Atlantic Film Festival 2002

Jen Johnston


Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk

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Day One at the Atlantic Film Festival

For a certified movie dweeb like myself there is no bigger news then the fact that attending a movie festival is within the realm of theoretically possible. When I received the news that I was accepted to attend the 22nd Atlantic Film Festival I was absolutely elated. The prospect of seeing new and different movies, hob-nobbing with people that fell into the categories of either a)being featured prominently in posters that had festooned my high school locker, or b)can actually string together terms like “independent film,” “Tim Roth,” and “Tom Stoppard,” made me giddy to the point of annoyance. (Or so the five remaining people, who are still speaking to me at this point say.) 

Finally, after a WHOLE week of waiting, Day One had arrived.

Walking up to Halifax’s Lord Nelson Hotel, certain questions were running through my mind. “How is my hair?” was featured prominently on the list of panic items. The “Would anyone actually know who I was, or is my editor just playing a HUGE joke on me, making me show up here and embarrass myself in front of much more seasoned writers?” thought was causing me a bit of concern. But right at the front of the dread lobe of my brain lay the concept that inside the hotel were three people that I had life threatening crushes on; F/X star Bryan Brown, and Due South alumni Paul Gross, and Gordon Pinsent. What if I ran into them? Would I have something witty or charming to say? Would I say anything at all? Would I pass out in a fit of nervous energy? At that point I was really praying that my name would be printed on my pass. That way, if I got too flustered by anyone I would have a handy reference guide to recall it. 

I stepped into the hotel, and am afraid I immediately lost any composure. Going up the stairs to the entrance I had been repeating John Travolta’s mantra “Be Cool. Just be cool.” I was obviously zapped with some sort of nerd-o-rama ray on my way through the door for I immediately switched from hip to blatant dorky tourist from the country. My jaw nearly hit the floor. The hotel is BEAUTIFUL. The floors are all dark hardwood, the curtains are a grey/dark blue, and there were fantastic soft lights shaped like street lanterns all over the place. I think I actually said “ooooo.” More then once. The staff there are eminently professional, and EXTREMELY courteous. I can not stress this enough. They didn’t laugh at my senseless questions at all, which I consider to be a truly impressive feat.

ME: You mean this coffee is for us?
STAFF: Yes.
ME: And this cake? This cake is here for us?
STAFF: Yes. 
ME: And these apples? These apples are here for us?
STAFF: Yes. Those are Paul Gross’ favourites.
ME: *thud* (Sound of me passing out on floor.)

You get the idea. 

After receiving my well-laden gift bag (“You mean these chocolates? These chocolates are for....”) I headed off to my first media screening of the festival, The Wild Dogs written and directed by Nova Scotian Thom Fitzgerald....

The Wild Dogs was showing in Park Lane Theatres at 2:00 pm. Attempting to be the professional media type I arrived at the theatre half an hour in advance to find....

No one.

Shaking Hands With Gordon Pinsent
(or Why I am never washing my hands again)

No one was behind the counter, no one was manning the concession stand. Wondering if I had read things the wrong way I dashed up the escalator to ask the Film Festival volunteer if the screening had been cancelled.  She was quite helpful. “Ummmmmm.....I don’t....Wild Dogs?” 

Thanking her while rolling my eyes halfway down the street, I ran back down the escalator dreading that I had missed something, and found the theatre still seemingly abandoned. Breaking several movie theatre laws, and risking being thrown in movie theatre jail (which is, I assume the only place where Waterworld is still permitted to be shown) I walked past the admission counter, creeping like a bad James Bond down into the cinema itself. As I tiptoed past posters for Signs and Red Dragon, waiting to be accosted by theatre security, I saw two people with familiar looking passes hanging around their necks. I walked over and introduced myself with some coherence to the publicist for the whole entire festival, and the head of development for CTV in Atlantic Canada. We waited in an ever growing group for the doors to open.

Before we were allowed in to sit down, we were told that the jury for the festival was inside, making their decisions on the previous film. Having no idea who was on the jury, I barged in at full steam, sat down two rows behind the group, and took out my notebook.

Then Gordon Pinsent turned around. 

He smiled at me, I smiled back, and blushed so hard and fast that my head nearly exploded. I said “Hi Mr. Pinsent.” He said hi back to me, and turned back in the direction of the screen. Thinking that he was SO nice to say hi, I sat back in my chair and relaxed. 

Then Gordon Pinsent stood up.

Then he started walking over to me.

Gordon Pinsent. All Rights Reserved.I stood up, though assume that was some sort of involuntary muscle reaction as my brain’s immediate Manhattan Project became an attempt to form a cohesive opening sentence, and if possible, not falling down. I was not terribly suave when he first came over to me. In fairness though, I blame Gordon. The man is a 5'9” package of charisma. Gorgeous charcoal eyes, salt and pepper hair, and an amiably-evil smile, who could maintain their composure faced with that? 

“It’s....oh....it’s SO nice to meet you Mr. Pinsent,” I said.

“What’s your name?” he asked me.

“Jen” I replied.

“Jen.....Well, you can call me Gordon.”

Up to that point I had a tenuous hold on my verbal abilities. That killed me. I now have a full and complete understanding of the verb “Swooning.”

GORDON: “So, Jen are you from here?” (Indicating the theatre).

ME: “No, I don’t actually live in the theatre despite what you may have been told. I live about 45 minutes out of Halifax, in a place called Rawdon.”

GORDON: “Oh...I love small towns too. So what do you do? Actress? Producer? Director?”

And I had to give the answer that tends to make actors sprint from the room in fear.....

ME: “No, I’m a critic.”

Then to lighten the mood I said.

ME: “I get paid to make sarcastic comments.” (Insert cute giggle here)

He laughed. If I never write another word I can die happy knowing that I managed to make Gordon Pinsent laugh politely.

