Nova Scotia director taps into ‘deep dark places’ in new coming-of-age film

Nova Scotian director Stephanie Joline called a draft of her feature debut the “risky draft” and never intended to show it to anyone.

But this is the version of the film that audiences will see on the big screen today when night flowers opens in Halifax.

“I wrote all this crazy stuff in there…and sat on it for a few days and then I was like, ‘This is the movie,'” she said.

night flowers tells the story of a 17-year-old girl who has a relationship with the father of her best friend in his forties. The backdrop is a small town in Nova Scotia in the 1990s.

It’s not strictly autobiographical, but the film is influenced by some of Joline’s experiences as a teenager.

NS Main Street13:34The Night Blooms director opens up about her teenage years and taking risks

Nova Scotia director Stephanie Joline’s feature debut Night Blooms opens Friday in Halifax. She spoke with Mainstreet’s Carsten Knox about her journey from angsty teenager in Yarmouth to award-winning filmmaker. 13:34

“I was one of those typical bad teenagers who would go out and get drunk and stoned and do things they weren’t supposed to do,” she said.

The story of a rebellious teenager isn’t an original idea, Joline said, but she hoped talking about the mistakes she made back then would resonate with people.

For a long time, these experiments felt off limits.

“I’m really learning to be compassionate to myself and to say to myself, yes, I’ve made mistakes that I was very embarrassed about before…but exaggerated versions of some of my mistakes are now in a movie.”

This is Stéphanie Joline’s first feature film. (Submitted by levelFILM)

Although night flowers Set three decades ago, it tackles contemporary issues, like consent. But he does not draw easy conclusions.

“I really like the gray area, and I especially like going into that gray, murky area when people don’t want me to,” said Joline, who also worked as an editor and videographer at CBC Nova Scotia.

This kind of fearless, personal storytelling is something Joline remembers learning during a screenwriting class with Andrea Dorfman.

Dorfman, a well-known director and animator, encouraged students to “go to a place of shame and embarrassment” because that’s what resonates with people.

“I think we allow ourselves this incredible space, this freedom and this weightlessness that happens when we let go of the shame and realize that ‘Oh yeah, everyone feels that,'” Dorfman said.

At first, it was a scary idea for Joline, who at the time was struggling with an eating disorder that she kept to herself.

She decided to write about it in a script which she eventually showed to some friends. It became his first short film.

Nick Stahl plays Wayne in Night Blooms. (Submitted by levelFILM)

Joline ended up starring in Dorfman’s 2014 film Heartbeat.

night flowers stars Jessica Clement and American actor Nick Stahl, whom Joline met on the set of the film Afghan Luke.

Stahl is best known for his role in the 2003 sci-fi action film, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

The two bonded over love of Canadian indie music. Once Joline wrote the character of Wayne, she knew she wanted to ask Stahl to play the role.

Joline says many parts of the film are influenced by her own teenage years in Yarmouth. (Submitted by levelFILM)

Clement plays the main character Carly, a teenage girl who desperately wants to be a rock star, but lacks the discipline to learn to play an instrument.

Clément said her character made a lot of choices she wouldn’t make, but Joline helped her understand the motivations behind them.

“I didn’t hate the character, but I was definitely annoyed with her sometimes,” Clement said.

She told Joline this at some point during production, not realizing that Carly is loosely based on the filmmaker’s own life.

Night Blooms opens in Halifax on Friday. (Submitted by levelFILM)

“And I was like, ‘Oh, I have to backtrack,'” Clement laughed. “But she’s very open about her teenage life, and she really leaned into that when she was writing…the embarrassing things that she might not have shared otherwise. I think those are the things who really sell that story the most.”

Joline knows not everyone will like her film, but she’s proud to have made something that feels real.

“I don’t think I could have made it this real if I didn’t go to deep, dark places that feel very personal,” she said.