Tammy Gillis is upbeat, compassionate, easy to talk to, fun, funny, wildly creative, and fiercely loyal. And that’s exactly what makes her award-winning portrayal of Claire in Farpoint Films’ award-winning Menorca so utterly amazing. Claire is everything that Tammy isn’t. She’s unhappy, self-centered, distant, hedonistic, miserable, and unfaithful. It took phenomenal skill to not only bring this character to life, but to ultimately make her the one the audience is rooting for. Gillis’ work is nothing short of masterful.
If you missed Menorca when it had it’s US theatrical run in AMC theaters last December, don’t fret. On Tuesday, June 26, this intriguing tale will be available in the US via Allin, DirecTV, Dish, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Xbox, GooglePlay, and Hoopla.
“People cautioned me,” Tammy began, “‘Why would anybody want to watch this movie about this terrible mother who left her child and her family?’ Instead of arguing against it, I really listened to what people had to say. They made me realize that when I did do the movie, I would have to show the audience why Claire was acting this way. She was so unhappy and so messed up, she needed to find a reason to feel alive. I think she needed to leave so she didn’t take her family down with her. I really felt if she wouldn’t have left, she probably would’ve killed herself because she had nothing, no purpose in life, she was depressed, she was miserable, and she couldn’t see a way out.”
One of the key factors that helps keep Menorca from getting too heavy is the subtle fibers of light that are stitched throughout the film’s otherwise dark emotional tapestry. It’s not necessarily comedy, but there are brief moments that allow the viewer to snatch a quick, refreshing breath of air before submerging back into Claire’s mesmerizing epicurean world.
In the opening sequence, for example, Claire is indulging in a little soul searching that involves two men, neither one of which is her husband and neither one of which is clothed. When the hum of the garage door opening snaps her back into the present, she kicks the men out with such snarky ferocity that it becomes a rather humorous scene.
“I think that was a really smart move on John Barnard’s [the director and writer] part,” Tammy acknowledged. “When we were shooting, I didn’t feel like any of it was comedy, it was really dark and hard for me all the time. But it was really cool when I finally got to see the whole movie and realized that there are some moments of comedy and lightness in it.”
“You know what was crazy?” she asked. “When we had the screening in Winnipeg, which was where we shot most of the movie, my family was there. My dad and my sisters came along with a bunch of my aunts and uncles. I was thinking, ‘How are they going to feel about the opening of this movie?!’ I was so stressed out about that. But they thought it was cool. They understood that I was just acting and I wasn’t really this woman. My dad loved it!”
Tammy filmed Menorca two years ago in July. The low budget project has become affectionately known by the cast and crew as the “little movie that could.” It screened at the Whistler Film Festival in December and then in India at the Noida International Film Festival. After that, it screened at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose and played in theaters in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Toronto.
“It also screened at the Solaris Film Festival-17 in Nice France,” Gillis informed. “We never in a million years thought that it would get this much attention. It’s kind of cool because it seems like every other day either a friend or somebody else messages me to tell me how much they liked the movie. I say, ‘Keep watching it! Let’s make this a cult hit!”
A lot of the initial attention the film received is actually due to Tammy’s hard work. Besides being the star, she became the film’s key promoter. The producers asked if she could help spread awareness of the film by reaching out to friends and fans via her social media. Tammy’s efforts are ultimately what got the film played in Vancouver and Toronto.
But it wasn’t only Tammy’s fans who ended up becoming spellbound by the movie, the critics recognized the incredible impact of the film, as well. Tammy received a Leo Award nomination for “Best Lead Performance in a Motion Picture” and she walked away with the “Best Actress” award in both India and France. In Canada, Menorca was nominated for six Windy Awards by the Winnipeg Film Group. The movie ended up winning four: “William F. White Feature Length Film Award,” “Stan Mak Memorial Sound Award,” “Production Design Award,” and the “William F. White Cinematography Award.”
“Mitch Dorge, you might know him from a band called the Crash Test Dummies, scored the movie,” Tammy interjected. “He’s so talented, I absolutely adore the music in this film. My favorite song in the whole movie — it’s kind of played twice — is the one near the end when I’m driving in the van. It’s this happy, upbeat song called ‘My Love Sings’ by Joey Gregorash. When we had our screening in Winnipeg, we went out for a drink and Joey called John [Barnard] and asked him if he could talk to me so he could thank me. I don’t know why he thanked me, John’s the one who got him involved. I thanked him for allowing us to have the song in the movie. It was so cool to get to connect with him.”
In closing, Tammy wanted to point out some of the comments she’s been getting from fans. “One person wrote, ‘I never understood why my mom left. This movie gives me some understanding, so I reached out to her.’ Another person wrote, ‘This was my life. My wife was Claire. I never ever could see it from any other perspective but mine until I watched your movie.’ As an actor, part of my job is to express the human experience and have people really feel something. These messages are just so amazing, thank you for sharing them with me.”
Menorca will be available in the US on June 26 via Allin, DirecTV, Dish, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Xbox, GooglePlay, and Hoopla.
The cast and crew of “Menorca.”