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Hot Docs 2024: Qs à la mode with… Ken Wardrop (So This Is Christmas)

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Director Ken Wardrop’s So This Is Christmas examines the holiday season through the lens of individuals for whom it’s not necessarily a joyful time of year. We posed our Qs à la mode to Ken, and here’s what he shared!

 

If I had to describe my film using only three adjectives, they would be: Touching, insightful, Christmas-y.

I decided to make this film because: When I was 12, my grandmother who lived with us passed away on Christmas morning. After that, Christmas became a very sad time of year for our family. My mom, who was very close to my grandmother, started saying she hated Christmas. I remember her panicking about it from Halloween onwards. This profoundly affected me and how I saw the season from then on, and I often wondered why so many people loved Christmas so much. In fact, the original working title of our film was “I Hate Christmas,” and it was meant to be a more personal exploration of Christmas.

The thing that surprised me most about my film’s subject/topic was: When I set out to make the film titled “I Hate Christmas,” I expected to find people who truly disliked Christmas. However, despite having mixed feelings about Christmas, the participants we filmed with didn’t actually hate the core ideas behind it. Instead, they valued the original meanings of the Christmas season but felt that those values had been overshadowed and drowned out by all the commercialization.

The toughest part of the shoot was: Filming [this documentary] was a very personal experience. The biggest challenge was shooting it on 35mm film with more crew than usual, which took away from the closeness that would have been preferable. Luckily, the beautiful subjects we filmed were so very open and real that having a big crew around didn’t stop them from being their authentic selves.

My favorite moment/scene/sequence in my film is: My favorite scene in the film is a total fluke moment. As we’re interviewing a character, her son peeks through a door and joins his mum in front of the camera. The little boy doesn’t look at the camera or interfere in the moment. Instead, his presence reinforces the message behind what his Mum is trying to explain: that it’s not about the gifts you shower on your children, but about the time you spend with them that ultimately counts, and that’s what they’ll remember.

My most invaluable piece of doc-making equipment was/is: A small footstool, which I have had for the last 10 years. It is the perfect height for sitting behind the camera while conducting interviews. It’s always kept safely in the back of the equipment van.

One piece of documentary-filmmaking advice I’d like to share with aspiring documentarians is: Benjamin Franklin said it perfectly: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

 

Want to check out Ken’s film, or just learn more about it?
Get the scoop, and your tickets, here!

 

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