Talk to most Newfoundland filmmakers and you’ll discover that the island’s relative isolation is more a blessing than a curse when it comes to professional development.
While Newfoundland struggles to maintain the politically progressive pace of a growing oil-based economy, our self-perception is still rooted in tradition, in the idea that we are a tightly knit people who rely on each other for support and survival.
“I think the best decision I made in my career was to stay in Newfoundland,” says filmmaker Deanne Foley, who was recently honoured as Artist of the Year at the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Awards.
“I’m endlessly inspired by this place and grateful for the opportunities that have come my way,” adds Foley. “There are so many creative people in this community who I had the privilege of working with, who made me a better filmmaker and continue to support and guide me.”
During her first year at university, Foley discovered The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival in the student newspaper. She soon found herself in the audience. Dr. Noreen Golfman, the festival’s co-founder, praised the female filmmakers for their important work.
“I always had a keen interest in cinema, but, for the first time, it seemed like a possibility for me,” says Foley. “Then I ended up being an extra on Mike Jones’ Secret Nation. I was hooked.”
Like so many Newfoundland filmmakers before and since, Foley turned to The Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Co-operative (NIFCO) and its broad range of filmmaking programs.
“I give full credit to NIFCO’s Picture Start Program for pushing my filmmaking career to the next level,” says Foley. “Working with an incredibly supportive group of mentors, I got to direct my short film The Magnificent Molly McBride, starring one of my favorite actors on the planet, the brilliant Andy Jones. It was my calling card.”
Foley managed to parlay that calling card – along with her dedication, passion and hard work –into a filmmaking career that boasts an impressive slew of credits and awards piled onto some top-notch films.
Beat Down (2012), Foley’s feature film directorial debut co-written with Iain MacLeod, was nominated for three Canadian Comedy Awards and won Best Debut at the Toronto Female Eye Film Festival. The film starred Robb Wells of Trailer Park Boys fame and Republic of Doyle star Marthe Bernard, the latter TV series saw two episodes directed by Foley in 2014.
Foley’s sophomore feature, Relative Happiness (2014), is a romantic comedy based on the best-selling novel by Cape Breton writer Lesley Crewe. It was selected for Telefilm Canada’s Perspective Canada at Cannes 2014 before going on to win Best Picture at the 2015 Screen Nova Scotia Awards and hooking both the Canadian Film Festival and Los Angeles Comedy Festival Best Actress Award for star and Australian actress Melissa Bergland.
In addition to its festival circuit success, Relative Happiness sold out and was held over in cinemas across Canada. If you missed it at a festival or theatre near you, the film is now available on iTunes and on Rogers, Bell and Shaw Video On Demand.
As for the festival that ignited her passion to make films, Foley was a long-time board member of The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and has no plans to sit on her laurels. “I have a number of feature film scripts in development, including an adaption of Lesley Crewe’s Shoot Me,” reveals Foley.
“I’m also working on a couple of original screenplays, including the comedy I Hate Rich Kids with writer Iain MacLeod and a supernatural thriller Dreadfall with writer Kerri MacDonald.”