Working with famed actor Gordon Pinsent doesn’t frighten film alumnus
December 03, 2012
Stephen Dunn keeps on winning.
Dunn, who graduated in June 2012 from the School of Image Arts, recently won the ARTE Short Film Award at the Munich International Festival of Film Schools. His film Life Doesn’t Frighten Me competed against 38 films from 22 countries to capture the € 6,000 (C$7,700) cash prize. The short stars famous Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent and tells the coming-of-age story about a young girl and her depressing, angst-ridden teenage life. Dunn wrote and directed the film, which was supported by fellow film alumnus Kyle Sanderson, who was the cinematographer.
The festival jury commented that, "this amusing, sensitive film whisks us into the fanciful world of a 13-year-old girl on the threshold of growing up, a girl who is unhappy because of her nose. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with her nose. It is her perception of it that is deceptive. The young girl, her world-wise grandfather and King Henry, their canine co-star are a fantastic acting trio and their performances do justice to the originality of the story and the film's attention to visual detail. Spectators can enjoy the happy but not overly sentimental ending: 'Life doesn't frighten me!' Congratulations to the director and his crew!"
Like Pinsent, Dunn was born in Newfoundland. Pinsent also comes from Grand Falls, the same small town as Dunn’s mother, who came to Toronto during filming and brought Pinsent bakeapple tarts, a favourite Newfoundland dessert.
“He’s a very big deal in my town and in my family,” Dunn said. “At first I was intimidated by the thought of it [working with Pinsent]. But I discovered he’s very down to earth and enriched the role and film so much.”
Dunn says he envisioned Pinsent for the role of the lead character’s grandfather and sent Pinsent a copy of his previous film Swallowed, which is a scary film about Newfoundland folklore. After watching the film and reading the script for Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, Pinsent signed on for the role.
Since 2009, Dunn has had his name in the spotlight, appearing at film festivals all over the world. He’s directed 12 short films and is currently developing his first feature film. Dunn first gained prominence with the dark-comedy The Hall, which premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival and won the Toronto 48-Hour Film Project in 2009. Dunn followed up with Swallowed and has since appeared at the Toronto International Film Festival and at AFI Fest in Hollywood, a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards.
“Getting awards isn’t the reason to make films. I make films because I want to tell stories,” Dunn said. “I was very nervous during the Munich festival because every other film was intense drama and mine’s more comedic. I did not see it coming at all. It’s the biggest film fest in the world and the quality was far beyond anything I could have expected from a student film fest.”
Dunn wrote the screenplay for Life almost overnight, having changed his idea at the last minute. “I came up with a scenario I wanted to explore with Esther [the main character] and I focused more on her character versus the story.”
Dunn has always been interested in performance, having a background in acting and theatre. He chose film because “it incorporates all mediums of art and it’s a collaborative free art form. It’s the ultimate way to express an idea and demonstrate that to an audience in a clear, concise way.”