"It's a true story about Joseph Howe, about a duel that he fought in 1840," says director Michael Fox about his new film, A Lesser Sort of War. "He was challenged to a duel by a man named John Halliburton, who accused him of libel. What happened at the end is John Halliburton misses and Howe has a chance to shoot him, according to the rules of the duel, but he fires his off pistol into the air."
This is the first project that Fox, who has also directed six other films including Entherance Online and the Skratch Bastid-starrer The Living Impaired, has shot on 35mm film as opposed to digital video.
"It looks prettier when it's done, for sure," he says of the difference. "My only real thing about the transition is I think I got used to having such a small lens that I tend to do a lot of close-up shots. And so there were a lot of close-up shots I couldn't do with the larger lenses. And it takes a lot longer to set up the shot.
"We actually had no money to make this movie. I acquired quite a bit of film stock for very cheap and just rented a bunch of gear from AFCOOP. It probably cost about $1,500 to make in total."
The 10-minute drama, written by Hal Thompson, was inspired by the pair's work at Citadel Hill. "I've been working at the Halifax Citadel for the past while," says Fox. "I started finding these tidbits and anecdotes about Halifax's history amusing. I figured I would make a short film." The team shot over three days last November in Province House, at the Citadel and at the Martello Tower in Point Pleasant Park. "That's actually where the duel took place," says Fox, "we shot it in the exact spot. We didn't really design the costumes from scratch—we took pieces from the Dal costume dept and from the Halifax Citadel as well, based everything on old pictures from the 1840s."
A Lesser Sort of War stars John Johnson as Howe. "The thing is there's this guy who works with us, and he's done some acting and he looks almost exactly like him," says Fox, laughing. "He's got those chops, those big mutton chops. We were just comparing pictures of Joseph Howe with him in the movie and they look very similar."
Fox and Thompson have a feature based in 1860s Halifax now in development. A Lesser Sort of War screens along with Jay Dahl's Time Farter and Marc Almon's The Wake of Calum MacLeod on Wednesday, March 28 at Park Lane at 7:30pm. Find out more about A Lesser Sort of War online at: www.whitelancefilms.com/lswtrailer.htm
HIFF and puff
Furthermore in short films, we are reminding you about the inaugural Halifax Independent Filmmakers' Festival, which got underway on March 21.
Still up for your viewing pleasure are the annual members' screening on March 22. It's a chance to see Jackie Torrens' riotous Pickled Punk again, along with the late Helen Hill's Bohemian Town and new Bridge Award winner Jeff Wheaton's awesome Enough. That program is preceded by a program of animation produced by AFCOOP's first FrameWorks recipients (along with some others, including the Oscar winners The Danish Poet and Ryan, and the dog film that reduced us to a pile of tears during the AFF, Mary Lewis's The Sparky Book).
Then on Friday the 23rd you can check out Heather Harkins' program called Radiation Animation Anarchy, which she curated in August during her stint at the Echo Park Film Centre in LA, as well as Dance On Screen, a program of—guess what—dance films. Check out the schedule at www.afcoop.ca/hiff/index.htm and for the love of all that is great go to this festival so it can happen again.
The national arts community took a blow this week when legendary Canadian poet Rita Joe died in Cape Breton on March 20. The Order of Canada recipient and de facto poet laureate of the Mi'kmaq people celebrated her 75th birthday the previous week. The Parkinson's-afflicted Joe, who produced seven books of poems in her lifetime—including Song of Eskasoni and We Are the People—was named to the Order of Canada in 1990, declared "a true ambassador of her people."
Ambassador of arts and letters? Email: email@example.com