Laura Adkin took a giant what-if question from her own love life and spun it into an award-winning film.
The film is The Goodnight Kiss, and the question was a doozy: What if I take this new relationship up a notch?
It’s a scary question for a lot of people embarking on a new relationship, and an ambitious one for a directorial debut – especially when you co-wrote the short film with your real-life love interest. And you just broke up. And he’s going to co-star in it anyway.
“We wrote it, and then we broke up, and then we got the funding, and I was like, ‘Oh, okay, crap, I guess we have to make this movie,’” laughs Adkin, a Vancouver actress who’s worked the local screen scene for 15 years, and co-wrote 2015’s I Wanna Date U. The other half of Adkin’s “we” is actor David James Lewis, a Leo Award winner whose recent credits include Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Travelers, and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.
The premise of The Goodnight Kiss was where Adkin was at in her own life, and in her relationship with Lewis. “We had just started dating, and it was the first time that I had ever been, ‘This is a person that I’m really into,’ and that freaked me out. I needed to work through that. Making the movie is what made us get back together.”
The Goodnight Kiss– which has its hometown premiere next week at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival after playing in Edmonton, Austin and Whistler last year – stars Lewis and Lisa Durupt (Murder, She Baked, and Adkin’s co-star in I Wanna Date U) as a couple on a first date whose future hinges on whether or not they press their lips together for a paradigm-shifting goodnight kiss.
Over the course of 10 minutes, the characters careen through a decade of little joys and major challenges – before one trippy twist that catapults The Goodnight Kiss out of “relationship drama” territory and into a genre all its own.
“I feel like I would call it a dark comedy, because it kind of bends genres a little bit,” says Adkin. “It won a best comedy award [at the Edmonton International Film Festival], so I was like, ‘I guess we’re a comedy?’ It was originally supposed to be a drama, and then it just turned into this thing that is really quirky. In talking to people who’ve seen it, depending on where you are in your own relationship, you see the movie differently.” For what it’s worth, Reel People sees it as a romantic horror dramedy.
Adkin chuckles as she describes The Goodnight Kiss as a “terrible choice” for her directorial debut. “We had 29 scenes in a nine-page script that covers a 10-year period with two actors who need 21 hair and makeup and wardrobe changes, including aging them up,” says Adkin. What saved their December 2015 shoot from collapsing under such arduous conditions was prep. “I looked at it the same way as you look at acting, in the sense that you prepare so much that you can throw it all away when you get on set and just go with whatever happens” – like when they had to scramble to change locations at the last moment because of a freak windstorm.
But she’d do it all again, and intends to populate her future projects with anti-hero characters like the ones played by Durupt and Lewis in The Goodnight Kiss. “I like stories with anti-heroes. I like people that you don’t necessarily want to root for, but you do anyway. Those are the kind of characters I like to write, because I think we’re all very flawed as human beings, and I think to not portray that onscreen is doing a disservice to humanity.”
The Goodnight Kiss– which also features Anthony Konechy, Viv Leacock, and Carmen Moore – is one of 46 films screening at the 12th Annual Vancouver International Women in Film Festival. The fest shines a spotlight on women-driven shorts and feature-length narrative films and documentaries from local and international filmmakers. There are also panels, master classes, artist talks, pitch sessions, receptions and an awards gala.
Highlights for 2017 include On the Farm, a compelling feature-length drama from Vancouver director Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl) that gives voice to the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton; Deuteronomy 24:16, filmmaker Leen Issa’s highly stylized short set in the underground fighting world that relates its nuanced story without any dialogue; Eva Riley’s The Patriot, in which the daughter of a far-right extremist in Britain befriends a Roma boy and confronts the tensions between xenophobia and her burgeoning empathy; and Unveiled: The Kohistan Video Scandal, Brishkay Ahmed’s powerful film about four young girls in a remote village in Pakistan who disappear after a video surfaces of them singing and clapping.
The 12th Annual Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs Mar. 8-12 at the Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour Street). Tickets and schedule at womeninfilm.ca.