Motel story eyes TIFF

A motel on Highway 400 in northern Ontario prompted Ingrid Veninger to co-write Only, a 75-minute feature with which she is taking a run at the Toronto International Film Festival.

‘It’s actually the motel I grew up in, and my dad managed it in the ’70s,’ she says.

Veninger took a drive over Christmas, stayed at the hotel, and talked to the current manager about shooting there. ‘Him saying okay birthed the adrenaline for me to start writing,’ she says. The picture is in post-production. She expects to screen it for TIFF programmers in June.

Simon Reynolds co-wrote, co-directed and produced Only, working under executive producer Ankur Sharma and the banner of Punk Films. ‘We pooled our money and traded off on the director’s role,’ says Veninger.

Written in December and filmed over 15 days in March, Veninger’s pace was determined by the northern Ontario weather and the schedule of her stars, newcomers Jacob Switzer, her son, and Elena Hudgins Lyle.

‘They were on their March breaks,’ she says. ‘Then during filming we had a snowstorm in April. Just after we wrapped, Jacob’s voice started changing and he started getting a mustache.’ Only centers on a northern Ontario boy who lives at a motel run by his parents. Enter Lyle’s character Vera. From deep secrets to fears and first love, the two 12-year-olds share a life-changing day.

Veninger went bare bones with Only. Shot on a $5,000 budget, the small crew included DOP Ian Anderson and editor Aren Hansen. Only has a cast of just seven, with Veninger and Reynolds playing multiple parts.

The northern weather also played a strong role.

‘One scene has full-on snow, and it wasn’t going to cut with anything else, so we reshot it on a sunny day. Then in editing we decided the snow shots were so beautiful, so we said screw continuity.’

Only is expected to screen for TIFF at the same time as Veninger’s Nurse.Fighter.Boy. Shot on a $500,000 budget with a larger cast and crew, Veninger co-wrote and produced the effort with Charles Officer under the Canadian Film Centre’s Feature Film Project.

‘It’ll be interesting to see them go out at the same time, to see where it leads,’ she says.

Veninger’s next projects include producing Anais Granofsky’s Puja’s Bat Mitzvah with a $1-million budget, and the Switzerland copro End of Time.