SIBERIAN STORY: TOWARD THE FINAL DRAFT
Another draft of Siberian Story has been completed, with the remarkable and generous critique, suggestions and support of the brilliant script editor Karen Lee Street, to arrive at a solid, powerful story, ready to be realized to the screen. (July 2014)
NOTES ON THE WRITING PROCESS AND HOW THE STORY FOUND ME.
In 2008, while in Riga showing my film Solace, I wandered into Janis Roze bookstore to the back shelf, where I intuitively reached for some books, which happened to be testimonials of women who had been sent to Siberia in 1941. I understood I had to read them.
I started reading on the plane back to Toronto at which moment very beautiful and powerful images came to me as film sequences, and I thought why has no one made a dramatic film about this - especially from a woman’s experiential point of view. Members of my own family were among those exiled. I knew I had to make this film.
The following two years were spent creating a treatment/story from the recurring themes, incidents, impressions and dramatic moments gathered from over 700 published testimonies from those who were exiled as children to remote villages of Siberia from the Baltic countries, Europe and Eastern Europe, during Stalin’s large-scale deportations of those deemed “enemies of the state”.
Underlying questions for me were: What is it that defines us, keeps our identity intact in relation to place, space, language, culture, ritual, tradition and memory? What grounds us and gives a sense of belonging? What are we left with when all things familiar and are taken away? Where does one find happiness? Where does one find hope?
Most of this work was done on the weekends and in the evenings after laboring for cash flow at a cultural corporation all day. Luckily, and thank God, I received a grant from the Canada Council of the Arts in 2011 to take the treatment to first draft script, which allowed me to purely devote a full year to this task. The past two years I have devoted nights and weekends again to bring the script to a near final draft, admittedly a big struggle to carve out the creative time to achieve this. I now seek fresh opportunities to rearrange my life, so that more creative time will be possible and that I will meet amazing producers who will help me take this story through development into full production, to realize Siberian Story to the screen.
I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with Karen Lee Street, the script consultant, who gave so generously of her critique, suggestions and support to bring this script to a solid story of depth, breadth and magic with compelling, complex characters.
I found these notes, below, written at some point, that capture the intensity, the beauty, the agony and the ecstasy of this process. This is what makes my life magic.
“I sit in awe sometimes as images and words pour through me creating a moment that is revealing, breathtaking, magic, beautiful, inspiring, devastating, at times so profoundly moving that I am reduced to tears. This wonder can only be shared in the completed work, which I hope will resonate through for others in some equally powerful way, because it is a communion, a communication.
This creative process is a relationship between myself and the Work. The work is touched by Mystery, the Divine. It flows through me, yet it is also of me. I never intellectually seek out a creative project. The work makes itself known. It could be an image, a word, a feeling, a sensation. It lingers, it persists, it unfolds in an organic manner. It wants to be developed, seen and heard. It can be all consuming, intimate and intensive. The work is demanding. I'm forced to look at personal truths, as raw material rises from the depths of my subconscious. To be turned inside out, to expand, to be seduced, to feel love, to feel awe, to bravely navigate territory that takes you to new, perhaps even strange and dangerous places, to be challenged in this way, to surrender yourself in the process of creativity this way, is the ecstasy and the agony. For myself, it is a soul necessity. I am a story teller, a maker of images. It is my way of making sense of this world, of celebrating the mystery and magic of this life, it is my expression and language of communication and my way of connecting to others, to feel less lonely. “