Nova Scotia

'Into the Forest' started when actor Ellen Page stopped by P'Lovers

New film 'Into the Forest' started when Halifax actor stopped into downtown Halifax shop and the clerk told her the Jean Hegland novel would 'make a great movie.'

Ontario filmmaker Patricia Rozema's new movie was shot in B.C.

Ellen Page visited Halifax's P'Lovers shop, which led her to her next film role. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Filmmaker Patricia Rozema has helmed several female-driven projects, including the new survival drama Into the Forest starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood.

But for the industry as a whole, such an opportunity is a rarity, says the Emmy-nominated writer-director from Kingston, Ont.

"It's a weirdly rare thing, for a female director to have two female leads," Rozema says in an interview to promote Friday's release of Into the Forest.

"It's changing gradually. It's sad that it's a novelty, when we're a whole half of the population. There's nothing about directing that women can't do or that men are better qualified to do.

"It's storytelling. I think we know from great female novelists, there's no special maleness to that skill."

Rozema adds that in Canada, the film industry is smaller and the country "has a history of very powerful female novelists, storytellers — the Alice Munros and the Margaret Atwoods."

"So there's a kind of acceptance of women as significant authors, and when film is considered an art form — and not big business about machines and explosions — then there's room for women."

Page 'devoured' novel by Jean Hegland

The B.C.-shot film about two sisters stranded in their remote family home during a continent-wide power outage came about because of Page.

The Oscar-nominated Juno star was in her native city of Halifax when she came across the Jean Hegland novel on which the film is based.

"I was in this store that I love in Halifax called P'Lovers and the woman working there, who I talk to when I go in, was like, 'You really need to read this book. I think it would make a great movie,"' says Page, who is a producer on the film.

"I started reading it, I devoured it, and we sort of took it from there."

Actor Ellen Page and director Patricia Rozema worked together on Into the Forest. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Wood's character is a dancer while Page's is an academic. As the film was developed, they became fast friends, which helped to portray their characters' sisterly bond.

"We had this year of becoming so close and connected and ... I think protective of one another," says Page.

"There were moments when I really truly felt like Evan was my older sister."

Page 'forever a soul sister'

Wood agrees. "I feel like Ellen is kind of forever a soul sister of mine, we were just so protective of each other the whole time. I think that's a lifelong friendship now."

The cast also includes Max Minghella, Callum Keith Rennie, Michael Eklund and Wendy Crewson.

For the shoot, Wood learned dance moves and limited her use of the TV and computer in order to get a feeling of isolation and being deprived of the luxuries of life. Meanwhile, Page learned how to skin a boar for a certain scene.

The two also learned how to chop wood and can foods, and they went on a strict diet to depict their characters' growing hunger as resources diminish and crisis looms.

"It was a roller coaster, it was a ride," says Wood, who had to shoot one particularly harrowing scene that made her "ill and nervous."

"Ellen and I were just each other's rocks, because the film is mainly just us in every frame going through everything a person can go through.

"And then we would go home at the end of the day and watch Family Guy and laugh and try to decompress."

With files from Cassandra Szklarski