Jamie whitecrow, LUNAR SCHISM (2018)
Adam: Let’s dive right in. What wave of emotion do you want the audience to feel when they view Lunar Schism?
Jamie: Nostalgia is one of the emotions. I don’t know if you can call that an emotion—or just a feeling. It’s about remembering things that happened to you when you’re growing up. So, these are the things that I experienced, you know? Alienation and isolation in realizing gender from childhood. I want people to either be reminded of the moment you realize that gender is a thing [Jamie laughs a little] or, to raise awareness around that moment in your memory—when you’re growing up and you realize that you can’t be as carefree.
I think the other emotion is kind of like a grotesque and uncomfortable feeling that is channeled through that awakening. At least for me, I was like “Oh, so I have to be a girl.” I never thought about that stuff when I was growing up, and then I felt like I didn’t have a choice. So, I want people to feel repulsed by that aspect of gender.
Adam: You mentioned carefreeness, and I think the first part in your movie when the characters are running, you get a sense of that carefree energy. And then immediately when [your main character] is thrown onto the ground, it’s almost like a quick assault into adulthood.
Jamie: Yeah, I remember when I was cast out of childhood. The casting out of me as a child was when I couldn’t imagine in the same vividness that I used to. Like playtime—that idea of playtime. That's why I wanted Lunar Schism to be very theatrical and visually dramatic to show feelings of playtime on screen.
Adam: Definitely, we get the feeling of playtime right away. But then it’s like…[Adam sing-songs] “no more playtime!”.
Jamie: It’s very tragic. I feel like that’s one of the most tragic things about life—when things come to an end, especially when you’re a child.
Adam: That contextualizes the main character’s wound in the film—the wound that keeps growing—and she has to take something out of herself and give it back to the water. It’s like, you’re giving this part of yourself away, while still trying to learn more about yourself.
Jamie: Yeah, definitely! The actor, Bert, she wanted to know why she was taking something out of her belly. I was like, “You’re drowning your childhood!” [Jamie laughs]. She was like, “That’s the most tragic thing I’ve ever heard!”
Weeda: Was there anything that you discovered about yourself in the process of making this film? Any challenges that you had to overcome—whether internal or external?
Jamie: I discovered that I’m very ambitious. I did a lot of the design on the project. I wrote it, I produced it, I found some money to make it...I did all of the production design, set-design, I made the costumes. I would’ve done the make-up myself, too! But, I was like “No, I gotta hire someone, ‘cause I’m not that good at special effects…” I spent at least eighteen hours of my life sewing cloaks for one scene. I hired a sewing professional, and I had her guide me through the sewing of all those cloaks, and I used her machines and definitely broke needles. My hands were bleeding...it was really, really intense. I learned that I can’t really do it all.
I also wanted to do sound, but—I mean, I did do some recordings! The narrative follows traditional ceremony in Nishnawbe culture...I wanted to do the songs of ceremony with traditional hand-drummers, and I wanted to sing, and make distorted electronic music. But I ran out of time. So, I hired my friend who has been studying electronic music and synthesizers. He saw the film and said, “I feel like the orb-heart-thing that she pulls out of her belly should sound like this.”
Weeda: Despite doing so much by yourself, it looks like you still had the support of people who had very specific roles in the making of Lunar Schism.
Jamie: I’m very thankful that everyone has been very supportive of me in my life—and so giving, so caring. I discovered how kind people can be, and it makes me a better person when I realize that there are people who care, people who are willing to check in on your mental health, ‘cause making a film is hard, especially if you take on a lot. Having a support system makes me a better person...because I think, “Oh wow, there are people who love this art form and will put all that they are into it and they’ll also, you know, make sure that you’re eating and sleeping.
Adam: I’m always so self-conscious asking people for help on my films! It’s like, why would someone want to dedicate so much of their time—especially if you’re not able to pay them. But when someone gives you support, it’s so overwhelming in the best way.
Jamie: I think the more you ask for help, the more you’ll become surprised about how great humanity is. And then it changes when you stop making films, [Jamie jokes], then you’re like, “I hate everyone!”
Weeda: Do you think making films is a way of escaping back to the playfulness of childhood? Have you ever thought of film that way?
Jamie: Yeah! Actually, one of my favourite things to do as a child was to create worlds. So, I would take a video camera and I would film the kids that I babysitted [Jamie laughs], I would write roles for them and would dress them up. I’d say, “This is what you need to do!” I lived on the reserve, which made it easy to go anywhere I wanted.
Adam: Is Lunar Schism your passion project? Are you ready to retire right now?
Jamie: Every film I’m like, “I’m never gonna do this again!” [Jamie laughs] I’m actually working on a film right now which is in pre-production, and we’re shooting this weekend. But the edit needs to be done in like...a week and a half. So, right now, I just want to go on vacation for eight months and not make a film. But, then, as soon as a film is done I’m always ready for the next one. So—no, I’m not done. And I feel like every film I do becomes my passion.
Adam: Can you tell us a little more about the film you’re working on now? Do you have any secrets you want to share…?
Jamie: The working title is Dreams Untold, and it’s an experimental-surrealist short. It’s about a sleep paralysis demon that haunts a woman who’s recovering from some tragic experiences that she had—it’s not scary but—it’s beautiful. I’m hoping to make the grotesque beautiful. In the surrealist sense, we’re using water as symbolism, and we’re actually shooting an underwater scene with a GoPro and a Bolex...so we’ll see how that turns out.
Weeda: What kind of connection do you feel with water that makes you want to explore it as a symbol?
Jamie: It goes back to my traditional teachings as a Nishnawbe person. Water obviously is life. But, it’s also the blood of the earth. It’s the most sacred—aside from the sun and the moon—the most sacred element. Water is all around you. I guess I naturally associate everything that I am, and everything that I experience, with water.
Adam: We’ve talked about some moments in your film—but I’m curious about your very favourite moment, your number one moment?
Jamie: The dance scene. It’s when the main character comes into the room, and they’re really shy, but the moment they start dancing...it’s a very awkward dance. It’s my favourite moment to film because I got a bunch of talented dancers together and they were given the freedom to perform however they wanted. And Bert, who’s the main character, is actually very good at twerking, so whenever she dances it’s always sexy. But when I discussed the film with her, I said “You have to dance awkwardly.” And she was so sad the day of the shoot because she really wanted to get down! She was like, “You have to write me a role where I’m actually dancing good!”
Adam: That scene has an amazing arc to it. Bert first walks in feeling super uncomfortable, and then she tries to be comfortable in the space until she notices that her wound’s gotten bigger and bigger—it continues to eat away at her. I feel like Bert wanting to dance and wanting to get down with the other actors is the perfect character motivation.
Weeda: Is there anyone you want to give a shout-out to?
Jamie: I want to give a shout-out to the entire cast and crew—especially my female filmmaking buddies that I always work with, Jaene Castrillon, Rolla Tahir, Samay Arcentales Cajas. We’re also attacking our next project together right now. Hopefully we can all work together on features some day. And LIFT! They have been huge supporters of my work.
Adam: Well, I’m super excited to see Lunar Schism on the big screen! Especially your favourite moment, with the awkward dancing.
Jamie: Me too! I invited the cast and crew, so I’m hoping everyone comes out.