Guest Blogger: The Story Behind "The Sister" by Film Grad Dillon Garand

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I recently caught up with 2011 Digital Filmmaking grad, Dillon Garand. Dillon graduated the program in December 2011, and it’s been constant work and excitement for him in the past few months with all the film projects and crew gigs he has going on. Check out our profile post on him to learn more.

Once thing really stood out to me in our initial conversations, and that was how passionate he was about his current independent film, The Sister. So I asked Dillon if he could tell us about the film and his experience in creating it. Here’s what he has to say.

The Story Behind “The Sister”

In November 2011, I had an amazing opportunity to bring my film, “The Sister”, to life.  In a four-day film shoot spanned out in a two-week period, we brought 10 pages of script off of the paper, and onto the screen. As of now (Feb 18th, 2012) no one has seen the film yet, due to it not being quite complete yet, but as I wait for the chance to show this film, it seems like a perfect time to share the very personal story behind how The Sister came to be.

Writing the Script

The beginning process of any film stems from an initial idea. Whether that’s an idea based on someone else’s idea, an idea that was inspired by something you saw, or, in this case, inspired by personal experience. It all starts with an idea. The story of The Sister is about a guy, Noah, who is standing on the edge of a building, readying to jump. Before he makes his decision, we go into his memories to see what exactly put him there, and if anything will stop him from what he is about to do. There are five memory sequences in the film.

  1. His girlfriend cheats on him.
  2. His father talks to him for the first time in 17 years, says he’s coming to Noah’s graduation. He doesn’t show.
  3. Noah’s dog he’s had since childhood meets a very sad end.
  4. Noah remembers his Grandfather.
  5. This one, is a secret until you see the film as it will spoil the story.

As I said earlier, personal experience really drove the writing of this film, and 4 out of the 5 memories sequences were bases on real live experience.  The only one that wasn’t, was the first one. The reason I wrote it in is because it felt like a good starting point for the story and gives the audience a bit more of a look into Noah’s character before it gets too serious. The father scene happened to me, except for the graduation scene. I lost my dog, that I had since my childhood, in 2010, and the grandfather scene happened exactly how it did in real life. Here’s where I’m going to be completely honest: one of the biggest elements of the film is Noah about to commit suicide. Since we’re talking about personal experience, I’ll say that I’ve hit this point before. I didn’t go to the extent that is gone to in the film, however I have felt the pressure of life on my shoulders, with no good escape in sight. However, one thing had me holding on and breaking through a low point in my life, and gaining back every emotion I thought was gone for good. Out of all this, came the script that was the easiest script to write so far in my career.

Shooting the Film

The first thing I want to say about the production of the film is: thank you, Jake Beed. Jake, a fellow Centre for Arts graduate, was the producer for the film, and without him, it wouldn’t have happened. For this film, I knew who I wanted to play my lead actor from the beginning. And that was Joel Freckelton. Here’s the problem, Joel is in a union, ACTRA. Well, what would’ve been a major problem, ended up being all fixed and handled by Jake. Usually, ACTRA paperwork takes a month to do, but Jake managed to do it all in a three day span. I was literally auditioning someone else for the role of Noah when I found out Jake had secured Joel for the role.

We shot the film in 4 days within a 2 week span. The first day of shooting was easily the most enjoyable day on set of my young career. Everything just worked out perfectly, and ended up fitting into place without a single problem. Also, I got to work with my sister in her first ever film. She plays Miley in the film. I think I’ll leave out any info on who Miley is right now, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything. She was a natural, and I hope this is something that she wants to get into for a long time. The next few days of filming we’re a bit hectic. One day, we had to deal with a little puppy that, believe it or not, wouldn’t run after a stick that we we’re throwing for it. That was the only scene in the entire film that took 10 takes to shoot. Luckily, we got it. Then we were off to another location, dealing with a bigger dog that was just a joy to work with! It definitely made me miss my dog, Sam, who the scene was based on. Our last day was the graduation scene, which we shot at the StoneRidge Fellowship in the Sackville area. We had a bit of trouble, a light broke, the lighting for the scene wasn’t working, my sister was a bit on the cranky side (she’s 9, it happens), and it seems like everything was just going down hill. Then, we shot the very last take of the very last scene and we were done.

I can say the smile didn’t leave me face for a good 48 hours knowing that I had finished shooting the film that I NEEDED to make. To end the production, our producer kissed me on the cheek. That’s when you know you’ve done something good. Ha!

What Now?

With the edit nearing completion, I’m hoping to show this film a hundred times over in any way that I can. Unfortunately, due to ACTRA contract, we cannot show the film online, but I’m going to do everything I can to show this film in other ways, including the film festival circuit. As of now, the film has been submitted to The American Pavilion Emerging Filmmakers Showcase at Cannes, the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, and the Atlantic Film Festival. Will it get in? I have a strong feeling it will, but we’ll just have to see. Regardless of if it does or not, I cannot explain how happy I am that I had the amazing chance to create this film. I honestly hope that it goes above and beyond just a film, and creates a feeling in those who see the film. The main theme of the story is finding that one thing to hold onto, we all have it, and this film shows you exactly what that is for me.

If you’d like to keep up with my adventures, you can find me on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

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