true on screen. And finally, I think the film is also relatable when its comes to modern relationships and knowing when to fight for them and when to let them go.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A CREATOR?
I’ve always been a storyteller and producer at heart. Its just in my nature. So when it came to imagining a career for myself it was clear: producer, director, writer (in that order). My parents are both actors, so I come by the business honestly and I think they raised another storyteller. I didn’t have much choice, its my calling!

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NEXT?
I’m currently producing my first feature documentary for Showtime which is scary and exciting, because I’ve never worked in the doc world before. I’m developing a handful of TV shows, one for AMC and another for a Canadian broadcaster (soon to be announced). And I’m circling around what my next feature will be, directing wise, but I’m letting the story percolate right now and look forward to co-writing it with writer Kat Sandler in 2018.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING FILMMAKERS?
Be ready to work harder than you could ever imagine. Do not expect anyone to care about your project as much as you do, EVER. And make sure you trust the people you work with as you’re going to working with your team for years, even on short films, and you are going to be fighting a war together so its important to be able to trust each other, laugh together and work through huge problems and differences together. I would also say something my parents always said to me about the business, “if you can think of other things to give your life to, do them,” the business is hard and is more than just a job, its a lifestyle and you have to love the process, not just the finished products.

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 3 FAVOURITE FILMS OF ALL TIME?
Such a hard question! But right now, sitting on my flight to Vancouver I’m going to say: Harold and Maude, The Third Man, and The Graduate. I’m a sucker for classics.

IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOUR FILM IN THREE WORDS … WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
Sisters party Miami.

IF YOU COULD RESHOOT ANY FILM MADE IN THE PAST 20 YEARS, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND HOW WOULD YOU CHANGE IT?
Birds, for two reasons. One, I’m a sucker for a good scary film and I think birds are terrifying. So I would love to face my own internal fear of birds while also adding a modern social commentary element to the film that examines climate change/the environment through huge scares and jumps. And, I’m a huge fan of thrillers and it would be an honour to get to to pay homage to the master of the genre, Hitchcock.

WHO ARE YOUR MENTORS? (AND WHY)
I feel that I have a lot of mentors, and I’m very lucky to be in that position, but the ones who have had the biggest impact on my work are Kerry Appleyard who was my boss on Orphan Black and gave me more TV knowledge and sense of story structure than anyone else has, she’s just incredible and I think of her advice every day (KA is a scripted development executive and amazing TV producer at Boat Rocker), Christina Jennings who is my current boss at Shaftesbury and has been running a successful media company in Canada for 30 years which is a feat in itself, but she is also whip smart and an inspiration in the way she innovates in our industry (CEO Shaftesbury) and my mom, Sheila McCarthy, who is one of Canada’s greatest actors and someone who is kind and easy going no matter if she is starring, supporting, on stage, on set, directing, writing, or teaching – she also taught me to ask for what I want in life because if you don’t they won’t know you want it (and the worst they’ll say is no!).

WHISTLER FILM FESTIVAL SHOWTIMES:
– DECEMBER 2, 2017, 6:30 PM – VILLAGE 8 – THEATRE 7
– DECEMBER 3, 2017, 2:00 PM – SLCC

GET YOUR TICKETS AT:  https://whistlerfilmfestival.com/film/the-definites/

SYNOPSIS: A woman leaves her husband-to-be and instead weds her own wild desire when she flies away to a libidinous, party-filled weekend at Art Basel in Miami.

CASTING AND CREDITS:
Executive Producer: Kevin Saffer, Steve Flewelling, Sheila McCarthy, Alex Ordanis, Christopher Yurkovich

Producers: Sara Basso, Hannah Cheesman, Sam Coyle, Mackenzie Donaldson, Chantal Kemp, Michael Seater

Cast: Brittany Allen, Kristian Bruun, Hannah Cheesman, Aaron Poole

Cinematographer: Robert Scarborough

Editing: Christine Armstrong

Screenplay: Sam Coyle, Michael Seater, Hannah Cheesman, Sara Basso, Mackenzie Donaldson

Distribution/Print Source: Mongrel Media

GET YOUR TICKETS FOR THE WHISTLER FILM FESTIVAL TODAY

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