Exotica

Writer/director: Atom Egoyan - Producers: Atom Egoyan, Camelia Frieberg - Diary by: Janice Lee...

Writer/director: Atom Egoyan – Producers: Atom Egoyan, Camelia Frieberg – Diary by: Janice Lee

Fall 1992: Toronto-based filmmaker Atom Egoyan begins to develop a story about the relationship between a table dancer and her main client. He is intrigued by the ritual of table dancing and the unspoken restrictions surrounding the act. Explains Egoyan: ‘The client can never touch the dancer, though the dancer is free to touch the client. As intimate as the dance may seem, there is the reality that this ritual is taking place in a club full of other men.’

Early winter 1993: A government tax auditor pays a visit to Egoyan’s office. As Egoyan watches this stranger rifle through his financial records and access various aspects of his personal life, Egoyan begins to fantasize about the auditor’s personal life. Inspired by the fictitious life he has created for his auditor, Egoyan fuses it with the character of the ‘mysterious’ strip club client.

February 1993: After Calendar premiers at the Berlin Film Festival, Egoyan begins to write the script for what will be his sixth feature film, Exotica. Through the story of Francis, a tax auditor obsessed with an exotic dancer, Egoyan explores seemingly dichotomous themes: public and private, reality and illusion, sacred and profane.

In the telling of Exotica, Egoyan says he ‘wanted to structure the film like a striptease, gradually revealing an emotionally loaded history. The characters in the film move through a series of rituals and routines that define their loneliness and sense of despair.’

March 1993: Egoyan completes the first draft of Exotica.

April 1993: While he refines the script, preproduction gets underway. Egoyan begins to assemble his creative team: producer Camelia Frieberg, who has worked with Egoyan since Next of Kin (1985), signs on early in the game along with associate producer/first assistant director David Webb, dop Paul Sarossy, composer Mychael Danna, editor Susan Shipton and production designers Linda Del Rosario and Richard Paris.

Egoyan also begins to search for the right actors to play the emotionally charged characters of Exotica. Bruce Greenwood heads up an ensemble cast that includes Mia Kirshner, Don McKellar, Arsinee Khanjian and Elias Koteas.

Casting of principal roles and hiring of key crew is completed within two months.

Alliance picks up the Canadian distribution rights for Exotica and will act as the film’s agent for worldwide sales. Other funding is secured for Exotica, budgeted at roughly $2 million: Telefilm Canada commits $900,000 to the project and the Ontario Film Development Corporation commits a total of $700,000.

May 1993: Del Rosario and Paris begin construction on the ‘upscale underworld’ of Exotica, the club which will act as the main shooting location for the film. In the span of four weeks, an empty room at the Party Center in Toronto is transformed into an urban strip emporium. So convincing is the set that potential customers have to be turned away at the door.

June 14, 1993: Principal photography begins. Many members of the crew have worked together on Egoyan’s projects before and the atmosphere surrounding the shoot is ‘comfortable and positive.’ Everything goes smoothly and as planned.

Editors keep up with filming.

July 1993: Principal photography wraps after five weeks. Shipton shows the first assembly to Egoyan and continues working on the picture edit.

Late summer 1993: With the picture edit completed, sound guy Steve Munro and composer Danna go to work on the film’s sound track, which plays an important role in the narrative of the film. The score for the film is influenced by classical and popular Indian music, drawing largely on Danna’s travels and studies of South Asian music.

April 1994: Exotica is invited to compete for the coveted Palme d’Or at the 47th annual Cannes Film Festival. It is the first English-language Canadian film to be in official competition at Cannes since Ted Kotcheff’s 1985 effort Joshua, Then and Now.

May 15, 1994: Exotica has its world premiere at Cannes. Although Egoyan has been to the festival twice before – with Speaking Parts (1989) and The Adjuster (1991) as part of the non-juried Director’s Fortnight – he is nervous about how the film will be received. The response is overwhelming, fans chant Egoyan’s name on the steps of the Palais and followers stream into the aisles after the screening to congratulate him. Exotica, and Egoyan, become the toast of Cannes.

Late May 1994: Exotica picks up top critics’ honors at the festival, winning the International Film Critics’ Prize (FIPRESCI Award).

International sales for the film are impressive, including Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and the u.k.

July 1994: Miramax Films buys Exotica for American and Australian release.

September 1994: Exotica has its North American premiere as part of the Perspective Canada program at the Toronto International Film Festival. After the Toronto fest, Egoyan, currently writing a libretto for Elsewhereness, an opera he is collaborating on with composer Rodney Sharman, will continue to accompany Exotica on the international festival circuit.

September 23, 1994: Exotica reaches domestic screens.