Director & Star Interview with Nick Meunier and Tristan Risk

by Phillip Wilcox "Our Movie Demon"

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DCP:

Nick - The Mother of Beauty is by far one of my all time favorite films! What was the genesis for the story, and what were your initial thoughts when you read the script?

 

Nick:

First of all, thanks so much! I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed the short, a lot of time and hard work was put into it and it’s great to hear that it was worth it.

 

The story was very loosely inspired by a friend of mine, Amanda. She creates art from dead animals and preserved plants, much like Helena does in the film. A year before we shot the film, Amanda told me she was pregnant. The idea that someone whose life is surrounded by art created in death was now about to bring life into this world was an interesting juxtaposition that I instantly knew I wanted to explore. I’ve never seen this topic addressed before and I loved the idea of exploring uncharted areas in storytelling. The idea snowballed from there as myself and Lonnie Nadler, the writer and co-producer, discussed how this could potentially be a struggle for someone. Since this vulture-culture art style is a form of memorializing life once it has passed, it intrigued me to think of how a character like Helena might handle creating life.

 

When Lonnie delivered the first draft, I was incredibly excited. I knew we had a good idea from the beginning but to actually read it on the page was amazing. He had created something beautiful and poetic which made it very easy to be excited about the project and bring others on board.

 

I also have to mention that this is a very loose interpretation -- Amanda’s baby is doing very well and is the happiest child I’ve ever seen. She is also one of the stars in the film!

 

DCP:

Tristan - You've played some eclectic characters in film; How did you get approached for this particular film, what was your first impression upon reading the script, and what was it specifically that made you decide you were going to play the character Helena?

 

Tristan:

I typically play a lot of caricatures - monsters, demons, humans who are very theatrical and cartoon-like. I've only now with first Ayla and now Helena really started to explore more diverse types of acting. Nick, Jessica and Lonnie, and I had a Skype meeting two January's ago, when I was away visiting my parents, and after reading the script I was excited for a number of components to the project: I loved the tale, I wa excited to showcase our spectacular West Coast rainforests and coastal land, and do something so sad, and so horrible that it a different breed of horror from what I normally do. There are no fantastic monsters here. Just a dread, and nightmare than no one wants to experience. I wanted Helena to have that universal moment that so many new parents have, and make her sympathetic, so you really feel her loss.

 

DCP:

Tristan - You've played some eclectic characters in film; How did you get approached for this particular film, what was your first impression upon reading the script, and what was it specifically that made you decide you were going to play the character Helena?

 

Tristan:

I typically play a lot of caricatures - monsters, demons, humans who are very theatrical and cartoon-like. I've only now with first Ayla and now Helena really started to explore more diverse types of acting. Nick, Jessica and Lonnie, and I had a Skype meeting two January's ago, when I was away visiting my parents, and after reading the script I was excited for a number of components to the project: I loved the tale, I wa excited to showcase our spectacular West Coast rainforests and coastal land, and do something so sad, and so horrible that it a different breed of horror from what I normally do. There are no fantastic monsters here. Just a dread, and nightmare than no one wants to experience. I wanted Helena to have that universal moment that so many new parents have, and make her sympathetic, so you really feel her loss.

 

 

DCP:

Nick - Can you talk to us about what it took to get the film made? How you chose the locations, how you cast the baby Wynter West, how long it took to film the movie, what was the most challenging part for you in making the film?

 

Nick:

It took a lot of planning and stress! Myself, Lonnie Nadler, and J.W. Cole, our producer, all work full time at outside production companies so trying to find the time to plan and execute a short film was definitely hectic. Thankfully, all three of us are extremely organized and were able to dedicate a lot of free time towards making this project come to life.

 

None of the key creatives on this show have babies or are at the age where our friends have children so casting a baby was definitely tough. We asked Amanda if she would allow her daughter, Wynter, to be in the film since she is a close friend of mine and we figured given the shooting location, it would be better to bring on a child whose parents we knew rather than a stranger.

 

Amanda and Wynter both live in Calgary so bringing them out here was a huge obstacle. Amanda also created a lot of custom art for the show and our Kickstarter campaign which meant that travelling by plane was a no-go since we didn’t think a lot of the skulls and fake bones would survive the trip (or be cleared by airport security). Once Amanda got here, we then had to transport everyone to Salt Spring Island for our four day shoot. It was a tight schedule, but we managed to make it work and had a great time on set.

 

The set was shot at a small cabin called Daffodil Cove Cottage on Salt Spring Island. Our Director of Photography had worked on a feature that shot at this location a year prior so he already knew the location which made planning our schematics pretty easy. The location had a lot of natural beauty and fit the script description perfectly -- the second we saw it, we knew that’s where we wanted to film.

 

One of the more challenging parts of the show was working with Wynter. Normally you’d expect a baby on set would be crying and screaming all the time but she was always so happy! We spent a lot of prep nervous that we wouldn’t be able to calm her down when we needed to but it was the exact opposite -- we needed her to cry and she was all smiles. I don’t think I’ve ever met a happier baby. Even when she was crying, it would only last for about thirty seconds before she’d calm down again.

 

 

 

DCP:

Tristan - This film deals with some pretty heavy themes and psychologically speaking goes to some dark places. Was there a specific moment during filming for you as an actress that was especially challenging and difficult for you, or perhaps any moments you needed to prepare yourself for?

 

Tristan:

I should point out here that while I've no human children, my pets are very much my family. Two years ago, while I was out of town filming in Edmonton, I came home and my beautiful polydactyl cat, Damien, had somehow gotten out and gotten hit by a car. I found him, brought his little body home and proceeded to ugly-cry to the point that my contact lenses came off of my eyes in the flood. It was hours before I could even bear to put his little body down. I didn't let go of him for some time. For almost a year, I kept him in a bag in my freezer. I could bear to let him go, and the thought of him in the ground made me sad beyond belief.

 

I eventually was able to say good-bye, though it took a full calendar year of my dead cat in my freezer to get there. The content really let me release a lot of what I had still built up in my system from that, and was very cathartic in letting it go. I kept going back over how I felt when I was trying to will him back to life and thinking what was going through Helena's heart, while she struggled with the complexities she felt towards her daughter.

 

DCP:

Nick & Tristan - Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you may be working on for the near future?

 

Tristan:

Yup! I'm excited for the release of my first kid's film that will be happening this year, visiting Stockton, CA next weekend for the Sinister Creature Con with a cast reunion for American Mary, and my upcoming summer tours doing sideshow in the Caravan Of Creeps (@caravanofcreeps on Instagram).

 

Nick:

At the moment, I am working on developing my production company, ECLECTIC47. Recently we have shot a couple of independent short films are looking to make the transition into becoming a full-time photo and video production company. Our next big project is Eidolons, a short film that dives into dark subjects such as abusive relationships and PTSD. Myself and J.W. Cole will be producers on the short and she will also be directing.

 

I’m also working with Lonnie Nadler and J.W. Cole to develop a couple of feature-film ideas which we’ll hopefully see come to life over the next couple of years.

In case you missed it here is our review for Mother of Beauty

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