A Lake Country woman’s star has risen, from behind the scenes.
Wendy Ord has worked on Beowulf and Grendel, which starred Gerard Butler, A Score to Settle with Nicolas Cage, as well as her own award-winning documentaries.
“I never relax ever,” she said, with a laugh.
Her latest documentary, To The Worlds, aired on CBC a few weeks ago and was met with success. It follows the stories of older Lake Country figure skaters and is currently in the number one spot in CBC Docs POV.
Hailing from Ontario, Ord entered the film industry in her early 20s. Now 59, she said the industry was male-dominated at the time and she had to develop a strategy to work within that environment.
“Everybody would look at you like ‘oh no,’ and they’d give you a really hard time. You had to prove yourself on every new film,” she said, adding that she tried to do that with humour and grace.
“It took a long time, I had to learn how to not be a yeller or a screamer because if you did that as a woman, you’d come across as a b****. Men come off as tough when they’re yelling and screaming, women come off as b****y. So I had to use my feminine wiles to get things done.”
Ord had a tenacity that came from youth, but she was lucky to work on productions around the world over the years.
Ord said the film industry is on the cusp of a major change that she’s happy to see.
“Right now is the time for women. I’ve had very little opportunity to direct, for example, and now there are rules in place where they have to have 20 per cent women. For any kind of people of diversity in any way, it’s a wonderful time to be entering the industry,” she said.
“I can’t believe the last three years. When you’re on a film set now there (are) usually a lot of women. This was unheard of when I started.”
One of her most memorably difficult sets was filming Beowulf and Grendel in Iceland.
“We were shooting in Iceland in November and it was bloody cold. We sailed that viking ship in an iceberg lagoon and it was an old viking ship that was in a museum and they put it in this iceberg lagoon and it was literally sinking as we were trying to film it. All the cast and all the crew we on board and if you fell in that water, you’d be dead in like 60 seconds.”
Ord called actor Gerard Butler a “doll.”
“He was a real trooper. He was a lot of fun. He was always smiling no matter how cold or damp. Horses would throw him off their backs and he (was always laughing.)”
Ord loves working in the film industry as it provides something new all the time.
“You’re in a different place every day. I loved working with the people and the aspect of travel and never were two days the same.”
As a first assistant director, she gets the script months before filming takes place and determines where the shots will be filmed and how.
When she was working in that role, she’d have few months off between stints. But she said now she only occasionally takes an assistant directing job, preferring to direct more on her own projects.
In 2003, she directed her first feature film, Black Swan — not to be confused with the ballet focused film that came out in 2010.
“I’ve always wanted to direct, I’ve directed short films throughout my career. It’s not something new, I’ve been directing shorts since I was 30, so branching into long documentaries was something I always wanted to do,” she said.
She said it was easier than running a set of 100 guys.
“It was gratifying to work with a small crew and be in charge.”
Ord also filmed her 2010 award-winning documentary Tora in Lake Country, which featured David Suzuki. The film delved into the history of Japanese internment camps in the Second World War through the eyes of a city woman who is haunted by the spirit of a young girl.
Ten years ago, Ord went through a divorce. After meeting her significant other, Glen Samuel, they fell in love with each other and with Lake Country, where she ended up moving to. The pair worked on Tora together.
While she’s not ready to announce what she’s working on next, she said hopefully CBC will be pleased with the success of To The Worlds.
”I’m hoping that will grant me future documentary possibilities,” she Ord.
In the meantime, she wants to continue creating inspirational documentaries about people.
“I just feel super lucky to be able to do what I do,” she said.