On the isolated set of the Nova Scotia director’s feature debut about consent, friendship

Over the past two weeks, about two dozen people have gathered in a remote cabin in the woods to make a movie together.

The scenic location, along the Shubenacadie River near Enfield, Nova Scotia, is the sole setting for the new feature film, Passers-by, should be ready for film festivals this fall.

It tells the story of six childhood friends who get together for their annual weekend. The reunion begins to fall apart when they learn that one of them is guilty of sexual assault.

Director Koumbie and her writing (and real-life) partner Taylor Olson, also a filmmaker, came up with the idea about six years ago.

“We at the time were having all these conversations about consent, and there were community members where things came out. It was like the community was kind of in shock,” Koumbie said. .

“And our thing was like no one was talking about it.”

The six-person cast is Taylor Olson, Marlee Sansom, Cavell Holland, Peter Sarty, Deborah Castrilli and Katelyn McCulloch. (Emma Smith/CBC)

A few months later, the Harvey Weinstein story broke and the whole world was talking about consent and perpetrator accountability.

The filmmakers wondered if there was still a reason to tell their story.

“It very quickly became clear that there were,” Koumbie said.

The storyline changed a lot over the next few years as the filmmaking duo decided to focus not so much on survivors and perpetrators, but on the community of people around them who have been affected by this type of violence. .

NS Main Street8:34Mainstreet NS visits the set of a feature film shot near Enfield

Bystanders is Nova Scotian director Koumbie’s feature debut. It tells the story of six friends who reunite and discover that one of them has a shocking secret. Mainstreet’s Emma Smith visited the set on Thursday and chatted with the director and cast. 8:34

Olson plays Justin in the film, the character who sexually assaulted his girlfriend when they were college students – but doesn’t even realize it.

“One of the things we want to explore in the film is what happens when someone you think is a great person – and in fact maybe most of the time – does something so monstrous,” Olson said.

Koumbie has won several awards for her short films, but Bystanders is the first feature film she has directed. (Emma Smith/CBC)

Actress Deborah Castrilli said the honest and tough conversations the characters have in the film continued even after Koumbie called the cut.

“Any work that we do, I think, as actors…changes us and changes us because it does, whether we like it or not, and it allows us to really reflect on our own lives and to be more empathetic,” Castrilli said.

There were also times on set where things got heavy and took their toll, actor Cavell Holland added.

“It’s not just a group of actors, it’s a group of friends, but it’s also a support system,” Holland said. “No matter what situations we were in, we all had each other’s backs. We all have that recording.”

This cabin by the Shubenacadie River serves as the setting for Bystanders. (Emma Smith/CBC)

The film is being made on a low budget – “a low budget halved”, in the words of producer Terry Greenlaw – so finding the perfect location was especially important.

“The inside/outside of this property is our only location, as the story is about a group of friends going to a cabin for a weekend,” Greenlaw said. “So the location is like a character.”

Koumbie has won several awards for his short films, but Passers-by is her first feature film.

“It’s really huge to me, and so every time it was like, you know, this low budget or low budget, I’m like, have you seen our crafting table? Like, it’s amazing,” she said.

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