Marc Joly-Corcoran is a director, editor, scriptwriter and independent producer based in Montreal, Canada. He has been teaching film at the University of Montreal for the past 10 years. In 1998, he directed a documentary on the pilgrimage to India which was shown on TV5. He then worked as an assistant editor and shot a few documentaries abroad as director of photography. He has also directed several short fiction films, including La pièce (2011), which was screened in numerous film festivals. He is currently directing a documentary produced by Films Camera Oscura, about Quebec fans of Star Wars, and is finishing writing his next feature film, a genre film to be produced by Exogene Films.
Le miroir is a first feature film which is written, produced and directed by Marc Joly-Corcoran. The film is a semi-autobiographical drama produced with only $45,000 in Canada. Jean has not seen his mother, Diane, for the past five years, due to an incident he is not ready to forgive her for. When she commits suicide in Belgium, Jean must go there to retrieve her ashes and deal with the estate. At his mother's house he meets Fabrice, Diane's very young husband. He also meets Juliana, a good friend of his mother, whom Diane has entrusted her holographic will. Jean learns that his mother has left him an antique mirror of great value. While sorting through Diane's belongings, Jean develops a slight obsession with this antique mirror, which is said to be linked to some disturbing and pivotal events in Jean's life as a child. Through the quest for the mirror, he will also discovers a secret hidden by his mother. Jean will have to forgive his mother, but also and above all, free himself from her.
It is our pleasure to interview Marc Joly-Corcoran about his latest film project which was recently recognized through the seasonal MIFF.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
My passion for cinema started very early on during my childhood. I was amazed as a child byStar Wars and E.T. I was also fascinated by the movie 2010, even though I was not aware it was a quasi-sequel of another SCIFI classic. These were the first movies I had seen in a theatre. I was quite young, but I was hooked, and I knew by my teen years that I wanted to make films. I found an old 8mm camera in my dad’s stuff and started framing things in the house, looking in the viewfinder; like I was pretending to film of course even though there wasn’t any film stock in the camera. During high school, I had an epiphany with music involving vinyls and turn tables! I experimented by mixing dance music! It was my first attempt at editing stuff together - I’ve even worked for a few years as a DJ! After studying film production in college and only one year as an undergraduate student, I directed and shot a documentary in India about pilgrimage and tourism. It was 1998 and the first time I set foot outside of Canada. TV5 liked the demo we edited from my footage and they bought a license to broadcast an hour long version. After that, digital technologies were becoming more accessible, like semi-pro camera and software like Final cut, and I shot my first short movie for a contest on ArtV network in 2001. My film was selected amongst 14 other shorts to be broadcasted on ArtV. I’ve never stopped making films since then, however I’ve never received any grants or financing from the institutions - and it’s not because I’ve never tried!
What genre of filmmaking are you looking to work on and why?
I wrote many movie reviews during my time with kinephanos - a scholar journal I cofounded with a friend at the University of Montreal. In fact I was exclusively covering the Fantasia Film Festival because I love genre films – haha! I am particularly fond of Japanese and Korean culture; their cinema are quite different though. The Japanese are more extravagant and absurd, whereas the Korean are narratively more focused and extremely efficient. That’s probably why Americans are only just discovering them now. But the Koreans have been doing that kind of cinema for years! My first feature film The Mirror is a very personal one though. I thought it was appropriate and fitting for my first feature to talk about an intimate subject. However, all of my next projects are either sci-fi or psychological thrillers. I think genre film is an ideal format to question sociological and philosophical issues about the challenges we are facing as a society… in an entertaining way!
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker?
Making films without money or institutional support. You can feel very lonely most of the time. You know that cinema is a team effort, but you can’t afford to work with other professionals because they need to pay their bills too, so you can’t afford to pay collaborators to have a fresh perspective on your work and help you elevate the final product. You can’t ask an editor to block three months of his schedule exclusively for you!
