The founders of Montreal’s micro_scope tell Melanie Goodfellow how their production outfit draws on the city’s rich talent base to achieve international reach
It is late February and Quebec producers Luc Déry and Kim McCraw are looking pretty sprightly given they have been up most of the night at a 10th anniversary party for their production company micro_scope at the Montreal Cinématheque during the Rendez-vous du Cinéma Québécois.
As they sit down in their compact offices in Montreal’s hip Le Plateau neighbourhood, a courier drops off an anniversary gift: a magnum of Champagne.
There is plenty to celebrate. In the space of 10 years, micro_scope has transitioned from taking minority co-producer credits on Gary Burns’ A Problem With Fear and Bertrand Bonello’s Tiresia to being Oscar-nominated in the foreign-language category two years running with Denis Villeneuve’s Lebanon-set Incendies in 2011 and Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar in 2012.
“When I started the company in 2002, I kicked off with a couple of minority co-productions to bring in some money, but as soon as I had a Québécois project to fully finance I knew I didn’t want to do it on my own and got in touch with Kim, who I’d worked with on a short film by Stéphane Lafleur,” Déry explains. “We’ve produced 10 feature-length films in 10 years, plus two documentaries and three shorts.”
In the wake of their Oscar nominations, Villeneuve and Falardeau have been lured to the US for their first English-language pictures - An Enemy followed by Prisoners for Villeneuve, and The Good Lie for Falardeau - but Déry is expecting both film-makers to head back to Quebec and micro_scope in the not too distant future: their ties run deep. Déry and Falardeau made their feature-length debut together with the 2000 mockumentary The Left-Hand Side Of The Fridge (La Moitié Gauche Du Frigo) and have worked together ever since.
“It’s great they’re working in the US, not least because it might result in some US finance for future productions with us,” says Déry. “We’re currently in the process of acquiring a literary property for Philippe, and Denis is eager to get writing again.”
‘The creative scene in Montreal is incredibly vibrant’
Kim McCraw, micro_scope
The producers were at the Berlinale this year, where their latest production, Anais Barbeau-Lavalette’s West Bank-set Inch’Allah, about a Québécois aid worker who gets caught up in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, premiered in the Panorama section and picked up a Fipresci prize.
“Anais brought the project to us when we were working on pre-production for Incendies. We weren’t planning to make another film set in the Middle East, but we both liked her first feature, Le Ring. The audacity of the project and her passion for the subject convinced us to take it on,” says McCraw.
Barbeau-Lavalette spent time on the Jordanian set of Incendies in 2010, making a short documentary about the back stories of the Iraqi, Palestinian and Lebanese refugees working on the film as technicians and extras.
“We returned to Jordan for the shoot of Inch’Allah, using much of the same crew as Incendies. We reconstructed the West Bank there, bringing in huge concrete panels to replicate the separation wall,” explains McCraw.
Like Villeneuve, Falardeau and Lafleur, Barbeau-Lavalette hails from Montreal. For despite the international outlook and reach of micro_scope’s recent productions, the company draws most of its talent from its home city.
“The creative scene in Montreal is incredibly vibrant. The city is Quebec’s cultural hub. We know just about everyone in the cinema scene here and most of our projects come to us through this network,” says McCraw.
The company is currently finishing post-production on Louise Archambault’s second feature, Gabrielle, the tale of a mentally challenged young woman determined to live a normal life. First footage from the drama - sold internationally by eOne - prompted considerable buzz at the EFM, selling to France (Haut et Court), Benelux (Cinéart) and Switzerland (Agora).
Beyond long-time collaborators, Déry and McCraw are also fostering a new generation of directors. They are producing the debut feature from Sophie Goyette - whose short film, Le Futur Proche competed at Sundance this year - and are about to launch Whitewash, the first feature from award-winning commercials director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais.
The psychological drama, about a man who flees into the Canadian wilderness after he murders someone with his snow plough, is also being sold by eOne and will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.