From undisputed Newfoundland icon Gordon Pinsent comes the story Martin’s Hagge, one which aptly, subtly and with great humour yet great sensitivity, tackles depression and axiety. The short story was based off of Pinsent’s real battle with mental illness and has since been adapted into an acclaimed short film directed by Penny Eizenga and starring Sheila McCarthy, Paul Braunstein and Martha MacIsaac.
Before the film screens at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, Eizenga and McCarthy caught up with The Herald for an in-depth look into Martin’s Hagge.
Q: First of all, how was the experience working so closely alongside Gordon on this project, especially on a story so personally close to him?
Penny: Gordon allowed me to read some of his material and he is quite a prolific writer. Every morning he gets up and writes something, whether it’s poetry or musings or whatever. I read one of these short stories and it had another name but in later years he called it Martin’s Hagge. I was so enamoured with the character. First of all he’s terrific at designing and creating character – I think that’s his specialty. I love the fact that he created this character as a physical presence for anxiety, which I had never seen before. It was so interesting and theatrical. He was kind enough to hand it over to me and let us pursue this as a short.
Sheila: It’s unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. I came from a theatre background, so to be able to create something so theatrical on film is a rare experience for an actor. To also be able to work with Gordon on the film – when you see the last five minutes of the movie he basically walks away with it. It was a short shoot but a labour of love. Speaking his words were a highlight of my career, I’ve got to say.
Q: What’s your thoughts on bringing Martin’s Hagge to the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival? An event that has done amazing work in spotlighting and emphasizing the work of strong women in the world of film. Given the events of recent weeks, I feel organizations like SJIWFF are needed now more than ever.
Sheila: I hope at some point down the road for my daughters generation and my granddaughters generation that we just have film festivals, but we’re not there yet. Absolutely, these festivals are crucial. I’m just so proud to go to Gordon Pinsent’s home.
Penny: I do think it is important to address the whole issue of women in film in general. I think it’s no secret that as women age that we continue to have interesting roles that we can sink their teeth into and enjoy and be present and women see themselves in films as they get older. It’s important – we don’t just disappear.
Sheila: With everything going on with Trump and Harvey Weinstein, and not to give them too much airtime, but in a way with what is happening now it is opening that Pandora’s box that will not be shut now. If any good is coming out of these negative times it’s that. We’re not going back. Its a polarizing time but its an exciting time for women, because it’s a united front that perhaps wouldn’t have been five or ten or 20 years ago.
Martin’s Hagge airs at the SJIWFF on Saturday October 21st. For tickets and more on the festival visit womensfilmfestival.com. Stay tuned to The Newfoundland Herald magazine for the complete interview with Eizenga and McCarthy on Martin’s Hagge.