Romance in the Park: Interview with Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart

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Filmmakers Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart are veterans of Christie Pits Film Festival, and they also happen to be married! Their first feature film, I Put a Hit on You, screened at CPFF in 2016, and this season they have two short films in the Cinematic Cities programme. Bickford Park is a story about a disaffected 30-something woman who secretly begins to take skateboarding lessons to avoid dealing with her marital problems, and Long Branch centres on two strangers who travel to the furthest edges of Toronto for a little romance. Bickford Park screens on Canada Day, July 1st at Christie Pits Park alongside two other Toronto-set films, and Long Branch screens alongside Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953) at Corktown Common on July 5th. Toronto Outdoor Picture Show invites you to journey to parks across the city for our Cinematic Cities programme all summer long.

TOPS: This year's film programme is titled Cinematic Cities, a theme that draws bridges between vibrant and complex cities around the world while highlighting the people who make each of these cities unique. Do you have a favourite movie that captures the spirit of a city? Is there a city that you dream of capturing on camera?

Dane Clark: Before Sunrise is probably my favourite movie that captures the beauty of a city. As soon as I saw it I wanted to travel to Vienna. I didn't. But hey, one day.

TOPS: Obviously we agree! See you on August 12th for a mini-trip to Vienna!

Linsey Stewart: Okay, it's not so much a city as it is a country but my favourite movie of all time, Y Tu Mamá También, captures Mexico and all its complications in such a brilliant and moving way that it still blows my mind. When the movie came out I had just returned from living in Mexico City for four months so I had, and still have, a deep connection for the people and the landscape. This movie captured Mexico at a time of transition that perfectly complimented the journey and complicated friendship between the three main characters. It's a real special one.  

TOPS: For you, what makes Toronto a cinematic city? Is there something special about Toronto that you draw inspiration from?

DC: I grew up in Peterborough, so Toronto was always seen as the big scary city that we'd only visit to see The Phantom Of The Opera on a school field trip. So living here as an adult has always felt a little magical and like I'm rebelling against the fear and danger of it all. I'm inspired by its beauty, its diversity and its distance from Peterborough.

LS: I definitely draw inspiration from Toronto. I moved here in my mid-twenties and it's the place I feel like I really came into my own. In fact, it was in Toronto that I ditched my career as a copywriter working in advertising and made the not at all terrifying decision of becoming a filmmaker. I'm not sure that would have happened if I'd never moved here. I think every year when I'm out riding my bike through sleepy streets on a hot summer night that I fall in love with it a little more.

TOPS: Can either of you skateboard? If you both can, who's better?

DC: My parents got me a Back To The Future skateboard when I passed grade eight but they didn't give me the gift of balance, so I never mastered it.

LS: I don't know about "better than Dane" but I'm WAY cooler because I got my skateboard in grade six. It was from Canadian Tire and it had a yellow lightning bolt. I didn't ride it much because my Dad decided to become eleven again and really hogged it from me. But man, can that guy do a kickflip.

TOPS: Bickford Park is perhaps an unlikely setting for romance and chemistry. What drew you to set your short in the park?

DC: I'd lived on Montrose Ave for a couple years in the early days of our dating so we'd had some deep talks about life on a bench overlooking the park. Then in 2012 I proposed to Linsey in the park and for some reason she said yes,  so it has a special place in our hearts.

TOPS: There's gotta be a story behind Long Branch. Did one or both of you experience an epic journey across the GTA in search of love?

DC/LS: In a nutshell, Dane had a crush on Linsey and wanted to know if she felt the same, so one cold night on Queen East he asked her if she wanted to make out. She said yes and they smooched on the side of the road because they're classy like that. Thinking this was a good sign, Dane asked her if she wanted to come back to his place but Linsey did not. Because he lived at Long Branch with his uncle. So we like to say that Long Branch is a far more interesting version of us. We don't have game like these characters do.

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TOPS: Long Branch is paired with Roman Holiday, a film that also features a protagonist trying to hide from real life. Is there a Toronto destination that you go to escape?

DC: Varsity Cinemas on a Sunday afternoon is my favourite escape destination.

LS: My escape is Wychwood Park. It's a secluded enclave that I like to walk through to see how the other half live. And I can safely report back that the other half live very well.

Bickford Park screens on Canada Day, July 1st at Christie Pits Park, and Long Branch screens alongside Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953) at Corktown Common on July 5th.