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An Interview with Patricia Chica of Montréal Girls

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2022

Films directed by Patricia Chica on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Montréal Girls - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Montréal Girls follows a Middle-Eastern young man’s journey and his quest for love and enlightenment while discovering his true calling along the way.  It’s the first feature film ever made with Chi Energy in history.

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing Montréal Girls, and is any of it based on personal experiences?

 

My inspiration for Montréal Girls came from my intention to tell uplifting stories that explore universal themes which connect audiences and incite a spark for change. Storytelling is a holistic process for me. It’s grounded by characters who must confront and overcome complex mundane obstacles to transcend their ordinary selves and connect to a higher purpose.

 

It’s with that in mind that Montréal Girls came to be, as its story and characters are inspired by cowriter Kamal John Iskander’s [Kamal John Iskander interview - click here] and my own personal experiences. The Montréal nightlife and the female leading characters, Désirée and Yaz, are inspired by my own journey, from when I was a young Montréal girl and artist, navigating my hometown’s subcultures and indie rock'n’roll scene, as a documentarian, photographer and insider. The lead character, Ramy, is based on Kamal’s own Middle Eastern background and cultural upbringing.

 

What can you tell us about your co-writer Kamal John Iskander, and what was your collaboration like?

 

Kamal is a very funny person. He always makes me laugh! I guess that his quirky, absurd and dark sense of humor is what appeals to me in our collaboration, as I’m a more lyrically earnest storyteller. We blended our two styles to create the world Montréal Girls revolves around, with the right dose of balance and tone. We started working together in 2011 when he first asked me about Montréal girls and what they were like. The intention was to make a super low budget indie feature, all in black and white, about the punk rock scene in Montréal which features a Middle Eastern protagonist… The story and characters that we know in the finished film today grew from that initial raw idea.

 

You have worked with Kamal John Iskander before - so what can you tell us about your previous collaborations, and how did you two first meet even?

 

We met at Worldfest (Houston International Film Festival) in 2010. Our two shorts of the time (mine being Day Before Yesterday and his Jesus Comes to Town) were touring at the same time and we ended up seeing each other at many other film festivals for the following year.

 

Kamal and I had also worked together on a horror comedy short film, A Tricky Treat, which he wrote and I directed and produced [Patricia and John's A Tricky Treat interview - click here]. The short had enormous success, premiering at Fantasia to a packed theatre, and winning countless awards at various horror competitions such as jury awards for Best Short Film, Best Director, Best Editing and VFX at the Macabre Faire Film Festival, to name a few. Even after 7 years, the short is still securing screenings at film festivals.

 

A friendship and professional admiration for each other’s work and ethics blossomed from those personal and work encounters, and the rest is history.

 

Back to Montréal Girls: I've read that this is the first feature film ever made with Chi Energy - for the uninitiated, could you elaborate on this, and how did you stumble upon/develop that method even?

 

It was during my twenties that I began using energy in my work as a director. Throughout my life, I have trained with masters that focus on mind and body integration practices ranging from meditation, kundalini yoga, reiki, shamanism, body expression, power play, and much more. After more research into these practices, I began to develop my own method, Chi Energy, that incorporates the tools and techniques from each of these disciplines to create a coherent system that is customized to serve entertainment industry professionals – actors, directors, writers, producers and crew members in particular.

 

Chi Energy is a very unique method that connects one’s energy centers with their intuition, mindset, language, state of flow, and body expression in order to expand their creative potential, as a performer or storyteller, and to reach their desired outcome faster.

 

For Montréal Girls I designed a rigorous training program for my cast. Some weeks, we trained for up to 15 hours, tapping into each chakra, removing any limiting belief, and releasing any blockages in the subconscious mind or nervous system. Chi Energy allowed my actors to be present and in the moment by honoring the different demands and letting go of any expectations to allow those connections to happen organically. By surrendering to the process and trusting their intuition and body, it allowed them to foster the creation of the character and performance with a blank slate.

 

There is a short documentary called CHI ENERGY - The Making of Montréal Girls by Noa Blanche Beschorner showing this entire process, which will come out at the same time as the feature film.

