Nfld. & Labrador

How a St. John's filmmaker went from English-speaking busboy in Montreal to Cannes

Cody Westman's short film Casey will be screened at the French film festival this May.

Cody Westman's short fim Casey will be screened at the Cannes film festival in France this May

Cody Westman, centre, directed the short film Casey, which will be screened in Cannes as part of Telefilm Canada's pavilion. (Ritchie Perez/CASEY short film/Facebook)

He may not be walking the red carpet with the A-list celebrities at the Festival de Cannes 2018, but one St. John's-based filmmaker is set on making the most of the trip.

"I'm gonna be mainly carrying their luggage," says Cody Westman.

In reality, Westman's short film Casey was selected to play at the film festival in France this May as part of Telefilm Canada's Not Short on Talent Short Film Corner.

"It just worked out. We got selected last year and it's been really great," Westman told CBC's Weekend AM.

"To go to Cannes is arguably one of the biggest festivals in the world, so I'm pretty happy."

Westman says the Cannes festival is a great chance for a filmmaker to meet people in the industry who they may otherwise not meet and have a chance to work with. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Casey is a short film about an 11-year-old girl who lives in a quiet house with an overprotective mother who ensures the girl gets an education, and has a loving home.

But an altercation with a group of local schoolgirls reveals Casey's life is based on a lie. The short film is co-produced by Jennifer Hawley, and the script is co-written by Bridget Canning, one of this year's Winterset finalists for her novel The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes.

'You never know'

Casey won't be on the main bill at Cannes, Westman said, but it will get one showing on a large screen before being made available to people at the short film pavilion.

Believe it or not, short films can actually sell.- Cody Westman

It will give Westman and his film crew a chance to meet people who might buy the short film, as well as get them connected with the European film circle.

"We have to go there and politely hustle and just meet people and get them to see it. Part of meeting people at an event is giving them a card and saying, hey, Casey is available to see at this event … You never know where it's gonna go," he said.

Casey is a short film about an 11-year-old girl, schooled at home by a protective mother, who learns her life is a lie. (Ritchie Perez/CASEY short film/Facebook)

"Believe it or not, short films can actually sell. I've had one short that's been purchased by Air Canada before."

Westman, originally from British Columbia, first fell in love with film when he moved to Montreal.

He didn't speak French and could only get a job as a busboy, until finding an ad in a local paper for work as an extra on a film set.

"I just got the bug for it and I started taking acting classes and I was doing some acting in commercials, and I got into production assisting and the art department and all that. Worked in Vancouver and then I met a Newfoundlander, met my wife, in Vancouver and we came out here," said Westman.

"A few years ago I just decided that I needed a real change, a different direction, and I bought myself my first camera and just started learning. Learned everything from people and the internet, and just started shooting."

The change worked out for Westman, who has directed commercials, corporate videos, short films, a feature documentary now in production, and a music video nominated for an ECMA this year.

 He is also currently working on a script with someone local to make Casey a full-length feature film.

"I absolutely love that I can do this now and people keep calling."

With files from Heather Barrett/Weekend AM