The Fishing Trip

Director/producer: Amnon Buchbinder - Executive producer: Camelia Frieberg - Writer: Michelle Lovretta - Diary by: Louise Leger...

Director/producer: Amnon Buchbinder – Executive producer: Camelia Frieberg – Writer: Michelle Lovretta – Diary by: Louise Leger

Filmmaker Amnon Buchbinder didn’t expect The Fishing Trip to be his first feature film. In June 1995, Buchbinder received notification that film production grants from both the Canada Council of the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council had come through for his feature project Catchfire, a screenplay he had spent the previous four years writing, in part while filling his director residency position at the Canadian Film Centre.

Catchfire had a $500,000-plus budget, but further research showed it could not be undertaken for under $1 million. Buchbinder and producer Camelia Frieberg submitted the script to distributors in Canada and the u.s., hoping to get some backing, but they were eventually turned down everywhere.

‘A genre-bending, post-apocalyptic creation story with teenagers seemed a risky proposition as a first feature,’ comments Buchbinder.

Despite his five-year effort, Buchbinder had to accept that Catchfire would not make it as his first film. But what about those grants? Eventually, with a lot of work and tenacity, he was able to apply them to The Fishing Trip, a film scripted by Michelle Lovretta that Buchbinder produced and directed.

The story of three young women who go on a road trip to settle old scores, The Fishing Trip is a low-budget film that made good use of Buchbinder’s filmmaking mottos: ‘We can do it for the money we have,’ and ‘If we can’t afford it, we don’t need it.’

January 1996: Realizing that Catchfire will not happen, Buchbinder decides to write a screenplay that can be shot for the Arts Council money.

March 1996: Buchbinder is nearing the end of his first year teaching screenwriting at York University. Supervising the writing of approximately 130 student screenplays, he has no time to work on his own.

One of his students, Michelle Lovretta, whom Buchbinder calls ‘extraordinarily talented,’ tells him she will be quitting school for financial reasons. He advises her to expand the half-hour screenplay she is writing in his course into a feature-length script to have a more useful writing sample. He mentors her through this process, ‘falling in love with the story’s characters’ as he goes.

April 1996: It occurs to Buchbinder that the screenplay, The Fishing Trip, could probably be shot on an Arts Council budget. He asks to option the script, offering a modest cash option fee out of his pocket and the guarantee that the film will be shot by the summer of 1997. Lovretta accepts.

Buchbinder submits The Fishing Trip to the Feature Film Project, but it’s eventually turned down (in spite of what Colin Brunton describes as ‘the best pitch I’ve ever got’ – a glove compartment containing items used by the characters in the course of their road trip).

August 1996: Frieberg has taken on the role of executive producer.

With feedback from Frieberg and others, Buchbinder directs Lovretta through rewriting of the script and secures an agreement with the Arts Councils to transfer the Catchfire grants to The Fishing Trip.

Winter 1997: Buchbinder makes submissions to distributors, who turn down the project for being ‘not commercial,’ ‘a girl movie,’ etc.

The National Film Board kicks in a very small amount of money from its Filmmakers Assistance Program. Inspired by the makers of Kissed, Buchbinder sends out an investment pitch to everyone he has ever known who might be able to afford a small investment.

Only one person responds – their $500 investment barely covers the cost of the pitch package.

The lengthy casting process commences, with Liza Balkan coordinating. A union shoot is out of the question, given the budget. More than 100 actresses are auditioned for the lead roles.

May 1997: After the cfc agrees to provide the production with a cottage during a break in programs, preproduction commences at the center, with a team of York University film students looking for locations and donations of goods and services.

Doug Dales of P.S. Production Services agrees to provide equipment at a full deferral. Kodak provides the last rolls of a discontinued stock at a 60% discount.

June 1997: Two weeks of intensive rehearsals take place at the cfc, while Jay Switzer of Citytv sees the script and the glove compartment pitch and offers to prelicense the film.

Production is now fully crewed, with above-the-line fees 100% deferred. Cast and professional crew work for a mixture of cash and deferral and student crew work for experience and credit.

After weeks of searching the Toronto area for a key location – a creepy log cabin where the story’s climax takes place – the production decides to go to Sault Ste. Marie for the second half of the shoot, where a location scout turns up a good log cabin.

With costs now fully determined, and no further funding available, the budget still insists on exceeding the available cash by about $6,000.

July 1997: Principal photography commences, shooting on 16mm. Only four rolls (of approximately 80 shot) of rushes are printed during the course of the shoot. The production moves to Sault Ste. Marie for the final two weeks.

October 1997: Buchbinder obtains a personal loan from his father, allowing rushes to be transferred.

Steve Mayhew of Casablanca Sound and Picture agrees to provide audio post-production facilities and services at full deferral.

December 1997: A nonlinear editing system is found sitting on a shelf.

It’s available for 10 weeks, so the picture is cut within that period.

January 1998: The picture cut is finished – and so is the money. A screening is held for Canadian distributors. The consensus, says Buchbinder, was, ‘Great film, I wouldn’t know how to sell it, but I’m sure someone will pick it up.’

John Fulton and Anne Mackenzie of Telefilm Canada express interest in contributing 50% of what is needed to complete the film on 16mm – provided the other 50% can be found. Meanwhile, TMN-The Movie Network prelicenses pay-tv rights.

February 1998: Hussain Amarshi of Mongrel Media sees the film and expresses interest. But he needs time to figure out viability of this new direction for his company, since he has never distributed a Canadian film before.

May 1998: After the Canada Council jury turns down The Fishing Trip for a completion grant, and with no other way to access Telefilm funds, Frieberg commits to loan the production the balance if necessary. Based on this commitment, Telefilm releases its contribution.

Sound edit gets underway at Casablanca and Wayne Swingle Sound. Sound is mixed at Casablanca.

July 1998: A new Canada Council jury awards a completion grant, and Mongrel Media comes through with a minimum guarantee for distribution rights. The production now has enough money for completion and to blow up to 35mm. Blowup proceeds at Film Effects.

September 1998: The Fishing Trip premiers at the Toronto International Film Festival, then goes on to Sudbury and Vancouver festivals.

Public screenings:

Monday, Sept. 14, 9:15 p.m.

Varsity 2

Tuesday, Sept. 15, 4:15 p.m.

Cumberland/Alliance 1

Press & industry screenings:

See Website for daily updates: www.bell.ca/filmfest