Director Interview: Lulu Keating

Portrait of Lulu KeatingVWIFF CHATS WITH WISE + WILD CURATOR LULU KEATING

by M. A. Clarke Scott

MACS: I notice from your website profile that you began film studies pretty early at Ryerson Polytechnic. How did you discover, as a young woman in 1976, that this was what you wanted to do, and did it occur to you then that it might be challenging for a woman in the film industry? Have you found it to be especially challenging as a woman to do the projects you want and to get recognition for your work?

LK: I always knew I was an artist – that was my vocation, and perhaps because of having 10 siblings I wanted attention.

I never asked my self if I’d chosen something challenging – I didn’t feel I had a choice other than to follow my destiny and work in film.

It has been more difficult as the years progress. Definitely males are rewarded and green lit more than females. It’s easier for us to make short films, but when there’s a lot of money involved, the doors are harder to pry open and the stats prove that few women’s voices are heard.

MACS: You’ve studied, lived and worked in very diverse parts of Canada, from Quebec and Ontario, to the Maritimes and BC, to the Yukon. How does this cross-continental experience influence your vision, and your work?

Film still from The Moody BroodLK: I was born and raised in Nova Scotia and lived there many years. At one point I thought that I had to be there for my whole life because it was where I drew inspiration from, where my stories were. But the move west, and then to the Yukon have been part of my creative development. I needed to challenge myself. I needed change. Living in the Yukon has been exceptional for me creatively.

MACS: Was your residency at the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, in Dawson City, Yukon, April, 2003 what took you to the Yukon or were you already there? If not, how did you find yourself in the Yukon and why did you decide to stay?

Still from Ladies In Waiting Short film by Lulu KeatingLK: Before the Residency I’d been to the Yukon on a film shoot in 2001. That was the year one of my films played in the Dawson City International Short Film Festival. After the Residency, I was so entranced by the people and the land that I stayed on for a few months. The next year I was awarded a Canada Council Research Grant for a film and I returned to Dawson City. I continued to come until I moved here permanently 8 winters ago.

MACS: The films and filmmakers that make up the Wise + Wild program are incredibly talented and diverse. What criteria did you use to select the films for this program?

LK: I looked at a lot of films and selected the program for those various reasons: talent and diversity. I wanted some that showed the Yukon and the issues here, the lifestyle. Others are personal expressions.

MACS: What do you see being distinctive about the Yukon filmmakers voice, if anything? Does the landscape, history, culture or lifestyle, or something else, have a significant bearing on the work that is produced there?

LK: The Yukon, in my experience, rewards strength of character. This place is demanding and challenging on all levels. The women who live here are incredibly strong and self-sufficient. And these qualities are reflected in their films.

MACS: Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I imagine the film industry is small and intimate in Dawson City. How well do northern filmmakers know each other and how much collaboration and cross-fertilization of creativity is there in such a place?

LK: The Yukon has a population of only about 30,000. The film community is small but quite well-knit. We all know each other and there is a lot of support, especially among the women. Many of us have taken workshops together, or been in the 48-Hour Film Competition or the 1-Minute Film Challenge.

Klondike Kalahari imageMACS: Tell us something about the two feature films you currently have in development: Based on a True Fantasy and Klondike Kalahari. What about these projects is unique or close to your heart? Your filmography is so diverse. Do you find yourself leaning more towards drama these days or does it depend upon the moment/project opportunities?

Image still from Midday Sun filmLK: I have always wanted to make feature films. I wrote and directed The Midday Sun in 1989, and I’ve been writing script since. Finally I’m close to shooting another – True Fantasy will go before camera this spring. Every year I try to make a film, even if it is short, and I like to work in every genre. The subject dictates whether it is experimental, dramatic, animated or documentary.

MACS: Lulu, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for our members, fans and readers. We look forward to meeting you at the festival on March 9th, and to seeing the great lineup of Yukon short films awaiting us there.

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