HEYDAY. Gordon Pinsent, Canada’s beloved actor, director and bon vivant, wrote and directed Heyday drawing upon his boyhood imaginings of a glamorous life in Gander, Newfoundland while it played host to the comings and goings bound for WWII glory.
The central character, 16 year old Terry and his mom love to share stories about their favourite movie stars, and as she falls ill and their home is quarantined, Terry conjures a fantasy world as a coping device in which he is the debonair headwaiter of the Gander Airlines Hotel.
Gordon Pinsent’s imagination is extremely fertile and his personal memory rich with detail so it was upon this solid foundation that we were able to build the world of Heyday, with Gordon endorsing and igniting excitement and creative expansion at every juncture.
The world of Heyday resides in Terry’s cozy working class home shared with his mother and father, but flows back and forth between this cramped, textured reality and the expansive elegance of his imagined Gander Hotel. This happens in both Terry’s fictional imagination and as a practical aspect of the design/shooting requirement, thus an intrinsic part of the production design was to create a device that provides a way for this threshold to be crossed back and forth. “Grand Hotel” and the musicals of Busby Berkeley were stylistic touchstones for the Gander Hotel with floor to ceiling walls of fluid, pleated sheers, white on white upholstery, gloss black enamel accents and restrained Art Deco styling. An expanse of elegant drapery created the dividing ‘threshold’ wall and facilitated the rapid ability to reveal or conceal Terry’s disparate worlds.
Our ‘studio’ was a recently closed Wal-Mart store in a shopping mall on the edge of St. John’s Newfoundland and though spacious, it had lower ceilings than would have been nice for our ‘Grand Hotel’ vision. However, its shiny, large floor tiling did come in handy as a template for our black and white checkerboard floor.
When Heyday was made, there was a talented and experienced work force available in St. John’s to help create the film. Finding construction finishings and appropriately elegant, furnishings presented a challenge: some elements were shipped in from Toronto—namely the translucent vacuform panels that formed the windows in the Gander Hotel and the quantities of fabric and sheer needed for the walls. The classic 30’s style dining room and lounge chairs were found locally at the Loblaws Superstore and only required the addition of some black lacquer to make them look believable (thank goodness for retro-contemporary chic).
I enjoy the challenge of working in new places, with new people, and coming up with solutions that force a lateral mode of thinking, and fortunately this approach is bred in the bone in Newfoundland. The experience of working on this special and delightful story with the equally delightful Mr. Pinsent stands out as a genuine career highlight.
The film was nominated for both a Gemini Award and a Director’s Guild of Canada Award for Best Production Design.