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Meet Ingrid Veninger, Canada's queen of DIY filmmaking

We love our fierce and fearless Canadian women. So we couldn’t pass up the chance to sit and chat with Canada’s Queen of DIY filmmaking, and the founder of pUNK Films, Ingrid Veninger.

Veninger’s feature, i am a good person / i am a bad person screened at TIFF 2011 to rave reviews. It explores breakdowns of communication in family relationships in a unique and captivating way.

Now, i am a good person / i am a bad person is opening theatrically at The Royal in Toronto on June 14. And perhaps more exciting is The Canadian Film Institute’s (CFI’s) Intimacies: The Cinema of Ingrid Veninger (June 7, 8, 9 &15) celebrating Veninger’s remarkable filmmaking career, from her start as a child actor to her present-day success.

We delved deep into the artist’s mind and pulled together some inspiring messages we just had to share! Read on to find out what makes Veninger tick, and how she juggles making films with being a mom.

What does it mean to you to be a Canadian filmmaker?

I think we’re really fortunate in this country. We have incredible resources and incredibly skilled people in front of the camera, behind the camera. In Toronto we have great labs, we have great resources and people are very, very generous and helpful to the emerging filmmakers – and those that want to do something different and take creative risks but maybe don’t have the biggest budgets. In other parts of the world there’s not that same generosity of spirit.

How important is it to be identified as a female filmmaker?
When I see a film that has the distinct perspective of a woman I really appreciate it. It’s a very important perspective. I feel like we have to shout a little bit louder because there’s so few of us actually directing. It’s a male-dominated industry.

Women are generally the primary caregivers, if there are kids, the juggle of being a mother and a lover and a filmmaker is really, really hard.

So, how do you balance life as a filmmaker and a mom?

I love having kids so much. Oftentimes, as a woman, our work – especially in filmmaking because it’s so consuming – can take us away from our families and in some cases, destroy our families and destroy our relationships. The work is not worth it for me. How I’ve managed to navigate some of these tricky years is by involving my family in my work. I love making films with them.

How has working with your children transformed your relationship with them?

Working with one another on that level has been really important to sort of help with the transition of the role of the mother. My role has been to look after my kids and make sure they get through school and get good marks and are healthy. Then they become adults and we have to sort of let go of them. That’s a really difficult process, to truly let go of them and not control the choices they make.

You were an only child. How did that affect your life?
I had to really entertain myself.  So in a way I’m thankful.  When I’m writing scripts, a lot of my most acute, potent feelings come from the loneliest times.  I think art allows us to process and transform some of our most painful, difficult times.

What do you do to recharge?
I’m generally a pretty optimistic, hopeful, positive person. I’m a bit of a movie junkie so I watch films to recharge and get me feeling hopeful again. Watching other people’s films gives me strength. My kids are also incredibly inspiring and I have an amazing, supportive, grounding partner. I wouldn’t have the life I have without him. And music. I like to go out and dance a lot.

What do you want people to think after seeing i am a good person, i am a bad person?
If anything, I want there to be dialogue.  The film is about complete emotional breakdown in the family. The characters in this film really suffer from the inability to communicate. Sometimes when that happens, even though you love hugely, it’s impossible to express it. It can seem like just touching the person that you love is like moving through molasses, like you can’t quite get to them.

I’m about creating bridges of intimacy and communication between people. If an effect of the film is that parents and kids listen to one another a little bit more, then that would be a cool thing.

What does it take to be a successful filmmaker?:

I think all of us have to define what is the most valuable to us, what defines success, and what our intentions are with making the work in the first place. Other people will say to be a successful filmmaker means you have to win an Academy Award, or earn a million dollars at the box office. So it’s a very personal thing. For me, being successful is a film-by-film question.

My intention in making i am a good person, i am a bad person was to create certain challenges for myself and to make a film that is almost like a theatre piece that can be only shown in limited time frames. And that the box office from this film is going to generate more micro budget films. If I can make five feature films out of the box office from The Royal, that will be successful to me.

Budding Toronto filmmakers: don’t forget to check out pUNK Film’s $1000 Feature Film Challenge! You could get $1,000 to produce your very own film. To learn more, click here.

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