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Heather Perluzzo frees herself through filmmaking

Heather Perluzzo is a film director originally from Montreal, Quebec. Her desire to tell female-driven narratives and reimagine traumatic life experiences through sci-fi brought her to Vancouver Film School in 2017. Since then, she has directed multiple short films, including Girl in the Galactic Sun, which received Best Sci-Fi Short from Women in Horror and was an official selection at Whistler Film Festival.

Late last year, Heather was awarded the MPPIA Short Film Award, presented by Whistler Film Festival and Creative BC in partnership to assist emerging talent to develop their career. Heather is now currently working on the short, Wildflower, which follows a woman who creates an AI version of herself to escape an abusive relationship.

Heather is an advocate for balanced gender representation on and off the screen and prides herself on reinventing her struggles as a woman into strange yet meaningful films.

 


Tell us about yourself and your work

I am a female-forward director and writer from Montreal, though I have moved around quite a bit. I was bullied for being weird as a kid, a true victim of the classic stereotype of pre-pubescent “mean girls”. I’ve never stopped being a weirdo though, and now surprisingly it’s been embraced here in the indie film scene. My work up to this point have been trials and errors of communicating my imagination and mashing it with a dose of personal trauma.

What were the early days of your career like? How did you get to where you are now?

Well, honestly, I still believe I’m in my early days. I have a lot of passion and as someone who has worked hard for everything in my life, I value how important these opportunities are. I don’t want to make another version of a film everyone’s already seen, I want to put myself, my true vision on the screen and I want to talk about the hard things. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be my calling card, I feel happy that I tried something different. And I think that’s why I am where I am now, by stepping out of the box and being real about it.

What inspires you as a creator?

Thus far, most of the inspirations for my films have come from personal experiences. I am rather anti-social and introverted, and most of my life I’ve kept all the bad things that have happened to me in my head. I never really figured out how to communicate and grow from them until I started filmmaking. Film has given me a way to express myself and, in some ways, “free” myself from those negative moments in my life. I’m also very influenced by music; artists like Banks, Allie X and Grimes inspire me to push boundaries and not be afraid to let my freak flag fly.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

Surround yourself with an environment that allows you to focus. Don’t be afraid to explore yourself and say yes to your gut, remember this is your perspective. And just put the work in, no one is going to hand you a career. That being said, you’ll do your best work when you make time getting to know yourself, so set time aside every now and then to reconnect with who you are and what you want. And on top of that, unfortunately for us introverts, networking! I know it can be hard when you’re socially awkward, but they’re good people I promise. Vancouver has a wonderful indie scene and we all want to succeed together!

 

 

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

My student film, Girl in the Galactic Sun, is one of my biggest accomplishments. I know that’s strange to say, most people want their student films to go away forever. But for the first time in my life, I was in an environment that encouraged me to be creative and in turn, I made something entirely unique, powerful and proved to myself that I’m worth something. Since film school, I’ve been a part of two Crazy 8s films and just won the MPPIA Short Film Award. I feel so humbled but also proud of myself. I never thought anyone would ever really see value in me, and this community in Vancouver has really helped me grow.

What milestones have you achieved or are you focusing on now?

After Wildflower, my sights are set on a feature. While I love short films, I know the large, gated doors will only truly open once I dive into that new territory. That is the biggest, scariest milestone ahead. I’ve also found an amazing production company, Aimer Films, that have taken me under their wing and are pushing me to better not only my career but myself. I’d always wanted to have that core film family here, and I feel that I’ve found that in them. But yeah, just keep going until I can maybe make a living off of doing what I love.

Are there any upcoming projects we should know about that we can promote for you?

Well my upcoming MPPIA short film Wildflower is something I’ve been waiting to make for a while now. It’s about a woman who creates an AI replica in her image and the two form a romantic relationship, reflecting on how romance is something we can feel for ourselves. I’ve been saying, “This is the one, the last short that I need to make before I make a feature”. And we are making it this year.  My feature, New Places to Hide, is in the script stages. So, if anyone has any advice for someone starting out in the big bad feature-length woods, I’d love to hear it.

Kat Jayme, Filmmaker, Finding Big Country

You could say that Kat Jayme was destined to become a filmmaker. “I’ve had a camera pointed at me all my life. My grandfather was a director in the Philippines, and so everything was documented.”

