June 15, 2017
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Advice

Survival tips and Q&A with Ashleigh Rains, 2017 WIFT-T Showcase

Longing to show women in complex, dynamic situations? Aching to cast names like Cronenberg? Award-winning actor / producer Ashleigh Rains shares her experience.

Ashleigh Rains sat down with our very own Showcase Selection Committee member Caitlin Starowicz to discuss her latest project, Geordie Sabbagh’s short drama Tomorrow’s Shadow’s

You have some very well-known actors in this film, like Cronenberg–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. 
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.
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.

Ashleigh Rains has produced and production managed short films, music videos, and features. She is the recipient of two BravoFACT awards, a MuchFACT award, and Cogeco award. Last year, Ashleigh and Geordie founded the production company, We’ll Be Over Here Productions.

As an actor, Ashleigh has appeared in numerous film and television productions including The Handmaid’s Tale, Designated Survivor, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.

She is a member of ACTRA, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, and WIFT-T.

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