 

Besides Chi Energy, what can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

The point of view of Montréal Girls is from a foreign male protagonist, although the point of view of the filmmaker is by myself, a local female director from Montréal. I wanted the tone to be intimate and poetic yet to convey an impressionistic palette of colors, lighting, and textures. I wanted to have atmospheric settings shadowing nature’s elements as the backdrop between emotional drama, sensuality, and oneiric stages.

 

Montréal Girls is a story of a young man’s experience in early adulthood that I believe will move people of all ages. I intend to leave the spectator with an open ending that will give them latitude to find their own interpretation and conclusion based on their own expectations. I want the audience members to come to terms with their own reflection of who they are through the journey they’ve just witnessed.

 

Do talk about Montréal Girls' key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

I had a very particular image in mind for Ramy, the leading role. I visualized a charismatic Middle Eastern man in his early twenties with thick dark hair, deep eyes and a certain prudish naivete about him. I auditioned hundreds of candidates across Canada – particularly from Quebec –, Hollywood, and even the Middle East. It wasn’t until I came across Canadian-Algerian actor Hakim Brahimi’s profile on Instagram that I felt I was getting close.

 

Each actor in the film was carefully curated by me through self-tapes, auditions, and in-depth interviews and chemistry tests. I wanted to make sure that each actor was open to working with Chi Energy during the rehearsal process and on set.

 

It was important for me and my co-creator Kamal to have a diverse cast as well as have the film in three languages – English, Arabic and French – to reflect the rich diversity found within our own lives.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

We began filming during the first pandemic’s lockdown, which made it extremely difficult to shoot intimate scenes where the actors had to create a physical and emotional connection. I quickly had to come up with tools that would help support the actors to convey that closeness even when they had to wear masks and stand six feet apart from each other.

 

When the actors arrived on set each morning, we worked with Chi Energy to create that space of connection and foster an environment of absolute trust between the actors and myself as the director. Through this process, that level of trust was created to the point where I was confident that between “action" and “cut”, the scene was theirs and there was nothing else I could have done at that point. All I could do was to send out my support, and it was incredible to witness the change and confidence they gained as they embraced the method.

 

The $64-question of course, where can Montréal Girls be seen?

 

In the festival circuit and theatrical commercial release in Canada in the spring of 2023 via our distributor Filmoption International. The film will also be presented in Los Angeles as the closing night film of the Los Angeles International Film Festival, which happens during the American Film Market.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Montréal Girls yet?

 

So far it’s been very positive and supportive. We have only gotten enthusiastic reviews - Montrealgirlsmovie.com/Reviews - by the critics, some 5-stars and 8/10 ratings and fresh tomatoes on RottenTomatoes.com. I’m very grateful for that.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Soleil & Luna is a dramatic LatinX and LGBTQ+ TV series that I have created for OUT TV. It has received support from the Canada Media Fund.

 

Bougainvillea is a queer romance drama with a hint of fantasy that I’m currently writing with the support of SODEC.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

Montréal Girls’ website: www.MontrealGirlsMovie.com

My official website: www.PatriciaChica.com

My production company Flirt Films: www.FlirtFilms.net

My Chi Energy Coaching site: www.TheChicaMethod.com

 

Updates on Montréal Girls and my journey as a filmmaker can be found on my social media pages:

www.facebook.com/PatriciaChica

www.Instagram.com/Chicatronica

www.Instagram.com/MontrealGirlsMovie

www.Twitter.com/PatriciaChica

 

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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

People often ask me for advice about how to thrive in the industry. I tell them to listen to their intuition, trust their gut feeling, ignore the naysayers and always take action, fast. Execute your vision at three levels higher, three steps ahead and three layers deeper than most people. It will make you a more conscious and evolved creator. I call it the 3-3-3’s. Ask less; offer more. When you’re the one bringing the most value, you’ll always be abundant and never run out of resources. And, always be aware that your energy is your most valuable currency.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
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the new anthology by
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Out now from
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produced by and starring
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directed by
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