When I think of filmmaker Lulu Keating, I see splashes of colour—from the flaming red hair to the bright wardrobe and warm Antigonish, Nova Scotia accent—she’s truly unforgettable and a tsunami of creativity. The award winning writer/director calls Dawson City, Yukon her home, and it’s there she finds inspiration for such shorts as Her Man Plan and Dawson Town Melted Down. Between her narrative films and documentaries, Lulu’s work has screened internationally for years and her most recent feature film, Lucille’s Ball (which runs at Vancouver’s Rio Theatre Nov. 23), unravels a signature style—highly stylized, innovative work that pushes the bounds of cinematography to a new realm.
“In my first animated film Lulu’s Back in Town (1980), I tried to shake up the film medium, and have continued to make that my goal,” says Lulu. “For Lucille’s Ball (2013) I was inspired by theatre and animation. I wanted to shoot entirely in a studio and when I won the WIDC Feature Film Award my dream came true. I tailored the film concept around the studio even though the film story goes around the world. It’s very stylized.” Lulu used rear projection for locations like the church, Africa and 1970s ceiling to floor wallpaper by changing out the images. She incorporated animation which became the vehicle to express what was in Lucille’s subconscious mind–fueling imagination and memory.
Lulu talks fondly of her life in the Yukon and how it inspires her, “Place is very important for me and as a creative person I was hitting walls in Nova Scotia and Vancouver. I was at the point where I was working on shows and not my own work, but when I came to Yukon on a film shoot I felt like I was home. Here I can do my work in a cooperative environment, and it offers the isolation and solitude for me to explore issues in a much deeper way.”
But life up north is not as isolated as one would think. “I get the opportunity to travel to festivals with my work and keep on the pulse of what’s going on in the south,” she says. “It was a treat to go to Australia and be filmmaker in residence at Sydney Underground Film Festival. The diversity was incredible—people were taking risks with their films and I felt honoured to be among them. But I also recognized that what we’re doing is so limited in North America.”
When asked where the idea for Lucille’s Ball came from, she recalls, “I was telling stories about my wild life in the ’70s and hearing stories from friends and my son was cynical about hippies, so I wanted to show him what it was like then and how we challenged social norms.”
A longtime WIFTV member, Lulu realizes how bad the stats for women in the industry are, “When I was a young woman and made my first feature (at 35) I thought the battles were won or being won. Women were about one third of the Telefilm-financed movies made that year. It felt really good. I felt like I was there with my merit and here we are all these years later and the percentage of women being funded has slid back. We’re being given a disservice by not being 50 per cent funded. Yes we can do micro budget and short film projects, but women don’t get the bigger investment amounts. Young, white, male–they continually get rewarded, and we’re out there pushing and trying and we’re not being greenlit.”
When not working on her own scripts, Lulu is often inspiring young people who are interested in film, “I tell them to quit their day jobs and take any job in industry.” She’s also been hired to write a script for Parks Canada. “The government contracts for documentaries give me a balance and I don’t have to have a day job that takes energy away from creative work.” She is currently working on two short documentaries, a TV series, and pushing her feature screenplays.
Lucille’s Ball is screening as a double feature with Katrin Bowen’s Random Acts of Romance at the Rio Theatre on Broadway this Sunday, November 23rd. Directors in attendance.
By Roslyn Muir
Roslyn Muir is a screenwriter, story editor, instructor and former programmer of the Vancouver Women in Film Festival— find out more about her on http://www.roslynmuir.com
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