 

Kat grew up in Vancouver, where she was the point guard for her high school basketball team.  When she got her first video camera, she started documenting her friends in their day-to-day life. Capturing moments was something she innately knew how to do, and when she graduated from high school, she naturally gravitated toward film. She studied film production at the University of British Columbia and then interned with the National Film Board for three years, learning the ropes. “That experience was invaluable,” she reflects.  

While she was at film school, she knew that she had to tell the story of her childhood heroes, The Vancouver Grizzlies. “I had a feeling that I had to make this film, so I started to do some research. Bryant ‘Big Country’ Reeves was the only player people couldn’t track down, it was like he was missing, and so I set out to find him.” 

Kat documented her journey in Finding Big Country, and she learned so much along the way. “He had become the scapegoat, the guy people blamed for how terrible The Grizzlies were. As a little girl, I loved them, even though they were terrible, and I wanted to find my long lost hero. It was the perfect recipe – you couldn’t have written a better storyline.” Yet, it wasn’t always easy. As a young, female director, Kat knows how lonely it can get, working by herself all day. Finding a group of like-minded individuals was a game-changer for her. “I’m really lucky I found my film family. We’re all female documentary makers, and we lift each other up.” 

In a genre heavily dominated by white men, Kat was often the only female in a room full of male sports reporters. They assumed she was lost, or that she didn’t belong, yet she would use that to her advantage. “I believe I got access to Bryant and his family because he wasn’t as guarded with me as he might have been with someone else. No one else had been able to do that except me.”

Kat believes her basketball training helped her become a better filmmaker. “Being a point guard is very similar to being a director. You’re a leader on the floor, the one trying to bring out the best in everyone.” She also knows that nothing great happens without a strong team. “When it comes to producing an independent film, you need all of the help you can get. Creative BC was nothing but supportive. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to complete this film the way I wanted. We are so lucky to have organizations like this supporting emerging filmmakers, helping to bring their dream projects come to life.”

As for Kat’s grandfather, he was able to fly to Vancouver to see her film premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival. “That’s something I will always be grateful for, to see him there opening night. He was so proud that I was following in his footsteps and keeping the family tradition of filmmaking alive.”

Kat Jayme
Finding Big Country

Interview with Lori Lozinski, President of Violator Films

Lozinski moved to Vancouver with a project management career in the telecommunications industry, but a week after arriving, the company claimed bankruptcy. Sometimes forced change is a good thing and as she started to look for a new job in a new city, she discovered Vancouver’s booming film industry. “Growing up in Edmonton, I didn’t realize this profession existed. After some research, Lori saw how her project management skills would translate to Producing and she entered the Film Foundation program at the Vancouver Film School to learn how films were made.

Coming out of film school, Lori wanted to work for a female-run company, because in her view, women lead differently. She worked with Screen Siren Pictures where she got to help tell stories of real women. “I realized I wasn’t seeing women on screen who represented how I felt about the world, and I wanted to work with women in control of the stories they’re telling.”

She launched Violator Films in 2007 with a focus on telling character-driven stories with female-identifying creatives. “I’ve worked with male writers and directors, but I feel my real purpose lives in the specific perspective of a woman’s experience – the storytelling looks and feels different and female-identifying folks need to see real authentic representation.

 

“Leadership should be circular, not top-down.”

 


Lori admits it’s not easy being a woman in this industry. “Every woman I know has a long list of the microaggressions they’ve had to endure every day; it’s the way the patriarchal system continues to dominate. Now, I’m in a position where I can choose the filmmakers I support, the stories I put my full energy towards and how I want the sets to be run. And I have the ability to be supportive of every crew member we hire. I don’t believe in hierarchies or exclusion. Yes, structure is needed to get things done, but I like to think of it as circular rather than top-down.” Being a feminist means equality for all and it’s important for me to have a gender-balanced crew. Even though I solely focus on the narratives of women, all genders can collaborate to create powerful and beautiful stories. It’s a slow burn toward change.”

At the end of the day, Lori believes it’s real people telling their stories that will help other people. “The last film I shot here, everyone on the set was changed because of working on that movie, and they will carry that forward with them. It really is a family on set, and it’s important to respect everyone. You don’t make a movie alone. I see it as all of us as hubs in these concentric circles, spinning around one another, with the story in the middle.”

Main Image: The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open