Interview with director Alexandra Lemay

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

As a kid, I was always telling stories in some way or another, from writing silly comics with my sister to making questionable mockumentaries with my best friend using my aunt’s old VHS camera. Animation was a natural progression in my quest to tell the perfect story! I managed to get involved with the National Film Board of Canada through one of their apprenticeship programs and that experience really helped solidify my love of animation filmmaking.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Absolutely not. To me, there are two major reasons to go to a film institute – connections and access to film gear. This is why I went to film school, but nowadays, there are many alternatives. If you’ve got good ideas and motivation, I think you can totally invest your money in personal projects as opposed to school and learn just as much if not more.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Animation (particularly stop-motion) takes a very long time to produce due to all the moving parts, so it’s easy to get discouraged at any stage. Getting started is tricky cause you need to make sense of your idea and plan how to execute it properly – it can feel overwhelming. I definitely started to hate the project after a few months and had to rework major aspects of the film late in the game to fall in love with it again. It made the process longer, but the results better!

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

The most important lesson I learned while making Quick Fix was less is more! I ended up cutting all the dialogue out of my film. It was really difficult because I had some really good animation that I had to throw out but ultimately I knew it would make the film better. I learned that you should not rush the pre-production process. Filmmaking takes time and If your animatic or script feels off, don’t rush to shoot because you will most likely have to fix it later!

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

I really wanted to make an independent film that I owned but had no funding – I had to find resourceful ways to make a stop-motion film with no money which is super challenging! I decided to build one character that I could shoot in live-action environments to save the costs of building sets. I didn’t want to feel like I was cutting corners, so I had to develop an idea that worked within those restrictions and wrote the entire script around this concept. 

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

The hardest decision I made was to keep the film under 5 minutes. I understood the film would be more effective if it was short and sweet, so I had to “kill my darlings”.  We tend to fall in love with certain shots and as we develop the idea they sometimes don’t fit anymore. It’s a painful but important process to know when let go.  It is a shame though because there were some cool shots I would love to try… who knows, maybe I can make a sequel?

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I don’t typically work in live-action and it was also the first time I produced a film I was also writing directing and animating so there was definitely a trial and error process! I ended up co-producing the film with my friend Kacim who also worked as DP on the project. He comes from a documentary background so it was helpful to have someone with live-action knowledge on board. He never worked in animation before so it was an interesting experience for both of us and I think curiosity of the unknown kept things fun for us.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I don’t think a creator’s goal should be to make a “crowd-pleaser” because that seems creatively limiting. That said,  I do think filmmakers need to aim to make an entertaining film to some extent.  Basically, audiences’ needs vary, so it’s up to the filmmaker to figure out who their target audience is and work accordingly. 

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I’ve just started submitting to festivals but up to now, the reception has been really positive!  It’s a shame that covid has imposed restrictions on the festival experience because my favorite part is meeting new people and witnessing audience reaction! I still think it’s a great way to get eyes on your film, so I plan on submitting to more festivals this year.  I’m still hopeful I will see Quick Fix play in a real theater one day because that is a magical experience for any filmmaker!

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think filmmakers should follow their passions because it will show in their work. There is no right or wrong way to make films and I think it’s silly to ask anyone to fit in a box when it comes to creative outlets.