In Ingrid Veninger’s latest tour de force, i am a good person / i am a bad person (currently playing at The Royal in Toronto), Veninger plays Ruby White, a filmmaker going on a festival run overseas with her daughter Sara (played by Veninger’s real-life daughter, Hallie Switzer). From empty theatres to drunken drama, it’s one of the best portraits of an artist trying to cut it while keeping their family life in check. It’s raw and emotional while being strangely humourous and beautiful all at the same time and confirms Veninger is one of the strongest talents working in the Canadian film scene.
We spoke with Veninger about i am a good person / i am a bad person back in September on the eve of the premiere of the film at the Toronto International Film Festival. Read our Q&A below.
How did the idea for i am a good person/ i am a bad person come to you?
Ingrid Veninger: In January 2011 this film did not exist in my mind. At the end of January, when Modra screened at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for Canada’s Top Ten, and I saw Denis Côté’s Curling, something sparked. I can’t even be specific about what it was but it just made me want to make another film. The Modra release happened in February and my flights for the film festivals were booked for March 20. So on March 1 I sat down and all I knew was I wanted to make another film and I had no idea what it was going to be. But I had had this vision for the opening scene for about 10 years and I had the idea for the movie inside the movie for about two years. I started with those two things and in 19 days I wrote the script and on March 20 we were shooting.
How difficult was it shooting on the fly in England and Paris and everywhere else you went?
IV: Because Modra was already at the festivals there were incredible resources. The festival in England put me on to a local casting agency and I was Skype auditioning actors while I was writing the script. And I was shooting at the festival so I could use the theatre and the locations and basically used all the resources those film festival screenings afforded me.
What was the biggest challenge for you since it was such a guerilla shoot?
IV: We started each day with a plan but because we were making a fictional film in the real world we didn’t know how far we could go. We were shooting in a documentary fashion and being fairly inconspicuous, but in Paris if you put a camera on a tripod in the street you have to have a permit. So we were very limited. In some cases where I wanted a certain angle… we had to be under the seat of the plane or people would get nervous. There would always be restrictions and those restriction formed what we could or couldn’t do. That was our biggest challenge and I just had to make them work.
How much of Ruby is you?
IV: Not that much, thankfully. The part that’s me is that I hit the streets running with films I’m a part of and I want to get as many people out to see the work as possible. I will be embarrassed and humiliated and don’t care how many postcards I need to hand out or what street corners I need to stand on to make people aware of the work. I really see that as a responsibility. I really see that as a major part of filmmaking. Would I walk around with a sign in Toronto? No. Would I do it in Berlin? Yeah, I probably would.
What is one of the most humiliating things you’ve experienced?
It’s $500 Euros to screen in the market at Cannes and I had a market screening for Only and no one was in the theatre. I was there all by myself and finally one person came in and I was so happy. That person took off their shoes, slumped in their seat, put their hat over their face and slept through the whole movie. So it basically cost me $500 Euros for this person to have a great nap. That has got to be the worst.
What do you hope people get out of the film?
IV: I hope they laugh and identify with the struggle of letting go. And maybe have more compassion for the filmmaker on the corner handing out the postcard.
Do you know what your next project is yet?
IV: Richard Schiff sent me an email and said he really liked Modra. I worked with him on [the TV version of] The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and he said he would work with me for a hundred dollars. So I’m going to hold him to that and I think I’m writing a role for him and some other Canadian actors I really love and admire.
i am a good person / i am a bad person is playing in Toronto at The Royal until June 21. For more info on the film, visit punkfilms.ca.