Mary Galloway finds freedom in filmmaking

Mary Galloway finds freedom in filmmaking

Mary Galloway is a textbook multi-hyphenate – actress-writer-director-producer – and yet there is nothing textbook about the kinds of films she wants to make or the roles she wants to play.

The director, writer, and star of Unintentional Mother – which screens this weekend as part of the 2018 Vancouver Short Film Festival – describes a Mary Galloway Project in a recent phone interview as “something that has a female lead, and that tells a story about a girl or a woman that’s about something other than finding love and a man. I want to tell stories that are different from most of the female-led films that are always about finding a man and living happily ever after. I think those can be great, but I’m tired of them, and I don’t want to make them.”

Galloway says she was compelled to write her first short film, 2016’s Ariel Unraveling (about a girl who grew up banished to a basement with a single fairytale film to watch, and proceeds to make profound discoveries about the outside world), after realizing that the quickest way to play the kind of roles she wanted to play was to write and produce them herself. 

Galloway makes her directorial debut with Unintentional Mother. She portrays Anna, a nanny to a six-year-old boy named Lucas. Nanny and child form a deep and loving bond as they experience similar abuse, until Anna makes a hasty and difficult decision that, according to the film’s official synopses, “will change things forever.” The film also stars Lorne Cardinal (Corner Gas), Beckham Skodje, and Andrea Stefancikova. 

Unintentional Mother premiered in December at the 2017 Whistler Film Festival and makes its hometown debut this weekend.

Galloway based elements of Unintentional Mother on events from her own life (“I took care of a couple of kids for many years and I grew so attached to them”) as well as society’s general unwillingness to “acknowledge the hired help. [In society, we] don’t go, ‘Oh, my nanny or babysitter is looking after the kids’; you keep that information to yourself, so I really want to show the love and strength between a nanny and child.”

In 2016, Galloway won the On Set Headsets Newcomer Award from Women in Film and Television Vancouver.

Future Mary Galloway Projects will likely explore issues facing First Nations communities across Canada. “There’s so much going on in our communities, and I’m, ‘Where are these stories?’ I want to be able to turn on the TV and see what a reserve is like,” says Galloway, who is from the Cowichan Tribes on Vancouver Island.

“There are people who don’t have clean drinking water, and the highest suicide rate is First Nations kids," she adds. "There’s so much that needs to be told. I think I’ll probably spend a lot of my career shining a light on that part of my history and community and hopefully educating people while entertaining them.” In February, Galloway will head to Winnipeg to shoot a role in pilot for APTN called Wynter.

Theodore Pellerin and Mary Galloway at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. 

Theodore Pellerin and Mary Galloway at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. 

In addition to Unintentional Mother, Galloway appeared in one of the most celebrated Canadian films of the last year: Never Steady, Never Still, the stirring feature film directorial debut from Vancouver filmmaker Kathleen Hepburn.

Never Steady, Never Still stars Scottish actress Shirley Henderson as Judy, a woman struggling with Parkinson’s disease and widowhood. The film is a bona-fide hit: it premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, screened across the country as part of Canada’s Top 10 Festival, and is a top contender heading into the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards.

Galloway plays Kaly, a kind-hearted supermarket cashier who forges relationships with Judy and her son (played by Théodore Pellerin).

The experience on Never Steady, Never Still was altogether transformative, says Galloway.

“It was one of these experiences where, as an actor, you really feel empowered and I learned that I do have that power, that it is about your own artistic integrity,” says Galloway. “Before Never Steady, Never Still, I felt very out of control. You show up to set and you’re literally told where exactly to stand, where to look, what words to say, they do your hair and your makeup for you – it’s so controlled, and I always felt like, ‘Whatever you need, I’ll do whatever!’ But on this set, it was more, ‘Your voice is important and I want to hear what you’d like for this.’ It was the first time that I realized that I could take that power and not belittle myself in my own work.”

Follow Mary Galloway @MissMGalloway

Unintentional Mother screens January 27 at 1pm at the Vancouver Short Film Festival. Full schedule and tickets at www.vsff.com.

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