Short Film “Beautiful Monster” to Premiere at Cinefest

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UPDATE: “Beautiful Monster” was awarded the Grand Prize, Open Category of the 2014 Cinefest Sudbury International Film Festival Best in Shorts competition on Saturday, September 20th!

It is with great excitement that I announce my (hopefully) triumphant return to filmmaking with a short romantic film entitled “Beautiful Monster”. It will premiere at the 2014 Cinefest Sudbury International Film Festival in-competition as one of the 10 finalists of CTV Best in Shorts.

WHEN: Saturday, September 20 @ 12 p.m.
WHERE: SilverCity Cinemas / Sudbury

First, a little background…

Over 10 years ago, back when I was a wide-eyed teenager, I made a short film about my cat Mr. LeMiew aptly titled “LeMiew: Nature’s Perfect Pet”.

I shot it over the course of a few days using a webcam that was tethered to on old IBM desktop computer and edited the whole thing on Windows Movie Maker.

It all sounds cringeworthy to me now but that campy little technically-challenged short won me 1st Place in the Student Category of the 2002 Cinefest Festival’s Amateur Videomakers Competition, the precursor to CTV Best in Shorts. Who knew?

A few years later, I followed “LeMiew” with my second short film, this one a decided departure from my debut.

Called “The Masterpiece”, a title that, in retrospect, was a little on the nose, the premise was simple: a young painter is holed up in his studio trying to create his masterpiece amid a furry of drugs and booze. After several failed attempts, he eventually finds a gun and blows his brains out all over a canvas, thus producing the elusive masterpiece.

Needless to say, I was going through a bit of an angsty period at the time. It also goes without saying that I didn’t repeat my original success at Cinefest that year.

I then shelved my filmmaking aspirations for some time while I focussed on other work: mostly acting, theatre directing, music, graphic design, and writing.

Lens prep before the first day of shooting. The Sigma 18-35mm 1.8 was used as the primary lens for its versatility and large aperture.

Lens prep before the first day of shooting. The Sigma 18-35mm 1.8 was used as the primary lens for its versatility and large aperture.

During that period, I spent a lot of time on film sets, mostly in front of the camera, but occasionally behind-the-scenes. I used that as an opportunity to observe, ask questions, and develop a greater understanding of the moviemaking process.

And so, finally, after purchasing a new Canon DSLR and spending the last many months learning how to get the most of it, building a modest stockpile of gear, and re-watching countless YouTube tutorials, I decided to become a filmmaker again.

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“Beautiful Monster” is a quaint little film. It’s not the edgy, challenging fare I’ve come to expect from myself, but it’s kind of sweet and, hopefully, very funny.

It follows a mild-mannered monster (played by Nicolas Barbeau) who goes out on a beautiful, sunny day looking for love. Rebuffed with extreme prejudice by the first girl he encounters (played by Cora Eckert), he wanders aimlessly until he finds redemption “from above”.

FROM LEFT: me, Nicolas Barbeau, Cora Eckert, and Nina Nesseth after wrap on day two.

FROM LEFT: me, Nicolas Barbeau, Cora Eckert, and Nina Nesseth after wrap on day two. Photo by Mike Dotta.

The cast is rounded out by Jocelyn Dotta (pictured in the poster up top) and Nina Nesseth. Richard Barlow also makes a very brief, pink-shirted cameo appearance.

Also making a cameo appearance is a mural in Downtown Sudbury by We Live Up Here, which was the inspiration for the project and figures heavily in the plot.

The "You Are Beautiful" mural by We Live Up Here was the inspiration for "Beautiful Monster".

The “You Are Beautiful” mural by We Live Up Here was the inspiration for “Beautiful Monster”.

We filmed over two beautifully sunny days in Downtown Sudbury (guerrilla, of course).

Shooting outdoors was both delightful and a curse; the beauty of shooting on a DSLR is you get that really lovely depth of field. However, when you’re outdoors and still want to shoot with a wide-open aperture, you need to compensate. At various times during the shoot, I was stopping the lens down with not one but two pretty heavy neutral density filters.

Setting up a shot on Day Two.

Setting up a shot on Day Two. Photo by Mike Dotta.

Occasionally, it was so sunny, I couldn’t even see my monitor, making sharp focus especially challenging…

I took this film as an opportunity to get my hands dirty in every department. In addition to writing and directing, I also shot, edited, and produced the minor VFX and title sequences in the film.

Adobe Premiere Pro was used for post-production editing and colour grading, while Adobe After Effects was used for visual effects and stabilization.

Adobe Premiere Pro was used for post-production editing and colour grading, while Adobe After Effects was used for visual effects and stabilization.

I was very grateful to have Nina Nesseth serving as my 1st AD and Mike Dotta as my camera assistant. Mathieu Seguin, who directed me in the short “Revisions”, joined us for half a day as a guest cinematographer for a particularly tricky pedestal shot, which we ended up getting with a pretty lo-pro technique.

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Nicolas Barbeau as The Monster with Jocelyn Dotta as The Second Girl.

The monster costume was on loan from the Sudbury Theatre Centre collection (special thanks to Sara Pasmore). I also have to thank my good friend and producing partner Greg Tremblay for enduring my endless stream of cuts and questions throughout post-production.

I have no expectations when we screen in competition at Cinefest this Saturday. It’s always nice to win awards, but more than anything, it just feels good to get back on the filmmaking wagon.

The Director, etc.

The Director, etc. Photo by Mike Dotta.

I’m proud of our little picture and I’m sure it will be the first of many more to come.

Visit the “Beautiful Monster” IMDb listing for full cast, crew, and details.

Stay tuned for the online release of “Beautiful Monster” later this month…

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