The domino effect

Concordia alumna’s web series nominated in CANNESERIES

When Zoé Pelchat-Ouellet first started working as a director, several of her more experienced friends and colleagues in the film industry recommended she start off as an assistant director. “I said no, I don’t want to be an assistant. I want to be a director. I am going to direct,” Pelchat-Ouellet recalled.

A few years later, Pelchat-Ouellet’s web series, Dominos—which she wrote, cast and directed—was nominated for Best Digital Series at CANNESERIES, the Cannes International Series Festival. Shot in only eight days, the web series is composed of five short episodes and is Pelchat-Ouellet’s largest fiction project to date.

Yet, the up-and-coming director wasn’t always interested in the arts, let alone being a director. Pelchat-Ouellet described herself in high school as shy and insecure. When she moved from Quebec City back to her birth city of Montreal to enroll in Concordia’s communications studies program, she developed an interest in photography. The program gave her the chance to explore her artistic talents as she played around with film, editing and sound design.

Each episode of the web series is centred around a different character, each of them linked to one another in the overarching theme. Photo courtesy of Zoé Pelchat-Ouellet.

While on a trip to London, a year after she finished her bachelor’s degree, Pelchat-Ouellet received a call from a friend that helped guide her toward a directing career. The friend had just broken up with her boyfriend, and suggested she and Pelchat-Ouellet collaborate and create short films together.

“I made this classic list of my qualities and flaws, and what I wanted in life,” Pelchat-Ouellet said. “The conclusion, really, was to be a director. I really liked writing and photography, and I think directing is a mix of both. It made sense. When my friend called, she put it in play for me.”

Pelchat-Ouellet decided to pursue a career in filmmaking, and graduated from L’inis, a private film institute, in 2016. Her first projects were experimental photography, poetry and short films, which she often collaborated with friends to create. Shortly after graduating, Pelchat-Ouellet started getting contracts to make music videos for artists such as Fanny Bloom, Kroy, Heartstreets and Di Astronauts.

In 2015, her first fictional web series, Les Presqu’histoires, aired on Urbania, a cultural multiplatform media producer. Pelchat-Ouellet has also produced commercial advertising content for Énergie 94.3, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Keurig, Bell Media and Fondation Québec Jeunes, among other companies.

“I took a bigger risk in the beginning that spinned off pretty well,” said Pelchat-Ouellet, attributing this success to her determination to start out as a director rather than an assistant.

The filmmaker was inspired by the youth of Montreal, as well as each actor’s individual personality. Photo courtesy of Zoé Pelchat-Ouellet.

Dominos tells the story of two brothers, Toto and Adib, as they cope with their mother’s sudden death. The drama series also follows the intertwining stories of a group of teenagers whose paths cross with the brothers’. Pelchat-Ouellet said the show reminded her of Skins, a British drama which gained attention for its cutting edge and raw portrayal of youth. Although every episode of Dominos is centred around a different character, the two shows share similar themes.

Showcasing the hazards of life, Dominos explores personal issues with touching, poetic and comedic tones. Pelchat-Ouellet said she was not only inspired by the youth in Montreal, but by each actor’s individual “vibe” and personality while shooting. This led to a fresh, in-the-moment experience on set.

As the character Toto describes in the series: “We’re like little dominoes that fall on each other; we just have to learn how to fall right.”

You can watch Dominos on TV5’s website

Photos courtesy of Zoé Pelchat-Ouellet

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