Writer Sarah Stunt talks rock band Metric’s haunting ‘Collect Call’ music video

Writer and actress Sarah Stunt, photo by Alexis Dickey

Sarah Stunt is a storyteller. It is both her passion and her purpose. From the time she was a child, sharing her stories with the world was always important, and now that she has grown, that is what the world knows her for so well.

In her celebrated acting career, Stunt has portrayed characters that have captured audience’s hearts in many hit films and television series, including TNT’s Emmy Award-nominated series Falling Skies, CBS’s hit series Flashpoint, the hit horror film Exit Humanity, the Toronto International Film Festival Official Selection Patch Town, and the award-nominated The Twilight Express.

“As an actress, I do it all. Or I try to strive to anyway. I believe in the work, the craft and I spend a great deal of time and attention on learning. I respect it entirely. I like to be as prepared as possible, so research into every aspect of the story is where I start; all the homework is done by the time I get to set, and then I leave it at the door and stay open for whatever comes. I love working and I see myself focusing on film, but the fast pace of television and the efficiency of the execution is definitely a thrill,” she said.

However, it is as a writer where Stunt’s ability to tell a story, even from behind the scenes, truly shines. Her work as lead writer on the award-winning documentary Girl Unbound won both audiences and critics hearts over last year, shedding light on an important issue and telling the story of a brave girl in Pakistan. Her ability to connect to audiences through writing is evident with all she does.

“Some people are good at math, solving problems through numbers and equations. I can barely count to 100. I need to see the story; it’s an entirely visual and emotive experience and that is the only way I know how to express myself,” she said. “I solve problems, but I do it on the page.”

Working on not just film and television, but music videos as well, Stunt is an extremely versatile writer. She served as the lead writer for alternative-rock band Metric’s Collect Call music video, lending her vision to the band. She created the video’s basic story; the song would play over scenes at a funeral, and as a casket is lowered into its grave the owner’s spirit would sink into a new plane of existence. She was crucially involved with its creation from beginning to end.

“Music videos are shorter than films, so the story has to be visually impactful with a clear narrative in a fairly short timeframe. It’s exciting trying to narrow down the story to match the three or four minute song, so it’s a challenge like no other,” said Stunt.

Stunt’s idea for the video was for it to take place at a funeral, beginning with a casket being lowered into the ground. Since death is final, this was an attempt to share an idea of feeling trapped, but still having a desire to escape. She says the ‘lazy dancer’ chorus lines evoked a sense of puppetry, like life in a strange way. The character is being controlled by things she can’t control and wants it to stop, but the reins are on too tight. When she manages to get out, she’s chased by ghosts and the cycle begins all over again.

“The melody and lyrics of the song are almost haunting and all at once visually engaging. It has a simplicity that leaves you curious about the inspiration behind it. The way the song progresses musically creates an almost urgency, a desperation that seems to have no end. I wanted to showcase that in a different way,” Stunt described. “The album is also called ‘Fantasies’ so it almost felt like an invitation to create something alternative and magical.”

Stunt’s vision ended up captivating viewers around the globe, and Collect Call went nominated for Music Video of the Year at the 2011 Juno Awards. None of this could have been possible without the creativity she possesses.

“Sarah was with us on every step of the way from concept to execution. From the conceptual phase, Sarah went on to write the video’s full script. All in all, the video could not have been created, nor have gone on to enjoy such a fantastic degree of critical and public reception, if not for Sarah’s vital role,” said producer Geoff McLean. “Sarah stands out as one of the best actresses and writers that Canada has to offer. Her achievements within her fields mark her as an exceptionally valuable asset to the international entertainment industry.”

Stunt only ever saw herself doing two things: acting, and of course, writing, and audiences around the world are both thankful and appreciative of all she does.