WIFT-T Showcase: Q&A with Ashleigh Rains

WIFT-T Showcase: Q&A with Ashleigh Rains

Tomorrow’s Shadows (directed & written by Geordie Sabbagh and produced by WIFT-T member Ashleigh Rains) is a poignant and subtle meditation on predetermination, consumerism, and technology.

In a time where the perfect home, the perfect dress, the perfect career is guaranteed, a young mother must decide between the perfect life and her newborn son.

Set in a not-too-distant future where corporations and government have fused to construct a dream life, Ann’s choices have been optimized to lead her down the ideal path. With the help of G.O.D – Goal Optimization Data – she can eliminate all fear of the unknown and buy the perfect future. But when faced with the choice between her ailing baby and her optimal happiness, she must take into account something that the Corporation never anticipated – emotion.

With superbly nuanced performances from Canadian powerhouses Karine Vanasse, Wendy Crewson, and David Cronenberg, Tomorrow’s Shadows (which screens at the WIFT-T Showcase on March 30) is an artful portrait of the depths of the human heart in the face of uncertainty.

Actress/Producer, Ashleigh Rains, shares how she got involved in Geordie Sabbagh’s short drama Tomorrow’s Shadows, casting David Cronenberg, and shares some valuable tips for survival as a woman in film.  

Why was being a part of this project important to you?

When Geordie Sabbagh (writer/director) sent me the script for Tomorrow’s Shadows I immediately responded to the story, the intelligence of his writing, the strong female lead and the moral complexity she must confront. It’s important to me to produce film and TV that have good stories and represent women in interesting, complex and dynamic situations. There wasn’t anything easy about this character or the choice she has to make. I am also a huge fan of Sci-Fi and had never worked in this genre, so I was excited. The world of Tomorrow’s Shadows is huge and unlike anything I had produced. I questioned whether I would be able to produce this short if I had the experience and skills to realize the script, and so I decided I had to do it.

What producing challenges did this film present to you and how did you overcome them?

The world of this film is large. It’s set in a digitally advanced on-demand near future where every want is satisfied to ensure happiness. We were fortunate to receive a BravoFACT grant to make the film, but we were also limited by our budget. Our biggest challenge was to convincingly create this world in spite of our restrictions. We had an extensive pre-production period; taking the time to make sure we could do what we set out to create. We also spent a lot of time with our SFX team at Red Lab, giving them our wish list, which was quite ambitious. There is at least one SFX in each scene. We found collaborators with Crystal and Pasha and they helped us meet the challenges of the script and story.

You’re also an actor yourself – how does this inform your work as a producer?

As in most industries, better understanding comes from experiencing all aspects of the job. Coming to producing from acting, I have the advantage of knowing what it’s like to work in front of the camera. As an actor, you come to set in a very specific state and prepare in a very specific way. You are one cog in the wheel. There is an actor’s vocabulary. and method I can speak to. As a producer, I have a lot of respect for the actor process. We create actor friendly sets. My training and experience also give me insight into story, character, and dialogue from a unique perspective.

You have some very well-known actors in this film – how did you get them on board with the project?

We were spoiled with talent on this film. Geordie and I had a short wish list for talent. Early in pre-production, we asked ourselves who would be a great God in our Sci-Fi short. Geordie suggested [David] Cronenberg and, of course, that made perfect sense. I approached casting by getting on the phone with casting directors and agents; we wrote letters to talent and sent everyone the script. After David read the script, he said yes. He was the first actor to come on board. I had been an admirer of Karine Vanasse’s work for several years and I approached her agent with the project. Karine was busy shooting Cardinal at the time, but she responded to the script. We were able to film during a break in her schedule. Working with Wendy Crewson and Dawn Greenhalgh was icing on the cake and wonderful additions to the project.

As a producer, how did you tackle the significant digital imaging additions, from pre-visualization to post?

Geordie’s vision for the film was specific and everything he wanted in the film was on the page. Red Lab created all the SFX we wanted and they were also innovative in their suggestions and details. It was a constant process of meeting, creating and editing but we found a great partnership in working with them. Pasha and his team are brilliant and did an incredible job of creating such a detailed world.

What do you think is the most important advice for young women in the film industry? 

I don’t have one definitive rule but there are a few things that have carried me through the years:

  1. Make some noise.
  2. Find a mentor. Be a mentor.
  3. Be discriminate when finding your people – collaborators you are prepared to spend significant time with.
  4. Know what you don’t know.
  5. Keep learning and keep training.
  6. Listen to and follow your instincts.
  7. Read the news.
  8. “Fail better.”
You were selected for the National Screen Institute’s 2016 Totally Television program. How will you navigate the transition to television?

As in all projects I take on, I find I’m constantly learning. Transitioning to TV feels like a natural evolution when working in Canada. The NSI has been invested and supportive of our series, A Detective Lives Here, and has given our team the opportunity and training to move this project forward. We have a solid support system in them and are meeting and working with great industry mentors. Part of the transition is also just doing the work. Like most projects Geordie and I do, we aim high, throw ourselves into the work, and keep on keepin’ on.

Kadon Douglas

There are three things Kadon enjoys doing: sharing resources and knowledge, empowering others (especially those who are often marginalized), and witnessing the magic of film and television.

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