Interview: “Last Days” with Michael Seater, Paula Brancati and Morgan Taylor Campbell
Sadie’s Last Days on Earth is a genuinely moving, engaging teen comedy from the pair behind People Hold On, namely writer-director Michael Seater (from the great show Life With Derek), (his television father John Ralston appears in a very memorable scene in the film), and producer Paula Brancati (currently appearing in the Mirvish production of Matilda The Musical as Miss Honey, and appearing as Connie, a teacher of a completely different variety, who influences Sadie in ways dissimilar as Miss Honey does to Matilda). The lead of the film is actress Morgan Taylor Campbell who has a firm grasp on the character and yet possesses a sense of knowing that her character early on lacks in the film.
We sat down with Seater, Brancati and Campbell, who turn out to be wonderful company for the last days on Earth. The following were the conversation highlights.
Scene Creek: Where did you shoot the film?
Michael Seater: We shot at Etobicoke School of the Arts, which was the high school, where I went to high school, so it was pretty amazing. I never thought we would shoot there, and I wrote, like, the library scene, for instance. In the back of my head, the geography of how I wrote it was the library I went to high school in, all of a sudden, we’re filming there and I don’t have to change anything! It’s perfect. The club is one of my favourite bars in Toronto called Cold Tea, a small little place in Kensington Market. We brought in lots of Chinese lanterns, we tried to make it an extra funky place, even more than it is.
SC: How do you feel now that the world may, in fact, be coming to an end?
MS: I wanted to get to a place where the end of the world didn’t matter. What Sadie is trying to figure out is herself and finding acceptance within herself.
PB: My hope is that it leads to conversation when people leave, and it is very inspiring that way to be present and in the moment. Certainly when I read it, I was really happy to see that the most important thing on her list was to get her best friend back, as at any age, female friendships are so important. I’m not sure how everyone does this (referring to film-making), if they are not already wonderful friends.
MTC: Gosh, even into adulthood, it’s such a prominent fear, especially since every few years it seems that the world is supposed to be ending for some odd reason, (laughs) in some way or another. In her case, there’s a crippling, debilitating fear of it. It is hugely a metaphor for her to deal with her growing up, her coping mechanisms for it, that in her reality, the world isn’t. We don’t want to feel alone, right? Also, with the guarantee that the world is ending, she can find comfort in that. In all of us, there is some fear of death and knowing where that comes from, and when it’s going to happen, and for her, she doesn’t have to deal with that fear that the world is ending. This should apply to anything in life: relationships, jobs, you don’t necessarily know when things are going to end, so put your whole entire heart into everything you’re going to do, because you just don’t know. I certainly share her anxiety, and on a societal level, I think most of us do nowadays. I’ve learned a lot from high school, both my own and from Sadie’s.
SC: What do you enjoy about your role as a teacher?
PB: What I like about the character of Connie specifically, is that she is Sadie’s rock but she learns a lot from Sadie in the same way, and they treat each other as equals. This is one of my favourite aspects of Mike’s writing, which is that he is never talking down to the younger characters, and I feel like everyone is very well-spoken and Connie never makes Sadie’s anxieties feel like something that are unimportant.
MTC: What would be most important to me is that young people learn from it. Because I wish that I would have learned from it at a younger age to stop putting so much of my self-value on outward opinions and I hope that through watching Sadie, young people can, if they don’t already have sources of inspiration, find that message in there.
Sadie’s Last Days on Earth is now open in select theatres across Canada.