The Imaginist was one of the most challenging and rewarding films I have directed. A 19- page script written by my creative partner, Sina Sultani was turned into a 24-minute film that was shot within 4 days at Fort Edmonton Park in Edmonton, Alberta with a lasting supply of cold winds and snow. Good thing it was mostly interior shots.
The scripts I consider directing are usually ones that allow me to visualize them while being read with very limited changes. The Imaginist was different. There were familiar events and emotions woven through the script, but the surface of the film was unique and it challenged me to have to think outside the box.
Initially, I considered presenting the film in the current era, but it posed too many questions, challenging the arc of the story that would eventually change it entirely. I know that this is normal in the industry, where scripts are tweaked on set, but it would become a story I did not want to tell. As an independent filmmaker these are decisions we are able to make without the pressure from studios.
The location dictated the change in era to present the film as a period piece, taking place in a dystopian 1930’s community. With the help of our Set Decorator, Rudy Andrew Smith, we were able to dress the set with pieces inspired by the 1930’s, but entirely unique to the fictitious world in which the story takes place.
Louie Koutis, Darrel Stephenson, Mary-Ellen Perley and Clair Superkoski, our principle and supporting cast didn’t miss a beat during rehearsal and production. I decided to hold rehearsals that were more like preparing for live theatre since our hours on set were limited. This proved to be so significant as we lost valuable production time due to a blizzard and fire emergency in a neighbouring kitchen on location causing everyone to evacuate the building. Having a cast that required little to no prep for scenes on set was the result of a lot of hard work during rehearsals and they delivered above and beyond what was expected which saved us a lot time during the 4 day shoot for pick ups.
Directing and co-producing this film on a $15,000 budget was an interesting challenge. The largest set I’ve hired yet, with 7 crewmembers, 1 principle, 3 supporting and a dozen background actors, I learned more about how important it is to create positive culture on set when you’re trying to extract productivity on a shoestring budget with limited resources and under unreasonable time constraints.
What I also learned that I would carry with me to every production is learning to ask for help and supplying an endless amount of coffee and food. I was really lucky to have the constant support, knowledge and talent of cast and crew who showed up on time, self- motivated, somewhat sleepy and ready to make the most of an opportunity. The Imaginist as a film mirrors these amazing people and their dedication to the process of creation.
Written by Natalee Rawat, Director of The Imaginist.
The Imaginist is Top Shorts 2016 Special Screening.
Watch the official trailer: