Counter Act --1960's Civil Right's Protest Sit In's Powerfully Portrayed in Short Film
Story Synopsis: When Alice, a naive young woman having lunch in a diner circa 1960, joins Mary and Ray in their "sit-in" protest, the ire of the racist patrons boils over and Alice learns what it truly takes to stand up for what you believe in. This powerful short film will be showing this evening March 18, 2017 at the Maple Ridge Festival of BC Film starting at 5 pm followed by the documentary Fractured Land. I was given the chance to email some questions to the makers of the film, below is the Q&A:
I watched your powerful movie and have seen some interviews with you all regarding the film, what were your main goals in getting across when starting the film?
Thank you so much for watching! Originally, our goal was just to make a film that honoured and brought awareness to the Sit-In Movement of the 1960's. We were actually unaware of the movement until we saw an incredible documentary called "Soundtrack For a Revolution", a small potion of which focused on the Sit-In Movement. When we found out more details about it and started doing more research, it became obvious that this was an incredible story and learned that, like us, many people of our generation had no idea that it had even taken place. But as we did more research and dove deeper into the subject matter, we found a way to make the film more personal for us - As Caucasian, Canadian filmmakers, we weren't blind to the fact that we were definitely outsiders looking in at these events in history and really of racial persecution in general. That's why we decided to tell the story through Alice's eyes, because it was a perspective we could understand and relate to; somebody who's not personally involved, but feels a duty and responsibility to support the cause anyway. In that regard the film grew from just being a film that shined a light on a too-unknown social movement, into being a film that tried to make a bigger statement - just because you're not a part of the victimized minority, does not exonerate you from doing what's right.
How was the atmosphere on set , seeing as this is a racially motivated film was there any tension among the actors or crew? To be honest, the atmosphere on set was incredibly professional, and while there were definitely some heavy moments, the amazing actors we hired did a great job of making it feel light and fun in between takes. We made sure to address the issues with the cast and crew before we started shooting each day - that what we were going to be shooting that day would be incredibly intense, and there would be some awful language being said and horrific acts taking place, and just asked everyone to try to be respectful of the performers and of the subject matter, and everyone did just that. They treated the material with honour and respect, and kept in mind the bigger picture of what we were trying to say with the film, and everyone managed to keep a positive, friendly attitude on set and felt like a real team with a mission, which was wonderful.
For me the most powerful part of it was when they pick themselves back up and go back to the counter , then the entrance door chimed --chosing not to cut away to see Alice come back in, but instead you just ended the film. Powerful and yet so small. The reasoning behind that choice of ending?
(Spoilers abound in the following answer). Thank you, we're so glad that came across. The main reason behind that choice was that we were consciously trying to avoid the idea that this was a "white savior" type of film. We had told everyone involved with the film from the get-go that although Alice was the protagonist of the film, she was not our hero, the heroes were Mary and Ray, and we wanted to make sure that came across. In all honesty, when we shot the ending, Alice actually did return and sit back down at the counter with Mary and Ray, but in editing we just felt like that was too clean, too happy of an ending. It felt like it was saying, "racism has been beaten" and it was really important to us for it to feel like this hadn't been resolved, that it was an ongoing issue that is just as much a problem today as it was in 1960, and rather than try to wrap up the story cleanly, we wanted to put the onus back on the audience, and ask them what they would do in that situation.
My mother was a part of the civil rights movement and was there anyone in your family etc that was?
We did not have any family members directly involved with the civil rights movement, . I will say though that it was important to us for it to feel authentic, and in our research we found out that there was a couple named Jack O'Dell and Jane Power who had participated in the civil rights movement that were living in Vancouver. In fact, Mr. O'Dell used to be a personal advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Mrs. Power had picketed outside of segregated lunch counters in the 60's, so we reached out to them and asked if they would read our script and give us some guidance and just get their opinions in general. They were incredibly supportive of us, they gave us notes on the script, as well as the rough cut after we had shot, and we were honoured that they even came to our cast and crew screening. They're both wonderful people, and with Mr. O'Dell being African-American and Mrs. Power being Caucasian, they were supportive of the idea that people of all colour had a responsibility to stand up against persecution.
Is there anything you are working on for future projects and how much of a group effort is put into the making of each film, seeing as there are four of you what are each of your parts as a group member?
We do have a number of things on the go. We have several projects in development, we just finished shooting a western called "The Undertaker's Son" for the Crazy8's contest, and we're just a couple of weeks away from shooting a stop-motion animated short called "Soggy Flakes", about a group of breakfast cereal mascots who have lost their jobs due to the low-carb, sugar-free, gluten-intolerant society we're living in. As far as the group effort goes, everything we do is a huge group effort. It starts with the four of us crafting the story together, and it just grows and grows from there as we add more crew members. Between the four of us, we do have different roles depending on what the project is (we work in both live-action and animation), but overall work as a collaborative team throughout the whole process. Thomas and I (Heath) aretrained in live-action
Jon and Nathan were
trained in animation.
On the set of a live-action project like Counter Act, Nathan and Jon spent more time at video village because of their highly visual nature, and Thomas and I would spend most of our time on the set working a bit more closely with the actors. Stop-motion is a good medium for us because it utilizes both Jon and Nathan's stellar animation skills and Thomas and my ability to work with lighting and cameras. But honestly, we communicate like mad and collaborate on all aspects (particularly when creating the story), and it really is a team effort through and through.