I first met Nicole Steeves in 2012 when my friend John Rosborough recommended her for a leading role in a low budget feature film I was directing called The Cuckoo in the Clock. We wound up casting her, and she did such a good job that I cast her again the following year when I made my next feature film, Roundabout, and she turned in another fine performance.
As talented as she is in front of the camera, however, Nicole also has a passion for working behind the camera, particularly for writing and directing, so I was pleased to hear in April that she had been selected as one of the five recipients for the 1K WAVE Atlantic program. The initiative, which is sponsored by Women in Film and Television Atlantic (WIFT-AT) and pUNK Films, provides an opportunity for five female filmmakers the opportunity to make a feature film under the guidance of industry mentors. Projects can be any genre, from narrative fiction to documentary to experimental. The budget? $1,000.
That’s right. $1,000.
Let me just say that the prospect of making a quality feature film for $1,000 is… well, the polite word would be “daunting.” Even most independent films will spend that much just on catering and food for cast and crew alone. To shoot an entire film with just a grand? I’m not sure most filmmakers I know could pull that off – including me!
But Nicole has done just that with her debut feature film Head Space. She was kind enough to let me have an advance look at the film, which premieres at the 2016 Atlantic Film Festival. Displaying the same commitment, creativity and resilience that I saw in her work on both The Cuckoo in the Clock and Roundabout, she has crafted a strange, off-kilter and utterly affecting low-fi film that punches well above its budgetary weight. Yes, there are some rough edges, but that’s part of its charm.
It’s a comedy, but it definitely inhabits the darker corners of the room, sliding and shifting just outside the warm and fuzzy laugh-track light of more mainstream fare. The film is anchored by a convincing performance from Struan Sutherland as Floyd, an agoraphobic with no intention of ever leaving his basement. His past as a comedian and TV pitch-man has left him broken and unable to face the outside world. Sutherland spends much of the film either alone or acting with a headless mannequin as his scene partner, and he brings a real sense of understated pathos to a role that could have easily been overplayed. When they consider who should win the best actor award at the Atlantic Film Festival this year, he merits strong consideration.
After watching Head Space, I asked Nicole if she would be willing to sit down and talk about the film for View 902. She readily agreed, and brought Struan along as well, which made perfect sense – as you’ll see, they are very much a creative team.
Here is my interview with Nicole and Struan, conducted at the Humani-T Cafe in the North End of Halifax on Tuesday, August 30th.Read more