Roger Maunder was born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland where he currently works as the First-Time Filmmaker Mentor at NIFCO (Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Cooperative). He has independently produced, written and directed a number of films including Cut From The Same Cloth which recently aired on CBC Television’s ‘Canadian Reflections’ and the multi award winning short drama Swallowed , which also appeared on ‘Canadian Reflections’ as well as ‘Bravo!’. His short The White Balloon screened at the L.A. Children’s Film Festival. Recognizing a need to showcase local films in 2001 Maunder created the successful Nickel Independent Film Festival based in St. John’s. In 2007 Maunder’s debut novel Mundy Pond was published by Creative Book Publishing. It is currently in the development stages as a feature film. He currently resides in downtown St. John’s where he continues to enjoy writing and making films while raising his 4 children. He is currently working on his next novel Receiver’s Creed
You have independently produced, written, and directed a number of films. Can you talk a little about Up Sky Down Films and what this creative process is like for you?
That’s an interesting question, Kerri. I go about creating the idea first. I don’t sit at the computer and start just writing…anymore (although that’s how I started). I think about the concept for some time, trying to conceive of a beginning, the middle and the end or at least ideas of how to accomplish them. Once I get to that point, I make notes in my notebook. A guide if you will. I usually see the story in images and pictures and try to capture that while writing these notes. Once that part is completed, I’ll write a synopsis of what it is of the story that I want to tell. Life has a way of changing things too. There’s times when I’m stuck on how a particular character is going to get himself/herself out of a situation and low and behold something in my life happens that opens a door for the character. It’s a little bead of light that comes though, unaware at first, but rises to the top until I realize that I can connect the two. Strange, I know, but it does happen.
I have changed my writing practices from when I first started as I really did use to sit down at the computer and just start writing without any preconceived ideas on where it was taking me. That’s how the script for Mundy Pond came out. It was a month of writing, not really knowing where I was going with it until I finished the first draft. It was when I adapted it to the novel form that I really dug deep, changed and added an enormous amount. I think it was from going through this process with a combination of going through the Atlantic Film Festival’s Inspired Script workshops with Noel Baker last year, which changed the way I go about attacking a story. My latest feature script ‘Sweet Cove’ came through this process.
Most of everything I have created through my film company Up Sky Down Films was produced, written and directed by myself. Over the past year or so I have opened up to other projects where I don’t have to wear all three hats. My biggest love (outside of my kids) is making films. I’ve always enjoyed watching them when I was growing up and it wasn’t until I found out about NIFCO (Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Cooperative) that I realized that I could actually make films here. Once that started it’s like a light went off. I knew what I wanted to do and I haven’t stopped since.
How do you deal with the stresses of playing multiple roles on single projects? The pressure must be intense sometimes.
I don’t really find there’s much pressure when you are your own boss and you surround yourself with good, reliable and trustworthy people. They got your back and you got theirs. You surround yourself with professionals. I really do have a lot of fun doing what I do and I don’t take myself too seriously. It’s not a matter of life and death here. I tell stories and try my best to tell/show them the best and original way that I can. In the end I hope these stories move the audience and that they leave an impression with the viewer. That the story had an impact on them and that stays with them, ya know, a learning experience or a new way at looking at something that they couldn’t see before.
Many artists struggle with some part of the creative process; for musicians, it could be writing lyrics; poets, the perfect structure. What is your struggle?
The idea. I don’t want to tell a story that’s already been told. It has to be new and refreshing. Even if there are similarities to another story, which often happens as there are so many stories out there. I want to tell that story as if it’s the first time you’ve heard it. An idea can take you anywhere and everywhere.
I’d also like to add that trying to accomplish something like a particular camera shot with little to no resources/money can be just as tough and frustrating too. But, you figure out a way to get around those obstacles and in the end you make it better. After all, everything happens for a reason.
Mundy Pond, your debut novel published in 2006 by Creative Book Publishing, is now being adapted for the screen. Tell us the process of adaptation, and how do you decide what stays in the script and what gets cut?
This process is huge in magnitude. I thought at first, ‘okay I have the script written, let’s go make the movie’, but I quickly learned that it’s not how it works. You need funding to make films. There are a lot of hoops you have to jump through. There are a lot of people with opinions on how to make your story that much better especially when they are the ones that are investing in your project. I found that by the end of the last draft of Mundy Pond that the story wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. That said, the novel is the story I want to tell. I’m not going to make a film that I don’t want to tell even if they do give me the money to do so. I have to feel right about it. If you are going to do it, you have to feel right. I started the whole process when Declan my son was just born and he’s 11 now. That’ll tell you how long this has taken me. I blame myself for that too. I could be really pushing it but I’ve gotten into writing other film projects as I mentioned earlier both feature scripts and short scripts and as First Time Filmmaker and Film Class instructor at NIFCO, it takes a lot of time away from focusing 100% on making that particular film. There are times I go back and sit down with the script in front of me and it literally drains me of all energy to start back at another revision. Hence, why the other scripts have come along through the process, it’s easier and less stressful to start anew then to go back and attack and change what’s already been done. But, it’s all part of the process. I choose what I do and I know that this film will be done. I really want to make my latest film Sweet Cove first. It’s a film that can be made on a lower budget than Mundy Pond and it if does well then I should be able to secure funding to make Mundy Pond the way I envision it. Jennice Ripley (Producer: Crackie) has come on board to produce Sweet Cove. I have big hopes that these films will be made.
I know you write screenplays and novels: any other genres?
Well, as of the past year I’ve been co-writing songs as a part of a comedy group, Wish & Flo. We actually have an album coming out in the next couple of weeks that was originally created through the RPM Challenge, to write and record an album in the month of February. I play Wish Crosby and Colleen Power plays Flo Murphy. We’ve made a few videos already that have done well on YouTube. Most notably Dead Bird in the Garbage. It’s all part of a television show that we are developing called ‘Down Town Freaks’. They are minor characters in the show. Check out the Facebook page and become a fan. We have new videos coming out soon. It’s so much fun to play these characters. Most of everything I have done is on my website. Tell us a little about your new novel-in-progress.
The new novel in progress is called Receiver’s Creed. It will be another Young Adult novel that’s based in a small town in Newfoundland. It’s a super natural story of good versus evil. I don’t want to tell too much. I’ve learned that you are better off not saying anything until it’s done and gone to print. Knock on wood.