Friday, September 10, 2010

Who to be watching behind the camera: Jared Pelletier

This month, Jared Pelletier, filmmaker, took time to do an interview with The Entertainment Corner’s writer Kristine Radford.  Jared’s many gifts behind the camera include directing, writing, and production just to name a few.  He grew up in Aurora, Ontario, Canada and attended Toronto Film College 2010.  He is currently living in Toronto, Canada.

'The picture is of myself and the field manager scouting a location for "In The Hearts Of Men". 
His name is Kevin Charman.' - Jared Pelletier

Did you always know you wanted to work with film or is filmmaking a more recent discovery?
My interest in film began at the age of 6, after watching "Goldeneye". Something about seeing a world so separate from our daily lives really fueled my imagination, and inspired me to create these worlds to entertain others. Since then my inspirations have changed, and they do on a regular basis, but watching that film at age 6 is where everything began. When I was very young in school, I would often sit bored in class framing the teacher in my mind, as if it were a scene from a movie. I think that got me through class on a lot of days.
As a younger filmmaker was your age ever an issue when making or distributing films?
When I was much younger (elementary school) I always had friends interested in helping out with the movie making. This usually entailed making sequels to movies we recently watched in theaters (i.e.. Jurassic Park 4). As I got older it became more of a novelty to others, but remained a passion to me. Into high school it became more difficult to get movies made, and because of that my interests started shifting over more to sports and social activities. But on my own time, I was still coming up with ideas and writing short screenplays, never letting the passion die. I never really started to pursue distributing my films until I was older, and to age appropriate festivals. However I would often keep my age secretive to ensure I would be taken seriously, and not seen as "some kid".
Who do you consider to be ‘great filmmakers’ and what influence have they had on your own filmmaking? 
Wow, so many I could list. I'll start with the most cliche, Steven Spielberg. Maybe not an overly interesting choice, but the man is brilliant. His range from dark dramas, to light action movies, to sci fi etc. inspires me. My goal is to show versatility in my work, and be able to tackle any kind of content. Spielberg is a master at this, and therefore I often study his films - looking at all of the similarities and differences. I then try to make each project very different from the last. I'll do a very visual effects driven film, and then move onto a slow moving dramatic piece. In addition to Spielberg, the Coen Brothers have been extremely influential. I really admire their style both in writing and directing. Again, so many people I could list here, but to sum it up - I find that any director who can make an entertaining film with a great plot, but also a level of intelligence and meaning in the film, is one that I admire and aspire to be like.

The Haunted Soldier
(Poster on display, Toronto)
Several of your films have been nominated or awarded at festivals in such categories as film direction, cinematography, and sound design. Water (2009) received five best experimental short nominations, best short of week, (2009), and best experimental shot of the month, (2009).

Haunted Solder (2010) received at the Toronto Student Film Festival (2010) best sound, and best overall second place.

Reminiscence  (2009) received two awards in cinematography, three awards in film direction and one in sound design.  It is also in consideration at the Sundance and Ann Arbor film festivals.

Did you anticipate such a positive response to your films?
In my opinion, you can never anticipate that response. I don't make films for the awards or recognition, I make them to entertain people and because I'm passionate about the process. It really is like making magic to me. Of course, the awards are amazing and it always feels great to be recognized. In a way it's almost surreal to be recognized on such a level for something I've been doing for as long as I can remember. I never think too highly of myself even with the awards, I always push myself to do better, and there's constantly a very strong desire to top my previous work.
As your film career continues to develop, what is the most useful advice you’ve received so far?  In turn what advice would you share with aspiring young filmmakers?
Never get too down on yourself. It's a tough business, and there will always be people willing to bring you down. I've found it extremely important to keep that in mind during my journey. You can never lose that drive to keep moving forward, and believing in your own skills. Without that, I don't think anyone can make it. To other aspiring filmmakers, I think it's important to keep a level head. Take a step back when things are going great, and pick yourself up when they aren't - just always stay the course. Be respectful of everyone on set, and never be demeaning of the other people putting their time and efforts into a project. I've come across directors who have this attitude, especially in film school. They often have little knowledge as to what they're doing, and nobody on set respects the individual. As a result, the team is not motivated to do a good job for them. Put everything into your work, know what you want as a filmmaker, and be kind to those helping your vision become a reality.
There is a resonating tone that sounds through out your films, one that is almost haunting.  Is this a conscious choice as a filmmaker or a subconscious expression that comes through in your personal style of filmmaking?
I always like to keep my films very real. Regardless of the plot, I think it's important to keep this element. Some may call it dark, but I really just call it real. This doesn't come from any bad experiences in my life, as I had a great childhood and life to date (knock on wood). However in researching for films, constantly reading newspapers for inspiration, I find that there is a darkness to the world. So instead of making that content completely obvious, I try to play it out as an undertone that is prevalent in every picture.

'Where He Got Lost'
In two of your films, Where He Got Lost (2010) based on a true story and Reminiscence (2009) a story depicting a future yet unfolded, they both are distinctive of the other.  The first has actors, dialog, special effects and in the second a narrative.  And yet they share a similarity, in that they both deal with change.  I found it fascinating how ‘change’ could be expressed so well and in such different ways by the same filmmaker

Would you share with us how the filming process was for these two different films and what were some of the challenges you had to overcome considering their differences?
As you said, they both portray a similar theme but in entirely different manners. Reminiscence was a great challenge in that the content could have easily come off as corny and unrealistic. Anthony Ingruber voiced the film, an excellent actor who brought everything to life. I've established a good relationship with him since working on that project, and he really brings a strong presence to any film I cast him in. I thought that the somewhat surreal plot of Reminiscence, along with the very real words and visuals made the film work, as each element complimented the other. It wasn't a typical film, but that was never the intention. The entire project wasn't as much of a process as it was an artistic experimentation. Where He Got Lost, on the other hand, was far more structured and played out the way most audiences expect of a film. I wanted to portray that same theme, but with a more human element. I think audiences can relate more to Where He Got Lost - not the extremes of the content, but the themes which are portrayed. The goal with that film was to send a strong social message to the audience in regards to change, decision making, and consequences to one's actions.
Are you interested to expand your filmmaking from short film to longer, full-length film?
I feel as though I'm moving past short films. I've explored all kinds of themes, and I've continuously practiced the storytelling process. My goal is to now move into features, and show that I can tell a story with more content and subject manner. The shorts were really a way to practice and be recognized. Festivals have been an excellent resource, but I think I've now established myself to a degree. I feel both confident and ready to tackle a full length feature film.
Out of all the films you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out to you personally, if so why?
I feel attached to each project in one way or another. The Haunted Soldier for one, as it has become one of my most successful films to date, and explored WW2 - a subject which has always fascinated me. I was also able to share that success with my Grandfather, who starred in the film, which was also special to me. He takes a lot of his own time to help me with projects, so sharing that success with him was even more rewarding.
Now that we have discussed some of your past and current films, what projects are up and coming for you, Jared Pelletier, the filmmaker?
I'm currently working on a WW2 film entitled In The Hearts Of Men. We're shooting in September and aiming for a January release, with festival entries at Cannes, TIFF, Sundance and more over the next year. This will be the largest cast and crew I've directed, totaling well over 30 people. I'll also be working with cinematographer and friend Erik Tallek, who is shooting the project on the Canon 5D Mk II. We have high hopes for this film, which will likely be one of my last shorts. I'm now looking ahead to features, and will be shooting my first beginning in early October. The story revolves around an elderly man with nothing left in his life, so he decides to follow his childhood dream. Can't reveal too much more on that one just yet!

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