Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Story Of Florrie by Ilir Pristine

I asked Ilir Pristine to share a few words about his first feature Florrie that we’ll be showing at the TFR Presents screening along with some local short films on Wednesday, November 6th at The Supermarket in Kensington Market at 7:30PM. It’s one of the most striking debut features set in Toronto that I’ve seen in a while. – D.D.

I was sitting with a cinematographer David Humphreys in a café one day. March 28th, 2017 to be exact. Dave had just finished a job and was looking for something to do with his free summer. I told him he should make a feature film if he had the time, and he suggested we make one together. I asked, “How many people do we need?” Dave replied, “Just me.” And then I said, “But don’t we need a sound guy?” And then Dave corrected himself, “Right. Me and a sound guy.” So the plan was hatched. The goal was to shoot an 80-minute feature film that summer – and we know how short Toronto summers can be… I would write and direct, Dave would shoot and edit the film. If we were to start, we would finish. I repeated to Dave, “If we were going to start it, we would finish it. No excuses.”
The idea came out of a practical necessity. What could we make that wouldn’t be technically challenging but emotionally engaging and interesting? Our resources were limited, we didn’t have tons of equipment, locations, budget and all the other baggage that usually comes with making a feature film. As a resident of High Park, I figured what would be convenient but interesting would be using High Park as the main location along with my apartment and the surrounding neighbourhood. From there, my brain started to come up with ideas. I came down to a man dating three women at the same time. What could I do with that? Then after a random conversation with my real-life friend Florrie, I decided to use her name and change the main character to a woman who was dating three men. The question then became: why is Florrie dating three men? And from here we follow our main character played by the inimitable Lee Lawson.
Working with Lee Lawson was akin to having the United States Military in your back pocket. Need a helicopter? Check. Need an Atom Bomb? Check. Need a Ninja? Check. 
Needless to say, Lee is pound for pound the toughest actor in this country: Smart, funny, committed. I was amazed everyday how Lee just wouldn't quit on a take, a scene, an idea, anything. She made no excuses ever! When scenes didn't work, she helped me rework them, and she didn't flinch when I threw new scenes at her and we shot them one hour later! Insane. We put her though the ringer for 21 days of shooting and she didn't gain one wrinkle. By the way, did I mention Lee can swim?

We set out a hopeful schedule. I would write the script in April, organize the production of the film in May and shoot the film in June. Dave would start editing in July while I relaxed in Italy. Needless to say, it did not go that smoothly. With just a paltry three-man crew – the cinematographer, sound man, and myself as the writer and director – and a marvellous cast of actors we shoved off together into the crazy world of independent film. Oh and I need to mention the millions of favours from loved ones and complete strangers too! Everything and anything that could help was essential in getting it done. Along the way we dodged bad weather, tight schedules, fading sun, fat police officers and some damn angry squirrels. 
But after all was said and done, we birthed a feature film, our first baby girl, Florrie. No excuses.
Since the film has been finished it’s been an interesting ride. The first screening was at a film festival in Las Vegas for films produced under $250 000 (That’s me!), I didn’t get a chance to attend as our Cast/Crew/Family/Friends screening was the next night at my alma mater, University of Toronto. That was a real treat. Having sat there for all those classes, twenty-years later now I’m running the show! If even for just a night... A rush I’ll never forget. We screened at another festival in Niagara Falls, USA. I was able to drive down, flash my passport at the border, and tell them I was participating in a film festival. Boo-yah!
The Social Committee in my condo building (The second major location of the film) heard about Florrie and offered to screen it for the residents of the building. The cheese and wine flowed that day my friends. The residents were thrilled that their home was used for a feature film. Some have said their property values went up 5 percent after that night. 
An exciting soup is brewing. The Canadian film channel Hollywood Suite has seen Florrie and has offered a sale to our little film. It’s an exciting opportunity and the paperwork has started and I’m as giddy as a boy can be. And I'm also working on gathering funding for a narrative feature film, Between Friends, a drama about an out of work photographer who witnesses his best friend's wife cheating, and how he struggles on whether to tell his friend or not. And I am also working on finishing a script entitled Romulus, which is a werewolf story set in Rome. I can’t wait to get started!

Ilir Pristine


JackSummers said...

and how he struggles on whether

JackMason said...

It will always make sense to love, and in movies like this, love wins.