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Montreal filmmaker Sophie Dupuis gets noticed around the world

Concordia grad makes waves with her feature-film debut Chien de garde, Canada’s entry for the 91st Academy Awards.
January 29, 2019
By Richard Burnett

Chien de garde Sophie Dupuis (right) on the set of her 2018 crime drama Chien de garde. | Photo: Babas Photography

Sophie Dupuis, BFA (film prod.) 10, had one of the most promising feature-film debuts in the history of Canadian cinema. After premiering at the Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma last winter, her critically acclaimed crime drama Chien de garde screened competitively at some 20 film festivals around the world, before being chosen as the Canadian entry for best foreign language film at this year’s Oscars.

Though Chien de garde (Family First) was not nominated, Dupuis turned a lot of studio heads, was profiled in The Hollywood Reporter and appeared on the television series Tout le monde en parle. Her film also won three Iris awards at the 2018 Gala Québec Cinéma: best lead actress, best new actor and best editing.

Produced by Etienne Hansez (Bravo Charlie), Chien de garde became an instant classic and firmly placed Dupuis in the new wave of women filmmakers sweeping the movie business.

Dupuis recently sat down for a brief Q&A about her studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and her rising career.

How did your love for film and filmmaking come about?

Sophie Dupuis: “When I was young, I used to write stories and put on shows in the family basement. I was drawn to it all — TV, radio, theatre, books. I loved films that would make me cry. I remember fast-forwarding VHS tapes just to see the sad scenes! That’s when I realized I wanted to be a filmmaker, so I could make viewers feel this kind of emotion.”

You wrote and directed Chien de garde. Why did you decide to make this film and how difficult was it to make?

Sophie Dupuis, BFA (film prod.) 10 "Concordia creates artists, not just technicians." | Photo by Patrick-Joseph Dufort

SD: “It’s inspired by a true story about a debt collector who targets drug users who owe money. As an only child, I’m also fascinated by sibling relationships. I created a fictional story and wrote it in a very short period of time.

To be honest, making this film was a wonderful experience. It took about three years to make, which isn’t long in the feature-film world.”

Chien de garde was your feature-film debut. What was it like to make the transition from directing short films to making Chien de garde?

SD: “The transition was fairly easy. I put as much work, proportionately speaking, into Chien de garde as I did into my shorts. I had the time to work with my actors, develop the script, work with each department and all my collaborators; It was a very fluid experience.”

Chien de garde was loved by filmgoers and film critics. How did you feel when your film was chosen as Canada's contender in the Oscars' best foreign-language film category?

SD: “When Telefilm Canada called to say we had been chosen, it was a big surprise. My producer and I both knew we had made a very good film but I thought the Oscars might not be accessible to us. We were thrilled to have been chosen; it marked a high point in our film’s incredible journey.”

Do you think it was more difficult for you as a woman to break into the film business?

SD: “I don’t think it was difficult and I never felt that I was taken less seriously because I am a woman. I have previous generations of female filmmakers to thank for this. They really laid the groundwork for someone like me.”

How did your time at Concordia help shape you and your career?

SD: “Concordia creates artists, not just technicians. While a student there, I was really encouraged to follow my instincts and emotions. One of the first short films I made at school, J'viendrai t'chercher, travelled the world and won awards.

Concordia also taught me how to work with others. After all, you can’t make a film by yourself.”

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