Mini MUFF Profile: Linsey Stewart
Mini MUFF Profile: Linsey Stewart
Film: Long Branch
This month we will be pairing our February feature with the Mini MUFF selection Long Branch. If you expected us to pair American Psycho with something full of guts and gore, then you’re out of luck! Long Branch is the sweet counterpart to gruesomeness of American Psycho—a wintery Toronto love story full of romance, playfulness, and charm.
Long Branch has screened at several film festivals, including Atlantic Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival, Calgary International Film Festival, Yorkton Film Festival, Canadian Film Festival, Kingston Film Festival, and more. It has racked up a number of awards and nominations, including Best Short at Canadian Film Fest, Best Live Action Short at Calgary International Film Festival, A&E Short Filmmakers Award for Best Film at NSI Online Short Film Fest, and has also been selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick.
Toronto-based filmmaker Linsey Stewart collaborates full-time with her husband Dane Clark. Together, they have written and directed several shorts as well as the feature film I Put A Hit On You.
Get to know more about Linsey and her short film Long Branch!
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU GOT INVOLVED WITH FILMMAKING.
Linsey Stewart: Let's see. I hail from White Rock, B.C. A charming little suburb just south of Vancouver that has, in fact, the most underwhelming white rock you've ever seen.
When it comes to filmmaking, I came late to the party. I always wrote stories as a kid but as I got taller (I’m 5’11 now) it became more difficult to walk down the school hall without a coach pointing their finger in the direction of the gym. In a nutshell, I was jock. And I loved it for a bit. I played basketball in University and got a degree in Commerce. And yet, as I said to my mom ever since I was kid, I felt like a trapped artist. But since I couldn’t draw, dance, or basketweave, I didn’t know what kind of artist was trapped.
It wasn’t until I become a copywriter that I started to see myself as a creative person. I worked at several prominent advertising agencies, won some awards and made a bit of a name for myself. But deep down inside I knew that writing Mr. Clean headlines for the rest of my life wasn’t going to satisfy my soul. It was a strange time. Here I had found a stable and creative vocation and I still wasn’t happy. I knew if I was going to put in these kind of hours, I needed to do something that I cared about. And when I figured out that telling true, meaningful stories, was my real passion, something inside me clicked. So I wrote a screenplay, applied to the CFC Writer’s Lab, and magically, got in. Just when most of my peers were on track to becoming the next Peggy Olsen, I quit my cushy gig and began the life of a filmmaker. That was seven years ago. Since then I’ve been hustling to keep the dream alive.
Filmmaking, for me, is the ability to tell stories that people connect with and feel. It’s a craft that I truly admire and believe that there is such power in sharing these worlds we create in our minds. I want to be a great storyteller, in fact, I’m obsessive about it.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT LONG BRANCH.
LS: Well, originally we were looking to hire a director to shoot our script but when that hit a wall, Dane (my now my husband/full time collaborator) and I took this is as our now or never moment. I had always wanted to direct but since I’d only ever seen myself as writer, I was scared shitless to do it. But I eventually got over that and just started going through process little by little. It helped enormously that we had an insanely talented cast and crew that made our job a whole lot easier.
Perhaps, the thing that not a lot of people know, is that Long Branch is inspired by the early days of mine and Dane’s relationship. We were both at the CFC, days away from finishing the program, when we got a little tipsy on cheap draft beer, and started making out in front of Stratengers on Queen Street east. Dane got saucy and asked me if I wanted to go back to his place but I declined him—for good reason. He lived at Long Branch, with his uncle, and it really was going to take us two hours to get there because we couldn’t afford a cab to Mississauga and Uber wasn’t a thing. So I like to say that this short is the more interesting, heightened version of us.
TELL US ABOUT WHY YOU ARE A FEMINIST AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO YOUR FILMMAKING.
