Santa Claus has nothing on Zoe, the 20-something protagonist in Ron Foley Macdonald’s sophomore film Sleepwatching.
This is about the next generation of filmmakers in this region and is an attempt to build up Canadian cinema at a time when American media so dominates us. – Ron Foley Macdonald.
“Sleepwatching is about an ambitious female barista who creeps out at night and draws people while they are sleeping,” explains Macdonald. “Her former boyfriend, who she still lives with, thinks this is a bad idea and decides to follow her. He ends up getting kidnapped by a same-sex couple who are life coaches and she has to extricate him from that.”
Describing the central story as somewhere between a satire and a farce, Macdonald also focuses on today’s coffee culture, with the kidnapping beginning in a coffee shop.
“So much revolves around people’s coffee and how some can’t start their day without it,” says Macdonald. “Coffee has gone from the crappy coffee from a giant dispenser in a styrofoam cup to some elaborate drinks. So it was a good starting point.”
Macdonald also took inspiration from stories told by his late sister, a Crown prosecutor, about cases where men were sneaking into women’s rooms.
“That was unacceptably creepy, so I thought the reversal was interesting where a woman sneaks in and draws people,” he says. “In the film, Zoe is an artist, and this is her art. But her art is essentially transgressive because it’s a violation of personal space, and it becomes a question of the relationship between art and crime.”
In Sleepwatching, Zoe (Amelia Cornick), an imaginative college grad stuck in a dead-end barista job, sneaks into strangers’ rooms while they sleep and draws their portraits leading to her ex-boyfriend, but current roommate, Ash (Adam Ross) being kidnapped by a couple of ultra-hip online lifestyle coaches, Iris (Stevie Cooper) and Jannice (Tal Jewell).
Sleepwatching is one of four films in the second iteration of Eastlink’s Cinema 902 series, produced by Macdonald’s Winter Light Productions for the cable television and telecommunications company’s community television offerings.
“The idea is for young and emerging filmmakers to do their first or second films,” he says. “We started the series about four years ago and presented the first films before COVID-19 intervened.”
With relaxed pandemic restrictions, Macdonald worked as the producer for three other local filmmakers to complete their films this past fall in addition to writing, directing and producing his own.
All about “modern-day living,” in addition to Macdonald’s Sleepwatching, the films include Henry Collins’s award-winning I Am Not a Hero, about a grocery worker during COVID and Chelsea Comeau’s The Human Limit, about a young woman connecting with the afterlife following the death of a friend.
“And then there is Sifting from our youngest filmmaker Noah Brown about a middle-aged woman obsessed with her father’s conspiracy theories,” says Macdonald.
Acknowledging that producing films for a television series may be a bit unorthodox, Macdonald is also grateful for the outlet. “But if we can get any films made anyway, it’s a boom because it’s pretty tough to make feature films,” he says. “I’ve worked in the industry for a long time, and trying to get Canadian cinema seen is always this big challenge.”
Wrapping up principal photography on his third film, Love and Doom, a story of “two goth University students whose fondest wish is to be buried alive together,” Macdonald remains excited about projects like Cinema 902.
“This is about the next generation of filmmakers in this region and is an attempt to build up Canadian cinema at a time when American media so dominates us,” he says.
The four new films for Cinema 902 are available on Eastlink Community TV and on-demand for Eastlink subscribers. Check your local listings for dates and times.