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It has become a regular scene on Main Street in North Bay over the last few years; Christmas decorations during the summer. Take a stroll down there during the third week of August and you’ll think you should’ve had your holiday shopping list already made up. But before the Main Street movie makeover was a common occurrence there was Rob Beaudreau finding the beauty in shooting in the north.
“It was based on a book called Loon by Bill Plumstead, so we decided to shoot it on Lake Temagami. It was always destined to be shot in that area.”
Budreau says that was also when the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) was in its infancy.
“We were one of the first projects they ever partnered with and became our main financier during those early days. That project was about the north and so it was really the only spot that we could ever envision shooting.”
Since then, Budreau says shooting in the north became bigger as the NOHFC got more aggressive in investing dollars in that sector, but that’s not the only reason Budreau returned to the area for several of his other films.
“For me, it was more a familiarity thing. My father is originally from Powassan and my mother is from Temiscaming, Quebec and they both currently live in North Bay,” he says.
“We spent summers there when I was a kid. It also just so happens that a lot of the films that I’m attracted to, happen to be rural-based or they have a lot of outdoor settings. Obviously, if I was shooting something that took place inside a big metropolis it would be harder for me to do that up there. So, it's worked out well for me and I’ve benefited from not just the incentives but also from the hospitality and being in a place that has some personal connection for me.”
Budreau says that connection to those types of films started when he was a teenager living in a small town near London, Ontario.
“I think it started just from my love and passion for movies. A friend and I would go to a cinema called “The New Yorker” which showed independent, foreign films and that’s when I really got into it, just falling for a lot of classic films,” says Budreau who added it was a way to see the world.
“When you’re a teenager you’re not travelling around the world too often and I was also from a small town and I thought of myself as a pretty intellectual person so I just loved how challenging it was and bringing in that sense of sensibility and just getting a chance to see what was around the world through film,” he says.
“Of course, I did like a lot of the Hollywood blockbusters that were around that time too, but I was certainly captivated by those foreign films.”
But he didn’t head straight to film school.
“I ended up taking a bit of a different route than a lot of people did,” says Budreau.
“I did an undergraduate degree in Biology and Psychology at McMaster University in Hamilton. After that, I pursued a law degree at UBC out west and while I was doing that, I also did a film degree at the Vancouver Film School.”
Budreau says once that happened his primary objective was to pursue a career in film.
“I was doing both with the intention of never really practicing law because I was already falling for film at that point. I did end up earning my law degree and for a short time I was involved in entertainment law, but shortly after that I began making short films.”
Budreau got to work quickly after graduating.
“I did those for quite a few years, actually in the span of three years I did about three short films, followed by a calling card short, and then I got my first feature, “That Beautiful Somewhere.” I was lucky that that feature came together pretty quickly.”
He says it's not unusual for younger writers and directors to put together multiple drafts of projects when they are first starting out.
“The reality of it is, you develop a whole bunch of things and then you see which ones get some traction and which ones really come together,” says Budreau.
“The directing side is one thing, I would love to just sit around and get a phone call to just direct whenever I get the opportunity, but the reality is, you also have to wear your producer hat in which case you have to also put together the financing and the cast and all that stuff which can be very complicated, it can take years and be very tricky. Ultimately, I develop a bunch of things that I am passionate about, and then the ones that come together with casting and with money are the ones that I end up shooting and they are the ones that people know about, and the rest people never really finding out about.”
To this point, Budreau says everything he has done has been his own work.
“So far, pretty much everything I have ever directed is something that I have written. I am always looking at other scripts a lot more now, but the screen writing process kind of evolves in so many different ways and each project is different,” he says.
“When you’re first writing, everything takes longer and you waste more time trying things and as you get more consistent and more experience you can hone in on what you want to say. Just like everything else, it is a craft and it takes a lot to write different scripts and start getting better at it.”
Budreau says within those different scripts there are some things that could get left on the shelf over the years.
“I have this project called “The Night Committee” which is a World War II spy-thriller which I had developed over a decade ago,” says Budreau.
“It’s something that I’ve always been in love with and fascinated with and right now it's on the shelf, and who knows, maybe someday it will come back. Sometimes you get lucky and you’re able to pull things back off the shelf but you just have to keep moving forward and what is developing because you can get really bogged down on trying to force things to happen when it's really not working.”
This past year Budreau was forced to find new ways to make things work as the industry had to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The film I shot last fall in North Bay “Delia’s Gone” was a minor miracle that we pulled it off, just given the Covid-19 situation and the craziness of the time. We worked really hard to bring it together but that was a very tricky time to shoot.”
Budreau has also been able to build up his own production company over the years.
“Technically, anybody can just register and set up a corporation so that they can legally have it on paper and that becomes a necessary thing to produce films because you have to have certain legal measures met and so I set up Lumanity Productions early on,” he says.
“That allowed us to put in applications and tax filings and other day-to-day business necessities. It wasn’t really until later in my career where I fleshed out the company a bit more. Once I started making bigger films, I could then have a person who was the head of production and development and I was able to work with interns and the size of the company really starts to grow up, but I’ve had my company now for 20 years.”
Budreau says for anyone looking to go into the industry today, you need to have a couple of qualities; patience and a plan.
“It takes a lot of time and patience and you have to find ways to survive in those early days,” says Budreau.
“At the end of the day, there's a much greater diversity of voices and broadness of people who are wanting to tell their stories which I think is really good. I think it's important for people just to focus on those things. Also, it's easier to make lower-budget features, making short films is a great training ground but ultimately you have to make features in order to build up your career and so with the technology nowadays I would suggest that people make micro-budget features just to test and train themselves.”