With Love and a Major Organ is a dark comedy with a heart, Shot in Vancouver Canada.
We subsequently had a chance to sit down with Director Kim Albright at the Whistler Film Festival (WFF).
HNMAG: Are you originally from Vancouver?
Kim Albright: I’m originally from Montreal. I grew up in Westmount. I studied in Edinburgh and then I came back to McGill. I moved to the UK in 2002 and stayed for around fifteen years. It’s where I got my start in film through commercials and music videos. I moved to Vancouver in 2017.
HNMAG: Where did With Love and a Major Organ first screen?
Kim Albright: It premiered at South By SouthWest (SXSW) in March which was a lot of fun and so thrilling to finally have the film out there in the world.
HNMAG: When you first moved to Vancouver, was the transition to work in Film Canada pretty smooth?
Kim Albright: I was living and working in London while making my own shorts on the side. I was nervous coming back to Canada because all my work in Film was in the UK. I discovered that the film scene in Vancouver was closely knit. Everyone was helpful, supportive, and knows each other.
HNMAG: When you moved to London after McGill, did you know you would work in film?
Kim Albright: No, I didn’t know I was going to work in film. I was doing something completely different. I studied architecture at McGill. I didn’t know what I would do in London but I had this secret desire that I would be swept off my feet with this really cool, creative, job. At the start, I was doing dead-end jobs. A friend suggested I come on set for a noodle commercial to be an art department runner. I didn’t know what that was, but I was open to it. I was super fascinated and then I figured out that was the industry I wanted to work in. Then I observed the director and decided that I wanted to pursue that. I shadowed directors and helped with their pitches, learned from the ground up.
HNMAG: With that experience in Vancouver, you could parlay that into work there.
Kim Albright: At that point, coming back to Canada, I wanted to get my first feature off the ground. Anna Maguire, who played Anabel in With Love and a Major Organ, is a dear friend and splits her time between the UK and Canada, so I asked her for her advice and any suggestions of writers she thought I should meet. She put me in touch with Julia Lederer who had written the theatre play, With Love and a Major Organ. I read the play and could envision a film and then we worked with our producer Madeleine Davis with Anna involved as well. We collectively worked on the adaptation.
HNMAG: You met Anna when you were living in London?
Kim Albright: Yeah. Her mom co-produced my fourth short film The Purple Plain. Through her mom, I met Anna. Anna is a writer, director and actor. We got to know each other through our films playing at festivals and we made a short together after that.
HNMAG: This is your first feature. It’s very impressive because it doesn’t seem to be based on a play. It’s very cinematic.
Kim Albright: The scope had to grow massively because there are only three characters in the play. Anabel, George and Mona (George’s Mom), with very few locations. It was really cool to flesh out the world. How the characters interact and how the visual will come across.
HNMAG: The visuals are in Vancouver. That’s where it’s shot. Is it set in Vancouver?
Kim Albright: I didn’t want it to feel as if it had a city or a label to it. I wanted it to feel universal. The story could happen anywhere.
HNMAG: Does the internet dull our emotions? Apps and being online all the time?
Kim Albright: As great as technology is in allowing communication to happen quickly and easily, having face-to-face interaction is a different experience that can’t be replaced.
HNMAG: Do people avoid taking romantic chances because they don’t want their hearts to be broken?
Kim Albright: Yeah. Absolutely, it’s such a risk. You’re putting yourself out there and you don’t know what will happen. It’s scary and you are super vulnerable. I know a lot of people who are reluctant to take the leap into dating or even going out. The pain of rejection is a large barrier.
HNMAG: It would be so much easier to let an app do that for you and just tell you who you should be with and take all that anxiety out of the equation.
Kim Albright: It sounds quite appealing, actually.
HNMAG: In some ways. You can see how Casey would put so much faith in that.
Kim Albright: Your partner has been vetted for you.
HNMAG: Anabel’s relationship with her mother is very difficult. What is your relationship like with your parents? Are they in Montreal?
Kim Albright: They’re in Vancouver. They moved around the time I moved to London and have been there since. I have a really good relationship with them. It’s nothing like Anabel’s. That relationship wasn’t in the play but we had to weave it into the film to understand who she is, her behavior, and her motivations. Everything in her mom’s heart was being pulled out so there was nothing left for Anabel. That explains their phone calls but it’s something that happened over time.
HNMAG: There are great improvisers in the film like Veena Sood and Ryan Beil. Was any of the script improvised?
Kim Albright: Some bits were. Every actor had at least one bit that was improvised. Ryan is so funny. He had the lollipop and asked, “Is this keto”? I wanted to cast comedic actors. It really paid off because you get little random and unexpected lines that they just came up with. Arghavan Jenati who played Sandra did a ton of those as well. Every take was different and we all were in stitches on set.
HNMAG: Why did Anabel open up to Sandra? She knows that she doesn’t like her.
Kim Albright: It’s one of my favourite moments. Some of the rooms in The Small House of Big Feels allowed her to relax. She was just at a point where she could open up and Sandra just happened to be there.
HNMAG: How did you get this film financed and made?
Kim Albright: We got Telefilm funding. They were very supportive. I got the Women in the Director’s Chair Feature Film award in 2020 that gets announced here at Whistler. We were delayed due to COVID-19 as we could not get insurance. We also got a script development grant. We shot for seventeen days in 2022, four months of editing, and another six months of additional post. It premiered in March at SXSW.
HNMAG: What is the release plan?
Kim Albright: We are distributing the movie in Canada with Film Option. Our release will be sometime in the Spring, dates TBD. We’ll also be announcing our plans for our US theatrical soon!
HNMAG: Are you working on any other projects?
Kim Albright: There are a couple in development. It’s early days. With one of them, I made a short called The Director and now we are fleshing out a feature. It’s about a woman who hires a director to direct her life. It gets dark, twisted, and quite surreal. There are two other feature films that I am working on with other writers.
With Love and a Major Organ is a dark comedy filmed in Vancouver but set in a nonspecific location that can seem like any place the viewer is familiar with. It’s very entertaining but also makes you think. The comedy is poignant but unexpected. It was very surprising to learn that it was based on a play. Adaptations are not easy. Movies and theatre have different experiences and languages. When you see a play that has been filmed, the viewer does not get immersed in the experience as they would for a well-made film. A perfect example would be David Ives’ play Venus In Fur. The play has compelling dialogue, a unique story, and good pacing. In 2013, Roman Polanski, who has made great movies in the past, made a movie version of this two-character play. The acting was good and so was the story and dialogue. It still seemed like a play though because the script wasn’t adapted enough for the cinema. It felt claustrophobic and unreal. It’s amazing when writers take the time to consider film language and the viewer’s experience.