“When I heard actors read my script, it sparked something,” says Wanda Nolan as we sit on the sun-splashed deck of Kelly’s Pub on George Street. “It felt like someone turned on the lights in the room and I didn’t know that the room was dark.”
“I always considered myself a fiction writer,” says Nolan, who is currently writing a novel called Rabbit Town. “But now I consider myself more of a screenwriter.”
Her novel-in-progress Rabbit Town has inspired a loosely connected feature-length screenplay called The Magic of Boxor Connors – a story about a resilient little boy who wants to be a magician despite his desultory and less-than-encouraging social environment.
“It needs another good overhaul,” says Nolan as she sips her pint and contemplates the upcoming production application to Telefilm in conjunction with Pope Productions. “I knew there was a plotline I didn’t like that had to go, but now it’s all about the best storytelling you can write. How do you do that? There are no books on that. People say that there is, but there’s not.”
Nolan is also writing The Mystery of the Secret Room, her directorial debut produced by Annette Clarke at the National Film of Canada under their Emerging Artist Program. The short animation project is a collaborative effort with Montreal-based filmmaker and animator Claire Blanchet.
“I just started emailing back and forth with Claire,” says Nolan. “I was going to interview different animators, but from the conversations that we had, I knew she was the right person.”
Like Nolan’s feature film project, this one deals with traumatic childhood experiences and the power of the imagination to cope with those problems.
“It’s about a little girl who turns into a super heroine to save her Mom from depression,” explains Nolan. “It’s an adventure story, and it’s a mystery too. It also kind of has a lot of creepy elements that we’ve been playing up.”
Nolan credits her fascination with the works of Japanese animation filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki as an inspiration, but admits that working her way into that world is not an easy task.
“I don’t draw, so it’s been really challenging only talking about what all these images are, until recently when I saw some drawings,” confesses Nolan. “I can only look at them and say, ‘Does it speak it me emotionally?’ All my judgement calls are based on intuition. It’s a bit of my own adventure.”
Despite the challenges, Nolan remains true to her faith in the storytelling process: “It’s a love letter to literature, to story and the power of the imagination.”
It’s hard not to love the mystery of Nolan’s imagination and the magical stories she weaves.