Patricia Rozema: Collaborating On Mouthpiece

Director Patricia Rozema on turning the award-winning play, Mouthpiece into a feature film.

With the release of Mouthpiece on June 7 we spoke with Director Patricia Rozema about turning the award-winning Toronto play into a feature film with creators Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadaya.

“I was introduced to the stage play Mouthpiece by my eldest daughter who was working as an intern at Toronto’s Nightwood Theatre. As Jodie Foster and Alexandra Hedison said when I got them tickets: Mouthpiece touches on every part of the female experience from birth to death using dance, music, and wicked humour with just a bathtub for scenery. The result is a new kind of feminist language which ignites pure, intravenous emotion. It’s impossible to describe and truly unforgettable.

Amy, Norah and I did a lot of talking. The thing I brought to it was to add the mother character. We just riffed and told stories and wrote them out. They didn’t know the format of screenplays, like Final Draft, so I would write it, then after a session I would polish it up and then share it. It was like a writers room. I always wondered if I would enjoy a writers room, but I loved it. Their senses of humour are so close to mine and their B.S. detector is similar to mine. I thought what was needed in the film was a bit more of a narrative drive so, I thought, ‘What is the question that remains unanswered?’”

On collaborating with DGC Ontario Production Designer Zazu Myers and Picture Editor Lara Johnston

“Zazu is intensely committed. Colour choice is almost a moral decision for her. She is inventive, original and devoted. Resourceful. Her sets never looked designed, they look like we shot in someone’s house. This is the one [Zazu] who will add that extra, extra.

Lara cut the first credit sequence completely differently than I had imagined it and I LOVED it. So fresh and surprising. She was always willing to try another version. The most important skill an editor can have is a sense of how real people behave. Authentic psychology. This translates into believable rhythms and great judgment of performance. A big brain for handling multiple versions in her mind, she has a brilliant sense of humour and great work ethic. And technologically up to the minute.”

The magic of working with a large female crew

“This is the first time I had a predominately female crew. I think we all felt excited to be on a team of women we all respected so deeply. It was like there was no translation necessary.

It was about women from Toronto, so I thought it made sense to have it be made by women in Toronto. Less guesswork, more authenticity. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many beautiful men and don’t expect i’ll stop doing that. But there was a special camaraderie on this one that was so easy and fun.”

On being a female filmmaker now vs 30 years ago

“I was the exception to the rule then. Now the rule is changing. Though we have a long way to go. I think my ambition meant I played the charm card more than necessary and minimized by femaleness and also my gayness so I could hang with the boys. I love male energy though. Most of my buddies are guys. But I’m now more comfortable at calling their entitlement. Machismo is mercifully a little more muted in Canada than in the US so that helped. I always just felt I had as much right to tell a story as any man. I also believed like to make things fun and am conflict averse so that made it all easier. A big difference is the attitude towards me when I walk into meetings in LA. They WANT to like me. They WANT me to be good. Before I think there was suspicion from the get go.”

On creating art in Canada

“I love living and working in Canada. I love the spirit of this place. The gentle intelligence. The crews are as good as anywhere I’ve shot: England, Ireland, US, And it was a beautiful place to raise my children.

In the future, I will follow the story. Looks like the next one may be set in Europe. I wait for a coup de foudre and that’s what I do next. I have no strategy. No long term plan except stay alive and in love with this thrilling art form.”

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