Filmmaking: A Personal Affair for Director Gail Harvey
Where to do I begin with this conversation. Having written about Canadian films and Canadian talent as long as I have, Gail Harvey is a name that just has to be a part of the greater conversation. A lady with multiple creative skillset’s – from photography to filmmaking – she has been involved with a vast array of projects. If you’ve ever watched a Canadian production like Lost Girl or Murdoch Mysteries, you’ve likely watched an episode she has directed.
I was first introduced to her daughter Katie Boland many years ago when we sat down for an in-depth interview, through which I learnt about the incredibly creative family. While having watched many of Gail’s projects, we’ve never had an opportunity to sit down and have a chat. Never Saw It Coming, her latest feature film, changed all that. Filmed in Sudbury, Ontario, Never Saw It Coming reunites Gail with many of her past collaborators such as Maria Del Mar, Eric Roberts, and of course, her daughter Katie.
In this interview, we take a moment to discuss the origins of the film, bringing together frequent collaborators, and what, at the end of the day, gets her out and about making films. Take a moment and have a read through this candid interview, featuring a filmmaker who has made her art a truly personal affair.
The film opens on August 17th at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas.
Produced By: Marina Cordoni & Gail Harvey Executive Producers: Linwood Barclay, Jay Firestone, Steven Pasternak, Danny Webber, Michael Forsey.
Produced with the Financial Participation of Telefilm Canada, The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, Prodigy Pictures and Rolling Pictures.
1. What moments led up to the point that you said “yes, I’m going to make Never Saw It Coming”?
Linwood Barclay and I have been friends for years – we worked together at the Toronto Star. At that time, he was writing his first novel which became an international success; he has written 18 novels. I have had a farmhouse in Prince Edward County for years, and he and his beautiful wife Neetha bought a place there a couple of years ago. So one night we went for dinner in Prince Edward County and we were talking about filmmaking and he told me his novels had been optioned by huge Hollywood studios – bidding wars and everything – but none of them had been made into films. I asked him if he had a small novel I could try to do in Canada. He sent me “Never Saw It Coming” just before I went on a trip to Paris. I read it and felt it would be perfect. It was also a winter movie so it could be shot up north where the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) has an amazing fund for filmmakers. Linwood wrote the incredible script, and within a year we were shooting in Sudbury.
2. The film is a mix of interesting, talented, very different people. From the insanely engaging Emily Hampshire, to the captivating Eric Roberts, to the Jill-of-all-Expressions Katie Boland, how did you go about filling in the shoes of the various characters?
I knew Keisha Ceylon had to be a compelling, complex character that does a lot of crazy things, but be able to have the audience rooting for her at the end of the movie. I have wanted to work with Emily Hampshire since I saw her years ago in Boy Meets Girl. Luckily she was available and loved the character. She actually went to a psychic in New York who told her she was going to be a psychic. She told him she was playing a psychic in a movie! She did a brilliant job in this film.
Eric Roberts is an incredible actor and a good friend. He and I worked together on Lost Girl, and we bonded. I also love his wife Eliza. I sent him the script and he loved it, but he was shooting a TV series in Qatar. Eliza and I worked very hard to convince the producers of his series to let him come to Canada on his four days off. After many emails and phone calls they agreed. So Eric flew from Qatar to London to Chicago to Toronto and was driven to Sudbury. When he got to Sudbury, he rehearsed with Emily, and then went downstairs to meet the crew (we were all staying in the same hotel). He shot for the next two days, and when he wrapped on that second day, transport was waiting to drive him back to the Toronto airport. He slept for two hours in an airport hotel, and then he flew back to Chicago, London, and Qatar where he shot on his TV series the next day. Now that is a friend, and thank god we could make it work.
I am fortunate that Katie Boland is my daughter – whom I think is a star – but also an incredibly nuanced and gifted actor, much needed for this complex role of Melissa Garfield, daughter to Eric Roberts’ Wendell Garfield. Shaun Benson killed his audition for the role of kirk. Casting is instinct, and the minute he did the scene I knew he was the one I would cast. Loved Nick Serino in sleeping giant, and was lucky he was available. Tamara Podesmski, a standout in the film! Hope to work with her again soon.
3. What elements led to picking Sudbury, Ontario for the location to shoot the film?
We needed a small town, and we needed ice thick enough to put a car on it and then sink the car through the ice. Also Sudbury still maintains its character and hasn’t been completely gentrified – so we were able to find all our locations very quickly. It worked very well.
4. When I watch your films, I don’t actually see a bunch of actors. I see family. From the familiar collaborators like Maria Del Mar and of course your talented daughter Katie Boland, and the final product itself, filmmaking and working with talent is very much a personal affair. Would I be right saying so? Why is that family essence important to you?
You would be absolutely right! Casting is all about chemistry on the screen between the actors, and trust behind the scenes between actors and the director. You will notice that many directors use the same actors – there is a short hand there, and you know the essence of the person and that essence always shows through on screen. Nothing can be hidden from the camera. Also life is short, and it is fun to hang around with your friends and family!
5. The last feature film of yours I had the pleasure of watching was Looking Is The Original Sin, and I remember that film even till this day – an absolutely wonderful film. The one thing I love about your films is the longevity of the story in one’s mind. I’m not going to forget Never Saw It Coming any time soon. What impression do you intend your films to leave?
I hope to hold a mirror up to life so audience can see elements of themselves there. We all share the human condition, and even though we don’t all have the same experiences as the characters in a film, my hope would be that you have had the same emotions (So glad you remember Looking is the Original Sin with love.) Never Saw It Coming is a very complex story written by the genius Linwood Barclay, with a detailed look at the absurdity of life. I also see it as a feminist statement, and without giving anything away I hope the audience will applaud Keisha!! It is also a black comedy, where the audience will at first not be sure if they should laugh, but at the end of the film they will be laughing a lot. So many twists and turns and surprises in this film.
6. Great results come through hard work, and hard work pays dividends. The fact this interview is even happening is mind boggling considering just how many things you are involved with at the moment. What drives you to do what you do?
Well, I like you very much! But I also am so grateful that you want to talk to me, and that you care about what I think. It is an honour.
From the time I was a little girl I was dreaming about being an artist, and spent my days drawing and painting. My dad was a country musician – music was always around our kitchen table – and I eventually become a backup singer in a few bands (I am good at harmony). Then I became a professional photographer. When I found filmmaking, I discovered it is an art form that combines all of the arts that I love, and it allows me to live my dream.
I am also an observer of life and people, and filmmaking and photography allow me to hold up a mirror to the world, put it through my brain, and send it back out there.
Photos: Provided courtesy of the production. Credit: Rafy.