Mouthpiece Interview: Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken

“You see when that happens, if its a woman’s view I can feel it instantly when I’m watching a film. I can tell that a female character is written by a woman because I can connect and feel something really deep.”

Seana Stevenson
Jun 9 · 12 min read

Tell us about yourself and Mouthpiece the film.

Norah Sadava: Both Amy and I went to school for physical theatre, we have a background in live performance. Physical theatre is kind of a broad term but it means we start by using our bodies instead of writing things down. We work from improvisation a lot. Amy went to school in France at a renowned school called École Jacques Lecoq, he was the grandfather of physical theatre. I went to school in California called Dell’Arte which deals with the same pedagogy.

What was it like to premiere at TIFF?

NS: It was wild! It was a totally incredible experience for both of us. We went from nothing to the apex of film. We were the opening film of the Gala Presentations so it was a real honour for us to be in that position at the festival. We got to meet so many interesting people and mostly we just got so many eyes on the project.

How did you come up with the idea of Mouthpiece?

NS: We were writing a play about two women, well, we were writing a play about female relationships, mother-daughter, lovers, friends and the very specific relationships that women have with each other that is both seeped in beauty and special closeness that can also be very good. We were trying to write that play and we were hitting a wall. We were finding ourselves really frustrated and we weren’t cracking it. So we decided that instead of looking at two women we should just look at what it is to be one woman and what better research to do than to look at ourselves because we’re women and we have experienced.

How does the screenplay differ from the play?

NS: It was really fun. We got to expand a lot of things. They play is an hour, a tight, tight sixty minutes and we play her aunt and her friend and people calling and apologizing and we get to embody all those different people in her life. When we started writing the screenplay it had Patricia and Patricia has the experience of being a mother and being a daughter and losing her mother, so we got to add more fleshed out storylines when it comes to the mom. We got to expand the characters of her family and her friends and see them embodied by other actors which was such a thrill.

Memory plays a huge part in the film, how your character sees her mother growing up, was it like that in the play or did Patricia’s influence help to add more of that in the film?

NS: There’s definitely more of that kind of reflection in the film. We had more opportunity to draw more memories from the mother. The play still did include a lot of reflection on what her mother was like but in the movie, we got to expand. We wrote a lot of the memories from all of our three lives, drawing on real experiences. Relationships between a daughter and a mother are so complex and nuanced and messy and it's evolved over time that all those memories really add up and provide the layers of how we relate to our mothers. It was really important to plant those very specific things in the movie.

Both of you have mentioned a feminist awakening, can you speak about what that was like to go through and what it's like looking back at it now.

AN: Before the film, we had been touring the play for about three years so we had already sat with that narrative and that autobiographical story of what it felt like to think that we were totally progressive and liberated and free. We thought that we were above it all and we had that moment and then we made a play about it immediately. We were deep in it while we were making the play. When we were performing the play we were still really raw. You have to rethink every move you make and every thought, every way you not only see the outside world but how you see yourself, how you look at your very own flesh.

Mouthpiece shows Toronto in all its winter glory, was it important for you to showcase the city and make it a part of the film?

NS: Yeah it was important. It was important because it was so true and specific in writing our own experience. We wanted to be honest to the world in which we inhabited and we also love Toronto and love our city. Patricia and our DP Catherine Lutes who is incredible really wanted to make a love letter to Toronto in all its kind of winter disgust and glory. There is this kind of beauty to this place that we live that is so often masked as another city. People choose elsewhere or pretend it's not Toronto but we really did want to highlight this world that we live in.

Can you talk about the other women involved in the film?

NS: Oh yeah so many! Our producers Christina Piovesan and Jennifer Shin are really incredible. They were really involved in the creative development of the script. Our DP Catherine Lutes is the best, she’s the best! It was such a collaborative and connected relationship working with her. Zazu Myers was the art director who blew us out of the water with all the choices she was making. She just dove really deep into the subject matter.

It’s amazing to hear that you had such a great community of women behind the scenes.

NS: Yeah, it was really important to us. Not that there were no men on set, there was a bunch of men on set, it was about 50/50 actually, but all of the department heads were women. The importance of that isn’t to discredit the work that men do, its that because the film is so much about being in the head of a woman, it was really important to us that it wasn’t filtered through the lens of a man.

Can you speak to the music in the film?

NS: The play is really musical and is mostly just Amy and I singing in harmony acapella. When we were translating it into the movie we wanted to maintain the power of the female voice. The unfiltered, unadulterated woman's voice. Singing is so important to the nature of what this work is about so we wanted to make sure that crossed over into the film. The whole film takes place inside a woman's head so we wanted to keep it intimate and raw and close. Like you're in a warm bath like you’re are being bathed by the sound of this woman's inner workings. Amy composed all of them and I think that brings a really specific flavour, the creator creating the sound.

Would you do more film?

NS: We are really interested in storytelling and whatever route that takes. I think that we’re really interested in creating new things. We’re dipping our feet into a few things and feeling out what the next project is. We loved making this film, we had such a good time. Patricia was a pleasure and a joy to work with. We also loved the tools, there is a whole new toolbox we got to start working with when we made this film that in theatre is totally different. We’re turned on by it and excited about it. We will definitely still be making theatre for the rest of our lives but I don’t think you need to stick to a single medium because that’s what it says on your resume.

What are you working on now/next?

NS: We have a play in development about childcare and we have started conceiving a TV project as well that is about egg freezing.

Finally, recommend one #MUFFApproved** film for our blog readers!

NS: Firecrackers by Jasmin Mozaffari and Capernaum by Nadine Labaki.


MUFF Blog

We are a community that celebrates women in film and TV. High five!

Seana Stevenson

Written by

Creative Producer of the MUFF Society, Journalist, Photographer, Marketing and Social Media Manager. Based in Toronto.

MUFF Blog

MUFF Blog

We are a community that celebrates women in film and TV. High five!