Monday, 27 May 2013

Two Years Later... An Open Letter to the William's Lullaby Cast and Crew

My friends,

       I remember sitting with Stephen Lee in a Jack Astor's in downtown Toronto two and a half years ago, where I told him I planned on making a feature film using whatever resources I could scrounge up over the course of six months. The script I would shoot was one I had written back in the 12th grade called "Ducklings and Swans" about a paranoid father's vivid and prophetic dreams as he raises his five-year-old son alone. I remember Stephen being unconvinced. "You really think its possible for us to make a feature film?" His doubt wasn't uncalled for. At that point it was, quite literally, just the two of us. And the idea of taking on a feature film is daunting for any size crew, let alone two people with no money. Still I was firm. "We give ourselves say, two years -- two years to come up with a product we're proud of. If, in the end, we look at the result and feel it hasn't turned out, then it was just practice. But the chance of it being something special is too great to pass up. I'm making this either way. Are you in or not?"

He was. And from that point, we set out to make this impossible dream a reality. Slowly but surely, others became involved and the methodical planning, rewrites and and hard-work evolved. Soon, "Ducklings and Swans" became "William's Lullaby" and although the last ten pages have always been the same, the beginning and core of the script was strengthened over numerous rewrites and the critiques of some valued readers. A lengthy casting session helped us discover a pool of incredible talent that would bring the characters of Lullaby to life -- many of you would go on to become great friends and allies. And with the incredible support system of Kingston, Ontario, "William's Lullaby" was shot for 16 straight days in the summer of 2011.

Let me remind you. What we did is no small feat.

Now here I sit two years later, with a finished film, wondering to myself how it is I got here so soon. The last two weeks have been gruelling on this end. And I suppose it was only fitting that, after Mike and Devin wrapped up their post work on the film in early May, it returned to just being one man and a story for the last leg of the "race." It was just me and a film for the final two weeks -- reminiscent of a time, two and a half years ago, when it was just me and a script, words on a page that had not yet fully left my head. This was my final time alone with the film before people would start to see the results of our hard work. When you spend two years of your life working on a project, and truly (with no exaggeration here) nearly every day of those two years working on that project in some fashion, you become obsessive. It becomes all consuming and and you lose yourself a little bit in that process. I think every artist, when they produce a work, leaves a piece of them within that work and for me that certainly occurred within the last two weeks. So much so, that it is hard for me to detach myself from the film, or even accept that fact that the creative work of bringing it together is over. I suppose I could continue working on it for another two, three, four years ... indefinitely really. The perfectionist's curse. Of course, you can ruin a piece of art that way too, can't you... True artistry is knowing when to take the paintbrush away from the work and put it on display. I won't lie and say I probably won't make minor adjustments here and there, especially as screenings begin to happen and we see how it plays on the big screen. There is, of course, room for that. I argue that until the film is released in some tangible fashion (DVD, BluRay etc...), it continues to beg for experimentation of even the smallest amounts. That said, from here on out the film begins to take on a life of its own and sooner than later it's out in the world for people to see. We cannot control the afterlife of our work.

Words cannot express how incredibly proud I am of everyone involved in this film. Some of you were involved in the early stages, some throughout the entire process, others just at the very end. But all of you were influential in this project coming together. I have to thank you for your bravery. This was not an easy story and for it to be told with the grace, humility and raw realism that it has been told with is a testament to all of your talents, your creativity, your generosity as actors, filmmakers and storytellers. You are brave. To the parents of William's Lullaby I thank you too for your bravery and trust in a project that, amidst its taboo subjects, is an important story worth telling and discussing. Richard, Toby, Ila and Bob. The four of you are the pillars of this story and you carry your roles with responsible dignity. It has been an honour to continue to shape your performances with you over these two years in the editing room. Be proud of what you have accomplished and I hope, and truly believe, that your performances will receive the recognition they deserve.

Beautiful, disturbing, haunting, tragic -- whatever way you choose to see it, William's Lullaby is a story told with love and passion and that shines off the screen. Be proud of your work. Be proud of where this has taken you over the last two years and be so very proud and excited for what lies ahead.

Your Director,
Nicholas Arnold

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