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Soul of a Lion - Part II

23 Feb 2006

An interview with award-winning filmmaker Louis Mercier

With his recent career recognition at the Harry Jerome Awards, filmmaker Louis Mercier was conscious of the need to share some of his recipes for success. He discussed with AfroToronto.com the need for community leaders to reach back and help the up-and-comers. Speaking directly about some of the obstacles that aspiring filmmakers will faces, he lists funding as a major concern. He still deals with those limitations himself. "For me I was successful with whatever acting roles I was doing, I was putting money on the side to fund my own stuff. I was successful in having a lot of work under my belt doing that and not only relying on funding." 

So for those funding reasons, among others, working behind the camera is even tougher than being in front of it. There is a lot of competition and you must prove yourself all the time. "I find it easy to find an actors crew. But people to give you money? It’s always hard. As a Black filmmaker, it''s especially hard. You want to film what? Where’s the slave? Who is interested in a love story between a Black man and an East Indian woman?" These are some of the questions that Mercier has to face on a constant basis.

But Mercier doesn''t shy away from making films that break out of the mould of what would be "expected" from a Black filmmaker. Staying true to the vision behind his production company, Soulion Entertainment, he continually seeks to showcase the experiences of a multi-faceted and multi-cultural world. For instance his film Toussaint is a love story between a Black man and an East Indian woman. The Black man struggles with his need to tell the girl he’s in love with her but she herself has a mandate to leave the country because she’s into this arrange marriage that she wants to get out of. And it’s his own struggle whether or not to let her leave, and forever lose her, or reveal his love for her and face her parents.

Two of his other films, Delivering Santiago and Perfect Pitch also deal with universal themes featuring a multicultural cast. Delivering Santiego is an artistic film about someone who goes into rehab and discovers a painting that speaks to him and inspires him to get back on his feet. He vows that when he is released from the rehab institution that he will find the painter and bring his painting to the world since it saved his own soul. Leaving the suspense intact, Mercier says: "But we don’t know if it’s for corrupted reasons or a legit reason. To be seen." And Perfect Pitch is a story about an Asian writer who wants to tell a story but it’s really a comedy on how people should not blame the writer if they see a bad film. Because scripts go from one hand to the next, form one investor to the next and then the movie is out. The final product sometimes has very little to do with the initial script.

Louis Mercier was not only been successful in getting these movies made, but also won awards for them, by mastering the vital combination of discipline and networking. He makes the rounds of film festivals and has been fortunate to garner the attention of festival programmers. "You have to pick and choose the festivals you attend and be part of" because there are submission fees to get your films considered for screening. "You have to network day in and day out, it doesn’t stop. You have to let people know what you're doing and try to get as much support as possible to put your project out and also to do new projects."

"I'm a low-key person, spend very little. So I'm able to not have a full-time job and live within my means and produce on a full-time basis. Being a one-man-band, I can only rely on myself so I do it all."

Louis Mercier is one of the true hard core independent filmmakers who has a true passion for his craft and is making waves with sweat equity, hard work and dedication. He is a true inspiration.

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