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Producer's Notes


In 2008 NFB filmmaker in residence Cat Cizek contacted me to see whether I might be interested in co-producing a documentary with her friend and sometime colleague, Belgium filmmaker Anna Van der Wee. Later that year, I met Anna at the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA). With our common backgrounds, having grown up in the 1960s, I being Dutch and Anna being Flemish (or crypto Dutch as I'd teasingly like to say), we hit it off immediately and I really liked her idea about a documentary on twins that was personal and universal.


Anna is a fraternal twin (she strongly believes fraternal twins are under represented in film and literature - with all the glory going to identical twins) who had lost her brother in a tragic accident at age 20. She had been writing a book about the experience of her loss and how it had affected her subsequent relationships. Now she was ready to take her story to the screen and she had a wonderful international line up of twins and experts. As a bonus, the experts were not just experts in the academic sense, they were all twins themselves. So we would be able to populate a film with mostly twins!


As with most films, the most difficult thing was to find financing but fairly early on Anna got support out of Belgium and we got Canadian interest from Jane Jankovic at TVO and Murray Battle at Knowledge which turned into broadcast commitments.


We would be going into production just as there were significant changes in the Canadian broadcast environment.


The Canadian Television Fund, an important subsidy provider to Canadian independent filmmakers, had, no doubt under pressure from a basically documentary unfriendly, conservative government and cable industry, just morphed into the Canadian Media Fund (CMF) where Return on Investment and new media formats were king. Subsequently we had to navigate new rules and regulations.

For the casual reader and non-filmmakers these are likely Byzantine and incomprehensible but what matters for these notes is that two new basic envelopes were created for documentary; one for Convergence and one for Point of View (POV) documentaries. Broadcasters are allocated "envelopes" of money in the Convergence stream which, according to certain criteria and formulas, they can assign to productions they want to support. The idea behind the POV stream is that money is allocated to films but from a kitty separate from the broadcasters' envelopes, in theory allowing broadcasters to support more productions and at a significant higher level of support (check out the CMF's website for clarification).


Thus we were encouraged a week prior to the POV application deadline to apply under the POV envelope and I spent the first three days of my week's summer vacation on the beautiful Bruce Peninsula going through guidelines and tackling the application.


The application got in, I did get a bit of holiday time (and the sting of holiday work was alleviated by the view of the lake from my "office" window) and we waited for the results. There was no doubt in our minds that this film, with such a distinctive auteur's voice, would qualify and it wasn't really a surprise when the approval arrived several weeks later.


But much to my surprise, were allocated significantly less than anticipated. One important condition had been buried in an appendix; it stipulated that the producer had to invest 90% of its tax credits (another subsidy incentive based on labour expenditures, originally created to help independent producers survive between projects or to help them build their companies) in the film. We had committed tax credits but not the pre-requisite 90%. This meant that we would lose a substantial amount of income and would have to somehow interim finance a significantly larger amount (tax credits come to the producer months after completion of the production) as we finished the film.

Likely with the new guidelines we were guinea pigs as it took several weeks to receive confirmation that we could withdraw our POV application and reapply under the Convergence guidelines. Meanwhile production had commenced and we were spending large sums of money. Eventually we were approved and we were able to close financing.


That was the tedious and boring part…. Production on the other hand initially proceeded flawlessly. Anna, DOP John Price and sound recordist Peter Sawade followed a rock 'n roll schedule through Canada, USA, UK and Belgium to film twins. A very important segment of the film was to play in Nigeria and this is where things got interesting. Getting access to Nigeria was not as easy as we anticipated – even though there were no political intentions or overtones to the film – and the entire Storyline team spent hair raising moments (with Kudos to production coordinator Amanda Feder and associate producer Lisa Valencia-Svensson) to obtain permission and visas to enter Nigeria. Once we knew approval had been granted, to avoid any mishaps, I flew to Ottawa two days prior to the crew's departure to personally take possession of the visas. It seemed touch and go until the very last moment but miraculously the visas appeared and the crew was off to Africa to film the touching and emotional finale of the film.


As part of the official Belgium-Canada coproduction treaty, it had been agreed that all post production services, off and online picture, sound editing and mixing, would be performed in Canada and Anna took up residence in Toronto in the middle of a cold, snowy Canadian winter.

The offline edit proved to be a challenge. Whereas writing the book had been a mostly singular experience, the making of the film had been a team effort and much more emotionally challenging for Anna. Meeting fellow twins had deepened the understanding of her loss and opened up old wounds and memories. Anna's editor Dave Kazala, became a vital collaborator and doubled as therapist as they sifted through the footage to construct the narrative.


Despite the bitter winter, Anna enjoyed her stay in Toronto and with her outgoing personality became a bit of a Dundas Street fixture. The Storyline office where Anna and Dave were working is right beside a hipster coffee shop (the Canadian variety, not the Dutch one….) and though I'd been at the location for 3 years, to most of the shop's staff I was just another middle aged, bald white guy customer. Anna however, would receive a movie star's welcome when she entered the shop.

With help and feedback from friends, family and fellow filmmakers, each version of the film improved and as winter turned to spring, a wonderfully personal and lyrical story emerged from Storyline's basement edit room. Anna's narration script got a fine polish from writer Jennie Punter, composer Tuur Florizoone provided an intimate sound track, animator Tom Hillman created hilarious animation, Andrew Mandziuk did some miraculous picture modifications and Daniel Pellerin and his team worked their magic on the final sound mix.


Anna's now back in Belgium and the office will never be quite the same again. We're delighted to have Lone Twin as a document of our collaboration and time together and look forward to the success the film deserves.


Ed Barreveld
June 2011