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'Big Little Lies' a big get for Jean-Marc Vallee's Emmy-nominated Montreal team

Laura Dern, from left, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Reese Witherspoon arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of "Big Little Lies" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. After taking this year's Oscars by storm with Denis Villeneuve's "Arrival," Quebec's screen industry is in the Hollywood spotlight once again, this time with "Big Little Lies." THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP-Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
September 07, 2017 - 8:25 AM

TORONTO - After taking this year's Oscars by storm with Denis Villeneuve's "Arrival," Quebec's screen industry is in the Hollywood spotlight once again, this time for "Big Little Lies."

Oscar-nominated Quebec director Jean-Marc Vallee helmed the HBO series that has 16 Emmy Award nominations, including one for himself, one for Montreal cinematographer Yves Belanger and several for other local crew members— from picture editors to sound mixers and costume designers.

The main Emmys show is on Sept. 17 but many of the Montreal nominees will be vying for hardware this weekend at the two-night Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.

"It gives a shine on Montreal and even maybe Canada, because those people from the U.S. or from France, now they think to come to Montreal to work because it's less expensive," said Louis Gignac, who is co-nominated for best sound mixing on "Big Little Lies."

"We all win through that."

Of particular significance is HBO allowing post-production on "Big Little Lies" to happen in Montreal, said Gignac, who shares his nomination with Gavin Fernandes and Brendan Beebe.

It's a rarity if not a first for the network, he said, noting it was Vallee who fought hard to make that happen.

"It was a big deal for (HBO)," said Gignac, who also worked with Vallee on "The Young Victoria," "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Cafe de Flore."

"They don't know us, they don't know if we know what they need. So it was a big gamble and Jean-Marc just took it on his shoulders and promised them that we know what we're doing.

"So now that they know that we can do that, we all wish that they will not be afraid to send us any production."

In fact, Vallee and his Montreal team are already working on another HBO series, "Sharp Objects."

"I don't know how Jean-Marc keeps it up," said Montreal-based Fernandes, who's been working with Vallee since 2008.

"They'll do like 120 days straight, and brutal days, I mean like 7 a.m. calls till 10 at night. So they're real troupers out there."

"Big Little Lies" has Vallee's signature stamp with a soulful soundtrack and powerful visuals as it depicts a murder mystery in a tony California community. The cast includes Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoe Kravitz.

Vallee was initially only supposed to direct the first few episodes, but "after a week or two (HBO) realized his way of shooting is so special that he had to do the whole thing," said Belanger, who has known Vallee since 1991.

Vallee approached the seven-episode, limited series like a film, with everything laid out in advance.

"To HBO's credit, they completely changed their workflow for 'Big Little Lies,'" said Fernandes. "He said, 'I'm not locking episode 1 until I've seen the end of episode 7,' and then he started moving stuff around between the episodes — and they never do that. Normally you lock one, you finish one, you move onto two."

Belanger used a hand-held camera for most of the shots. The omnipresent beach sounds were recorded on location and are like another character in the show.

Vallee prefers to do his editing at home in Montreal and likes to have a French-speaking crew on his projects so he can express himself in his default language, said Fernandes.

But his loyalty to his Montreal team runs deeper than logistics and familiarity.

Gignac said when Vallee got a bonus after the success of "Dallas Buyers Club," he lavished his Montreal team with gifts, cheques and a big feast at his home.

Vallee also likes to cook for his team and once had them over for a dinner with a Canadian oyster-shucking champion.

"It definitely has transcended onto the friendship side," said Fernandes.

"He really does take care of us, and he doesn't have to. I've never seen anyone like that."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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