For Toronto film director Ingrid Veninger, keeping it in the family seems to be a recipe for success.
She will be accompanying her newest film, i am a good person/i am a bad person,when it plays in Whitehorse at the Available Light Film Festival next week.
i am a good person/I am a bad person is an intensely personal type of film, and it features Veningeracting in the role of film director Ruby White.
She’s accompanied on a European film festival tour by her daughter, Sara, where she is showing her production, Head Shots.
The two aren’t well-matched. Ruby is extroverted and demonstrative, to the point of exasperation, and the teenaged Sara is much more reserved. Eventually, they part company, and each is left to make important life decisions on her own.
Hallie Switzer (l.) and Ingrid Veninger as mother and daughter in Veninger’s newest film Production still: pUNK Films
Veninger’s own daughter, Hallie Switzer, plays Sara. She also starred as her daughter in the award-winning 2010 film MODRA, which played at last year’s festival.
For her newest effort, in addition to casting her daughter once again, Veninger features her son Jacob as her on-screen son, and has sound recording assistance from her husband, John Switzer.
In a recent phone interview from Toronto, Veningertalked about her experience making the film, and her on-screen role as filmmaker Ruby.
“She’s a desperate character, and desperation is not pretty”, Veninger says.
“I really liked the idea of playing a mother that wasn’t maternal, that was obnoxious and immature, and who’s all the things that we don’t expect a mother to be, because I think there are a lot of projections onto what a mother should be,” she says.
“I wanted to subvert a lot of those projections. She’s a character who’s been faking her whole life. So to say something true creates such enormous vulnerability.”
Ruby’s moment of truth and vulnerability comes at a Berlin screening of her film. When an audience member asks why she made her film, she blurts out that she no longer loves her husband, and hopes that when he sees her inner turmoil reflected in her film, he’ll divorce her.
“What does it take to make a change, even though we can be terrified, or the cost is very high, to our families, to our comfort-level, to our lifestyles?” Veninger asks.
“I think making a change is actually really courageous and, at the end, I think she makes a step towards it. I wanted to take a character through that arc, of lying, and then actually saying something truthful.”
Veninger’s film has been well received by audiences across the country, with successful showings at both the Toronto and Vancouver festivals.
Earlier this month, the Toronto Film Critics Association chose Veninger to receive its Jay Scott award for emerging talent.
She is only the second recipient of this award, which is named after the late Globe and Mail film critic, Jay Scott.
When asked how she would spend the $5,000 cash prize associated with the award, the woman dubbed “Toronto’s queen of low-budget cinema” by Maclean’s magazine critic Brian Johnson replied:
“This is the first cash prize of my life, and all of it is going into my next feature film, which I am co-writing with Cathy Jones (CODCO, This Hour Has 22 Minutes), which I hope to be shooting in 2013. It’s a musical, fantasy, lesbian love-story, road trip, starting in St. John’s and ending in Whitehorse.”
i am a good person/i am a bad person plays at the Yukon Arts Centre at 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 11.
Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.