Although her love of storytelling began in childhood, Lian Morrison’s filmmaking journey took off with international stride at the Prague Film School.
“I absolutely loved film school,” Morrison says. “They didn’t teach as much theory as many film schools. They focused more on practical hands-on learning. I got to write, direct, and edit six films during my time there, and I got to live in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been in while doing so.
“It was an international school and I was one of the only two Canadians there, so our class was a mixing pot of people from all over the world. It was a great sense of community. I learned a lot and toughened up a bit.”
Morrison’s immersion into editing was more necessary than desired, but once comfortable with the Avid editing program and fascinated by how stories are stitched together in post-production, she fell in love.
“Editing is really the second phase of directing, and that’s why directors and editors work so closely together and often pair up for their entire careers,” Morrison explains.
“It’s also under appreciated. What viewers see is the final product and they have no idea what kind of footage the editor was given, so it can be hard to tell when an editor really saved a film.”
Once graduated and back in Newfoundland, Morrison’s story continued its international setting with her first documentary, Flight of the Fisherman (2016). The film follows Huang Yuechuang, a 77-year-old cormorant fisherman who is the last of his generation to carry on the traditional type of fishing in rural China.
In China, Morrison faced an onslaught of near crippling obstacles.
Her tuk-tuk crashed and she was forced to cover the damage out of her film budget. Her local production assistant didn’t speak much English. Her computer crashed and she lost all her footage. Luckily, an Apple tech helped her find it.
“This was one of the most crazy experiences of my life and I learned a lot,” Morrison says.
“You should always trust your gut. I think this applies to a lot of areas in your life and filmmaking is no different. Make sure to speak up when things aren’t working. A couple times I chose being nice over being honest, and it never works out. I also think it’s important to make sure you are one step ahead. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”
Flight of the Fisherman eventually won two awards, and Morrison won the Emerging Filmmaker Award at last year’s Nickel Independent Film Festival. She’s also busy shooting her second documentary Taking Root – about foraging in Newfoundland – and running Tin Bird Productions, her photography and video business.
“Ideas are nothing if you never put them into action, so just put yourself out there and start writing scripts, do online tutorials, and participate with local film festivals and programs,” Morrison says. “Find like-minded people and start collaborating.”
Words of wisdom from one Newfoundland’s most promising filmmakers.