Kickstart This! Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas’ Monster-Inflected Drama “Condition of the Heart”


Having tackled the odd beast of puberty with their directorial debut, the Canadian filmmaking duo of Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas will take on a more literal one in their sophomore feature “Condition of the Heart,” which is currently raising funds on Kickstarter before a February 16th deadline.

The campaign should come as welcome news to anyone who saw the pair, who refer to themselves collectively as C & Y, storm the festival circuit last year with “Amy George,” their coming-of-age drama about a boy determined to become an artist, but concerned that his middle-class upbringing will offer little in the way of inspiration until an encounter with an older neighbor changes his outlook. After taking home a Spirit Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival and making its native debut at the Toronto Film Festival last fall, C & Y wasted no time in penning a follow-up.

“We had an idea of a woman falling in love with a swamp/lake creature and slowly the creature’s role and our desire for how it would shape the story became more and more complex,” the two said jointly in an e-mail exchange. “We had just finished a draft of a project that we were hoping to shoot and were becoming increasingly aware of the script’s shortcomings and logistical hurdles. It was late on a weeknight when we were about to start on another draft when Calvin rather suddenly spat out the basic premise for ‘Condition of the Heart.’”

Although C & Y insist that “the new story had all of the simplicity that we had been searching for,” one can rest assured there will be little that’s basic about “Condition of the Heart” when it comes to either the emotional terrain it covers or the production itself. The film, which centers on a middle-aged woman who retreats to a cottage in the wilderness of Northern Ontario after learning she’s contracted a disease, can expect to have an equally tough time ahead during a planned three-week shoot in March when it’s expected to be quite cold. Presumably not making things any easier would be the fact that the entire cast and crew will be staying in the same cottage they’re shooting in, however, C & Y see that as an advantage with an already tight-knit company of artists, many of whom like writer/editor/composer Lev Lewis will be returning from “Amy George.” 

“One of the nicest things about shooting at a cottage is that our whole crew will be living and breathing the film at all times. We’ve assembled a terrific group of collaborators who are just as excited about filmmaking as we are and that’s a really encouraging thing.”

Amongst that group will be production designer (and filmmaker in his own right) Drew Lint, cameraman Ian Carleton and creature effects artist Michael Walsh, who recently worked on the fifth installment of the “Resident Evil” franchise. Walsh will be particularly crucial to the production since the central character’s romance with the sea creature will be treated as realistically as possible, with the filmmakers “adamant that the creature feel absolutely natural and fit seamlessly into the realism of the world around it.”

Yet that might be the only respect in which the pair would use the phrase “fitting in” with a positive connotation, seeing “Condition of the Heart” as a drama first with “elements of unconventional horror.” Judging from their debut that explored dark places in a deeply human way, the two filmmakers, who first met in film school and “quickly realized we were of a similar cinematic ilk,” appear ready to once more blur the lines between the terror one can experience in a film and one experiences outside of it and are actually pushing their own boundaries as a result.     

“We feel like Condition of the Heart is a sharp left turn for us as filmmakers and we’re excited to be experimenting with a completely different subject matter.”

Assuming they’re successful, the film’s mysterious creature won’t be the only monster they’ve created.

To back this project and see the filmmakers' personal pitch video, check out the film's Kickstarter page. And follow the film's progress on Facebook, Twitter, and its official site.

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