Visual credit: Courtesy – Marï Photographe
Interview conducted by Marie-Ève Duguay – Head of the Arts and Culture Department
Tanya Lapointe is a filmmaker, former journalist at Radio-Canada (RC) and a graduate of the University of Ottawa (U of O). She is best known for her documentary Lafortune in paper and for his work on the feature film Dunesdirected by her husband Denis Villeneuve, who recently smashed the box office North American. While waiting for the nominations for the 2022 Oscars, she confides in The rotunda on his professional career.
The Rotunda (LR) : Why and how did you decide to make the leap from journalist to filmmaker?
Tanya Lapointe (TL): I had taken a journalism course at U of O that was offered in partnership with RC, which eventually opened the door for me to a job with RC. I started there in 2000 as a video journalist: I did my camera work, my editing and my reports. I worked in Hawkesbury, Toronto, Edmonton and Montreal. I then became a national culture journalist, which was really my goal from the start. I had done classical ballet when I was young, and I always had a great interest in the arts, dance and cinema.
When the opportunity presented itself, in 2016, I took a sabbatical year to work with my husband on blade runner 2049 and on The Arrival. I then left RC, and I’ve been in the film business ever since. I not only take part in Denis’ projects, but I also launched my own production company, the Rooftop productionsfor my documentary projects, including 50/50 and Lafortune in paper.
LR : Has your journalistic career influenced and/or helped you in the film industry?
LT: Absolutely ! The fact of having been a journalist allowed me to observe how the arts and culture community functioned in a broad sense and at all levels. Talking to actors, directors, directors, it allowed me to understand the process and appreciate it.
When I found myself in the world of movie theater, it was like going through the looking glass, but I had basic knowledge; I was not discovering an unknown world. It allowed me to better grasp the nuances and unwritten laws of this world.
LR : What kind of unique perspective can Canadian filmmakers or, in your case, French-speaking Canadians, offer to the Hollywood film industry?
TL: There is a path, a momentum, a desire to be seen outside of Canada for artists here, which is well received by the film industry. There are currently two short films by Quebec filmmakers that are on the list of predictions for the Oscars.
Our creators want to be seen on the outside. To know that there were other people who preceded us, be it Denis Villeneuve or Jean-Marc Vallée, among others, is to know that a path has been traced.
The medium continues to evolve, and we all have to create our own paths, but there is a force in it. Those who want to make films can draw inspiration from these predecessors and hope that their work will be seen outside our borders.
LR : How would you describe your artistic approach or process?
TL: The word that comes to mind is “instinct”. I find that the creative process, especially in my documentary projects, is mainly based on this word […].
I think we have to listen to each other, because there are no rules to follow in the cinema. If we followed a formula to create, we would do something rather generic. You have to go with your instinct to be able to discover your own path. I know it’s a bit fleeting, but that’s really what guides my approach.
LR : Do you have any advice for young U of O students, like you, who would like to pursue a career like yours?
LT: The U of O has really been decisive in my career. I had some professor.es who were, for a long time, mentors and who guided me on the right path. It is important for me to give back to the students who are there and who dream of working in different fields of communications and the arts.
There are always people asking me how I got to where I am now, but there really isn’t a set route! Anyone who wanted to be like me would have to be a ballerina for 20 years, then not know what to do, then go to university in psychology, find out that he/she wants to go into communications and conclude that journalism is what will open its doors. All that to say that there is no single path and that we must explore.
What worked for me was work. You have to set goals and work diligently, daily, without getting exhausted. A career is a marathon. You have to take your breath and tell yourself that each step leads to your goals. Consistency and the belief that what you dream of is within reach are key.
I am currently in Los Angeles, and I realize that it is a very competitive environment. Everyone works hard, and those who manage to catch their breath are the ones who last.