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She’s already been named Canada’s "best new director" and has won awards for cinematography, best documentary and editing.
So it should come as no surprise that Jacquelyn Mills’s latest project has been selected as part of the Sundance Documentary Fund Program.
Her film, “Geographies of Solitude” was the only fully Canadian production selected for a production grant during the November 2019 round of grants announced recently.
Now based in Montreal, the Sydney native is currently home working on another project. While she can’t say anything about that one, she doesn’t mind describing her work on “Geographies of Solitude,” a film that she has been working on since 2017. Although the film looks at the life of Zoe Lucas, a naturalist and environmentalist who has lived on Sable Island for more than 40 years, it’s also an exercise in capturing the essence of the island — literally.
“Geographies of Solitude” was shot on 16 mm film, a demanding process in itself.
“Shooting on film is a more demanding process, but the choice was based on the notion of “how an island can create a film,” said Mills in an email interview. “The medium of film has allowed me to explore eco-friendly filmmaking techniques such as hand-processing film in native Sable Island plants, exposing film with moonlight and starlight, painting film with non-toxic emulsion, burying and immersing film as well as splicing marine litter and plant matter to film.
“It is my hope these techniques will underline a new way of seeing wonder toward our environment and will connect audience members to our ecosystem with a kind of cinema that is immersive and experiential.”
Several of the black-and-white stills from the film that were hand processed in seaweed are grainy, evocative and surprisingly mystical works of art.
Mills is the director, producer, cinematographer, co-editor and sound recordist on the film which was shot entirely in Nova Scotia.
Mills says she was initially drawn to film because it combines several art forms.
“I had always been drawn to the arts in general, mostly theatre, painting and writing. I realized after beginning to work in film that it combines many art forms. Writing, storytelling, poetry, working with light, shadow and movement, sculpting through editing, creating sensorial soundscapes. For me these elements coming together creates a kind of unique alchemy where we can be transported into an alternate emotional experiences.”
She has begun post-production and editing and aims to complete the film by November 2020.
It’s not her first Nova Scotia-based film. Her first feature-length film, “In the Waves,” was shot in Gabarus. It had its world premiere at Visions du Réel 2017, was awarded best documentary and best edit at the Atlantic International Film Festival, grand jury prize at the New Hampshire International Festival, best medium-length documentary from the Montreal International Documentary Festival and had a release at Toronto International Film Festival’s Lightbox Series.
Mills has worked as an editor, director, director of photography and sound designer on award-winning films for the National Film Board of Canada, Grassfire Films, Lisa Pictures, Thievish Films, Wapikoni Mobile and GreenGround Productions.
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The institute's labs, granting, and mentorship programs are dedicated to developing new work and take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally.