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Talent On Tap – Between Waves Reaches the Whistler International Film Festival

The Whistler International Film Fest was happening last month and one of the films to watch was Between Waves. It is writer/director Virginia Abramovich’s first soiree into feature narrative films and she reached for the stars. Virginia co-wrote the script with the very talented writer, Katherine Andrews and it’s produced by Alex Jordan of Jordan Entertainment Inc. (Private Eyes). It’s being distributed by Vortex Media and it stars an incredible cast, with Fiona Graham (Mouthful of Air) and Luke Robinson (The Boys). I’ve watched it and I would describe it as a romantic sci-fi murder mystery… but it’s much more than that. It’s a captivating story with multiple flashbacks, dream sequences and altered realities. The skilled duo takes us on a ride of romance, parallel universes and solitude before it’s all over. 

 

Between Waves centers around a woman’s pursuit to join her missing lover by crossing into a parallel dimension. Jamie (Graham) is visited by her lover Isaac (Robinson), a quantum physicist, who pleads for her to join him in a parallel plane. Jamie embarks on a journey to the island of São Miguel in the Azores. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Jamie begins to untangle the truth of what really happened the night Isaac disappeared. 

 

Beautifully filmed by Jason Webber in Toronto, Canada, and in São Miguel, Azores, Portugal, Between Waves provides a lush cinematic experience including breathtaking underwater scenes. 

 

I had a very unique privilege of speaking to both writers, Virginia Abramovich and Katherine Andrews about the film and all the hard work behind the scenes. 

 

HNM “This is a phenomenal film Virginia, especially for your first feature. I really loved all the images, especially the overhead. How did you and Katherine meet?”

VIRGINIA “It was through a common friend of ours. I had known them for 20 years and I’d mentioned that I was looking for a writer and Katie (Katherine) had done some writing for her. She had told me that she was a really great person, I thought I should meet her. We did and we discussed a different project, that we’ve yet to make (laughing). I had also been working on Between Waves, so I had asked her if she wanted to help me work on it. We started working together and continue too… just remotely now.”

 

HNM “There are a tremendous amount of cliff shots and aerial footage in this film, which is spectacular. Were there any shots or scenes you had to leave out because it was too difficult?”

VIRGINIA “I’d say that some things had changed; we were really dependent on the weather. For the Toronto scene on the bridge, Isaac was supposed to disappear into the rain. We could afford the water towers but we couldn’t afford the sanding trucks because it got unusually cold and the city insisted, we have sanding trucks. We compromised and went with fog from fog machines. In the Azores, there’s a scene where the mom was telling her daughter a story from an earlier time about a volcano with 2 rivers that had formed – one is green and the other is blue. It’s a visual effect that’s caused by the reflection of the sun. The story refers to a blue-eyed princess and a green-eyed peasant boy that fell in love but it was forbidden. They got together one last time and cried, then disappeared. Two rivers were left – one blue and one green. It was all written into the script but when you get to the top of the volcano, it’s all about the cloud coverage and the reflection of the sun to see the blue and the green. It was scheduled for the last couple days of shooting… and it was cloudy, cloudy, cloudy. Luke Robinson (Isaac) had to catch a plane on that day and we had no choice but to drive there to shoot it. It was so foggy and I’m trying to rewrite the story on the way there. It actually worked out in the end and it looks really beautiful… but in both cases, we were at the weathers mercy.”

 

HNM “Was it difficult to shoot on location in Azores?”

VIRGINIA “There were a lot of challenges. The day when we were on the cliffs and she (Jamie) was yelling at the waves, it was actually raining sideways. (Laughing) There were times when I thought… what am I doing to everyone? I had this awesome crew that were going with me to the ends of the world… and I literally took them there (laughing).”        

 

     

 

HNM “I thought this film was so amazing. Where did you find all the cast?”

VIRGINIA “I met Fiona (Graham) at the Houston Film Festival for a previous short film, Little Questions. She happened to win the Best Actress Award for the film she was in, Elsewhere New York and I knew the director, he was from Toronto, so I went to see the film and wound up sitting at the same table (laughing) at the festival. I continued my relationship with Fiona and when Katie and I started writing the script, she was always part of creating the character. We’d go back and forth with her once we finished writing the story and she’d give us comments on the character. I’ve never had that privilege of working with an actor like her before or after, because she was so involved.  Katie and I also met her in New York to try some new scenes/moments, not necessarily in the script. It was very informative because we later rewrote many of the scenes.”

KATHERINE “We also did a table read with friends of Fiona’s, who are also actors – which was great! To hear it out loud like that was tremendously beneficial.”

 

HNM “Does the table read help to reveal all the bugs and flaws in a script?”

KATHERINE “I think it does, but I think it’s interesting how some actors will really connect with a character and embody it and with some actors, it won’t resonate at all. When you’re casting and you see the right one, you just know. The woman that read for the cop was very good but we ended up casting someone that looked very similar to her. She gave us some insightful notes and was really connected to the story and the characters’ journey.”

 

HNM “This film felt like a romantic thriller/murder mystery with an open-ended conclusion. Was that intentional?” 

VIRGINIA “You can watch this film another way and think that she’s crazy. We made sure that we made it a particular way, so you could sense that she was entering into parallel plains and she went into the water and came out at a different plain altogether.  From what I’ve observed from people with mental illness, they don’t know what’s real and what’s not. Sometimes you have to wonder if they see something that you don’t. How do we perceive our reality if it’s purely based on our senses and how we interpret them? Also, who’s to say that our interpretation of this place is real or right. These are questions I’ve had for a long time. I’m a huge science fiction buff, so exploring it through the genre felt really good.”

