2 min

A Canadian love story

Daniel MacIvor makes his directorial debut

LOOK OFF-CAMERA. Daniel MacIvor and Rebecca Jenkins star in MacIvor's Past Perfect. Credit: Xtra files

“I think Hollywood has an awful lot to answer for in terms of unhappiness in the world,” says Daniel MacIvor on the phone, “because there are lots of people out there with unreal expectations, looking for the kind of relationships that exist only in movies.”

So MacIvor, best known for his work in theatre and as a movie actor, decided to use his feature film directing debut to take a look at a more realistic relationship. The film, Past Perfect, which he also wrote and stars in, premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sat, Sep 7.

Past Perfect tells the story of a man, MacIvor, and a woman, played by Rebecca Jenkins, who fall in love on an overnight flight from Halifax to Vancouver. Intercut with their romantic journey is a Saturday two years later, when the now-married partners face a crisis in their relationship.

“Rebecca Jenkins is beautiful, and a wonderful actress. I am a relatively out gay guy playing a straight guy, which doesn’t really happen much,” explains MacIvor, laughing. “I wasn’t really my first choice for the role, but I was very cheap and I took direction well.”

At one point during the development of the project, producer Camelia Frieberg suggested that, from a marketing perspective, the film might be able to find a guaranteed built-in audience if it were about a gay couple.

“But I was really interested in writing about people and relationships, how we stop communicating and find blame, and then have to forgive one another,” he explains. “If I had made it about a gay couple, the story would have been seen as specifically gay. Unfortunately, that’s just the way the world is.”

MacIvor was more interested in looking at a traditional perfect love story that Hollywood would tell, and juxtaposing it with a sensibility that was a little more “Canadian.”

“A sort of cold kind of thing, where ‘something’s wrong,'” he explains. “It goes beyond the surface, and I’m really proud of it.”

MacIvor says the transition from theatre to film has been natural. He remembers making horror movies with his grade six buddies using a Super-8 camera.

“Actually, I think theatre is something I fell into,” he explains. “The film thing was in place with me more as a kid, because I didn’t see theatre. I saw movies.”

Although there are some elements of the pre- and post-production stages that he would rather not have to deal with, MacIvor enjoys directing movies.

“Alfred Hitchcock said directing a movie is like being pecked at by thousands of pigeons,” he says. “But I love the family that is created over the course of the five-week period. It’s really intense and bonds are formed, and I love being the dad in that situation.”

MacIvor has another film at this year’s festival, a feature he wrote called Marion Bridge, based on his play which was produced by a theatre in Nova Scotia several years ago.

“I was originally planning on directing it myself,” says MacIvor, “but ultimately felt that it was something that needed to be directed by a woman. My friend Wiebke von Carolsfeld, who edited my short films, read the script and loved it.”

Von Carolsfeld was looking for a first feature at the time, and the project was given to her. She saw Rebecca Jenkins’ performance in Past Perfect and loved her, and as a result Rebecca was cast in Marion Bridge.

“And I love the continuity of that,” says MacIvor. “I would love to create a company of people who work together – the way I work in the theatre.”

Past Perfect screens Sat, Sep 7 at 3:30pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles St W) and on Mon, Sep 9 at the Uptown Theatre (764 Yonge St). Marion Bridge screens Sat, Sept 7 at 6:30pm at the Cumberland (159 Cumberland Ave) and Sun, Sep 8 at 10am at the Uptown.