The Crescent Sunday September 17, 9:30pm, Cineplex Park Lane, $17.50 finfestival.ca
Nancy Urich and Seth A. Smith have been making art in Nova Scotia since they were teenagers, first as musicians in Burdocks and then in Dog Day. Smith's distinctive visual art, much of it created as half of the design team Yorodeo, has adorned years' worth of record covers and posters, while Urich's administration skills and grant-writing prowess became quietly legendary amongst the people who need that sort of information.
For the past few years they have been making films, including 2012's woozy feature Lowlife and the 2015 short I Am Coming to Paris to Kill You, which made it nearly to Paris when it screened at Cannes.
This fall they are the talk of the festival circuit with The Crescent, a low-budget creeper about a widow (Danika Vandersteen) whose son (Woodrow Graves, son of the filmmakers) seems to have a connection the area's various, and possibly dead, weirdos. This week, the film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Its gala screening at FIN is on September 17.
Today it's still August, Urich's birthday, and the creative partners, who are married, are in a drive-thru picking up some juice for their lead actor.
"We just decided to put together a very small film that we could do on a very low budget," says writer-director Smith, once he's parked the car. "It was written at a time when we'd just had Woody. We had a few deaths in the family too, so it was a weird time when we were thinking about mortality and how precious everything is."
The Crescent is set in a beautiful south shore house that looks like it's comprised of geometric shapes, triangles mostly, with lots of glass. "I was looking for a location that had that end-of-the-earth look," says Smith. "It has that infinite ocean horizon, which is just so beautiful." It sits on a crescent of land jutting out into the ocean. "A lot of people spot it," says Urich. "It's spottable."
Vandersteen, an artist and musician in Old and Weird and Building Confidence Through Play, makes her film debut with a quiet, nuanced performance. Her co-star is a chatty charmer who was nonetheless two years old during filming. "It was a big party atmosphere for him. It was so many people playing with him all the time, he was having fun," says Urich, adding that the scarier movie's tougher scenes—ghouls, loud noises, violent accidents—happened with a stand-in. "I was next to him—anything that looked scary or was a monster happening, he didn't experience that. There was no monster chasing him, ever."
The pair hopes to graduate to bigger budgets moving forward, though what they've managed to achieve with The Crescent is a direct result of spending two decades working in the arts in Nova Scotia. "You have to get it done," says Urich. "Just do it."
"You have to have grit, and you have to keep pushing," says Smith. "Making a movie is just like making an album, but it's like making 20 albums at once."