Photographs courtesy Janice Zolf | Marie Saint Pierre

Marie saint PIerre
2311 NW, 2nd Avenue | 

Canadian Janice Zolf is a former journalist turned filmmaker whose film Revealing Marie Saint Pierre provides a closer look at the Canadian designer who has recently made Wynwood part of her empire. The filmmaker talks to us about her background, inspirations and what's next.  

Your career has been primarily in the field of journalism, what pushed you to move to filmmaking?
I had always dreamed of becoming a documentary film maker, a natural progression from my story telling background in television news as a reporter/ producer.

You’ve said you are particularly inspired with the arts, why?
I covered the arts for a television station in Canada for over 20 years. I profiled many actors, directors, musicians, chefs, fashion designers and artists. My motivation was to always touch audiences with the behind-the- scenes stories that they might not get anywhere else. I was always passionate about the arts, because artists give us powerful insights into who we are, often leading us in new directions.

What moved you to make this film?
Over 25 years ago when I was a newbie reporter I covered Marie Saint Pierre’s runway show when she won the Woolmark award for Canada’s most promising designer. I connected with her designs on a deep level and often wore her clothes on TV. When I travelled to Los Angeles on the movie junkets, I made a point of wearing Marie Saint Pierre and proudly told the Hollywood actors I was interviewing, that the designer was “Canadian”. For many years I wanted to tell her story, she has the Order of Canada and many followers but still had a low profile outside of her home province of Quebec. When I heard she grew up with the international painter and sculptor Jean-Paul Riopelle who became a great influence I knew I her story had to be told in a documentary.

How did you and Marie originally meet?
We met when I first interviewed her at the Festival of Canadian Fashion. I was a young reporter and Marie had just launched her first runway collection. I knew one day she would be revered for her great designs. That initial meeting was in my head when I shot the film.

Can you describe what the process of filming was like?
Miraculously we shot the entire documentary in only 7 days, which was all the budget would allow. Careful planning and my many years of journalism, taught me to be fast on my feet and react immediately to the moment. We wasted no time in order to cover different aspects of MSP’s design process. I learned as a TV reporter to be a problem solver which is code for “never say no”. If you can’t find one way to tell a story, head left instead of right and the problem is solved.

Was there things that you filmed that we, the audience, don’t get to see? Or that you wish you could have included more of?
We used to say in “news”, that no one knew what was on the cutting room floor. We had over 30 hours of material and my editor Annie Leclair had to cut it down to 40 minutes. We poured it through a big funnel and out came a more distilled story on art and fashion. It would have been nice to include more of the interview with Marie in her home and the interview with her and her dad at the family country house. In that interview Marie said she could “live with a bathtub she could roll in and a kitchen she could roll out, as long as she had white walls for art”. I communicated this love of art in other ways in the film to engage the audience. At the end of the day you have to choose and hope the audience still feels the same emotions.

You wrote, produced and directed the film – which part did you find the easiest? The hardest?
The hardest part was producing the film; figuring out the budgets, schedules, crew, editing and what to leave out of the film. The most difficult part, was securing releases for the reproductive rights for the many great pieces of art in the film.

What do you hope that audiences take away from the film?
As a filmmaker you are always happy when audiences are touched in some way by your film. If they leave saying, “I didn’t know that” or “now I understand what goes into the designs” you are rewarded. I hope they leave the theatre realizing that beneath the glamour of fashion, is great art and timeless beauty.

Do you have any upcoming projects or films?
The night Revealing Marie Saint Pierre premiered at the Festival of International Films on Art in Montreal, I was offered a job directing a film on Michael Buble for the Governor General’s awards. That film is completed and will be launched June 2017. I am wrapping up shooting a short film on the giant MU art murals of Montreal which will premiere in March 2017. After that I am open to suggestions – art feeds my soul.

Revealing Marie Saint Pierre
Directed by Janice Zolf