Filmmaker Liz Cairns is searching for a special young Salt Spring Islander to play a leading role in her first feature film, which will begin shooting on the island later this summer.
Cairns has spent four years working on the screenplay for INEDIA, a dark drama “loosely based on my own experiences as a young woman having an eating disorder and about my relationship to recovery,” she said.
The film is centred on a young woman who experiences “a series of mysterious and quite debilitating reactions to food” that has become a chronic condition, Cairns explained, and “learns about a community of people that claim to live on only light and be sustained by light alone.” INEDIA’s script has already received accolades, being shortlisted for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab in 2019.
Much of the film will be shot at Stowel Lake Farm, which Cairns said the film crew found after scouting locations on several Gulf Islands. Shooting will take place between Aug. 22 to Sept. 17, mainly at the farm and other places around the island, including a local hair salon and cidery.
The crew is in the process of casting in Los Angeles and also casting on Salt Spring for a child between ages four and seven of any gender and any ethnicity to play a young person who lives in the radical community the lead actress encounters. Acting training is not necessary, a casting call stated, with some scenes to be improvised and the character to be adapted to the young performer chosen for the role.
“We are looking for a natural in front of the camera,” the call stated. “A playful, sensitive and expressive young person.”
A meet and greet and open casting call will be held on Saturday, July 2 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Central Community Hall. This will be followed by call backs on July 9 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the same location, with more improvisation, play and a short scene read through. Contact the filmmakers via firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a time slot.
Preparing for the production month on the island has involved a lot of intentional goal setting and planning.
“It’s really important for us that we make partnerships with people in the community so we can understand how we’re impacting the local community,” Cairns said, especially as they are coming to a small rural island.
She explained that the production is working on getting Albert certification, an environmental initiative where all consumption and waste is tracked and goals are set around the carbon footprint.
Cairns added that a goal of one bag of garbage to the landfill per week has already been set, and work is ongoing to sort out how to recycle waste locally and how to acquire energy-efficient lighting and an electric generator.
Connecting with the community and learning from locals, such as local organic farmers and people working in food security, is also part of the planning Cairns explained.
“So we’re not just going into a place and taking and taking and taking, because film is so much like that, but how can we have our own team understand our relationship to the community and vice versa?”
The production has also taken the Producer Pledge, a Canada-wide initiative that recognizes the underrepresentation of women and people of colour both in front of and behind the camera.
“So we’re pledging to hire at least 35 per cent of cast and crew who are BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of colour] and 50 per cent who are women or gender diverse,” Cairns explained, as well as setting goals around hiring equity.
So far, Cairns said, everyone on the island has been “so warm and welcoming and helpful, it’s really exciting.” As the production gets closer to the shooting date, they may be looking locally for more cast and crew.
Cairns’ short films have played at multiple film festivals in Canada and internationally. A graduate of the Director’s Lab at the Canadian Film Centre, Cairns was in 2017 invited to the Short Film Station at the Berlinale, the Berlin international film festival, one of 10 participants chosen from thousands of applicants.
Her latest short film The Horses is currently on the festival circuit and won Best BC Short Film at the Vancouver International Film Festival. INEDIA is being produced by Experimental Forest Films, Scythia Films and Stellar Citizens. Cairns is based in Vancouver and also spends time at her parents’ home on Salt Spring.