Actor Charlie David, (Charles Lubiniecki), who grew up in Yorkton has a film in this year’s Yorkton Film Festival.
The entry is an episode of David’s short series Shadowlands.
Shadowlands is an exploration of love by way of three different eras - a surgeon in the 1920s hell-bent on perfection, a couple in the 1950s navigating the opening of their relationship and a modern retelling of Pygmalion and Galatea which is the episode that’s been selected by the Yorkton Film Festival as a nominee for a Golden Sheaf award in the drama category.
David said in some way the three-story arc has its roots in Yorkton.
“Shadowlands is a miniseries or three episodes all exploring love,” he explained. “It started as a book of short stories I wrote under the same title. Even when I was writing the book I imagined some of the stories on screen.
“The decision to make it as a trilogy can be drawn back to studying Ancient Greek theatre in drama class with Mr. Digout at Sacred Heart and then competing provincially in our one act plays. One year we even tackled the classical text The Trojan Women and won.
“The style of a writer presenting three works goes back to that time and I think there’s also a rhythm to a triptych style of storytelling that resonates with us.”
In terms of the particular nominated episode David had several ‘roles’ to play.
“In the Pygmalion Revisited episode of Shadowlands, which will play at the Yorkton Film Festival, I wore several hats including writer, director, producer and actor,” he said. “It would have been overwhelming if not for having such a supportive and talented cast and crew to work with.
“The piece is quite a rollercoaster emotionally and so the biggest challenge was stepping in and out of the scenes as an actor and then to view takes and make corrections as the director.
“We found our rhythm fairly quickly but I couldn’t have attempted it without a strong team I had complete faith in.”
So what was the most challenging aspect of the project?
“The story is about a painter who has lost the love of his life,” said David. “He works as a painter for churches and while doing his latest commission he can’t get out of the whirlpool of his grief and ends up fashioning his dead lover as the Saint in his painting which only compounds his mourning.
“There were a few technical challenges such as making life size paintings at various stages that looked like the actor playing opposite me, Marc Devigne. Thankfully we had artist Andrew Moncrief create the seven-foot tall canvases and he did a remarkable job. There was also the FX challenge of bringing that painting to life.
“But aside from the technical this story really is a classic drama so the biggest challenge is bringing an authentic relatable performance for each of us actors.
“If we were to fail in that, no matter how pretty the rest of it looked - the story would fall flat.”
Looking at the film David said casting might ultimately be its greatest strength.
“I cast Marc Devigne who is originally from Winnipeg because he’s an incredible singer,” he explained. “We really co-created the idea of this Bohemian couple - one who sings and plays classical music and the other in the extremely niche job as a painter of Saints and Madonnas in churches. As artists they inspire each other and the loss of one brings about the tragedy of both.
“Marc sings in Pygmalion Revisited and it’s a French song written by another friend in Montreal, Michael Daniel Murphy. To me when Marc sings in the show it is a moment of magic because it happens naturally, it’s not a performance. He’s just writing and working on music at home. It’s simple but simply beautiful.
“Approaching this miniseries as a collaboration of artists - musicians, painters, and doing many things the old fashioned way really was magic to me. We took our time and told the stories we wanted to tell.
“It won’t be to everyone’s taste but it follows through on the idea of a trilogy of stories sharing a theme and with the purpose of driving the audience to catharsis. To feel moved and then make moves in their own lives.”
As for audience David said it does have adult themes.
“I think the Shadowlands miniseries and the Pygmalion Revisited episode in particular at the Yorkton Film Festival can be viewed by a mature teenager and up audience,” he said. “There is one scene with violence in Pygmalion Revisited that involves self-harm so that’s why I would invite a high school and up audience but also invite parents/guardians to accompany younger people so a conversation can happen afterward.
“Ideally I always hope to incite a conversation with my films and TV shows. I build stories outside the mainstream box and I hope that inspires people to reflect on their lives and open their minds and hearts a little wider.”
So far the reaction depends on the episode of the trilogy.
“The three stories in the Shadowlands miniseries are very different in tone and style,” said David. “The reactions I’ve gotten so far is generally people have a favorite (most often The Pygmalion Revisited episode) a close second favorite and then there’s often a guttural reaction to the first in the series Narcissus. Most people are repelled by it or outright hate it.
“I love that reaction.
“The story is about a man who is completely self-involved as an early plastic surgeon in the 1920s. I created it as a metaphor for our Instagram, selfie obsessed, egomaniac place in history that I also find wrench worthy and in need of serious realignment. The Narcissus episode is violent in word and deed. I think perhaps audiences are repulsed because looking into a mirror like that is disturbing.
“I am most touched by people who have watched the Pygmalion Revisited episode and confess to being emotional wrecks during the credits. If I can squeeze your heart and make you want to love harder in your life, I’m doing the job I set out to do.”
David has been a man on the move since leaving Yorkton.
“I lived in Yorkton until graduating high school at Sacred Heart and then did a winter tour with Saskatchewan Express before moving to Victoria to attend the Canadian College of Performing Arts,” he said. “I quickly learned my interests were in film and television opposed to the stage and so moved to LA shortly after.
“In my late teens and twenties I tried on several cities to see what fit best including Vancouver, Victoria, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Capetown,” he said. “Part of that was simply following work opportunities and part of it was a genuine searching for where I felt like I belonged. I currently live in Toronto and Montreal but home for me is wherever I’m at.”
In terms of film David noted, “I didn’t go to a film school or university but started getting involved in production in addition to work in front of the camera as soon as I could. I made short films with friends, worked on other people’s projects in a bunch of capacities - from photo doubling and stand-in to locations to set dec and then eventually felt confident I was ready to make my first movie which was Mulligans. It was a small indie film which we shot in Victoria but we ended up licensing it all over the world and to many broadcasters here in Canada as well including HBO, Movie Channel, Sundance, Hollywood Suite and more.
“At that point I started my company Border2Border Entertainment and have since grown into producing film, documentaries, TV, audiobooks, and branded media for clients ranging from banks to provincial health organizations to dating apps.”