LS: Heck yeah, I'm a feminist! How filmmaking became something men do more than women, statistically speaking, is so confounding to me and yet, here we are, in the heat of the battle, talking more than ever about how we can change this. I definitely don't have all the answers, but here's what I do know: filmmakers make films. And if that's what you want to do then you have to put away all that other noise and just get down to work. If I waited for someone to pay me, I would’ve made zero films by now.
Like many others here, I’ve sacrificed and worked jobs I hated so I could eat—but I did it because I believe that’s what it takes. I’m all for the discussion but I think a great way to move forward is to saturate the market. We have to keep making things. And when we do, they need to honest and true reflections of the female perspective. All the films I’ve made to date, have a female protagonist and I do feel a sense of responsibility to make sure they’re portrayed as strong, complicated, grounded, vulnerable, funny, strange and three-dimensional individuals. If I don’t, if we don’t, who will?
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WOMEN WORKING IN THE FILM INDUSTRY?
LS: Tamara Jenkins, Jill Soloway, Laura Linney, Annette Bening, Larysa Kondraki, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Eliza Hittman, Sarah Polley, Lola Kirke, Andrea Arnold, Lynn Shelton, Melanie Lynskey, Judy Greer, Shonda Rhimes, Céline Sciamma, Emily Blunt, Kiersey Clemons, Rosemarie DeWitt, Gaby Hoffmann, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nicole Holofcener, Ana Lily Amirpour, Anna Boden, Valerie Faris, Sofia Coppola, Miranda July, Megan Ellison… and many many more… like, so many more.
IF A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE WAS CAST/CREATED, WHO WOULD STAR AS YOU AND WHAT GENRE WOULD IT BE?
LS: A coming of age movie starring Kristen Stewart would be the dream. It's a strategic choice on my part since most of my story will be scenes of myself in front the computer, dressed in a tattered robe, braless, complaining my back hurts and applying EOS lip balm like it’s my job. She’s really going to make that look a lot cooler than I ever did.
WHAT'S THE BEST ADVICE ABOUT FILMMAKING YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED?
LS: The best advice I go back to, no matter where I am in the creative process, whether it’s writing, directing or assembling a rough cut, is to remember that this is your BEST INTENTION, RIGHT NOW. And really what that means is that you're not done yet. So if your script isn't where you want it to be or your dailies aren't as you imagined, be kind to yourself and keep moving forward, because by the time it actually pumps through all the necessary channels, things will have changed immensely. It's not about letting yourself off the hook, and saying this is good enough, it's about accepting that things are going to keep developing and new discoveries will be made so just stay the course. Don't Panic. Keep the anxiety down. And remember that trying to achieve “perfection” is just a useless road block or an excuse you’re using to not put something out into the world.
WHO IS THE BEST/SUPERIOR BATMAN?
LS: My nephew. He's so method.
PUT TOGETHER YOUR DREAM TEAM (WITH YOU IN ONE OF THE ROLES, OBVS!)
LS: Well, since I'm clearly into the co-writing/co-directing thing here's how it would go down:
Write: Me and Tamara Jenkins
Direct: Me and Jill Soloway
Cast: Merritt Wever, Marion Cotillard and Alanis Morissette
Camera: Reed Morano
Craft Service: Nigella Lawson (this is a make or a break stipulation)
WHAT'S YOUR GO-TO JAM?
LS: Ini Kamoze. Here Comes The Hotstepper.
(I'm more of a jalapeno pepper jelly kind of gal).
WHAT MALE POP CULTURE ICON OR MOVIE/TV CHARACTER ARE YOU DREAMING WOULD GET A GENDER-SWAP?
LS: Take anything with a male lead, swap it for Gaby Hoffman, and we've got gold. Think about it... works every time.
RECOMMEND ONE #MUFFAPPROVED FILM FOR OUR BLOG READERS:
LS: Eden (dir. Mia Hansen-Love)
The Mini MUFF Society is our short film program. We aim to screen at least one local short film at each of our monthly events. You know, because we have a lot of amazing female talent in Toronto and we want to celebrate it! Learn more here!