Lee helms Carnivore

CBC Radio host and former MuchMusic VJ Sook-Yin Lee has embarked on her directorial debut. Year of the Carnivore began principal photography outside Vancouver last week with Lee — who ruffled the Corp.’s feathers with a sexually adventurous turn in 2003′s Shortbus — continuing down a provocative path.

The bittersweet comedy stars Cristin Milioti as Sammy Smalls, a young woman who works as a grocery store detective. Her job is to deliver shoplifters to her boss (Will Sasso), who then thrashes them so they don’t re-offend. Aching for musician Eugene (Mark Rendall), but mortified by having made a bad first impression, she is determined to perfect her technique. The next round of light-fingered customers has a choice: teach Sammy everything they know about sex, or face the fists of her boss. Kevin McDonald and Sheila McCarthy play her (perhaps justifiably) over-protective parents.

The B.C./Ontario co-venture is produced by Trish Dolman (Flower & Garnet) of Screen Siren Pictures along with Kryssta Mills (Sheltered Life) and Simone Urdl and Jennifer Weiss of Toronto’s The Film Farm (Away from Her, Adoration). E1 Films will release in Canada.

Lee tells Playback Daily the film is a huge step both artistically and financially. She has been working on the script for the past few years, having thrown away multiple drafts — at one point it was a heist film — before finding her vision.

‘The way we think about sex is usually associated with bordellos and comfy cushions,’ she says. ‘I want to explore the physical vulnerability — the person confronting herself naked before she takes a shower, before the armor goes on.’

She adds that the production is struggling with its financing; both she and Dolman are deferring their fees, while the usual ‘friends and family’ channel of investors isn’t panning out.

‘People are afraid,’ she says, before asking only half-seriously for a plug in case Playback Daily readers are interested in contributing. Apparently Shortbus director John Cameron Mitchell tapped an eccentric steel tycoon for completion financing on that film.

What financing there is comes from Telefilm Canada, Entertainment One and British Columbia Film, along with the provincial and federal tax credits.

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