A Slamdance alum and current programmer for Narrative Features, Camille is a Trinidadian-Canadian actor, writer and director from Toronto and Montreal, now residing in Vancouver. She’s made appearances on shows Man In the High Castle, The 100 and now National Geographic’s Valley of the Boom playing the real-life person Tara Hernandez, a manager at Silicon Valley’s 90s tech company Netscape, the famed startup responsible for Mozilla Firefox. Her latest roles are on Twilight Zone and the soon-to-be Motherland: Fort Salem for which she’s quickly become known as “the butch babe” to fans.
Camille has most recently directed FREYA, a sci-fi/dark comedy short written by Rhona Rees about a young woman attempting to regain control of her body in a future where social media and the State operate as one. The project was funded by the Harold Greenberg Fund (Bell Media), Creative BC, and the National Film Board of Canada.
Camille’s first project as a filmmaker was a short film anthology series called Her Story (In Three Parts), which wrote, directed, produced and starred in. It’s a collection exploring the shame associated with different elements of sex, sexuality and sexual assault and how they relate to us no matter our levels of involvement, all told from the female perspective. The first part she made and her first film, No. 2: Hush Little Baby, won the world’s largest cash prize for a short film.
The cross-country series gained international traction as a 2017 finalist for the Cayle Chernin Awards (Toronto) and a 2020 finalist for the Lindalee Tracy Awards (Toronto). The script for No. 2: Hush Little Baby was the first short film script for LiveRead/LA’s 2017 session with Industry Insider Mickey Fisher, the creator of Reverie and the Halle Berry-led Extant. No. 3: In the Absence of Angels, which premiered at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival (Park City), has won several awards including a Special Jury award at the 2018 Awareness Festival (LA) and the 2018 Canadian Film Fest (Toronto). No. 2: Hush Little Baby has also brought home several awards, including Best Debut and The Craghoppers Film Prize of £20,000, from the 2018 Discover Film Awards (London). The film was competing against films starring Whoopi Goldberg and Marissa Tomei and Minnie Driver. The following year, the same festival awarded No. 3: In the Absence of Angels with Best Director and Best International Drama.
Camille is a cohort of the 2019 Women In the Director’s Chair Story & Leadership program and the 2020 Producers Lab, both programs in conjunction with the Whistler Film Festival, for her first feature film in development called Man In Pieces, a psychological horror set in the 60s about a disillusioned psychiatrist overseeing the case of Bradley Park, a black man with schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder on death row for his white girlfriend’s murder.
Camille has trained extensively in Toronto, Vancouver and LA. For two years during the production of the series, she lived mostly in the West Coast in a decommissioned shortbus with her chef partner and their cat-son.
Q & A
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
Definitely analog. I love what digital has to offer but I struggle with it because I'm a person who needs to touch and feel things. I actually shut down mentally if I'm stuck in front of a screen for too long or don't get outside to hear and smell the trees. This is something I worry about for the future and something I'm super interesting in discuss through film. I know I'm not the only one like this and studies have shown how the brain is negatively affected by not experiencing enough body-to-brain connections. We often see these sci-fi worlds of say, people living in a bunker for decades and look! They have everything they need to be super fit, and wow! They are super fit because they just run on a treadmill for hours a day and eat prescribed perfectly nutrient foods! Except science has already told us what would happen if you don't see the sun in 26 years... I'm more interested in the authentic details of that experience in sci-fi worlds, like how it feels to be slowly going crazy from being hyper-sensitive to that soft tapping sound in the airducts because your brain is short-circuiting from lack of sunlight hitting your retinas. So there's definitely an interesting contrast between what we see loads of in sci-fi and what would actually happen. I mean, I get it though too. So many sci-fis have this underlying action-packed adventure, so you have to get to the action. But that's why I like extrapolative sci-fis best, which tend to be those odd, quirky, arthouse-type films that really question the audience's perception of the human condition by throwing it just beyond where we are now. It's exciting to think of worlds we haven't yet seen, and it really speaks to the concept of "the grass is always greener on the other side." It's like we're rushing to get there, but I have no doubt that once we do, we'll miss the paper.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
My earlier vision for FREYA was this really clean "sleek" world but somewhere in the process I realized I was falling into the trap, that the future has to feel sterile and robotic. But we're human, and we're also like plants in that we're always going to bow toward what we need. When I found the heart of it, the instinct was textures and colours and a certain warmth to balance a society that had become so cold. Lots of discussions with our production designer Jamie Chrest and costume designer Karyna Barros uncovered the truth: there's an undeniable pattern through time, and that pattern says that anything new will be a combination of elements of the past. So then we went the complete opposite way and found a certain nostalgia in the production design and costumes and hair and makeup by pulling inspiration from various decades before. We found a lot of vintage elements and trends from the past, and our DP Alfonso Chin has this almost magical, textured style that brought those elements out even more. One of my favourite shots in the film is when Jade is looking out the window in the bathroom and she asks FREYA to say something nice about her. It's so tragic because Jade is so earnest about it. And for me personally, it hits home further because of Jade's eyeliner, the thin white over black. That was totally a throw to my teens in the early 2000s and I remember feeling like that girl, just utterly unsure and awkward. I still feel like that some days, and every once in a while when I see FREYA again, I'm like, oh yeah. That feeling. To me, it actually feels unrelatable but familiar now. I think that's also because of the core of the story. It's this universal feeling of being a fish out of water. We all feel it sometimes and with Jade, we experience this nagging loneliness through just her because everyone else around her seems to be "fine"--her boss, the hundreds of people on social media liking her posts, Theo--they all seem to not notice while Jade is coming into this new awakening. But you could easily assume that this communal ignorance also brings about this deep emptiness no one can quite put their finger on. And I think that sense of inexplicable longing was really beautifully woven together on screen by Jamie and Karyna and Alfonso and our whole team really. When you blend concepts and then use elements that we have emotional ties to, it creates a world that is an extension of its creators, and that's my favourite kind of art because it's honest and undeniable. I like to look for overlaying concepts like that, then I cross my fingers and hope I'm lucky enough to work with people who are talented and emotionally attuned and able to see those connections and use who they are to make something totally unique.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Star Wars. Philip K. Dick. Practical. Dystopia. How about post post apocalyptic, so like sometime later than today?