Nfld. & Labrador

From L.A. to Conception Bay: Director with Newfoundland roots shoots 1st feature film

Topsail Beach and Mount Pearl Square are just a few of the sets for the psychological drama Black Conflux.

Psychological drama Black Conflux set in the 1980s

Nicole Dorsey, on set at Mount Pearl Square, talks about making her first feature-length film. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Toronto-born director Nicole Dorsey's first visit to Newfoundland and Labrador in 2010 inspired her to write a psychological drama, and now she's back to film it.

"We're working with tons of local crew and cast. We have a huge cast and mostly everyone, except our leads, are from Newfoundland, and it's been amazing," said Dorsey during filming on Black Conflux, her debut feature.

Black Conflux is the story of two lives that run parallel for much of the film and intersect at the end.

"So we have Jackie, who's dealing with the trials of adolescence, and her emerging womanhood, and then we have Dennis, who's having issues with his psyche," Dorsey told CBC Radio's On The Go during an on-set visit.

Cast and crew shoot a scene on the set of the film Black Conflux. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The actress who portrays Jackie might be a familiar face to many — Ella Ballentine played Anne Shirley in a three-part Anne of Green Gables series in 2017.

"[Jackie is someone] who is really growing up in this film. She's really finding herself and who she wants to be and her friends are more grown up then her in the sense of high school being grown up," said Ballentine.

One scene filmed during CBC's visit to the set featured Ballentine, as Jackie, smoking marijuana, shoplifting and then watching a movie, only to be discovered by a security guard and chased out of the theatre.

Newfoundland a natural fit

Dorsey has directed several short films and received the Irving Avrich Award for emerging filmmakers at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013.

She has also produced commercials in Los Angeles for companies like Nike, Red Bull and Mattel.

Ella Ballentine, left, stars as Jackie in Black Conflux. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

But her family is from Newfoundland, and some of the sites in the film, which is set in the 1980s, are ones close to the hearts of some of her relatives.

"My aunt, when I was writing this story, we talked a lot about her experience growing up as a teenager in Newfoundland," Dorsey said.

"Topsail Beach and the Village Mall, all of these places, were very much part of her teenage years, so I wrote that into the film as well, and Mount Pearl Square worked really well for us."

The lobby at the Cineplex Theatre at Mount Pearl Square was a busy place during filming. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

It's not just the vintage feel of some locations that has made Dorsey appreciate the province, or getting to direct her first feature film — which she hopes will show on the festival circuit and ultimately find a wider release in theatres.

"I've shot here back in 2013, and I've shot all over the world, but there's something very special about the crews here and support you have here — both from your team and the community — that I don't experience elsewhere," she said.

"So even though I'm half-mainlander, I do feel like I'm part of the community here now."

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About the Author

Todd O'Brien

CBC News

Todd O'Brien is a journalist working with CBC's bureau in St. John's.