Back when Emilija Davidovic was a fledgling filmmaker at Toronto Film School, she credited her TFS teachers and mentors with helping her land the producing gigs that built her resume from the ground up.
Now that the Class of 2015 Film Production grad has returned to her alma mater as an instructor herself, Davidovic is determined to continue that tradition – paying forward the support she received, by likewise inviting her own TFS students and recent graduates to work on projects she’s currently producing.
“For me, honestly, it was all the projects my TFS teachers helped me get that built my resume – and that was while I was still in school, which was huge,” said Davidovic, giving special thanks to current TFS faculty Paul De Silva and Jordan Walker, and former instructor Jason Burke, for giving her career a jumpstart.
“That’s why I’m really happy now to be reaching out to my students and recent grads, and bringing them onto my current projects. I try to at least recommend them to somebody who knows somebody, just so they can have that sense that there is work and there is a community behind them.”
Another motivating factor for Davidovic is a desire to allay some of the student anxieties she encounters as the instructor for both the Term 2 Producing & Production Management course and Term 4 Budgeting & Scheduling class.
“I’m constantly aware that the students I teach are just a little bit afraid about their futures – they don’t know how they will start getting gigs, they don’t know what’s going to happen after they graduate,” said the Serbian-born Davidovich, who returned to Europe after her graduation to work on a number of larger scale projects – namely music videos and commercials.
“That’s why I think it’s really important for them to know that their instructors are actually working on projects – just to encourage them and help them realize that, yes, we are filming, and not only that, but many of us will also be more than happy to bring them on board.”
Such was the case with Davidovic’s most recent project, Cafard – a short narrative film directed by her fellow 2015 Film Production grad Alfio Foti, supported by ACTRA’s Toronto Indie Production (TIP) program, and co-produced by The Characters.
For that project, Davidovic recruited nearly an entire crew of TFS alumni and students to work behind the scenes, including: 2015 grad Francesco Bertoluci as Cafard’s Director of Photography; circa-2016 alumnus Danielle Kellar as Production Designer; Class of 2018’s Artem Mykhailetskyi as Gaffer; and 2019 grads Camille Allaire and Suzanne Githae, who took on the roles of Production Coordinator and Script Supervisor, respectively, while both were still students.
“I genuinely had a lot of fun during (the Cafard shoot), and I feel really good about the fact that the majority of crew was somehow connected to TFS,” Davidovic said, praising all involved for their ‘brilliant’ and professional work on the project.
“It was an amazing experience.”
As for the film itself – which Davidovic describes as an arthouse “lovechild between David Lynch and David Cronenberg” – Cafard tells the dark tale of an unfaithful man (played by Beeba Boys’ Gabe Grey) who receives the shock of his life when the premonitions of his girlfriend (played by Chloe MacLeod) come true and his lies manifest themselves in a way he never could have imagined.
“We set out to address toxic masculinity in relationships in a dark, but not too gory way. It’s suspenseful and a little bit noir-ish,” she said of the film, whose French title, when translated, takes on a dual meaning Davidovic thinks ‘matched perfectly’ with the concept behind the film.
“Cafard is a French word for ‘cockroach,’ but one of its other meanings is also ‘hypocrite.’ And that’s the aesthetic we wanted to play with – that kind of monster suspense horror – and the true sentiment and background of our main character.”
That isn’t to say that the Cafard title is a completely symbolic one, though.
In fact, Davidovic said both she and Foti were especially pleased to recruit esteemed special effects expert Mark Wotton – whose prosthetics resume includes work on X-Men, Star Trek: Discovery, and Slasher, just to name a few – onto VFX team tasked with creating a creepy cockroach scene.
“We were quite lucky to get him,” Davidovic said, recalling being fascinated watching Wotton punching individual hairs into a prosthetic arm he created for Cafard.
“He’s one of those individuals who works on huge things, and then, if he really likes the story and concept of a project, he’ll do short films, as well. He’s absolutely amazing.”
Now that Cafard has finished shooting and is in post-production, Davidovic said she’s begun planning its future festival run – hopeful that, once finished, it will be selected for screenings both here in North America, as well as abroad.
Some of the smaller, niche festivals she’s set her sights on for Cafard include the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, and the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn, Estonia.
“I think it’s going to be amazing,” she said of the film, once again praising its TFS-led crew.
“It really shows how our alumni community is just growing bigger and stronger. And when it comes to talent pool, we’re making a real, serious contribution to the independent film industry.”