Yesterday Women in Film and Television - Atlantic hosted a panel discussion at the Khyber Arts Centre with Sherry White, writer-director of Crackie, and Jennice Ripley, the film's producer. Among other things discussed, White and Ripley reflected on the history of filmmaking in Newfoundland and where their careers fit into it.
That discussion was prompted by Jan Miller's introduction to the afternoon: "As many people have commented, there is no where else in the country that has such a strong representation of women working in the industry and making a difference in the industry then Newfoundland."
Ripley's career-history as a producer runs concurrently to the history of filmmaking in Newfoundland. As she ventured over from theatre to short films, the ground was rumbling with notions of developing the industry into something, Ripley said, "you could have a career in."
"At the time in the mid-Eighties, there were no feature films being made, but Telefilm was establishing its office in Halifax and there was a notion that there could be an industry in Newfoundland," Ripley explained. "Ken Pittman was the first person to establish a production company and to do a feature film called Finding Mary March, so any of us who had any experience on a short film were basically sucked into the shoot and do whatever we could to get this feature film off the ground."
Basically what I'm saying is that the growth of film in Newfoundland in the last twenty years has been about some of us starting from that giant experiment in the woods, FInding Mary March, and then developing our companies and then working with government to develop policy and then developing an equipment co-op, NIFCO, so we don't have to ship things from Halifax every time we need a shot."
And the sheer force of numbers of women in these roles encouraged White to find a place within that community. "I honestly had very little self confidence when I was young, so I don't think I would have ever though I could do it if there wasn't so many women working. Mary Lewis did When Ponds Freeze Over and I saw that film and thought, That's what I want to do. I totally want to do that."
For a variety of reasons, Crackie, White and Ripley report, "Cut like Butter!" The script was economical they say and White was aware of the budgetary restraints of shooting on 35mm so was firm when she knew she got what she wanted. Ripley saws that after the shoot ended in November and the film was edited together so quickly by February, the team decided to go for Cannes Film Festival, shortlisted for the Director's Fortnight program and eventually making it into the Perspective Canada series. Crackie has since played at TIFF, the AFF, of course and will open the Calgary Film Festival shortly.
Ripley has a funny story about a significant piece of press received from the New York Times while at TIFF:
"The article cited three films - Crackie, Oprah Winfrey's Precious (Winfrey is the Exec Producer), and Samantha Morton's The Unloved - as being movies about families and young girls. It quotes Sherry early on - 'Director Sherry White says, 'blah, blah, blah' - and then later on it says, 'Oprah Winfrey, echoing Sherry White...,' as if they were in the room together! So now I am thinking, 'How can I get this to Oprah?'"