Creators who Inspire: Meet Gail Maurice

Gail Maurice was on the verge of giving up her dream.

Gail Maurice

The Métis writer-director-actor had been trying to get her first feature film made. “I had done nine shorts before,” says Maurice from her home in Toronto. “I was so ready. I tried getting funding for feature films, but no one would fund me. I almost gave up at one point. I didn’t do anything for two or three years, and that’s when I said, f**k it, and I pushed through.”

So in 2017, the Saskatchewan-born Maurice, best known for starring in TV shows such as Cardinal, Barkskins, and Trickster, and films like Night Raiders and Falls Around Her, wrote a 12-minute short titled Rosie about an orphaned Indigenous girl forced to live with her street-smart, francophone aunty Fred (Melanie Bray) and her two best friends in 1980s Montreal.

The success of that compassionate and heart-tugging short meant Maurice could finally direct her first feature film, the full-length version of Rosie.

“I wanted to create something joyful,” says Maurice about the film. “I wanted to do something set in the 1980s because that was when I came out, and it was a time of joy and discovery. But I also wanted to show that through a little girl’s perspective. Rosie’s mom was a victim of the Sixties Scoop, and I wanted to show how a child is thrown into environments that they don’t understand, yet are expected to survive and thrive, and how a child affects the world of the adults around her.”

Rosie [Ramona Diaconescu] 1

Shooting Rosie wasn’t easy, especially when COVID protocols shut down production. That’s when the CMF entered the picture.

The CMF came through,” says Maurice. “We had all our financing in place, but when COVID-19 hit, there were added expenses, so we applied for COVID-19 relief funding, and it helped us continue.”

Rosie debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2022 and was named to TIFF’s annual year-end Canada’s Top Ten list for 2022. The film also won the Audience Choice Award at 2022’s ImagineNATIVE Film Festival, and Maurice earned Best Director honours from the 2023 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival.

Sitting in the audience for the TIFF screening, Maurice remembers feeling extremely emotional alongside her Rosie star, and real-life partner, Melanie Bray.

“I actually wrote the role of Fred for her,” reveals Maurice. “She is also my co-producer and she cast the film. So, when we were in the theatre, we just looked at each other and cried.”

Staying true to her dreams has paid off for Maurice. "I hope to shoot my next feature film, Blood Lines, next year, and I am also writing a comedy series,” she says.

Even though her journey was difficult at times, Maurice couldn’t resist the call to create. “I moved to Vancouver, I think I was 20, and I saw all these trucks and asked the crew, ‘What are you guys doing?’ And someone replied, saying ‘We are making a movie,’ and I said, ‘Oh my god, can I be in it?’ she says, laughing. “And ever since then, I’ve been hooked.”

By Ingrid Randoja. This story was initially published in the Canada Media Fund's 2022-2023 Annual Report.

The Canada Media Fund (CMF) fosters, develops, finances and promotes the production of Canadian content and applications for all audiovisual media platforms. The CMF guides Canadian content towards a competitive global environment by fostering industry innovation, rewarding success, enabling a diversity of voice and promoting access to content through public and private sector partnerships. The CMF receives financial contributions from the Government of Canada and Canada’s cable, satellite and IPTV distributors.
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