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Filmmaker Q&A: SHUT UP AND SAY SOMETHING Director Melanie Wood

Cast and Crew in Whitehorse

For the past few weeks, we've been announcing films and their respective series - highly anticipated films, Alberta Scene, Shorts, Late Shows, and most recently, Documentaries and Music on Screen - and as part of our mandate to bring audiences and filmmakers together, we reached out to a select number of directors and writers to ask them about their creative process. Our first featured director, Melanie Wood, helms the Canadian-made SHUT UP AND SAY SOMETHING. Read on to get a behind-the-scenes scoop on how the film came to be.

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Briefly, tell us what your documentary is about?

Acclaimed spoken word artist Shane Koyczan takes an emotional road trip to find his father, mining the scars of the past for truth, acceptance, and the most important poem of his life. At the root, its a father and son story. As simple as that.

Shane Koyczan has become somewhat of a Canadian icon. Why do you think his work connects with global audiences?

Shane manages to add just the right amount of humour and emotion to allow us entry into the stories. He shares the very personal information with us. And because his stories are so personal, they become universal. We can each find something to connect to, to identify with. Fathers and sons, bullied and bullies, artists and the creative process, guilt, hurt, love. 

How did you first learn about Shane and his story?

Canadian filmmaker and the story creator of SHUT UP AND SAY SOMETHING Stuart Gillies was on the road with Shane filming across Canada. Stuart knew there was more to the film and brought the concept to me to help him develop.

In addition to looking at the impact of his work, the documentary also looks at Shane's relationships with his family. What makes his situation unique and approachable?

The thing is, yes his situation is unique, but it really isn’t. We can all find something to relate to in that process of “finding family”. I come from what people used to call a broken family. Part of the work we all have is finding that entry point into our various family configurations. The unique quality that Shane brings to it is his ability to so eloquently describe what that’s like. Then he goes a step further and creates an amazing work of art with that journey of discovery.

Can you share a behind the scenes story from filming? 

We filmed in the freezing cold in Yellowknife, and in the snow and cold in Whitehorse. But what Shane hated the most was the rain in Vancouver. We wanted to follow through on his idea to have his dad teach him how to fish … and when the day came to film it, the weather was awful. Pouring rain. Shane said, “I won’t film in the rain.” I responded, "It’s Vancouver, we don’t stop filming for rain.” I lead us all to the fishing river. I pretended the rain would let up, knowing the whole time it wasn’t going to. We had umbrellas and everyone else was game, so eventually, Shane got out of the car - grudgingly - and fished. In the moment I think he enjoyed the experience. But before and after he was not very pleased with me. 

What's one new thing that you learned when making this film? 

Life is full of adversities, and it’s up to each of us to figure out what to do with those adversities. Where to put them and what to create from them.


What do you hope audiences take away from this film?

I think Shane nails it at the end of the film: whats the point of love if you can't use it to forgive?

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SHUT UP AND SAY SOMETHING is playing at the Calgary International Film Festival as part of the Documentary Series. Tickets are now availableDirector | Producer Melanie Wood and Director Of Photography | Story Writer Stuart Gillies will be in attendance at both screenings.