Whistler Film Festival 2018 Interview: ELIJAH & THE ROCK CREATURE director Jen Walden

“Imagine that E.T. was made of rocks and lichen and had hung out in the subarctic for a few thousand years before meeting the cool kid that helps him to get home. This is a story about adventure, about aliens from across the stars, about kids and how resourceful they are, and it’s a story about loss and grieving, and how ultimately love will show us the way home.

Congratulations on your film playing and welcome to the wonder that is Whistler Film Festival! So is this your first time here and are you planning to attend your show?

This is my second time to attend Whistler Film Festival, i got to come last year as part of the Canadian Academy of Film and Television woman directors mentorship program. During last years festival I had an amazing time, and I was in the middle of post on my film, I thought to myself “next year I want to come back here with my film” and here I am. So I’m pretty excited to have my first feature be a part of the festival!

When was the moment you said to yourself “I want to get into the movie business” and what have you worked on in the past?

Oddly enough it was right after completing a three month stint in Florence Italy while studying renaissance art and Fresco painting. I was incredibly inspired by working in different art mediums that I decided I want to try a whole new visual medium, so I jumped into film for the first time. That was the summer of 2014. I have made three short films, my first PAINTED GIRL was selected as one of nine finalist for the show CBC short film face off.

So how did this movie come together?

I spend an incredible amount of time out on the land with my own kids. The north is beautiful and wild. Our own adventures inspired me to write a story about a kid out in this incredible landscape. I started gathering photos and short videos of all the places we went together. My visual bible for this was basically a photo album of our family picnics. I then submitted my script to the IndieCan 20K program and we were selected. I developed our rock creature over the course of a year by sending drawings, sketches, photos and actual rocks and lichen to Matt Aebig, a SPFX makeup artist in Vancouver. He was able to bring the rock creature to life for me. We worked with an all northern cast and crew on a shoestring budget. We hiked our gear all over the north, across the rocks, through the woods and out to the salt plains of Wood Buffalo Park. It was pretty amazing and I think the results show. We did many of our special effects in camera working in my home art studio. We were filming paint, using a Turkish painting technique called Ebru which was floating paints on water and then filming it to make our space scenes. We then worked with Avatar Media in Edmonton to help us finish the film and polish it.

The whole process was pretty incredible, with one of the largest learning curves I have ever faced but the best part was working with so many different kinds of artists; actors, musicians, composers, animators, cinematographers, make-up artists, SPFX artists and the list goes on, it was amazing. I can’t wait to do it all again.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What is your drive?

Mostly the thought in my mind “I can’t wait to see this all put together, it’s going to be SO COOL!” That is a major drive for me.  I think the other thing that kept me going was “Boathouse Smoothies”. I has this incredible PA, a lovely woman who would show up at the best times and surprise me with a smoothie, the “mocha cappuccino” was by far my favourite, followed by the “berry boost”.

So if you were to pick one moment that you would consider the biggest challenge of making the movie, along with the “a-ha, we GOT it” moment, what would each of those be?

I think one moment that sticks out in my mind would be our second to last day of filming with everyone exhausted and time running out in a major way. We were trying to film a night scene at the Dark Sky Festival where they are looking through telescopes at a gorgeous star filled sky, and there was a crazy storm with torrential downpour; we had to leave the location the following day. We did manage to find a way, but it was one of the hardest moments for sure.

One of our best “A-ha” moments was the first time the rock creature walked on set and our whole cast and crew stopped in awe to just look at him and the incredible makeup that had been done. I knew we had something special with him, and that made me proud and confident with what we had achieved with so little.

Could we get technical for a second? For my tech-savvy and filmmaking readers, I would love to know about the visual design of the movie and how it was photographed.

Well, I am the worst person to talk to tech savvy folks as I’m so not tech-savvy at all. The visual design for this film came from my practical hands on artwork in my studio. I work with other visual artists to create images, colour palettes, mobiles, posters, interior designs, heck I even had my five year old drawing rock creature images.

It was filmed with a Canon C300. And when i talked with my cinematographer about what look I wanted inside the memory palace he suggested we purchase a specific lens. So I managed to find a “Petzval 58mm” art lens at the last minute, and we used that for all of the memory palace.scenes. That’s all I got when it comes to tech.


After your WFF screening, where is the movie going to go next? Theatrical? Online? Any dream screenings or exact theatre in mind?


ELIJAH AND THE ROCK CREATURE will be playing in Austin Texas at  OtherWorlds Austin Film Festival Dec 6 to 8th. We will be continuing with festival screenings through to the spring, and then will look at the potential of a small theatrical release here in Canada.

We do have a lot of people out there looking to be inspired and work in the industry in one way or another. What is a piece of advice that you would give to anyone looking to get into the motion picture business?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got as a first time filmmaker was that you have to believe in your story and film with every ounce of your being. You are the driver that will push that project through when things get really really tough. So if you don’t believe in your project with a passion to move heaven and earth to get it done, no one else will either. You have to sincerely believe in what you are doing.

And finally, what is the single greatest movie you have ever seen?


Impossible for me to answer… as it depends on my mood that day what movie blows my mind… but some of my top favs would be: ARRIVAL, INTERSTELLAR, LES MIS & THE BLACK STALLION. I told you it depends on my mood.


ELIJAH AND THE ROCK CREATURE is screening is Sunday at 4:00 p.m. at Village 8 Cinema!

This is one of the many movies playing at this year’s Whistler Film Festival. For more showtime information and on the festival itself, point your browser to www.whistlerfilmfestival.com!

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