Whistler Film Festival 2018 Interview – IN GOD I TRUST director Maja Zdanowski

“IN GOD I TRUST is a film that takes us deep into the unpredictable and penetrating realities of race and religion in America. Inspired by true events, the movie follows three characters and storylines that all come together during a random encounter in a small Northern Idaho town. The film wastes no time pushing the line between anger, redemption, and revenge in today’s politically divided and socially tribal environment.  What really makes these true-to-life characters tick is heightened by a suspense that will keep you guessing from the opening credits.” Director Maja Zdanowski on IN GOD I TRUST which screens at the 2018 edition of Whistler Film Festival.

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 our first time attending the Whistler Film Festival. We are organizing an exciting opening night ceremony featuring a live performance by Grammy Award Winning artist Bilal who will sing the films original theme song “Enough”. This live show takes place during the opening Gala reception on November 28th at the Audain Art Museum. The song and the music was written by Producer/Writer Paul St. Amand. Bilal also co-stars in the film delivering a raw and riveting on screen performance. We are thrilled to be attending both of the film screenings!

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?

I remember my dad buying a hi8 camcorder back in 1991. As a kid I thought it was the coolest thing ever! I spent hours alone in my bedroom filming myself singing Ace of Base songs, pretending to be an anchorman and choreographing dance routines. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a filmmaker. Nowadays, I work mostly in post production on all sorts of productions from commercials, documentaries, TV series and feature films. My dream is to be a successful female director!

So how did IN GOD I TRUST come together?

The inspiration of the script IN GOD I TRUST sprung out of our love of politics and the interesting people my co-writer Paul St. Amand had met while working south of the border. At conception, we had no idea Donald Trump was considering to run for president. As it turns out, our film is very relevant to what is happening in America in terms of racism and divisiveness. Our first draft of the script was completed a year before the 2016 presidential election.

Since this was our first feature film we had no choice but to raise private funding to shoot the film. It took us over a full year and a half, during weekends, to complete the shooting production of the film. My co-producers, Jesse Norsworthy and Paul St. Amand, worked relentlessly to raise small amounts of financing to get us from one shoot to another. With the dedication of our amazing Director of Photography, Corey MacGregor, the crew and cast we were able to finish the production in early 2018. My background is mostly post production but I wore many hats during production including Director, Producer, Post production Supervisor and Editor. Personally, editing was the easy part but as most of us film industry people know, post production is where most of the budget is spent. With nothing to lose, we submitted a Rough Cut of the film to Telefilm with hopes that they would come in for a post production finishing grant. Fortunately, Steve Bates from Telefilm Canada was a huge fan of the film. With Steve’s help and support, Telefilm helped us finance the very expensive post production costs which allowed us to refine our feature film with outstanding sound, music, colour correction, online and visual effects.

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

IN GOD I TRUST was literally written in our favourite coffee shops around Vancouver. Lots of long days, nights and many cups of coffee are what got us through the process of finishing the script. During the entire process of writing, shooting and editing the film I was also working a full time job as a first assistant editor on TV movies and TV series in Vancouver. You can imagine that my entire existence was consumed by this project. I’ve been lucky to have a supportive fiancé who has stood by my side throughout the entire process and, believe me, there were many times I didn’t think we could pull it off. But I kept insisting, kept going, consumed by my pure determination to prove that we can get this done! It was intense and hectic but I loved every minute.

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?

The biggest challenge we had making this film was the very limited budget along with actor scheduling conflicts, and continuity. It’s always challenging when you have a script with multiple characters and storylines. During our first two days of filming, we experienced one of the worst snowstorms to hit the lower Mainland. Trying to match the weather from weekend shoots several months apart was incredibly difficult especially with the weather’s unpredictable nature. We were very fortunate to work with amazing working actors. However, trying to get them all together over weekend shoots was extremely difficult especially when some actors were working on other big budget projects south of the border. The moment we finally knew we were going to get through this, was literally after the last day of shooting. Once everything was shot and in the can we knew good things were to come.

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.

I’m a big fan of the Coen brothers’ films. We wanted to shoot everything as wide and cinematic as possible. We used the ARRI Alexa mini camera with the 4:3 sensor and Cooke anamorphic lenses. We shot most of the film on one camera and added the Blackmagic Ultra 4K as a back- up camera for our musical performance by Grammy Award winning artist Bilal. Originally I cut 60% of the film on Adobe Premiere but decided to move to AVID so you can imagine how long it took me to re-convert all the footage to a new format. It was a nightmare trying to re-conform cuts, I could teach a class on this method!

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

Distribution will determine where the film goes next. We would like to attend the Maui Film Festival in June 2019 however it all depends on what happens after the Whistler Film Festival. There’s been some discussion about a theatrical release. I would love to see it on the big screen across North America.

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?

The advice I would give to anyone wanting to get involved in the motion picture business is just go out and do it. Have fun along the way. If you have a passion for it, you can make it happen. But my biggest piece of advice: Never give up!

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

There are so many to choose from!  I’m a sucker for action films but I would have to say FARGO.


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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