Image: Adulthood (CAN)
This article contains sensitive material surrounding suicide. If you know someone who needs support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au. In an emergency, call triple-0 immediately.
Perhaps one of the hardest challenges in life is dealing with death. Because of this, many creators seek to express different views about the departure of friends, loved ones, and also alert to their own physical and especially psychological health. Melbourne WebFest brings together three separate and touching web series which talk directly to its viewers about the delicate and important aspects of life amongst all of us – Adulthood (CAN), Georges is Dead (CAN) and Jessica’s Tree (NZ).
Representing the hard task of facing our daily problems, more specifically dealing with the loss of a friend, Adulthood’s second season presents us with the story of the tragic death of Bastien with a dash of wit and dark humour.
Director Guillaume Lambert says his own experience of adulthood prompted him to make the web series, in a short, effective and dynamic manner.
“I was just turning 30, myself, and I wanted to talk about coming to adulthood rather late. I didn’t want this series to be about being in your 20s and 30s, but more of a strange cross between the two—the year just before turning 30-years old, and what that implies…I also knew that I wanted each episode to feature a different main character in parallel with the others.
… I chose the web because it’s a real exploration ground, which allows me to explore a new and innovative script form: short, effective, dynamic.”
With beautiful aesthetics and well-defined scenarios, Lambert says the cold Canadian weather played a huge role in the series, becoming a metaphor for the inner transformation of the characters.
“Because the season changes are radical in Canada, I wanted to illustrate them on screen to magnify the story and create a landmark in the chronology of events,” says Lambert.
In addition to the aesthetics and the remarkable climate, another important component in the series is the French language, characteristic of the province of Quebec.
Lambert explained that the script was written in French to reflect his narrative: “ My writing is very French, with talky dialogue, while it’s also very British—tongue-in-cheek—and very American with its punch lines,” says Lambert.
“I would be curious to read the subtitles in a language other than French! But I love the French language. I see my screenplay as a score, and the sound of the French language plays a big role!”
In Montreal, Georges is Dead sees the end of a “bromance”, when Étienne (Simon Larouche), a salesclerk at a sporting goods store, is reeling from the loss of his best friend Georges (Guillaume Laurin). Lonely and depressed, Étienne is struggling to drag himself out of his grieving haze, much to the annoyance of store manager Peter (Marc Beaupré), who gives him an ultimatum to cheer up or take a break from work.
Charles Grenier (co-creator, director and editor) and Sarah Pellerin (co-creator, screenwriter, and key cast member in the series) says the inspiration of the series was to memoir the bro-support-bro culture and toxic masculinity in American Cinema. “When we started to write Georges Is Dead, Sarah had just finished her memoir on ‘Bromance and Toxic Masculinity in American Cinema’,” says Grenier.
“Inspired by that memoir we wanted to explore the friendship between men and women, straights and gays, and to question common stereotypes that comes with genre and sexuality.”
“The ultimate goal for our trio is to find a new ‘bro’ for Etienne, but they’ll understand that sometimes friendship grows in unexpected places.”
Watching the beautiful takes and observing the variety of scenarios, it is difficult to believe that after a 3-year pre-production phase, the series was recorded in just 10 days.
We asked Grenier and Pellerin how they view the web series community in Canada, with 10 Official Selection and Spotlight series from Canadian creators.
“In the first episode of Georges Is Dead, in the bar scene where Étienne attends Velvet Nuage’s show, more than half of the extras are either directors or cinematographers that have or were going to shoot a web series. I think this reflects the engagement and camaraderie of Quebec creators.
… We had the support of the Independent Production Fund, which finances around twenty web series across Canada every year. We also had the support of Téle-Québec and Urbania, both broadcasters with exciting visions of how to share creative content on the web.”
Non-fiction series Jessica’s Tree is a narrative told through the eyes of Jazz Thornton, a young filmmaker who lost her close friend Jess to suicide three years ago. Thornton has been in a suicidal place herself, and after her friend took her own life, she knew that Jess’ story was important and needed to be told.
Talking about such a complex subject can be intimidating, but it is necessary. Producer Alex Reed explained the challenges addressing a sensitive topic.
“Making Jessica’s Tree was emotional and bonding for everyone involved but at times fraught because we so badly wanted to tell the story in the right way,” says Reed.
“We definitely had to overcome some barriers with various individuals warning us of the dangers of storytelling around suicide and possible triggering, especially amongst young people. This was at the front of our minds at all times but always balanced by the equally damaging harm caused by silencing those with mental health issues.”
With the increase in exposure of our lives through social media and the growing number of suicide cases among young people around the globe, Reed says it’s important that awareness was created on digital media to help give a voice to the voiceless.
“I think there are more stories looking at mental health online now because young people in particular desperately want to talk about it,” says Reed. “[I do think] social media and the online world can be harmful to mental health.
However, what we did learn from making Jessica’s Tree is that authentic, personal and careful storytelling around suicide can have a massively positive impact and the online world is a great medium to spread this sentiment.”