 

HNM “What about you Katherine… is science fiction in your wheelhouse?”

KATHERINE “We have a funny story about that. When we were initially working on this, Virginia was explaining that it was about a woman that goes to an island to deal with her grief… and then Virginia went to an amazing art gallery in London and came back with the suggestion that it should be science fiction. I’ve never done science fiction – I’ve written children’s animation, comedy and a bit of drama. I got a bit of the ‘cold feet’ and told Virginia that I wasn’t sure if I could do it… or if I was the right person. I felt like I didn’t have enough depth or experience, so I was a little spooked by it. Looking back, it was great – we spent so much time learning about parallel universes and the pseudo-science behind the research that Isaac could be doing as a physicist. With the early drafts of the script, we’d give it to people to read… and they’d be like – ‘what’s he talking about? I don’t really understand this parallel universe thing.’ Eventually we got to a point where we were giving it to people and they’d be commenting… ‘okay, so when he passes through the parallel universe…’ they had totally bought into our fake pseudo-science – it was total validation for me (laughing). It was all due to Virginia reading so much fiction and watching so much film in this realm. I just helped with the structure of the story and the characters. She had a great vision and I was there to support her.”

VIRGINIA “I think Katie is understating her role in this. She taught me about storytelling, characters and she’s a phenomenal writer. I would write stuff, she would put her spin on it and I’d be like, oh my god – now the scene is awesome (laughing).”

 

HNM “I get the impression that there was a huge crew working on this film to make it all happen. How big was it?”

VIRGINIA “Huge isn’t the right word… very talented is more accurate. I’ve been very lucky to have worked in the industry for over 20 years. When we made this film, I had some amazing professionals that came through. When we were at the Azores, we had 13 people – including our cast. When we were in Toronto, I don’t think our crew was bigger than 30 people. Everybody came together and did beyond what I had asked of them.”

 

 

HNM “How did you finance the film?”

VIRGINIA “Some Arts Council funding, Telefilm came in at completion – they told us to go shoot it, cut it and show us what you have. The Canadian Film Centre in collaboration with Netflix will give you 5,000.00 for promoting or completing and they gave us some money for post. There was never enough money, but the CBC Fund had just been announced, so I contacted them to tell them I had the perfect film for them to fund. They said they never even had the applications out yet (laughing).”

KATHERINE “Virginia is very resourceful, she wrote and directed but she also did so much producing and problem solved the entire time. She really knows how to get stuff done, figure out solutions and never gives up, which is fantastic.”

 

HNM “How long did it take to shoot the film?”

VIRGINIA “All in all about 21 shooting days. We started mid-March and were even able to use Katie’s home for a little shooting. It was meant to be a major location but then the move happened and we lost the opportunity, but luckily a cousin volunteered their home up… it was very serendipitous. My husband’s father’s side of the family is from Azores, so we had so much help when we were over there… people were even offering their boat to film on. We had just had our cast and crew screening and then Covid hit. The timing couldn’t have been better because we wouldn’t have been able to make it now.”

 

HNM “Were there any complications in getting permits on the island to film?”

VIRGINIA “I’m not sure how we hooked up with him, but there was a man by the name of Philip Teveres, who is a festival promoter and he also has a small production company. We connected with him and he’s a big advocate for film and knows everyone. When we had to film on the street, he had the cops come out to block the traffic, which in Toronto, it would’ve cost us thousands of dollars; in the Azores, they just came out. He helped to set so much up, including deals, the hotel. Alex Jordan also went out early to be able to receive all the equipment and set it up. They never even had apple boxes. He brought his wife and 2 boys out. He would send us photos of his kids filling up sandbags because there were none to be found on the island.”

 

HNM “You had a lot of flashback scenes and dream sequences in the film. I know that a lot of writers struggle with that; are those scenes difficult to write?”

KATHERINE “The lack of continuity, the different scenes coming in and out and reliving that night over and over – we were always going to see snippets of that. I feel like we did spend a lot of time working on it. When you take someone out of the moment, I think it’s always a dance and it has to be worth something. The non-linear segments were always going to be part of this story, so I think it was easier to use flashbacks. We’re working on a script now, where flashbacks and dreams are a major part of the story. You always have to be thinking about the characters whenever you’re taking the viewer out of the moment.”

VIRGINIA “I remember that we used a lot of cue cards and spread them all over a huge table, another time we put them all over the wall. We had rearranged that story so many times, it had so many other directions it could have went. It would take days and days to fill out the cue cards and figure out the structure… and then we’d break it up (laughter). There were some shots done in Toronto and we’d go back and forth to the Azores. There’s a specific scene that we shot of a fridge door opening in Toronto and then we cut to the refrigerator door in the Azores. We didn’t realize it but the refrigerator in the Azores opened the opposite way, so we flipped it in post… and it worked.”

 

HNM “Can you give us a hint about the next project you’re working on together?”

KATHERINE “We don’t have a logline yet, but it’s another Sci-fi and is about a young female protagonist searching for her family. It talks about technology, where we’re going as a society and where humanity and technology fit together. It also brings up the vessel we’re born into and how it’s becoming less and less important the more virtual we get.”

 

HNM “You had mentioned that you had distribution. Where and when can we expect to see Between Waves?”

VIRGINIA “We have Canadian distribution, but because of Covid, we were thinking about the spring. Vortex Media is our distributor and we’re hoping for the spring.”

 

I do love that we are seeing more and more female filmmakers making the leap into feature films… it brings a new perspective to the screen and can foster new conversations after the credits finish rolling. Way to go Virginia and Katherine, I’m sure we will talk again… 

 

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