“Mary Goes Round
is a Canadian writer and director. Her previous short films include “I Am Not a Weird Person,” “Shoes
,” and “3-Way (Not Calling).” “Mary Goes Round
” is her first feature film. In 2015, she was selected as a Talent Lab Resident at the Reykjavik International Film Festival and as a Samsung Tiff Emerging Director.
“Mary Goes Round
” will premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on September 9.
W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.
Mm: “Mary Goes Round
” is largely about overcoming alienation, both personal and familial, and the relief that comes with the acceptance. The film centers around a substance abuse counselor who returns to her childhood home after a DUI to meet her half-sister but learns that her estranged father is dying of cancer.
It’s about a woman who is forced to take care of a parent who she thinks let her down while simultaneously dealing with her personal demons for the sake of a teenage girl.In the end
, it’s about acts of love and taking care — not in the inane, vague email sign-off way but in a way that involves kindness and self-awareness. I wanted to unravel the sometimes circuitous way of viewing ourselves and assumptions about family relationships.
It sounds super heavy, but there’s a lot of humor and levity as well. Probably has something to do with Irish Catholic roots, but I find the darkest moments in are lives can also be the most morbidly funny as well.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
Mm: It was one I needed to tell. I think there’s an old saying about making the film you need to before the one you should? It’s not autobiographical, but in many ways, I drew upon my experiences with self-identity and my relationship to my family. In making this film, I was able to create an alternate reality where I could creatively explore my deepest fears, regrets, and hopes that may or may not play out in real life.
Probably the most powerful moment on set for me was seeing a scene that was quite difficult for me to write emotionally and watching Aya Cash
, who plays Mary, bring something that was totally hers to the performance. It is an amazing thing to see an actor take your words and transform them to something that belongs to them. There is comfort in how unoriginal the narratives of lives really are.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
Mm: I want people to be moved and hopefully have laughed a bit, but maybe they will think about the parts of themselves or their history that they’ve avoided and what it would look like to confront those dark corners.
It ends on a beginning of sorts so I’d like the audience to think about beginnings. There is always time for a new one, I think.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Mm: I’d never made a feature before, so naturally it was overwhelming from a logistical and mental standpoint. The film had a very, very small budget — around a quarter of a million dollars — and the script called for about thirty locations and thirty speaking roles. With a team of absolute heroes behind me, we got it done.
Second to the logistical stuff, it can be overwhelming as a first-time director. I just kind of told myself I can do it and put one foot in front of the other until it was done. Fear is a powerful motivator but can really inhibit you once you’re in it.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
Mm: Telefilm Canada has a Microbudget Programme supported by the Talent Fund that awards emerging filmmakers from certain accredited institutions — in my case, the Canadian Film Centre — with a grant to make their first feature. Additionally, we were supported by the Harold Greenberg
Fund both in development and production. I also had additional investment from Wildling Pictures, the production company that produced the film. Yay, Canada!
W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at the Toronto International Film Festival?
Mm: It was my absolute goal and dream to premiere here. About ten years ago, I started out as an intern before leaving to pursue my own work in a roundabout way, and there is no way I thought I’d be on this side of things. And here we are. Coincidentally, in my backyard.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
Mm: Best advice: I went to a Film Fatales talk with Catherine Hardwicke
last year and she said that whenever she does a big group scene, she writes out seating cards beforehand to save time. It’s a little thing that I think people can appreciate and keeps everyone moving. You easily alleviate cast and crew asking you multiple times where people are.
Worst advice: “It’s probably fine.” Whenever anyone says that, including myself, I have to take a second look. The devil is in the details.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
Mm: I’m still learning, so I give the following advice to myself as well. Be a director in a way that makes sense to you. Drop the need to “perform” director. Everyone has shown up and is waiting for you to tell them what to do so find a way to make them want to do their best. For me, that means treating people with respect and apologizing when you’re wrong.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
Mm: Gah! So many. Most recently, Maren Ade
’s “Toni Erdmann.” It was so singularly bold, original, and no one could have done it but her. I don’t know if I would ever make a film like that, but I have so much respect for Ade and was moved deeply by it. Deepa Mehta
” and Jane Campion
’s “The Piano
” are two of the most beautifully directed movies I’ve ever seen. Last Tiff, I watched Houda Benyamina
” and I thought it was so tender and impactful.
W&H: There have been significant conversations over the last couple of years about increasing the amount of opportunities for women directors yet the numbers have not increased. Are you optimistic about the possibilities for change? Share any thoughts you might have on this topic.
Mm: Personally, I have been given a huge amount of opportunity lately — largely from projects helmed by women — so I feel very optimistic. So much has been eloquently said on this matter, but I feel like the best thing I can do is just be the best director I can be so that other people don’t see hiring a woman as a risk. A good example is Ava DuVernay
hiring all these women on her series “Queen Sugar
” with the philosophy that she cannot be the sole change. It’s her job to help bring other women up with her. I think that is the most powerful and useful way to make real, meaningful change.
Tiff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Molly McGlynn
— “Mary Goes Round
” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.