AFF writer spotlight: Josh MacDonald

MacDonald's words are all over the fest, with two new features, The Corridor and Faith, Fraud & Minimum Wage.

Faith, Fraud & Minimum Wage
Tuesday September 21, Park Lane 8, 9:20pm

The Corridor
Wednesday, September 22, Park Lane 8, 7pm

The inexplicable attracts Josh MacDonald.

Prior to picking up the phone, he was sitting in on a post-production session with Evan Kelly and Jake Owens, respectively the director and visual effects supervisor on The Corridor, one of two features he's written that'll screen during this year's festival.

"It's easy for me to put black lines on white paper, but it's a whole other thing for these guys to realize it," says MacDonald.

For his other feature, Faith, Fraud & Minimum Wage, MacDonald adapted his play Halo for the big screen. First produced and toured by Two Planks and A Passion Theatre, the film adaptation is directed by George Mihalka.

Though very different films, they're bound by a single sensibility: "That which is inexplicable is frightening," says MacDonald.

As a fan of genre film, including horror, science fiction and fantasy, MacDonald doesn't fear the unexplained phenomenon, the unanswered question, as a viewer and a screenwriter. In The Corridor, five guys gather for a winter weekend at a secluded A-frame cottage. They're old friends. There are the cousins Comeau, Chris and Robert (Bobcat), Jim (Huggs) Huggan, Ty (Tyler) Crawley and Ev (Everett) Manette. The truncations and nicknames express the depth of their friendship.

"These are guys who are constantly looking backward in time, reflecting on their childhoods---friendships and past grievances---and are fearful about the future," MacDonald explains. They don't know who they're becoming, how they're supposed to become men, he says.

The five-man fraternity comes out to the woods to witness Ty's commemoration of his recently deceased mother. They all knew and loved Ty's mother, whose ashes he's going to spread in the snow. Both Ty and his mother have struggled with severe mental illness and, though he's been recently hospitalized and is now taking medication, Ty's "fragile mental state," as MacDonald terms it, keeps his friends on edge, guessing how he's going to handle the weekend. Out there, in that white space, the friends encounter the unexplained corridor, a physical and emotional "negative space." Contained within the mysterious force field, their thoughts become clear, their minds and outlooks clarified (or so they believe), their impulses, roles and actions supercharged, which feeds right into the group dynamic.

"The majority rules and sets your sanity level in a sense," says MacDonald.

Perhaps this is particularly true of male relationships. Is there an undercurrent of competition---the potential violation of principles, privacy and character, if not outright perpetration of violence---to all male groups, no matter how gentle and jovial they seem on the surface? The Corridor leads viewers to a confrontation with that question through careful pacing, claustrophobic scenes (the snowy exterior, the set-built interior), tension expertly built and released and some fine acting by the ensemble.

In Faith, Fraud & Minimum Wage, Casey (played by Martha MacIsaac) is freaked out by her fellow townspeople who've embraced a divine appearance as a genuine miracle: Jesus' face on the wall of the coffeeshop where Casey works. Having hit hard times, the people of Nately are bewildered by Casey's lack of belief and appear afraid to question it. Casey's doubt is grounded in a defiant, independent spirit, rationalism and knowledge.

"She's standing alone, in opposition to the group," says MacDonald, pointing out this is the same stance Tyler takes at the end of The Corridor. "She perceives herself as the only one of her kind." -Sean Flinn

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