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Big Picture: Victoria filmmaker gets taste of the good life in Cannes

Jeremy Lutter has demonstrated a penchant for impeccable dramatic timing since he began making short films a few years ago.
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Victoria filmmaker Jeremy Lutter on the set of Reset with star Emily Tennant. Tennant plays an idealized female android who develops human feelings for her owner. Broken Mirror Films

Jeremy Lutter has demonstrated a penchant for impeccable dramatic timing since he began making short films a few years ago.

The Victoria filmmaker unwittingly proved his ability to do that off-screen as well after arriving on the Croisette this week for the Cannes Film Festival.

Lutter and Jocelyn Russell, who co-produced his new film Reset with Arnold Lim, were there to participate in Not Short on Talent, Telefilm Canada’s fifth annual showcase of Canuck cinema talent.

His sleek, erotic digital short, starring Emily Tennant as an idealized female android who develops human feelings for her owner, will be screened May 16 at the Marche du Film market. It’s one of 39 shorts selected from 350 submissions from across Canada, and it marks the third visit to Cannes by Lutter, who previously showcased his debut film Joanna Makes a Friend and Floodplain there.

“We timed it well,” said Lutter, recalling how just as they were coming out of the Canadian tent on Wednesday, their path was blocked by Woody Allen.

Allen was making his way to the Palais de Festival’s Grand Theatre Lumière for the 7 p.m. screening of Café Society, his new film, which kicked off the 69th annual festival.

Moments later, Allen, making his 12th Cannes appearance, was joined by cast members Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg and Blake Lively on the red carpet.

“Curse Woody Allen and his motorcade!” joked Lutter, who initially wondered what the commotion was about. “He looked old compared to the rest of the people.”

Lutter emerged from the afternoon’s producers workshop activities in time to also see Mads Mikkelsen, Susan Sarandon, festival jury president George Miller and jurors Donald Sutherland and Kirsten Dunst “and Justin Timberlake of all people.” The actor and pop singer was there with Anna Kendrick to promote their new animated film, Trolls.

Lutter wasn’t as fortunate when he took advantage of one of the perks he was offered — the opportunity to request an invitation to Café Society.

“If anything, going to Cannes puts you in your place,” laughed Lutter, who missed out. “They sent me a polite email saying my invitation request had been denied.”

On the plus side, he also managed to avoid a freak snowfall in Paris before landing there to visit friends en route to the Riviera.

While the producers workshop, designed for producers who are emerging internationally, is attended by 150 people from around the world, Lutter was one of only three from Canada sponsored by Telefilm.

In addition to learning about the inner workings of international co-production, producers workshop participants got to participate in networking events, including a “speed-dating” session at the Canadian Pavilion, where they could meet delegates from the Sundance, Berlin and Rotterdam festivals.

Lutter was particularly intrigued by a workshop on branding by Roshanak Behesht Nedjad, founder of Berlin-based In Good Company, which specializes in international co-productions.

“She said: ‘I’m big in Germany, but most people [elsewhere] probably don’t know who I am,’ ” said Lutter, impressed by how she used her story to illustrate the importance of context in pitching projects.

Lutter briefly stepped into the spotlight when she asked if participants knew which country has the most international co-productions. It’s Canada, she said, before asking Canadians in the room to identify themselves.

“On the international stage, Canada is viewed as a very co-operative place, so I felt very proud to be Canadian,” Lutter said.

And the worst country for co-productions? “The U.S. was the answer because they are so isolationist,” he said.

Cannes was the cherry-on-top experience for Reset, which received seven Leo Award nominations in the short-film category, including best performance by a female in a short drama, screenwriting, visual effects, sound, musical score and production design.

Lutter made the 15-minute relationships drama after being pitched by writer Ryan Bright.

Another homegrown project, Connor Gaston’s crisis-of-faith drama The Devout, led the feature-film pack with 14 nominations, including nods for Gaston and stars Olivia Martin, Charlie Carrick and Ali Liebert.

Beautifully shot by cinematographers Graham and Nelson Talbot over three days and enhanced with stunning visual effects by Chris Orchard, special-effects by Ryan Nicholson and Megan Nicholson, Reset has been accumulating accolades and showings at festivals from Sonoma to London. It was named best narrative short at New York’s Long Beach Film Festival.

Lutter is currently completing post-production on The Hollow Ones, a folklore-inspired horror feature about evil fairies in the woods scripted by his Joanna Makes a Friend collaborator Ben Rollo.

While you might think all this attention would go to his head, Lutter said that’s not the case.

“The day Woody Allen invites me to his screening is the day it will all go to my head,” he joked.

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