We caught up with the producer Sam McGarry from the award-winning film, Lost Face.
Sean Meehan’s Lost Face has been making a mark around the world, having won at many prestigious film festivals including Edmonton International Film Festival, Calgary International Film Festival and Palm Springs International Shortfest. This award-winning short is based on Jack London’s short story and stars Gerald Auger (Hell on Wheels), Martin Dubreuil (Felix Et Meira) and Morris Birdyellowhead (Apocalypto).
In mid-1800’s Russian America, Subienkow finds himself the second-to-last survivor of a group of Russian fur-thieves who have just been defeated by liberators from the local tribe they have enslaved as forced labour. Now Subienkow faces a long, protracted and painful death unless he can come up with a plan for escape.
Subienkow calls over the tribe’s chief, Makamuk, and he begins to bargain…
Writer and Director Sean Meehan fell in love with Jack London’s short story Lost Face as a teenager and as an adult, adapted it into a screenplay. He hopes this wonderful story may spark some conversations about current indigenous issues. Sean is an award-winning commercial director, having worked with many high profile clients for over a decade, he created the cinematography and this exciting drama is his first short film.
Producer Sam McGarry is an industry veteran, having been in the business for almost thirty years. She started out at Great Southern Films and transitioned from Production Assistant to Producer. Commercials Sam has produced have won every award worth winning, from Cannes Lions to LIA trophies to One Show pencils.
Gerald Auger is of Woodland Cree descent, his work includes Il mio West, Dreamkeeper and Into the West. Morris Birdyellowhead is a direct descendant of the hereditary Chief David Bird Yellowhead. His credits include Elijah, Hell on Wheels and Diablo. Martin Dubreuil’s work includes 15 février 1839 and Tout est parfait and the music was created by Elliott Wheeler.
You are an award winning producer, what attracted you to working in this field?
I would love to say filmmaking was a burning passion I’ve had since I was a child but the reality is that I kind of fell into it thirty years ago and it was just the right fit for me.
What attracted you to producing lost face?
The story was very compelling and I knew what Sean could do with it.
What were the challenges and rewards when creating this film?
There were many challenges, the two biggest were the financial challenges of putting everything up on the screen with a tiny budget, and the weather. In the morning, two days before we shot, there was probably three feet of snow and then a Chinook (a hot wind that blows over the Rockies), hit us and by the afternoon we were down to mud, then overnight that became frozen mud, which was very slippery for everyone. To maintain continuity we paid some local farmers to bring in truck loads of fresh snow they’ve gathered from under the trees. I’d say we spent at least a third of our shoot time replacing and setting snow.
The rewards were working with such a great cast and crew, as well as having a project that we are all exceptionally proud of.
Have you worked with the director before?
Sean and I have been working together as crew in Australia since 1999. I was a production manager transitioning into producing and Sean was a camera assistant transitioning into being a DOP. I have produced for Sean since he started directing TVC’s in 2001.
Congratulations on Lost Face being selected for so many film festivals, of those you have been to, which has been your favorite and why?
Sadly, we have not been able to attend enough of them. We’d probably go broke if we went to all of them. But winning Edmonton was the one I was most proud of as it made us Oscar eligible. Attending Calgary (and winning) was also a great experience because we won there too and got to catch up with many of the cast and crew.
Do you have any advice for young people looking to get into production?
Production really is a thankless and exhausting job, but it is also incredibly rewarding when everything clicks into place. My advice is to take your time, learn as much as you can and work your way methodically through the production department from the bottom. Work hard, pay attention and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Try and absorb the details. One day, you’ll be responsible for a lot of money and everyone’s safety on set. When it all goes pear-shaped, which it sometimes does despite everyone’s best efforts, you’ll have to know what to do. Everyone will be looking to you for solutions. The buck stops with the Producer.
What makes a successful producer?
Never taking no for an answer!
What is next for you?
We are doing television commercials while attempting to get some film and TV projects off the ground. We currently have a completed screen play and 2 others in various stages of development.
How do our readers keep up with your work?
Whatever Sean is doing I’ll be there making it all happen!