YARMOUTH, N.S. – The movie Maudie didn’t just strike at the hearts of movie goers last year, but the film based on the life of beloved Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis also shone brightly at the recent Canadian Screen Awards where it was the big winner of the night, winning seven awards including Best Motion Picture.
Sally Hawkins won the Best Actress Award for her portrayal of Maud Lewis and Ethan Hawke won the award for Male Supporting Actor for his role as Maud’s husband and fish peddler Everett Lewis.
The film was shot in Newfoundland but on screen it depicted the couple’s home in Marshalltown, Digby County.
All over social media people who saw Maudie were moved and mesmerized by the acting of Hawkins and Hawke, calling their performances Oscar worthy. Hawkins was nominated for a best actress Academy Award but it was for the film ‘The Shape of Water.’ You can’t be nominated for two Oscars in the same category.
The Canadian Screen Awards, which were presented March 11, saw Maudie director Aisling Walsh win the award for Achievement in Direction. In an interview with the Tri-County Vanguard last year Aisling was asked for her reaction to the overwhelming response to the film.
“It’s what you really hope for and more,” she had said.
Walsh said having worked with Sally Hawkins before, she immediately knew she wanted the actress to play the role of Maud. Within a week of having read the script, she had sent the actress a photo of Maud, taken by former Yarmouth resident and photographer Bob Brooks, along with photographs of Maud Lewis’s paintings.
“I said ‘What do you think?’ and she wrote back and said ‘Yes, I want to do it.’ She hadn’t even read the script at that point,” said Walsh.
Walsh called the portrayals of Maud and Everett by Hawkins and Hawke "amongst the best work they've ever done."
Another major Canadian Screen Award for the film was the Award for Original Screenplay, awarded to Sherry White of Newfoundland.
Rounding out the awards were ones for Best Achievement in Editing and Best Achievement in Costume Design.
The movie Maudie, after successful showings at film festivals, came out in the spring of 2017. Originally it wasn’t scheduled to play at the Cineplex in Yarmouth during its first round of release locations but that soon changed.
In Yarmouth, the place where Maud Lewis (then Dowley) was born, which is also and just an hour from the Digby County site where Maud lived and painted, the public made sure to let the film's distributor Mongrel Media know how much they wanted to see the film. It quickly became the #1 film being shown on screens here, with sold out multiple daily showings for weeks on end.
And the response throughout Atlantic Canada was just as strong.
ECONOMICS OF THE PRODUCTION
A study of the Maudie film production carried out for the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), meanwhile, touches on the economic success of the production of the film.
“The Canadian/Irish co-production starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke generated $6.4 million in GDP, drove $9 million in total economic output, and contracted services from nearly 300 businesses across Canada,” reads a media release.
Maudie, was principally filmed in Newfoundland and Labrador, with post-production work completed in Ontario and Ireland. “Work on the film in Newfoundland and Labrador saw $3.7 million in production expenditure, which yielded $4.1 million in GDP and $5.6 million in total economic output for the province,” states the CMPA study. “In Ontario, a production expenditure of $1.7 million, generated $2.3 million in GDP and resulted in $3.4 million in total economic output.”
At the time the movie was being seen in theatres, the Tri-County Vanguard asked its director why it wasn’t filmed in Nova Scotia.
Walsh said producers had tried to find a funding partner in Nova Scotia but weren’t successful. Another producer thought he might have better luck raising money for the independent film in Newfoundland, she explained. As time went on, since Walsh and staff with the film are from Ireland, they also got funding from there as well. Money was also sourced from Ontario.
“We tried to find a partner in Nova Scotia and we couldn’t. And then your government, I remember the day it happened, took the tax credit away,” Walsh says. “This film, had we been in Nova Scotia at that time as we were in pre-production, this film would have never been made, because it would have collapsed.”
The CMPA study says provincial production incentives, administered by the Newfoundland Film Development Corporation (NFLDC) and the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) helped to catalyze the film’s economic activity. “In Newfoundland each provincial tax credit dollar resulted in $8.54 of economic output, in Ontario each tax credit dollar resulted in $10.58 of economic output,” the study found.
Still, Nova Scotia was on the receiving end of much renewed interest in Maud Lewis with people wanting to visit the site where she lived and painted in Digby County.
In Yarmouth, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s western branch held an exhibit of her work and there remains talk of continued ways to recognize Lewis here – the town has named a multi-use recreational trail after her and a park has been proposed by a local resident for Hawthorne Street.
On Digby Neck, a Maud Lewis replica house built by Murray Ross saw lots of visitation last year, which he attributed to the movie.
Maud and Everett Lewis’s real house is part of the permanent display at the Art Galley of Nova Scotia in Halifax.