I would like to begin by stating that this film was not written based on the current COVID-19 virus; it is by pure coincidence we did a short film about a global pandemic. Jesse Menard wrote and pitched the concept to me many years ago – before I even began my journey in filmmaking. I remember the concept being so visually compelling and stark that it stuck with me for a long time. In November 2019, I watched The Hateful Eight and, like most Tarantino films, it inspired me; the little back burner this concept had been sitting on was ignited. I promptly sent a text to Jesse with one question “do you still wanna make that film?” – we had no idea what was coming next.
The Cold, translated to Iowísto in Mohawk, features a young Indigenous family living in Northern Ontario with a few of their friends who have taken refuge at their farmhouse in efforts to escape a virus spreading fast in the city. A traditional tea recipe in the family passed down to Machk, Pete and Tapeesa keeps the group healthy – it’s not a cure, but the herbs are medicine that build immunity to the virus. Tapeesa and her two half brothers, Machk and Pete, have different views about sharing the recipe. Upon discovering that their neighbours, the Merciers, have fallen ill, Tapeesa wants to share the family recipe with them – especially since the neighbour’s son, Andrew, is her boyfriend. The two families have a long history fueled by petty allegations that go generations back. Machk and Pete have no desire to help the Merciers, forcing Tapeesa to make a difficult decision – sneak the herbs to the Merciers. This plan didn’t go accordingly; now ill and desperate, her return over a year later comes with a few surprises.
Starting our pre-production in early December, there were many things to consider when building out our production plan for this film. For example: aesthetically, we wanted the film to be set in winter, however filming outdoors in a -30 degrees Ottawa winter was less than ideal. Another example: we wanted a shotgun blast through a door, but to do it properly would require a very large budget. Challenges were abundant, and solutions were coming up short. Enter Nick Lacelle, a filmmaking genius and all around great human who would save me from making horrible squibs (I was watching a lot of tutorials) and potentially injuring myself or others. Nick, an accomplished Director and DoP, was miraculously onboard to help and our challenges were beginning to look a lot more promising – except for the weather, no one could control that. Thankfully, we were graced by the movie-gods with the only sunny weekend in late February. Our neatly scheduled one-day shoot turned into a two-day, unhinged 36 hour shoot. This was my first real experience of what filmmaking is like: really hard. I am grateful and fortunate to have had the best team, who all stayed way later than the call sheet determined and were absolute champs. Also shout out to Redbull. There were many notable moments from this shoot, one of my favourites being a massive effort from Santiago (the DoP), who, along with Nick, transformed a kitchen scene to a night shoot despite the actual time of day being sunny morning (and about hour 34 of 36). Our actors were mostly non-actors or first time performances, including Karis Gruben, our lead actress. Our sound guy wasn’t even a sound guy – thanks Dom. And, we figured out the blasted door! As it turns out, Ikea furniture is pretty punchable. Combine low-grade wood with a few clever camera angles and you have yourself a fairly convincing “I got shot through a door” scene.
One of the most memorable parts of filming on this set was seeing a newspaper on the porch that read “Varied Rates of Virus Spread Raise Questions” (see photo below). Jesse and I were perplexed at the coincidence. It was during this time in February that most people in North America (and our city) were becoming more aware of the virus coming from Wuhan but never imagined its lasting impact on our livelihoods. Three weeks after our shoot, Canada went into lockdown.
Editing a film about a global pandemic while you’re experiencing a real global pandemic is pretty surreal. It was really interesting to see which parts of Jesse’s story matched up with current events. Although not explicit, the virus was written to be a respiratory disease that caused bleeding from the lungs and it spread fast. In our world, some people could withstand the affects of the virus for a while (such as Tapeesa and Andrew), however most people died pretty quickly. Things we missed from a real pandemic: toilet paper hoarding, masks, fights about whether masks are effective or not, and sanitizer shortage. Since released, it’s been really fun to hear other people’s thoughts on the film and how they perceived it. Jesse and I both appreciate all the support the film has received since we started. When asked if we’ll do a part 2, the answer is still up in the air. We were just three weeks shy of not being able to film this one, I don’t think we’ll be getting a crew together anytime soon to film the next. I’d also like to do something a little more… less death. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s to write the unexpected because it just might happen.
Big thank you to Cloud in the Sky Studios and Dan Rascal for partnering on the film and making it all happen.
Written by: Jesse Menard
Directed by: Brittany Delgaty
DOP: Santiago Trugeda
Assist. Director: Daniela Ackermann
Assist. Producer: Vanessa Kammer
Executive Producers: Jesse Menard, Hugh Doran, Nick Lacelle
Special Effects Advisor: Nick Lacelle
Visual Effects Advisor: Skyler Michaels
MUA: Guievere Dickson
Sound Engineer: Dominic Llanos
Music & Audio Post Production: Hayden McGowanFeaturing: Karis Gruben, Will Lafrance, Jake W. Smith, Mixime Thibault
Cast: Julien Cheron, Brian Stephenson, Madison Opthof, Michelle Opthof, Daniela Ackermann, Benjamin Johnson
Visit delgatz.com for more info.