How challenging is it to fund indie films?
In my case, it is mostly financed with my personal money and crowd funding. The Mirror was totally financed in that way. My documentary on Star Wars fans that I have been working on since 2016 was totally self-financed too, up to 30K, even though I have a producer and a distributor onboard. We submitted at SODEC, Telefilm, CALQ, but to no avail. It is exhausting. There are so many people now who want to make movies, it seems like the institutions don’t have any choices but to make ideological decisions based on not only the quality of the “dossier” but also based on tastes, artistic bias and return of investment about what needs to be made and seen or not. With that being said, I am not waiting on them.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
There are so many. Yasujiro Ozu is certainly one of them. I love how uncluttered his mis-en-scene is, his famous pillow shots which forces us to consider time itself, and how perception of time is relative from one individual to another, and from one culture to another. It has definitely inspired me throughout the production of The Mirror as I wanted to keep it simple. There’s also Spielberg who was my “first love” during childhood. That point in time was a period where VFX was entering a “documentary realism” phase, far from the studio look and fake decor. In his early works, such as Dual, JAWS, CEOTK, E.T., I admire the way he brings the extraordinary into the mundane. I would like to bring that in my future works. I’d like to mention another Japanese filmmaker, Mamoru Oshii, who directed his most influential animation film Ghost in the Shell. That film had such an impact on me when I first saw it, and I like everything cyberpunk related since then. I’ve been working on a cyberpunk project calledSeldon X for a few years now.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
My producer and I are trying to get private funding for my second feature. I can’t say more but I wrote the screenplay in English to ensure a broader audience. It’s a lo-fi sci-fi drama, an “in-door” movie about guilt, loss and liberation. It’s stylistically along the lines of10 Cloverfield Lane. I am also drafting a third project with a colleague which is a psychological drama thriller.
What was the inspiration behind your latest film project?
My mother committed suicide in December 2010, in Belgium. She was married to a 23 year old young man, and she was 58. She wasn’t mentally stable, she’s been suffering from mental illness for a long time but she never wanted any help. I didn’t want it to be my first feature film but I needed to do it, like a psychotherapy. My wife and I put 30K together, I asked some friends in the industry, actors and actresses that I respect and who I wanted to work with and we shot it in 13 days.
How did you find the cast and the crew of the film?
Normand Daneau was the first I contacted to play the lead. He was onboard since the beginning, had read many versions and gave his input on them. When you have such a good actor like him who supports you, it gives you an edge and helps you to convince others to join the cast. As for the crew, I decided to shot during the least busy moment of the year in the industry, which in turn helped me out immensely.
What is the distribution plan of the film and did the film receive any screenings or was it featured in festivals?
We won’t have any physical copies but it’s possible to rent and buy through the well-known VOD platforms until December 31st. I even edited an alternate version, shorter, which I prefer to the theatrical version. The alternate version is available as a bonus feature with the theatrical version bought on the distributor Vimeo platform (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/themirrorfilm). We also had the privilege to get a 3 weeks screening last May in 2 theatres, being in Montréal and Québec City. In addition, 10 festivals have selected my movie, such as Puerto Rico Film Festival and in India where we received two awards as Best Feature Film. We are still waiting for answers from festivals where we submitted our film. But honestly, I think my film would have deserved more visibility here in Quebec, in festivals, and a few more theaters. I'm saddened and a little disappointed.
Why do you make films and what kind of impact would your work have on the world?
It’s in my blood. I don’t know what else I would do. My father was a musician and my mother was a visual artist. At the end of Se7en, the character Somerset played by Morgan Freeman paraphrases Hemingway and says: “The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for… I agree with the second part”. I, too, agree with the second part, and cinema is my weapon.
VOD pages of the film:
Available on Digital HD ➤ https://vimeo.com/ondemand/themirrorfilm
Also available in French ➤ https://vimeo.com/ondemand/lemiroir