Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council
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Lynn Kristmanson: Rescue Wife

Lynn Kristmanson: Rescue Wife

City: St. John’s
NLAC Program Funded Under: Professional Project Grants Program (Spring 2010)
Amount Funded: $2,800

Filmmaker Lynn Kristmanson’s short film Rescue Wife is a parody of 1950s television and a satire of the attitudes towards women in that era. Directed and written by Lynn Kristmanson, with camera by Victoria Wells, and sound by Phillip Cairns, it stars Phil Churchill, Katie Butler, Andrew Loman, Ciaran Holmes, Jennifer Lokash, and Baptiste Neis.

Rescue Wife will be screened at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival in St. John’s on October 20, 2011.

Date: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Time: 9:30 p.m.
Venue: LSPU Hall, St. John’s
Admission: $12/$10 students and seniors
Filmmaker: Lynn Kristmanson
Phone: 739-9144
E-mail: lynn.kristmanson@gmail.com
Women’s Film Festival Website: www.womensfilmfestival.com

Click here to view the trailer for Rescue Wife

Q and A with director and writer Lynn Kristmanson...

NLAC: Let’s start with the story: what is this film about?

Lynn Kristmanson
Lynn Kristmanson

Lynn: It’s a comedy about the allure of the 1950s: the dresses, hats and gloves; the futuristic designs; the cars; the size of yachts. But I try to show that behind the fashion and fins, the reality of sexual politics was not so attractive. Rescue Wife pokes fun at the television shows of the fifties to remind us that no amount of crinolines and cotillions is worth losing your voice.

NLAC: Where did the idea come from?

Lynn: I did a huge favour for my husband Andrew one day, and he said something like, “Thank you for rescuing me!” and I responded, “That’s me, your rescue wife.” Then we both started riffing on Rescue Wife as a 1950s superhero and what her super powers would be. Then we realized that in the ‘50s she would have to conform to notions of the wife and mother and we downgraded her powers little by little, and came up with the character she is now. When I got home, I just thought I’d take a moment to record the idea, and before I knew it I had written the first draft of the script.

NLAC: It parodies 1950s television – how did you capture that “look” on film?

Lynn: The wardrobe, makeup and sets establish the time period. I bought some magazines from 1958 at a little corner store in Alberta when I was on vacation there. They were invaluable for giving me the styles and colours of that time. We also added a myriad of little touches to give it a 1950s feel. The actors did a great job of inflecting their performance with a 1950s TV style. They also suggested adding small continuity errors like you see in low-budget television shows of that era. In the post production, I changed the colour palette and the clarity of the image to give it the quality of an old TV broadcast, and I added filters to the sound to mimic the tinny-sounding recording that we associate with the fifties.

NLAC: You must have had fun putting together the set, props and costumes – tell us a bit about that...

Phil Churchill as Husband Bill and Andrew Loman as Neighbour Stan
Phil Churchill as Husband Bill and Andrew Loman as Neighbour Stan

Lynn: It was so fun getting the costumes and props together. I had the script written for a year before I applied for funding, so I just kept my eye out for anything from the fifties at garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores and antique shops. Also, when friends hear about what you’re doing, they start finding things in their basements and picking up odds and ends for you. It was like one big treasure hunt. When it came down to the shoot, I couldn’t afford vintage or retro wallpaper for the kitchen scene so I got a design from a book and painted a pattern on our dining room wall. It’s still there. We keep threatening to paint over it but it’s grown on us.

Katie Butler as Rescue Wife, Phil Churchill as Husband Bill, and Andrew Loman as Neighbour Stan
Katie Butler as Rescue Wife, Phil Churchill as Husband Bill, and Andrew Loman as Neighbour Stan

NLAC: I understand this was a real labour of love...film is notoriously expensive to produce, yet you did this on a shoestring budget. Tell us: how you made it happen?

Lynn: The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child; well, it took a village to make this film. So many people came on board to help out once I explained the film to them. Our neighbours allowed us to use their houses for our locations, friends from the film community helped with set dressing, the Arts and Culture Centre costume bank lent us costumes, the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival lent us their camera, and everyone on-set did double duty on the days of the shoot. We had actors helping the sound man focus the lights, the camera operator carrying props, and I was making sure everyone had water and snacks to keep them going until lunch. I couldn’t have done it with out the NLAC, they gave me the foundation to build on; it’s necessary to have the funds to rent gear like microphones, lights, and tripods. But then I did all the preparatory work myself: painted the props; sewed costumes; made food ahead of time. I got everything organized and then everyone pitched in. When you don’t have a lot of money, then what you really need is the time to get things together yourself.

NLAC: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Lynn: It was such a thrill to see the actors and crew bring the script to life. When you write a script, you visualize it in a particular way, but the actors took it beyond anything I could imagine. They brought so much of their own creativity to their characters and added comic business that still makes me laugh even after having spent months editing the film. I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with such a talented cast and crew. The shooting days were really high energy but it was a supportive and relaxed environment; we all had a lot of fun on-set and I think it shows in the end result.