AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Cat Mills on FIXED!

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cat mills doxa filmmakerRepair cafes are popping up around the world as a community-based antidote to contemporary and trending throwaway culture. In Cat Mills’ EDA Award-nominated short, Fixed!, we get a glimpse inside Canada‚Äôs first repair cafe in Toronto, where a team of dedicated volunteers are helping their neighbors, one fix at a time, to restore and make use of valuable items they might otherwise have tossed into the trash. Read what Cat Mills has to say about the making of her beautifully crafted film, its riveting subjects, and her career goals.

How and why did you encounter and commit to the subject/theme of your film and the main characters in it?

I really wanted to do a film on the Repair Cafe from the moment I heard about it. I loved how this one group captured so many different themes, like community building, learning, and challenging our disposable society. These were things that I really believed were important and lacking in our world.

The characters were ones that we featured largely by chance – we must have filmed 10 or so different pairings of Volunteers and Visitors, and we chose the folks you see in the film based on their enthusiasm and the quirkiness of their objects.

What did you learn about the subject/theme from making the film?

I learned how to fix more things! It feels like a lot of people in the younger generation don’t have the same skills that the older generation has. We might be able to program something, but we don’t know how to sew on a button. Filming FIXED! encouraged me to learn new things and apply them to my own life. It’s been liberating.

What did you learn about filmmaking from making the film?

It was a great experience as this was my first properly funded film (through BravoFact), so my producer, Joella Cabalu, and I learned a ton about the legal, insurance and budgeting side. It was invaluable.

What were your biggest challenges?

Filming FIXED! was a tricky endeavor. I think we filmed at 4-5 different Repair Cafes and combined them into one “day in the life” film. It was challenging as we were filming mostly handheld and some of these fixes took up to 2 hours to complete, so we had some considerable “dead-arm” to deal with. It was also challenging to explore all of the themes that we wanted to within such a short period of time.

What are your plans for the future?

Right now I am filming two other short films, one called Big Men, Small Dogs about how society has certain perceptions about the large men who have tiny, more “feminine” looking dogs. I’m also filming a short called Mark and Carlos Do Burlesque, about two Air Guitarist friends who have signed up for burlesque lessons. I’m also producing a short for director Zach Jama about Shelina Merani, an aspiring stand-up comedian. It’s pretty busy!

Joella and I are also pushing to get FIXED! in more festivals as we’d like the film to reach a wide audience and encourage more people to start Repair Cafes in their own communities.

Who are the Filmmakers whose work has inspired/influenced your own?

I loved Sarah Polley’s documentary, The Stories We Tell. I thought it was a really intimate and fascinating way to explore a family history. My all-time favourite documentary is Anvil! The Story of Anvil, by Sasha Gervasi. That film hits so many levels for me and really is about friendship and the importance of people in our lives. I think back about it a lot and is shapes some of the choices I make. I’m also a Louis Theroux fan.

What advice do you have for other female Filmmakers who are trying to make their way through a still male-dominated industry?

Just do it. Keep moving forward. Learn about as many aspects of the technical side that you can. For my films I almost always shoot, do sound and edit as well as Direct/ Produce. A lot of that comes out of necessity, but it is great because it means that I don’t have to wait up on anyone else and I can start shooting right away, even if I don’t have a budget yet. Also, if you know how to do the technical side of things you can call someone out if they pretend to know what they are talking about. I haven’t had many challenges as a director/ producer because of my gender, but men can be a bit weird if you’re a DP or camera person. I’ve even had one older man repeatedly refer to me as “girl” and then belittle the material I’ve shot, in front of employers. I was so shocked at the time that I didn’t know what to say… I would know what to say now.

My solution is to make as many things as I can, make them well, and be the best that I can.

My advice is not to dwell on people who bring you down; just prove them wrong. Prove them wrong over, and over, and over.
fixed doxa nominee 2017 short

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