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Dear Manners,

March 29 2024

Manners Vermette
Box ** [redacted]
Notre Dame de Lourdes, MB
R0G 1M0

Dear Manners,

I am writing you today, live from Montréal, on a break from “school” (a film producer incubator). And by “break” I mean, skipping school to watch a movie this afternoon. I have been skipping school a lot more than I would like to admit this week (more on that later… ) Anyways, last night, on my walk down Parc, an orange cat crossed my path and inspired me to send you this letter. I miss you so much, Manners! I hope you are doing well, feeling loved, full of treats and enjoying your time in Notre Dame de Lourdes with my mom and dad.

My time here has been agonizing. I felt it immediately upon my arrival (“it” being a bad vibe). The sun has been shining here, but I can never see it. Sitting in this high-rise hotel, I am questioning myself, “have I even heard any birds in the last few days?” I know I haven’t seen any rabbits, but I did see a rat. I despise this city more and more with each passing day, but have found humour in my loathing. It comforts me and reminds of my maternal grandfather’s general bias towards la francophonie. “Le Québec c’est le trou de cul du Canada!” he would say.

My days at school have been awful. We’ve been watching powerpoint presentations in windowless classrooms under the worst washed-out light. I am thinking of that gift of late morning light which seeps into our studio room. I am just wishing I could be there, cutting tiny rectangles of 16mm film. You would be stretched out in a luminescent window on the floor, grooming yourself, happily.

I am trying not to be grumpy but quite unsurprisingly, the industrial assimilation which has been presented to me this past week paints a tragic portrait of “this is just how things work”. Telefilm supports co-production treaties with other countries which outline an intensity of rules, thus legitimizing their own labour while simultaneously increasing the administrative toll on a project. Radio-Canada has its own conventional cash flow schedule, so you need the genocidal bank to finance your project. Etc.

I am impulsed to set it on fire (like the time I participated in an incubator at the NFB) but instead bite my tongue. I pretend that I am in a TV show. I remind myself: its ok to be shy, just be kind and genuine with each participant, learn the system, observe and critique, forge your own path, and trust in the invisible hand which has guided your way.

Anyways, looking at the positives, mon français s’est fortement amélioré!! I learned what a sales agent does. And, I am also grateful for my time spent with my chosen brothers, Jack and Damien (∞) who have embodied a piece of home and thus pockets of joy in my time here.

And well Manners, I guess all this time away has indeed softened my growing hater vibe in position to Winnipeg.

Clearly I have been thinking about next year and my complicated feelings about leaving the city indeterminately. I have been trying to downplay my decision. We’re both such creatures of habit, for better or for worse. And, this seems like just another thing to work through, a growing moment. When people ask why, I tell a joke about last summer in Minneapolis, when I was sold on the American Dream. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, since our province chases it too (Hallmark Movies), and maybe that’s a part of the leaving as well…

Ed said, “If you leave, Rhayne - you’re never coming back.” I hope he’s wrong and I am in the process of managing my grief of it all. But, it’s been so easy to blame the city, to be so angry with it because I frankly don’t care to leave, especially with the world ending and all … 

School has encouraged me to be further inspired by the burning contradictions spurring from this end of days. Just lean into my impulse to disconnect. Just make movies because humanity is in the process of ascending to the stars. Just make movies because, “why the hell not”.

I am feeling extra motivated to wrap things up when I get back into Winnipeg. In regards to my reference of cutting tiny rectangles of 16mm film above: I have challenged myself to finish A Black Screen, Too (the sequel to Black Rectangle), my first handcrafted, animated film in many, many years. I hope to finish the film by May 9th (potentially impossible) or at least get the whole film transferred. And may Creator help me, as I run the intricately constructed film through the Winnipeg Film Group’s optical printer (and may God help the optical printer).

And it is also time to wrap production on Levers.

There has already been an immense shift in energy from my “producer’s rock bottom” this January - and in fact, Bad School has propelled my motivations with the film further. I can now clearly embrace its bewildering process (delineating a fine line between care and ride or die). I can appreciate its source of mind-bending exploration and lessons in blind faith. I see now that it’s not something that can be taught in school, but also may be just another one of those things to work through… 

The film has challenged any practical belief systems which were placed on it. I know fully that it survives today only because of the crew & actors’ amazing “FAFO” vibe (fuck around and find out). And, it’s the FAFO which pulled me out of my lull this winter.

There have been some minor shifts and tweaks in the process and in the group. Sadly, an American production is coming into town (to capitalize on cheap Manitoban labour) and have “stolen” some of the crew. Heidi, Ed, and I got to tour the studios earlier this month and it felt very Toronto. It’s big and exciting and luxurious in scope. I know why people would want to work on it, but I also hold space for my resentments. I direct them to the way of “this is just how things work”…

I am resolute to just trust in our process. Each leg of the production has created individual worlds of their own making. These final few scenes are big and small, all at once. As per usual, we are pulling all the bells and whistles out: large groups of extras, picture vehicles, set dressing a full house, in-camera fx, and we’re bringing out the snow machine, again. It’s like it’s my own hallmark movie after all.

Speaking of movies, Manners, I must now go to make my way to the cinema for the matinee. I miss you so much! I miss your soft fur, and the way you purr. I am sending you all my love and kisses. I will see you next week.

Love,
Rhayne

Rhayne Vermette is an artist and filmmaker born in Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Manitoba. Her filmmaking practice has been described as opulent collages of fiction, animation, documentary, re-enactments, and divine interruption. She lives in Winnipeg.