A couple take a hike to an old ruin and in the process discover how much their relationship has changed.

Christian Belisle

Christian Belisle is a writer, director, and production designer. An Ottawa native, Christian graduated with distinction from Carleton University with an honours degree in Film Studies. After graduating, Christian sought experience in film production and became passionate about production design and directing. After working as a production designer and an art director on many shorts, Christian directed his first short in 2018, “Overgrowth,” which went on to win Best Film at the Digi60 Filmmakers’ Festival in Ottawa. Christian has since been seeking out creative projects, both short and feature length, to gain further experience and hone his skills in direction and production design.

What inspired your film?

Overgrowth was inspired by the breakdown of a relationship. Particularly, I wanted to explore the things that are left unsaid when a relationship is nearing its end, and the ways that each person grapples with that sinking feeling that things won’t be the same. Each person doesn’t want to admit it, or talk it through, which leads to a tension that is often not resolved. While the circumstances of my relationship were much different than what is presented on screen, I sought to represent how I was feeling through Lawrence and Quentin. I am very much a part of each character, and writing and directing the short acted as a sort of therapy.

What was the biggest challenge in making your film?

The biggest challenge while making Overgrowth was the amount of responsibility I had to take on as a first time filmmaker. With a small crew, I had to act as producer, director, writer, art director, costume designer, and most importantly (for my crew), catering. While it was a challenge, I learned aspects and facets of filmmaking that are integral to the process, and lessons that I will carry with me into future projects.

What was the best part of the experience for you?

The best (and probably most scary) part of the experience was the first day on set. Arriving at the location at 7am, I was already exhausted from all the prep, but when my crew came and we started prepping for the first shot, I started finding my groove. There was a potent nervous energy driving me, knowing I only had so much time to get all the shots and make sure I was communicating with my crew and listening to their creative input. Learning to adapt became crucial, and that willingness to adapt led to creative decisions I wouldn’t have otherwise come up with, which ultimately enriched the film.

What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers?

Related to the challenges I referred to above, I would recommend aspiring filmmakers to produce their first short films. If you want to be a filmmaker, I believe it’s key to understand the less glamorous side of working behind the camera. Paperwork, permits, and contracts are not exciting or creative, but they are necessary to the process. If you truly want to pursue filmmaking, it’s important to learn what every job entails on a production and how to empathize with the people doing that job. It will ultimately make you a better director and more well-rounded storyteller.

What’s next for you?

I am currently working with two talented filmmakers, Julie Zhu and Jessie Doucet, on an experimental short, which will be a triptych of dream sequences. As a fan of horror and avant-garde cinema, I wanted to explore more surrealist imagery, and the collaborative way we have approached the project has been very rewarding. We shot the first segment in July, and will be shooting the other two segments this fall. I have also recently completed work as production designer on Kristen McNaule’s upcoming short, “Lenny.”

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