From writer and leading lady Emily Bridger, Little Orphans is a passion project that tackles ideas of home and discovery, set in the backdrop of a St. John’s winter
Emily Bridger (Little Dog) has learned a lot in these past few months. About herself as a writer, an actress, and no doubt as an all around person.
Recently wrapping production on her feature film debut Little Orphans, which Bridger wrote and starred in alongside close friends Marthe Bernard (Republic of Doyle) and Rhiannon Morgan (Newfoundland at Armageddon), Bridger reflects on a journey that began nearly a decade ago, when she lived in Toronto, where thoughts and reflections of our island were very much in the forefront.
“It’s the end of shooting and the end of writing too. I’ve been writing it for so long and there’s always little changes and you’re prepared for it,” Bridger says. “But now my job is actually over. It’s wild.”
Shooting in the bitter St. John’s winter did little to dampen spirits on set. With the tight-knit trio at the helm of the film, backed by a team that includes director Ruth Lawrence, producers Jenny Hawley, Sherry White and director of photography Stephanie Weber Biron, Little Orphans has been a passion project from day one.
Nominated by the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival for the Telefilm Canada Talent to Watch Program (the only selection from this province), Little Orphans follow Gwen, who begrudgingly comes home for her sister’s wedding, where she is confronted by unresolved fallout on relationships, family abandonment and secrets of the self.
And while the film is inherently personal and reflective, St. John’s is as much a character as it is a backdrop.
“St. John’s is a really important part of the story. I started coming up with the idea when I was living away. I was in Toronto for awhile, 10 years ago now. It was just my feelings about this place.
“I think everyone has complicated feelings about St. John’s and Newfoundland,” she adds. “It’s wonderful and it’s beautiful. It’s very specific that it’s a small place but it can feel even smaller because it’s an island. How our identities are shaped by that and how we see ourselves and we kind of know how people see us. How does that shape ourselves and how people almost know more about us than we know ourselves. It’s a wild place. St. John’s keys into it.”
Bridger expressed her enthusiasm to work and perform alongside two of her closest friends in Bernard and Morgan.
“It’s been so fun. Obviously it was crazy and long days. I can’t imagine doing it without Marthe and Rhiannon. Ruth is a great friend too. It’s been unbelievable. I don’t expect to have an experience like this again,” she says.
“It’s been a family friendly set. My husband will bring my kids over. Marthe’s little girl and Rhiannon’s little girl are making cameos in the film. It’s been wild. Marthe lives in Los Angeles and Rhiannon lives in Port Rexton, so it’s been nice on the weekends because we can get the kids all together while we’re shooting.”
While inequality of the sexes in the film and television industry has been a hot button topic in Hollywood in recent years, Little Orphans is proud to boast a cast and crew that prominently features women in a variety of roles, from directing to lead. Though admittedly, Bridger would prefer that fact be a non-issue, something the bulk of us surely echo.
“It would be nice to one day to not have to talk about it, but it is definitely a conversation to have about inequality,” Bridger says. “I think Newfoundland is also really special in that regard. Thanks to the Women’s Film Festival there are lots of great and working female filmmakers from here. I wrote this story about a bunch of women, I didn’t ask Ruth because she was a woman, but I asked her because I thought she would be the best storyteller … It is great to have women working, because the stats are garbage.”