Inside ‘The Hummingbird Project’ with Pierre Even

Canadian Pierre Even worked as a producer on the recent film The Hummingbird Project with the writer and director Kim Nguyen. Even discusses his relationship with Nguyen and his viewpoint of the film.

ATM: What does a Canadian award mean to you or the Canadian culture?

PE: We have different awards in Canadian. We have the Canadian Screen Awards, which are our national awards. It has nothing to do with in any way with the Oscars. It is a good nod to the crew and people working on the film. It does not have any impact on someone’s career. If you when an award at the Canadian Screen Awards, you have a nice statue, but your film will not do more in business because of this. This is a big change. It is a good nod and something your peers will appreciate, but this is it.

ATM: When helping Kim with the script, what words did you help with in the developmental stage?

PE: As producers, we are the first sounding board for a screenwriter. Kim likes to work on things himself. Then he sends me the stuff written. Very often we are the first reactions to the script. We are very much involved in the process. I try to make comments that will bring Kim’s work further. This is our role. Being able to respect the work of the people you work with and make comments. Acting as a sounding board is the best expression. You have to bring something to the table in making things better.

ATM: How does reasoning work to make something better when it derives from the screenwriter’s point of view?

PE: Over the years we have read and wrote so many scripts. We can read a script. Of course, some of it is subjective in my opinion. I can have some insight into the character arc and how the character reacts to certain things — the way the script is structured. The writer will be so involved in the script that he/she does not see the problem. As an outside reader, I make comments if a character does something that is not in line with what the writer established first. It is not given opinions but trying to get in the writer’s head and help him to see where there are things that can be better.

ATM: How does your role play a factor into the brainstorming process, before the words make it onto the script?

PE: It depends on the project. Kim sent me a script. This was the first draft. He worked on the script on his own. There was no brainstorming period, and the outline was already done. He sent me 142 pages of script. We came on board during the later stages of this project. It could be different on another project. Someone could give me a two-pager, and we start the process together. We brainstorm and start to bring ideas on how the script develops. I let the writer or director go with their idea. They have a vision of what they want to do. My job is to help them put this vision on paper then to screen. Not to bring it somewhere else.

ATM: How does your role contribute to the location picking during the ‘on paper’ stage?

PE: We decide who we want as the production designer. We sit down to have discussions on this. We talk about the script and the vision. A director will have done some group work with pictures to inspire a team and vision of what he wants to do. We sit down to think about what to do. We have the location managers looking for the locations. “We have a family home. We feel it should be a Victorian house built in the 50s. Where can we find it?” We have discussions with a team of four or five people. We go through the list of locations and talk about what we want for each location. We share ideas of where it should be. We are very much involved in casting. I do not only do home visits. The teams go to visit locations and come back with pictures. We look at it together.

ATM: Where do you see the same elements of how you used your curiosity and imagination at his age in him?

PE: He has always had an imagination that pushes the boundaries. We are in the French providence of Canada. We produce films in French and English. Kim very early on was clear, steady and had the imagination on an international market. When first reading his first script, it was so different than the other people. Over the years, Kim always kept this vision of the world, and it was deep for him. He is much more doing things faster than I did. He shot the film in Congo. No one in the world had decided to shoot a film in Congo. The work we are doing together is pushing his team to take the risk.

ATM: So, his imagination is more perfected than yours was at his age?

PE: Yes.