“I think it was a huge missed opportunity for the province,” said Maudie co-producer Mary Young Leckie. “It’s a Nova Scotia story.”
She spoke to the Halifax Examiner this week about the decision in the late spring of 2015 to shoot the highly acclaimed feature film about Nova Scotian artist Maud Lewis in Newfoundland.
Leckie is the president of ScreenDoor and owner of Solo Productions in Toronto. She was keen to clear up confusion generated by Premier Stephen McNeil’s assertion during CTV’s televised election roundtable that the decision by Maudie’s producers to film in Newfoundland was made before the Liberal government’s decision to reduce the tax credit in April 2015.
“Maudie left before we changed that policy,” McNeil told CTV host Steve Murphy when asked if he regretted making that decision. “Look it up.” The exchange generated conflicting media reports.
In an Examiner article published on Friday May 26, we challenged McNeil’s version of events and quoted Maudie director Aisling Walsh, who had told Local Xpress reporter Elissa Barnard the reason none of the film had been shot in Nova Scotia was because “the industry was in collapse” after the Liberals cut the film tax credit.
Co-producer Mary Young Leckie confirms Walsh’s account, and says the director had been pushing for at least some of the movie to be shot in Nova Scotia. Leckie says both Walsh and the film’s director of photography, Pugwash native Guy Godfree (who won a Canadian Society of Cinematographers’ award for his stellar work on Maudie), visited the Digby area and scouted Louisbourg as potential locations for the film.
“Aisling Walsh was quite determined to find the best location for the filming, so she did survey Nova Scotia, and it’s possible, though not easy, that co-producer Mary Sexton and I would have had to accommodate our director’s wishes,” said Leckie via email. “But then the cancellation of the NS Tax Credit happened,” she added, “and any thought of ANY portion of filming in Nova Scotia was now out of the question.”
Leckie said the film’s producers never got to the stage of asking Nova Scotia for money to help finance their $7.5 million biopic, but instead went directly to the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation.
Leckie’s own roots are in Nova Scotia: her mother was a survivor of the Halifax Explosion. While producing a docu-drama miniseries for CBC called “Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion,” Leckie stumbled upon the Maud Lewis “story” during a visit to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Looking back, she admits the decision to film in Maudie in Newfoundland was complicated by several competing factors.
“The ‘look’ of Digby 1930 and Digby 2015 is very different. To have taken the area ‘back’ to the period was going to be expensive,” said Leckie. “Nova Scotia producers were not interested in our story. Mary Sexton from Newfoundland leapt at the chance to co-produce, and the Newfoundland government helped to subsidize development. Newfoundland’s Sherry White was our screenwriter and Newfoundland offered a variety of remote and rugged locations that appealed to our Director and Production Designer.”
Maudie was originally scheduled to be filmed in the summer of 2014. Readers responded to The Examiner story last week, quoting a story published in The Digby Courier.
It reported Maudie would be filmed in Newfoundland during the summer of 2014, a year before the tax credit was axed. The Examiner had been unaware of that story — which contradicted our report — so editor Tim Bousquet posted a note alerting readers to the confusion while we sorted it out. Complicating the matter further was an error in the first paragraph of the Examiner story which stated the film tax credit had been cut in 2014, when the date should have read 2015. Dumb mistake; my apologies to readers.
But Leckie clarified this week, saying that while producers planned to shoot Maudie in 2014, no decision had yet been made about the location. She says both provinces were in the running until late spring 2015, in part because the movie required only a few sets, which allowed filmmakers greater flexibility with respect to location.
The shoot was delayed a full year until September 2015, according to Leckie, in order to accommodate a request from Maudie star Sally Hawkins, who needed a rest after a previous film. That delay led to scheduling conflicts for the male lead, Sean Bean, who was replaced by Ethan Hawke as Maud’s abusive husband Everett.
As Maudie’s producers were in the final throes of deciding where to shoot in 2015, Leckie says the collapse of the financing structure in Nova Scotia, followed by the pulling out of a respected post-production company called PS Production Services, sealed the deal. Maudie was filmed in Newfoundland, with post-production done in Ireland.
Leckie believes some theatregoers who see the film opening in the United States next month (and Japan and Europe later this year) will still visit Nova Scotia despite the Newfoundland backdrop. The film is salted with just enough visual cues (such as a Nova Scotia licence plate and signs for Digby) to allow a Province that lost bragging rights to an internationally acclaimed production to benefit from a potential boost to tourism.