As the theatre lights dimmed he sat down with me and thanked me for being so nice. We started to watch Thom’s movie.

All I can say about The Wild Dogs is it’s beautifully shot, the acting is good, but you know you’re watching an art film when the character the movie clearly wants you to sympathise with is a pornographer. Plus if there is a Thom Fitzgerald fan out there who sees this movie and grasps what the dogs are actually supposed to represent please let me know.

After the lights came up, I said goodbye to Gordon, and went out to find my car. I can’t help but hope that I’ll sit through another screening with Gordon. He’s so kind and so much fun. 

Maybe he’ll attend Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever on Sunday night.

Maybe he’ll remember my name.

Maybe he’ll sit with me again.

I love my job. 

Over the next few days at the fest I saw Gordon off and on. (Including one moment at a preview showing where I reached up to shake his hand and he actually took it in his for several seconds during which time I know I made some sort of semi-intelligent comment, but for the life of me I have no memory of what it was. Could have been a comment on the film we were about to watch, could have been about the tragedy of lobster season ending soon, I really have no idea. Gordon has that effect on women.) But five days into the fest, when I had worked up the nerve to go ask the media co-ordinator if Gordon was doing interviews I found to my dismay that he had - insert sad music here - left the night before. 

I was given Gordon’s email address, and I sent off a note asking if he would give me an interview. Two weeks went by without a word. Then one afternoon I came home, to find my mother sitting on the patio with an odd look on her face. I asked what was going on and mom’s smile only got wider. 

“Go and check the answering machine,” she said.

“What? Why?” I asked.

“Just go already,” she said, “there’s a message on there for you.” 

It was Gordon, calling to say that he had received my email, and he’d be home that evening if I wanted to call, and we could “chat.” I called and we arranged to speak the next day.

I don’t mind admitting that I was INCREDIBLY nervous when I called. After all, Gordon is one of the people who captured my interest in films, seeing as he’s not only EXCEEDINGLY talented, but also a Newfoundlander, close to my neck of the woods. I had been preparing for the “chat” from the moment I received his answering machine message, and sat down with my carefully thought-out list of questions. As I vibrated with nervous energy, I dialled the phone, and Gordon put me at ease at once.

Gordon Pinsent. All Rights Reserved.I started out by asking him what had attracted him to Due South. “I thought it sounded great. I was told all about the role, that I’d be playing Robert Fraser, the ghost of Benton’s (the Mountie/lead character’s) father. He was described to me as being his guide, his conscience. I thought I’d be doing a voice over, that I could just phone in the role. Most every actor likes the idea of being able to do two jobs at once. Anyway, when I agreed to do the pilot I found out that I’d have to go up to Okagway, so that I could get shot in the snow. After that episode was filmed there was talk about how to bring me back so that Robert could offer advice to his son. And it all went on from there....”

I asked if the level of devotion that Due South fans have to the show ever comes as a surprise. “It’s surprising and amazing. Just amazing. I remember going to a Due South convention that was a little scary,” he said laughing. “But the fans are great.”

I asked if he has a favourite episode of Due South. “Well, the episode titles are quick to fade. I loved the episode where they had Robert floating down a river, and singing. I enjoyed that one very much.”

Gordon is an accomplished writer having put out a number of plays and scripts. I asked him about his writing method. “Well, when I’m writing seriously, I just go upstairs and write things that I can be proud of, things I want to be involved in.”

I brought up two questions from his fans, concerning some of his other pursuits. 

“I hear you used to teach dance,” I said. “It’s true,” Gordon replied. “I used to teach ballroom dancing at Arthur Miller in Winnipeg.”

“And I hear you’ve recorded an album.” “Also true,” said Gordon. “It was in 1972, and I was down in Los Angeles. I had done some singing, and together with a four piece band we put out an album of Newfoundland folk songs called “Roots.” 

Gordon was kept busy during his visit to Halifax. Not only did he jury the fest, but put in an appearance on the final episode of Made in Canada. (http://www.pyramidtv.ca) “I worked on the series finale, and it was a great time. I got to walk in and fire everyone.” He went on to say that he had a great time at the film festival. “I love Halifax, and the people here. I had a really good time.”

We went on to talk about the upcoming season of The Red Green Show, where Gordon plays Hap, Possum Lodge’s most accomplished exaggerator. “We do a segment where people can bring in items for Red to fix. Hap brings in his answering machine, saying that it was filled up with messages from his ex-girlfriend, Gwyneth Paltrow.” 

Gordon’s fans can look for him in a number of upcoming projects. He’s got a cameo role in David Hewlitt’s upcoming film Nothing. “It’s just a walk-on part.” I walk up to the front door, and announce that the house is condemned, and walk away.”

I wondered what keeps Gordon working in Canada. “I work where I want to live. I wanted to live in a country that knew me and that I know. I feel comfortable here. I feel much more at home.” 

After talking a bit about horses, I made my extremely regretful good-byes, and hung up, knowing that I had come to a realization. 

Gordon is, (in a statement of something incredibly obvious) a tremendous actor. I have seen nearly every one of his performances and have been impressed each and every time. He’s incredibly magnetic, very well spoken, and so out of this world handsome. My crush on the man has only been enhanced by my meeting him in person because of his genuine amiability. More then that, he embodies a lesson that all Due South fans should get the chance to learn. That the reality of an actor’s personality often is far better then the Mountie they play on TV. 
 

“Gordon is a real treat to work with. He plays a bad guy in the final episode of “Made in Canada.” We were all nervous about working with such an icon but his sense of humour and generosity wowed us all. His focus and preparedness was a wonder to watch. He showed us all how it’s done-it’s no wonder he is who he is!” - Peter Keleghan (The Red Green Show)
 
 
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