Want to know what it’s like to have the very first feature film you worked on suddenly creating big buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival?
Just ask Toronto Film School’s Class of 2019 Film Production valedictorian Marie-Soleil Kielec, who’s feeling that elation thanks to the recent success of Violation – the feature film she 1st assistant directed just six months after graduating.
Co-written, co-directed and co-produced by Kielec’s sixth-term Post Production & Workflow instructor, Dusty Mancinelli, the film not only celebrated its world premiere during the Midnight Madness programme at TIFF 2020’s “reimagined physical and digital festival,” but also had its lead actor – Mancinelli’s filmmaking partner and fellow TFS faculty member Madeleine Sims-Fewer – feted as one of TIFF’s 2020 Rising Stars.
“When I got that phone call a month ago that we made it into TIFF, I was just so happy for them, and of course for myself, because there was a lot of work put into it… Dusty and Madeleine poured their heart and soul into this film,” said Kielec, who was brought on by Mancinelli to work on the film’s Mont-Tremblant set last summer.
“It’s so surreal. I’m 21 and in TIFF with my first feature. I cannot believe it. If someone were to tell me this would be happening five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed them. It was a such great experience and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”
Billed as a “deeply disturbing” tale of a woman driven towards a vengeful extremity by a traumatic betrayal, Violation’s crew featured several of Kielec’s fellow Toronto Film School alumni – including Becky Yeboah as Line Producer, Artem Mykhailetskyi as Assistant Camera, and Noemie Spor as Production Coordinator, as well as Jay Graves and Alex Nicolescu.
Kielec said she was chosen to work on Violation after first proving herself as a student on the set of Children of Wrath – a short film Mancinelli and Sims-Fewer co-produced.
“I remember Dusty went around class one day asking what we were all interested in doing, and I told him I wanted to be a 1st AD. He told me he needed a 1st AD for a short film he was co-producing with Madeleine…so I ADed that film, and it was kind of like my test,” she said.
“From that experience, they were able to watch me work and see my AD-ing style…and when they offered me the 1st AD position on Violation, I was beyond happy. They’re just crazy passionate, crazy ambitious and crazy talented, and it was an honour to work with them.”
Just six months after graduating from Toronto Film School’s Film Production program, Kielec found herself quitting her job at Boston Pizza for good and relocating to the Mont-Tremblant set of Violation for three months.
While she said some aspects of the job gave it a distinctive “work-cation” feel, the work was definitely taxing, yet rewarding at the same time.
“All the locations we shot at were just absolutely beautiful. I got to go swimming every day, which is a dream of mine, and I got to go canoeing and hiking, and to see a waterfall – and I got to do it all with people that I love,” she enthused, noting the ‘big happy family’ feel amongst Violation‘s on-set cast and crew.
“But it was also a lot of work. It was very taxing and very demanding, because we all took on a lot of responsibility. I tend to hold myself to a higher standard, because if it’s more passion than work, I feel like I start to feel more relaxed, and then I start to demand less of myself. And for this project, I couldn’t afford that – I had to be always on the ball.”
As the 1st AD on Violation, Kielec was not only responsible for running the set, keeping things on schedule, and ensuring cast and crew safety, but she also played a key role in building out the shooting schedule alongside Mancinelli and Sims-Fewer. To do so, she had to take into account cast availability, location availability, and turnarounds – which was especially tricky, she said, given that so many of Violation’s moody shots depended on natural lighting.
“The majority of the film was shot at true dusk or true dawn, because we were using natural daylight and they needed the moodiness of that lighting to come through,” she explained, noting that a big takeaway from that experience for her was a newfound understanding of ACTRA rules and how to properly schedule a shoot while respecting the Independent Production Agreement.
“Some call times were at 3 a.m. and we were shooting for dawn; other times we were shooting through the night. So, it was about building the schedule so it would work, while also respecting the cast and crew’s needs.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic dampening the celebrations and thinning the allowable crowds at TIFF this year, Kielec lamented her inability to attend Violation’s world premiere at the Bell Lightbox Theatre, she said she’s nevertheless excited to stream it from home when it becomes available online at Bell Digital Cinema starting Thursday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.
“Of course, I would love for it to get the appreciation it deserves on the big screen, and if it gets a theatrical release, I will 100 per cent go watch it. But for now, I’ll be happy watching it on my TV with my friends,” she said, noting that her family back home in Cornwall are excited to tune in, as well.
“My parents are so happy. My whole family has supported me, both financially and emotionally, through this whole journey. Nobody ever doubted me, so for me to make it into TIFF is so rewarding.
“In my eyes, it makes it all worth it. It’s kind of like me paying them back in a way, and thanking them for everything they did for me. And for me, that’s the icing on top of the cake.”