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How I Made This | Acting Grad Mélie B. Rondeau on Channeling Personal Pain into Powerful Performances

“Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.”

Meryl Streep

 

When it came to preparing for her award-winning turn as a woman struggling to break free from the destructive man in her life in Ripples, Mélie B. Rondeau didn’t have to search too far for inspiration.

 

 

Written and directed by her friend and fellow Toronto Film School alumnus Christina Borgs, the six-minute short film portrays the “vicious cycle” all too familiar to anyone who’s ever found themselves in a toxic relationship.

 

“The plot of Ripples is inspired by a romantic dynamic that a lot of us have experienced at least once in our life: The push-pull relationship, where one person pushes their romantic partner away, only to pull them in again after they become cold and distant,” said Rondeau, who took home the 2018 Toronto Film School Festival of Films award for Best Female Performance for her role in the film.

 

For this month’s edition of How I Made This, the Granby, Quebec native agreed to take us behind the scenes of Ripples to explain how she drew inspiration from her own real-life experiences to give depth to her powerful – albeit dialogue-less – performance in the  film.

 

Rondeau recalled the overnight, pool-side shoot for the film proving an especially difficult eight hours for her – especially given that she was cold and wet nearly the entire time. Nevertheless, she was able to channel those feelings of discomfort into her performance by also keeping her past personal experiences top of mind.

 

“My ultimate goal as the actor was to entertain the thoughts of the character by ‘replacing them’ with my own personal thoughts and feelings,” she explained, calling journaling a ‘powerful tool’ for an actor.

 

“This is why I tend to write a few lines about what I’m going through in the moment and, beside it, I’ll write something like, ‘For the next time my character feels shame, a sense of loss, betrayal, love, etc.”

 

 

By associating moments in her life to a particular emotion or feeling, Rondeau said it becomes a easier to get in touch with that emotion as whatever character she might be portraying at the time – be it the zombie she played in Les Affamés, the astronaut in Orbit, or the distraught lover in Ripples.  

 

Here are a few key moments from Ripples and the real-life experiences Rondeau used to inspire her performances in them:

 

  • “The moment where I look at myself in the water, for example, was directly associated to the numerous times I’d looked at myself in the mirror after a crying session, not really recognizing or appreciating the person I was seeing.”

 

  • “The moment where the male protagonist comes back, and I stubbornly turn my face away may have been a particular text I received after being ignored for weeks.”

 

  • “The visually striking image of me being pushed in the water is such an important moment in the story. For me, in this moment and the few seconds leading to it, I kept hearing, ‘I love you, but I don’t want to be with you,’ which is simply heartbreaking.”

 

For Rondeau, the making of Ripples proved a reminder that “beautiful things can come out of our pain.”

 

“I’d also like to think it made me a better actor, and, hopefully, a better person,” she said, urging other actors to do the same.

 

“I hope this will give you incentive to keep on sharing who you are, even when life gets a little dark.”