MICHAEL BUIE – The Ties, The Team, THE LAKE

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Posted: January 19, 2017

We at SeaAndBeScene.com have been waving the fun flag for Canada's East Coast going on 7 years now, and believe us when we tell you we've had no shortage of folks willing to jump on our jubilant bandwagon.

michael-buieLoads and loads of fellow Atlantic Canadians to be sure of it - but a whole heap of other peeps who we like to classify as 'Kindred Spirits'.  They are the ones who come for a visit and vow to return as soon as they can or better yet decide stay.  They're also the folks whose paths cross with East Coasters around the planet and immediately connect.   They get swept up in friendship - swept away with a kinship and it's that bond that leads them to our lovely corner of the world.  The focus of this article is that kind of fella - for Kitchener, ON born, Marina Del Ray, CA based writer, director and actor Michael Buie is indeed a Kindred Spirit.

Check out his IMDb page and you'll see his near 30 on screen credits include hit TV shows like HAWAII FIVE-O and GREY'S ANATOMY, to big screen roles in films like CEDAR RAPIDS and THE NEXT THREE DAYS - and while we appreciate his body of work, there's no denying our specific favourites lie with those with the ties that bind them to our neck of the woods.

Buie's road to "absolutely loving the East Coast of Canada" began back in the summer of 2004 - when he and his MYSTERY, ALASKA co-star Russell Crowe - both GREAT BIG SEA fans - saw the band in concert.

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"A good Canadian growing up - I was always a GBS fan, but in '98, during filming Kevin Durand introduced us to their tune "How Did We Get From Saying I Love You" and the boys of of MYSTERY, ALASKA fell in love with the song," explains Buie. "Russell and I both met Alan (Doyle) about the same time in Toronto in '04 after we went to see Great Big Sea at Ontario Place.  Awesome show (as always).  We became friends that summer and have been ever since."

About a year later an acting role took Michael to Newfoundland leading to his now ever-expanding East Coast circle of NL friends which includes Perry Chafe, Kerri MacDonaldAllan Hawco, Mark O'Brien, Keith Power and on it goes. He'd return again just a few years ago for a turn on REPUBLIC OF DOYLE - Ep.510 "Brothers In Arms" to be exact, guest starring with... You guessed it Alan Doyle (Wolf Redman) and Scott Grimes (Jimmy O'Rourke). Great fun!

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Michael's affinity for Nova Scotia was born as the result of his co-starring role in Jason Buxton's debut feature BLACKBIRD.  Fantastic friendships were formed on that project too - including one with director of photography Stéphanie Weber Biron who Michael has lined up to film his first feature this fall entitled OCTOBER 13.

But before that ramps up we wanted to profile Buie's latest work - his multi award winning short THE LAKE.  We've embedded it above so you can see why it's been such a festival hit and read below as what follows now is our Q & A (as they say) with it's writer, director and star Michael Buie.

SABS: First off - let me just say I loved it! I laughed... I cried - you hooked me from the get go straight through to the lovely end. Without giving too much away - how did story for THE LAKE first come to be?

Michael Buie: Thanks for the kind words Stephanie.  I'm glad you laughed AND cried.  It's strange that sometimes in life, the exact same moment can be both comedic and tragic.  Creatively, I love to explore that ambiguity.    And like so many of us, I've watched family and friends face a terminal diagnosis.  I admired my step-father in particular for standing strong for our family with such positive acceptance, grace and even humour amidst the disease.  The concept for THE LAKE came by "flipping that completely".  And out came a story told through a caustic character who refused to accept his fate as written.

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The lake location in the film has always been a special place to me.  My cinematographer Kevin Davidson and myself shot a music video for The Trews up there a few years back.  At the time, we discussed shooting a narrative short film at the same location without an Antigonish rock band in the way.  Kidding, I'm a huge Trews fan.  Love those guys and their music.  Anyhow, Kevin is one of the hardest working men I've ever met and I was excited to do something else with him.  The familiarity of each other and the location made that part easy.  But I suppose THE LAKE really had its beginnings back then... and then some of my own life experiences informed the script.

SABS: We just get to sit and experience THE LAKE in it's truly great finished state - but how long a process was it from finished script to finished film. 

