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FilmOut: Shauna MacDonald wears four hats in "Tru Love"

(Editor's note: SDGLN is featuring Q&A interviews with leading filmmakers from around the world who are participating in FilmOut San Diego's 16th annual LGBT Film Festival, running May 30 to June 1 at the historic North Park Theatre. Follow SDGLN for all the news about one of the top LGBT film festivals in the U.S. “Tru Love” is the Girls Centerpiece and will be shown at 12:45 pm Sunday, June 1.)

SAN DIEGO, California – Shauna MacDonald wears four hats in “Tru Love,” the Girls Centerpiece selection at FilmOut San Diego’s 16th annual LGBT Film Festival.

MacDonald stars as Tru, the central character in “Tru Love,” a movie she co-wrote, co-directed and co-produced. It’s no wonder that she confesses that she has been in “Tru” form for most of the past four years.

An accomplished actress who was born in Antigonish in Nova Scotia in Canada, MacDonald has had a successful career in television. She also played Tara in “Saw 3D: The Final Chapter” (2010).

In “Tru Love,” MacDonald plays a woman who hops from bed to bed in Toronto’s lesbian community, wounded in the past and determined not to give her heart to anyone else. But a chance meeting with Alice (Kate Trotter), the elegantly beautiful mother of her best friend Suzanne (Christine Horne), will change her life forever.

Shauna MacDonald shares her thoughts on the making of “Tru Love,” discusses whether it is harder to write a screenplay or act in a screenplay she’s written, and why the film was shot in the dead of winter in Toronto.

Q: What’s the background on the plot for “Tru Love”? Is it pure fiction or based on real people?

Shauna: Tru’s friend, Gray, is an homage to one of my best friends, Graham, who has been an anchor for me. And the actor who played Gray, Alexander Chapman, is also friends with Graham!

Q: The evocative romance that brews between Tru and her ex-girlfriend’s mother, Alice, sets up a fascinating conflict with Suzanne. You are to be commended for etching out three strong female characters. How did you cast the elegant Christine Horne in the role of Suzanne, and how was she to work with?

Shauna: Thanks for the wonderful compliment. I wanted to make a film that I would want to see, and I enjoy strong complicated female characters in film and these characters are rare, so I’m thrilled you enjoyed that component. Christine is an absolute delight to work with. Her work is layered and subtle and she’s freaking gorgeous - inside and out! She will be seen in Atom Egoyan’s latest film, “The Captive,” which will debut this year at Cannes.

Q: The script was tight, the story line is compelling, and the acting is terrific. What is the buzz about your movie on the film festival circuit?

Shauna: Aww, thank you again for the lovely compliment. When you have a very limited budget like we did, you have to chop away all the fat. We worked hard in the two years of writing to get rid of the superfluous and then in editing, made it even leaner. We’ve gotten lots of great feedback from audiences. Mostly I love hearing from women who say, “I could TOTALLY see that happening to me, and I’m not even GAY!” And the best was from my friend who saw the film in London for the first time at the Raindance Film Festival – he said, “Gosh, I’m so relieved … that it didn’t suck … and I’d have to pretend!!” I loved that one.

Q: Was there any reason you chose to shoot during the winter, with outdoor scenes in the snow and the harsher Toronto weather? Was it for symbolism or for convenience? Inquiring minds want to know!

Shauna: We actually wrote a version of the film that took place in spring, but it just didn’t feel right. We needed the isolation of winter. And it was indeed cheaper to shoot in February and more crew were available to work! The scene where Tru and Alice are sitting in big Muskoka chairs under the pink umbrella by the lake as snow is falling got a lot of laughs at the London BFI Flare film festival. Someone commented, “Are you Canadians crazy?? Sitting in those chairs in the snow?” Just for the record, we had about seven months of winter in Toronto this year – and yes, that does make you crazy enough to sit in chairs outside in a snowstorm!!

Q: Shauna, which is harder? Writing a screenplay or acting in a movie you wrote? And why?

Shauna: That’s an interesting question and the answer is – I don’t know! Both have their challenges. I think it is easier to perform a script that you wrote as opposed to one you didn’t write – because you wrote the story and so you know your character very intimately and understand the tone of the piece. This was the first screenplay I’ve collaborated on – it was a long process. Characters were created and then discarded; plot points too. We had three table reads of the script and got honest feedback that really helped us focus our thoughts and be clear about our message. The writing process definitely takes longer and it’s a new skill for me, so sometimes that was more work. Acting is always fun so it never seems like work.

Q: What do you want audiences to remember about the film after they leave the theater?

Shauna: That you will be able to buy the DVD from Wolfe Releasing in November!! But seriously…that you will tell your friends as well to buy the DVD! Lol - Hopefully it will inspire at least one individual to take risks and initiate change – because it is NEVER too late. And never too late to buy that DVD!

Q: What’s next for you?

Shauna: A vacation would be nice!! I’m currently performing in a film in Toronto called “Midnight Masquerade” and will be appearing in Season 2 of “Hemlock Grove” on Netflix. I’m taking some time to focus on performance based work and then likely, I will be lured back into making another film. I need a break though – “Tru Love” has been 3.5 years of nearly daily work. And a lot of lost sleep!!

Q: What is something your fans don’t know about you both?

Shauna: I met the love of my life filming “Tru Love.” And I’m an amateur potter.

Q: If you were granted three wishes, what would you do with them?

Shauna: OK, I’ll go with selfish wishes too. My self-wishes are:

1) I would wish to see my Dad again, who died when I was 17. I miss him every day.

2) I would wish to work with the brilliant Louis CK – he’s my favorite comedian and I LOVE his show “Louie” on FX. It’s funny, poignant and truly makes you examine your life, while having laughs.

3) I would wish for perfect health!

Thanks for the interview and I hope you San Diego peeps dig the movie!

About FilmOut San Diego

FilmOut San Diego affirms the ongoing integrity and boundless imagination of our community and the artists who tell our stories. We believe our work is an integral part of an ongoing effort to build a vibrant, affirming and sustainable LGBT community in San Diego County. We hope you will join us.

Financial support for FilmOut San Diego is provided in part by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts & Culture. While attending our festival, please spend time in America’s Finest City, support our neighboring restaurants, and enjoy the many museums, parks, beaches and other recreational facilities that out city has to offer.

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Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.