Based on the short story "The Weather" from Deborah Willis' book Vanishing and Other Stories (finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award), this short film follows the influence that a city girl has on the lives of an aging cowboy, Braden, and his daughter, Edith. Braden's wife Nina left him and their rural Albertan home after a tornado wreaked havoc on their farm. Heartbroken, Edith and Braden attempt to continue their lives as usual until Edith befriends a new student: Rae. Rae's parents moved her out to the country to get her away from some bad habits she picked up in the city. Braden and Edith welcome Rae into their home despite Braden's concerns about the influence Rae will have on his daughter. He neglects, however, to recognize the influence Rae has on him.
"Deborah Willis was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. Her first book, Vanishing and Other Stories, was named one of the the Globe and Mail's Best Books of 2009, and was nominated for the Governor General's Award. She was a bookseller at Munro's Books in Victoria, BC, a writer-in-residence at Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, BC, and the 2012-2013 Calgary Distinguished Writers Program writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary.
Her fiction has appeared in The Walrus, The Virginia Quarterly, The Iowa Review, Lucky Peach, and Zoetrope. Her second collection of short stories was published with Hamish Hamilton, the literary imprint of Penguin Random House Canada, and with W.W. Norton and Company in the U.S. in February 2017. The Dark and Other Love Stories will also be translated into Italian by Del Vecchio Editore. Deborah is currently working on a novel."
ON WORKING WITH DEBORAH WILLIS
"I am extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work with Deborah Willis in adapting her short story “The Weather” for the screen. Perhaps the most noticeable characteristic of Debbie’s writing is its infusion with imagery, a quality I think is attractive to any filmmaker because of the ease with which her stories can be visualized. Debbie’s writing is particularly attractive to me as a Canadian filmmaker due to its intimacy with the landscape and culture of Western Canada. This intimate connection to and reflection of Canadian life is reminiscent of Nobel Prize Winner Alice Munro’s work. The emphasis on Canadian landscape and culture as well as the presence of strong and detailed female characters made this short story a clear choice for adaptation.
My mission in this short film is to explore and relish in the rich ambiguity of Willis’ writing both in the production process and in the final product of the short film. In her essay “Mr. Bazin et le temps: reclaiming the timeliness of cinematic time”, film professor and theorist Lee Carruthers expresses the “compelling possibility that ‘not knowing’ might actually be a particular satisfaction of cinema that marks and motivates our viewing experience” and that “by offering us experiences of time that we cannot fully capture or overcome by knowledge, cinema recalls, and reflects, the temporality of lived experience” (17, 23). Willis’ writing seamlessly intertwines the certain and the ambiguous: while the plot and the temporal placement of Willis’ short story is always clear – a middle aged cowboy becomes intrigued by his 15-year-old daughter’s best friend after his wife leaves him for the city – the exact reasoning behind these events is left passionately ambiguous. To bring this play of certainty and ambiguity into the film in a clear way will be a wonderful challenge."
- Vanessa Wenzel