Michael Buie: The whole process was staggered so it's difficult to say.  The script came to me fairly quickly from its initial concept, especially with the knowledge that I could manipulate the dialogue so effortlessly in post as we scored it.  We shot it in early June for 3 days in Kitchener and another 4 rainy days at the lake in Quebec.  Rachel Wilson, a terrific actress and great friend, agreed to come play my wife in the film... and casting from there was all favours.  My dentist buddy from university played my oncologist, my nieces played my daughters and my dog Charlie played my dog in the film.  Charlie nailed every shot in "one take" which was absolutely shocking as he's not necessarily the most obedient dog per se.  I do love that guy.  Named our company after him.  Shepherd Mix Productions.    

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SABS: Music always plays such an important part in any film - but maybe more so in THE LAKE.  Having the talented Keith Power on your team must have made for a delightful collaboration! How did that part of the project come together? 

Michael Buie: Yeah, I would not have attempted this without Keith agreeing to do it.  The structure of the film was completely reliant on the musical score in conjunction with a narration from the 'great beyond' in lieu of any sound.  I was introduced to Keith a decade ago by Kevin Durand and Alan Doyle (who claims Keith as one the greatest musicians he's ever known... very high praise if you consider the source).   So, up in California wine country on Kevin's birthday weekend, after a few wine tastings, I pitched Keith on the idea and concept.    Fortunately, Keith embraced the unique challenge and despite a ridiculous work schedule on network television shows and tent-pole studio films, he agreed to work on our short film.  And perhaps, he was a little buzzed.  I always envisioned the film as an equal collaboration between myself, the cinematography of Kevin Davidson and the music of Keith Power.  I gave Keith some notes on transitions up front, but ultimately Kevin and I handed Keith the visuals post edit and he produced this magnificent score.  I will continue to work with Keith Power as long as he'll let me.

SABS: When a project is this personal it must be a wonderful feeling to have it so well received, so tell us - what was it like to see it on the big screen with an audience for the first time?

Michael Buie: The first time?  Honestly, I was terribly nervous.  It's a very delicate subject matter that we chose to explore and our main character deals with it unconventionally.  My fear was that it may have been taken as flippant or irreverent in the face of a disease that so many of us are unfortunately so familiar with.  As you say, this was personal to me but I was relieved at how well it was received particularly by larger audiences.  In the film festival circuits of experimentation and dark artistry, we kind of stood out as the "normal" film that was truly relatable to the audience. 

Many people said to me they "saw themselves in the film".  I took that as a great compliment.  We ended up winning awards in Los Angeles, Cambridge, La Jolla, Toronto but perhaps the capper was another wine trip to the Sonoma Film Festival with Keith where we won Best Dramatic Short... and once again, we celebrated with some Petroni cabernet as I pitched him our upcoming feature film.  Are you seeing a pattern here?

SABS: Before we let you go - what's the one best piece of advice you'd give to any aspiring writer/directors out there - who are dreaming of one day doing what you do? 

Michael Buie: My biggest advice is to just actually do it.  Be your own voice.  You'd be surprised what comes out.  Also, everything is so much more accessible and possible these days.  There are iPhones with great cameras and editing programs on every laptop these days.  It doesn't have to be the expensive endeavor of year's past.  Start there and build on up. Everyone has their unique story to tell and way of telling it.

I've found that in my professional life as an actor and now writer/director, I am constantly surrounded by people far more talented than myself.  You will too.  Grab them, work with them, learn from them, and collaborate.  And I suggest somehow getting them up into wine country before you ask.

SABS On-Line Hook-Ups for Michael Buie

Production: www.shepherdmixproductions.com               

Acting: www.michaelbuie.net

Twitter: @MichaelBuie

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SABS Note of Noteworthiness

Since we're on the subject of Kindred Spirits... let's talk about Ottawa native Rachel Wilson, who as Michael mentioned is his lovely and talented co-star in THE LAKE.  We've had the pleasure of featuring Ms. Wilson many times before - for her work with NL born writer/director Jordan Canning on NOT OVER EASY and her role opposite NL actor Joel Thomas Hynes in FIRST ROUND DOWN, but most often for her role as Jake Doyle's ex Nikki on REPUBLIC OF DOYLE.  Some small world wha?! 

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