Wendy Morgan: Sugar Daddy

DGC Ontario Director Wendy Morgan cut her teeth directing music videos for the likes of Alicia Keys, Gnarls Barkley, and Janelle Monáe. Yesterday, Wendy’s feature film debut Sugar Daddy, was released on VOD.

We caught up with Wendy to talk about Sugar Daddy‘s three CSA nominations and her creative relationships with the film’s Picture Editor Christine Armstrong and the film’s writer and star Kelly McCormack.

How does it feel for Sugar Daddy to be nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards?

I’m so glad that our Editor Christine Armstrong and Composer Marie-Hélène L. Delorme are being recognized for their amazing work. Colm Feore’s Best Actor nomination is also an honour for us. We shot all his scenes in the first few days of the shoot, and it was very intense and really fun!

Can you tell us more about how you became involved with the film and your relationship with writer and star Kelly McCormack?

I was introduced to Kelly by a friend we had in common, Editor Dave De Carlo, who I’ve worked with many times. He read the script in the early stages and recommended me to Kelly. Because it was a music film, he felt that I would be a good fit. 

The film’s lead-up was very long, so Kelly and I had a lot of time to bond. We spent time together in Toronto, Paris, and Montreal preparing for the film. There was so much to do because aside from the regular film prep, we also had to create Kelly’s musical persona. Not to mention writing and recording the songs with Composer Marie-Hélène L. Delorme (aka FOXTROTT).

I think we each brought different strengths to the film, and luckily there was genuine mutual respect and admiration that allowed us both to flex our individual talents. Once we got to the shooting stage, we were really aligned with what type of film we wanted to make.

Can you tell us about the creative relationship with DGC Editor Christine Armstrong while making this film?

I can’t say enough about Christine. She is a super talented Editor, and she is also really open and easy to work with. The truth is we had fun in the edit. Christine has a natural musical sensibility, and she understood very quickly the vibe we were going for, meshing these surreal musical moments into the film in a graceful way. 

Close up of Wendy Morgan and another filmmaker discussing a scene.

Can you speak more on the challenges of going from music videos to a feature-length film?

Luckily, before shooting Sugar Daddy, I had already directed several episodes of Backstage. That experience was wonderful and also a great atmosphere to get accustomed to shooting narrative. Overall I think directing is directing, and the experience feels very similar no matter what you are shooting. Before making Sugar Daddy, I focused on learning how to direct actors and speak to them in ways that invites the best performance from them. I studied with Judith Weston, the author of Directing Actors. We did sessions over Skype for a few weeks, and it was super helpful.

What did you take from your previous work into Sugar Daddy?

Everything! My entire career has pretty much been spent chasing moments that feel sublime, where music and image come together, creating something that feels exciting. Something that makes my heart race when I’m on set shooting. I brought that sensibility to the film, and I would love to continue in this direction as a Director. 

What do you love about working in Ontario? Can you tell us more about the local filmmaking community?

I think there is so much talent in Ontario, especially new talent. Many of the people we worked with on this film were not as experienced as others, but they had the right vision and passion. I love working in Toronto because I feel like I’m at home. 

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