Langley producer and cinematographer, Amy Belling, is promoting her latest feature film, Songs She Wrote About People She Knows. The Brookswood Secondary graduate said the quirky comedy was the perfect follow up to her previous film, the psychologically intense, Stress Position. Songs She Wrote will screen at Vancity Theatre from April 25 to 30.

Langley producer and cinematographer, Amy Belling, is promoting her latest feature film, Songs She Wrote About People She Knows. The Brookswood Secondary graduate said the quirky comedy was the perfect follow up to her previous film, the psychologically intense, Stress Position. Songs She Wrote will screen at Vancity Theatre from April 25 to 30.

A film she shot with people she knows

Langley producer and cinematographer Amy Belling follows up a psychological thriller with a quirky comedy

The latest offering from Langley cinematographer and producer Amy Belling was a hit when it was screened in front of a packed house at the Rio last September, during Vancouver International Film Festival.

And now, Songs She Wrote About People She Knows is set to return to the West Coast for its theatrical release, with four screenings scheduled at Vancity Theatre from April 25 to 30.

Following up on her last project — the psychological thriller, Stress Position — Belling, 34, was more than happy to turn her attention to a quirky comedy like Songs She Wrote.

The film, written and directed by Kris Elgstrand, stars Arabella Bushnell as Carol, a repressed woman who finds an outlet for her frustrations when she begins leaving musical messages on people’s voicemail, telling them — through song — what she really thinks of them.

After she sings a few bars of A**hole Dave, on her boss’s answering machine, Carol is surprised to learn that the musical outburst has had the unexpected effect of inspiring Dave (Brad Dryborough) to once again pursue his abandoned dream of becoming a rock star.

Her new-found honesty, in turn, prompts Carol to begin confronting her own fear of intimacy and to examine her strained relationship with her mother.

Elgstrand’s attachment to the project is one of the main reasons that Belling — a graduate of Brookswood Secondary, who earned her masters degree in cinematography at the American Film Institute — was excited to sign on.

“I just think he is totally original in his writing,” she said.

The two filmmakers had been friends for a number of years and were keeping an eye out for an opportunity to work together.

“I was available and back in Vancouver, looking for my next project,” explained Belling.

The arrival of the script in March, 2014, satisfied both her desire to work with Elgstrand and to produce a comedy.

“I read it and laughed out loud.”

Working on Stress Position had been both mentally and emotionally taxing, Belling said, so it was a great feeling to have the cast and crew laughing at the end of rehearsal or the end of a take.

Filming took place mainly in Vancouver, but crews also ducked across the border to shoot in California for a day and a half.

The movie’s heavily saturated colour gives the images a decades-old vibe, but the real secret to the vintage look, said Belling, is that the filmmakers turned to old technology.

“It was shot on film — super 16. The grainy texture and the quality of the image is a result of that,” she said.

When it came to his music, Dave’s character was an analogue guy, through and through.

Thematically, it just made sense to follow the character’s lead and shoot on film, said the cinematographer.

That was easier said than done.

The ’70s-set motion picture, American Hustle, had apparently exhausted Fuji’s super 16-mm stock, said Belling, so they had Kodak film shipped out from Toronto instead.

Once the scenes had been shot, getting the film processed was another headache.

Because they were shooting a small piece of the feature in California, the production team decided to send the film to a lab in Los Angeles.

The canisters had to be driven across the border every few days and mailed from Washington state, because they couldn’t risk having the film put through an X-ray machine.

One result of that onerous process was that Belling didn’t get to see any of her footage until day 10 of an 11-day shoot.

“We had days of shooting, with everyone trusting me, because they didn’t know what the frame looked like.”

As the deadline for submissions to TIFF approached, the processed film had not all been returned from the lab, so the movie was pitched to Toronto with four days of shooting still missing from the package and notes about what it would look like once it was complete.

Happily, the risk paid off.

“Generally speaking, looking back it’s a choice we would still have made,” Belling said of the decision to go with film over digital.

Songs She Wrote About People She Knows had its premiere last year at TIFF, followed by screenings at VIFF at the end of September and in the US  at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2015, followed by the Cinequest Film Festival, as well as screenings in Dallas, Nashville and another coming up in Lima, Peru.

“I was so excited to be at TIFF with a feature, as opposed to a short film,” said Belling.

“(The Toronto festival) is so highly regarded, so well-organized. It’s a great launching pad for your film.”

The success of Songs She Wrote on the film festival circuit is just one more reason for Belling to be proud of the project.

“At the end of the day, it’s an entertaining film,” she said. And, she’s learning, it has had a definite impact on its audiences.

“People like Carol, who are afraid of self expression are inspired to be more expressive.”

And the character Dave serves as an inspiration for others to follow their dreams and not get stuck behind a desk, she said.

“It’s funny — sarcastic and witty. It’s nice to be part of a film that gets laughs.”

•••

All four showings Songs She Wrote About People She Knows will be at Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St. Each screening will feature a special event.

• Saturday, April 25, 8:15 p.m., followed by a cabaret and open mic

• Monday, April 27 at 8 p.m. with a musical performance,

• Wednesday, April 29 at 1 p.m. with a Women in Film panel

• Thursday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. followed by a Q&A.