Writer-directors Ashley McKenzie (Werewolf) and Stephen Cone (Princess Cyd, Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party, The Wise Kids) share insights on low-budget filmmaking.
In the fourth session of Lockdown Film School, writer-directors Ashley McKenzie and Stephen Cone have made careers working with low budgets for creative control and easy execution. McKenzie’s films are rooted in her small, working class hometown of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The stories she wants to tell are within reach of what she can make there. She feels a kinship to the films of Lynne Ramsay and the Dardenne Brothers. Stephen Cone plans films that are personal stories he can tell six months from now and can raise the money.
In this conversation, McKenzie and Cone discuss how to direct professional and non-professional actors, how they approach editing their own films, improvising on set, finding the right crew, and making your way as a young filmmaker. Read our Twitter livetweet of the session here.
Who is Ashley McKenzie?
Ashley McKenzie is from Cape Breton Island, Canada. Her debut feature film, Werewolf, was made there with an entirely local cast. Werewolf had its world premiere at TIFF, won the Grand Prix Focus QC/Canada at Festival du nouveau cinema, and was named one of Canada’s Top 10 Features by TIFF. She won the $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award from the Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA), which The National Post called “the richest film prize in Canada”. Ashley writes and directs films that blend formalism with gritty realism.
Werewolf follows a pair of lovers, Blaise (Andrew Gillis) and Nessa (Bhreagh MacNeil), who are enrolled in the local methadone program and struggle to eke out a living by mowing people’s lawns. The film is a quietly-observed look at this marginalized group, shot with an impressive eye for detail. McKenzie has a knack for knowing where to put the camera and how to arrange actors in a frame.
Where can you watch Werewolf?
- In Canada, Werewolf is streaming free on CBC Gem and Crave + (also available to rent on iTunes)
- In the US, Werewolf is streaming on Kanopy and Prime (also available to rent on iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, Amazon)
- In the UK, Werewolf is streaming on Prime Video (available to rent on iTunes, Amazon, BFI Player)
- In Australia, Werewolf is streaming on Prime Video
Who is Stephen Cone?
Stephen Cone is a Chicago-based filmmaker whose films include Princess Cyd (BFI London Film Festival, BAMcinemaFest), Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (BAMcinemaFest, Maryland Film Festival), and The Wise Kids (OutFest Winner). His films often focus on the intersection of Christian faith and the LGBTQ+ community in Chicago. He produced several non-theatrical features on a low budget by working locally. Stephen teaches in the Department of Radio / Television / Film at Northwestern University.
Where can you watch Stephen’s films?
Princess Cyd and Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party
- In Canada, rent them on Google Play, YouTube, or iTunes
- In the US, stream them on Prime, Hulu, or Kanopy
- In the UK, stream them on Prime
- In Canada, rent it on YouTube or GooglePlay
- In the US, stream it on Kanopy; rent it on YouTube, Google Play, or Vudu.
Related Lockdown Film School sessions
- Directors Anne Émond and Madeleine Olnek discuss directing and making biopics
- Directors Mina Shum and Philippe Falardeau discuss writing and directing in Canada
- Directors Carol Nguyen and Penny Lane discuss non-fiction filmmaking
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