The expressive story of a man’s emotional departure from the love of his life, the spirit of a mountain, Vincent René-Lortie’s Lady Winter for Toronto-based folk trio The O’Pears is a haunting exploration of reluctantly moving on from where you feel most at peace. Watch it below, after which Vincent tells DN about the nail-biting uncertainty of November snow in Canada, drawing inspiration from David Lowery’s A Ghost Story and why music videos are a much needed playground for filmmakers to flex their creative muscles on.

Brittney Canda (choreographer and dancer) and I have been frequently collaborating for the past 2 years. We’ve done several projects together, and this one came from her! The O’Pears are old friends of Brittney. They contacted us with the intention of doing a dance music video on this haunting and beautiful song. We were so excited about it! The band also gave us a lot of freedom in the creation process of this piece, which is amazing!

When we first spoke with the band, they told us that the dark song was inspired by one of their friends who was a professional skier who’s only love was the mountain. It really struck us. We wanted to do a piece about a different kind of love story. From there, we created an intimate relationship between a man and the spirit of the mountain where he lives. We used choreography to connect Brittney’s character to the mountain. Her performance mimics the cracking ice and swirling wind of a winter storm.

Our primary source of inspiration for this piece was the feature A Ghost Story directed by David Lowery (2017). We wanted to shoot in a 4:3 aspect ratio with slow but continuous camera movements. Between each scene that took place in the house, we used images of cracking snow. For us, the fractures in the ice represented the fracturing relationship between our main character and the spirit of the mountain.

Many of the people on the team were long-term collaborators. We all know each other very well, which makes communicating and accomplishing tasks fun and easy. From Cinematographer Alexandre Nour to Artistic Director Geneviève Boiteau and Producer Samuel Caron, each of us challenged ourselves to push this project to its maximum.

The band needed their wintry music video in December, so we had to shoot in November. It was a chance we took because there is often little or no snow during this month in Quebec. There was no trace of snow until the night before the shoot. We were so stressed and disappointed about the weather but luck was on our side! We got the first big snowstorm of the season on our first day of filming! It was honestly hell to get to the location because it was a 2 hour outside of the city drive with summer tires. But, it was perfect outside for shooting!

We got the first big snowstorm of the season on our first day of filming!

The shoot lasted 2 full days with a full team, and 1 extra day to film the visual effects. I had the chance to work with Philippe Toupin for the creation of the visual effects of this project. Philippe built the mountain in miniature, a painstaking task. Here are a few notes from Cinematographer Alexandre Nour:

“When preparing for Lady Winter we were certain of two things, the 4:3 aspect ratio and the continuous movement of the camera. In order to achieve both of these ideas, we decided on using an Alexa Mini in 4:3 open gate and a Dana Dolly for the majority of the shots. Our reasoning behind the ever-moving camera was that we wanted the image to feel ghostly in the same way that the character of the woman symbolizing the mountain does as she creeps up on the man as he packs to move away from his home. The Dana Dolly worked surprisingly well especially with the small team we had. It enabled us to keep the camera movement subtle and always motivated by the character of the woman. In terms of lenses, we used a kit of Zeiss Standard Speeds for their softness and their interesting bokeh. We also diffused the lens with a ⅛ Hollywood Black Magic Filter to add a little bit of blooming to the highlights.”

We wanted to do a piece about a different kind of love story.

All members of the team on this project have outdone themselves. It was amazing to see the work everyone did. In Quebec and Canada, we are going through a difficult period when there is not much money for music videos. This is a shame because it is often a medium that allows filmmakers to express themselves quickly and try new techniques, new things. So you have to be imaginative and work with colleagues who believe in the project as much as you! It was the case for this one, and I feel very pampered by that.

Lady Winter is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.

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