It was quite disappointing when the Vanguard programme of the Toronto International Film Festival was dropped to decreased the size of the festival. Vanguard was home to some great classics like Cold Fish, Goodnight Mommy and The Duke of Burgundy. Once more we were quite surprised that Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes stepped down which all had us wondering about the future of this beloved part of the festival. Peter Kuplowsky has taken over the reigns of Midnight Madness and has selected Canadian director’s Seth Smith’s film The Crescent who brought you the festival circuit favourite Lowlife. The Crescent follows the life of a woman and her child who embark on a dark journey to a remote coastal estate in order to deal with the loss of her husband. What should be considered a getaway quickly becomes an eerie and creepy downward spiral for her bringing her down to the pits of anxiety. FERNTV spoke to director Seth Smith about the angle of The Crescent.
FERNTV: Can you tell us here on FERNTV of why you wanted to get into the film industry as a director?
Seth: I just get bored easily. I like keeping busy and doing a lot of things, visual art, music, writing… Film kind of combines all of those for me. There are a lot of different stages in making a film that keep things interesting.
FERNTV: Give us an idea of what inspired this story for this film and why Danika Vandersteen was perfect for the lead role?
Seth: At the time of writing I just had my first child and there were all of these new, wonderful, primal feelings I hadn’t experienced before. Also some intense anxiety. It was also a time when there were some deaths in the family and it really made me think about how precious and temporary everything is. So I really drew from that.
With such a young child starring in this our primary concern was to surround ourselves with good people to make things safe and comfortable. Danika is such a kind person and positive force. The two instantly got along and it just felt right. She’s also a super talented visual artist. Marbling is a pretty technically complicated art form and it was important to pull it off like a pro.
FERNTV: How were you able to cast two year old Woodrow Graves for this film?
Seth: He is my kid. We had previously done a short together, a bunch of home videos. I think it’s nice to involve family in your work. I spent a year making this film and spent a lot of it with him. And we had a lot fun. I don’t think I would want to attempt it with someone else’s child. Communication is so hard at that age and I think you really need to be the parent to know how they are feeling.
FERNTV: Was it difficult to film some of the scenes that Woodrow was in and did he have an idea that he was in a film acting?
Seth: The difficult part was getting only one take each scene. We learned pretty quick that’s all he had the attention span for. So the challenge became setting up multiple cameras and trying to give him and Danika a little space, and almost treat it like nature photography. Danika led the scenes and Woodrow would mostly just be himself. But he was very good at line reading. It was a perfect time where he really liked echoing speech. And he definitely did know that he was being filmed. He likes working the camera too. Luckily he didn’t stare at thelense the whole time.
FERNTV: Do you feel that this film follows the tradition of Canadian horror?
Seth: I don’t know. I grew up on Canadian horror for sure. Love Cronenberg. Lately, I’m very inspired by all the good work coming out of Nova Scotia. Look out for Heather Young’s MILK, and Cory Bowles’ Black Cop also at TIFF this year.
FERNTV: Describe the experience of how it is like to have your own band, Dog Day, compose the score for this film?
Seth: It’s very affordable. No, it’s nice. Definitely different from writing pop tunes. More fluid. I really enjoy it and hope to do more. But I’m actually looking forward to going back to playing a little rock n’ roll.
FERNTV: Explain the feeling of having Raven Banner behind you in this film?
Seth: There aren’t a whole lot of distributors in Canada and we’re lucky to have Raven Banner around focusing on smaller. genre, and weird films. I’m glad they exist and we’re very happy to be teamed up with them for The Crescent.
FERNTV: What are some of the advice you would give to the up and coming filmmakers here in Canada?
Seth: Be nice to people you work with. Be open to feedback but trust your vision. Prepare. Don’t wait around for the perfect time, gear, money, etc. Do it now. Keep active. Try harder.
FERNTV: How does it feel to be part of TIFF and of course everyone’s favourite Midnight Madness?
Seth: Midnight Madness is the best. We’re very honoured to be apart of Peter Kuplowsky’s inaugural year as the new programmer. I’m glad he’s also taking on some of the weirder films that might have have been in the Vanguard section. And I can’t wait for people to actually see this thing we made. This is actually my first year at TIFF and I can’t wait to tear it apart!