Albatross – Canadian feature examines the concept of self identity, ethnicity and sexual-orientation
Albatross is a dark, character-driven, drama that examines the concept of self identity, ethnicity and sexual-orientation in the context of society, while illustrating the compromises individuals are willing to make to feel as though they belong. Two seemingly separate narratives, spanning some 30 years converge at a dinner party between a pair of newly introduced couples in 1959 New England, revealing that the attendees know much more about one another than they first thought. Secrets are exposed when a young biracial couple attends a dinner with elitists, ultimately unraveling a life of compromise. By daybreak, they find themselves pawns in a cynical game that exposes the cracks in their facades.
After moving to a new town, Elizabeth and Thomas Miller are at a crossroad; they are childless, he’s an unpublished writer, and she’s tired of cutting checks to keep them afloat. Thomas’ work suffers to the point that his publisher wants him to ditch his novel about the Black experience to write a more commercially viable harlequin romance.
Carol and Dr. Lloyd Burke have built an imposing façade glorifying the societal ideals of the era; an impressive home, prominent role at the Country Club, and son studying medicine. But, behind closed doors, the couple’s haunted by the cracks in their relationship and his use of controversial psychiatric techniques. “Albatross” examines the concept of self in the context of society, while illustrating the compromises individuals make to feel as though they belong. Ultimately, tables are turned, secrets revealed, and we’re left questioning who really pulls the strings in this game of chess.
Myles Yaksich’s feature debut film exposes his unique perspective and interest in stories about societal groups establishing roots, and the contrast between progress and tradition are laced throughout the narrative. Working with an intensely collaborative and supportive team has enabled Myles to exercise his strong creative control, ultimately making his debut film, “Albatross” so fascinating, fresh and powerful.
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Through his short films, Myles Yaksich has created an appealing body of work that explores human experience on a global scale, with a particular focus on the complexity of self-discovery through interactions with strangers. Born in Canada, he learned at a young age to travel and appreciate art and culture. After completing his degree in Finance and Economics, he pursued investment banking in Singapore and private equity in South East Asia, before relocating to Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking.
Living abroad for more than a decade has undoubtedly informed his work, whether it be the grieving workaholic who searches for answers in the elderly passenger beside him (“Poppies”), or the young academic who questions his sexuality after an intimate pen-pal relationship (“Erin”). His films tap into universal themes that expand the definitions of home, family and belonging.
Would you reject a good omen? Would you even recognize one when you see it?
Creating a film during the pandemic has been an incredibly rewarding, albeit challenging experience. Not only was I tasked with developing a story that met the requirements of a COVID-free production, but also with writing a film within those constraints that exemplified my aesthetic as a first-time feature filmmaker. Not your typical period drama, “Albatross” takes a stylized look at current issues through a period lens. “Albatross” is a deeply personal story about timeless issues; race, gender, sexuality and belonging.
Conceptually, I am fascinated by the ways we cope with challenging experiences to either grow or stagnate. Social media deters us from understanding differing opinions and encourages us to react emotionally to the impact alternate opinions have on our community. It’s become too easy to shut the door, block an account, or add more filters to categorize others as either fitting within or outside of our own bubble. With “Albatross”, I wanted to go back to a time where differing ideas were analyzed and discussed intellectually, not just blocked emotionally. The film is riddled with opposing philosophical perspectives, forcing the characters to question the stability of their respective relationships and consider how the past or future will continue to nurture or deteriorate them. What happens when you can’t leave the dinner table?
Bringing this story frompage to screen required the support of a solid team. Starting with an invaluable group of executive producers, including Larry and Gayle Yaksich, Aleksey Petrov, Todd Slater and Grant Slater, and industry veteran, Jennie Lew Tugend, whose expertise guided our ship through development, production and post. To ensure “Albatross” achieved a look and feel consistent with my previous work, it was critical to work with Dylan Chapgier (Director of Photography), Nicholas Pike (Composer) and Mariana Benevello (Editor). The constraints of COVID required shifting physical production from Los Angeles to my hometown of Hamilton, ON (Canada). Local producers, James Mark and Bruno Marino, ensured we got through production unscathed and built the remainder of the production team, including Christopher Paunil (Costume Design).
Casting the character-led drama was crucial, and I was adamant about tapping into Canada’s rich theatre community; I’mproud of the all-Canadian cast Ashley Hallihan (Casting Director) assembled. It’s been a pleasure working with Katherine Gauthier, David Huband, David Keeley, Sarah Orenstein, Romaine Waite, Jill Frappier and David Huband. I’malso excited to introduce fresh talent, Mikaela Bisson, Daniel Krmpotic, Jonathon LeRose, and Thom Nyhuus. I’m honored by the trust the entire cast placed in my vision, and so grateful for the initiative and homework they undertook, which added depth to their characters and nuance to their performances). Despite the challenges of COVID, they brought their A-Game to set every day, enabling us to have a lot of fun and run 7-page dinner sequences without having to cut, for example.
After 12 months of development, production and post, I’m proud to introduce “Albatross”. Please enjoy our film, and my first foray into feature filmmaking.
– MYLES YAKSICH
It has been said that when a group of people are confined to a small space for a period of time, it becomes a breeding ground for drama and conflict. Hence, the perfect arena for our two dysfunctional couples as they share an evening within the confines of an elegant New England home. It’s an evening that erupts and shatters the fragile foundation that holds their relationships together.
The landscape and the characters that writer-director Myles Yaksich created piqued my interest fromthe get-go. Set in 1959, this story is as much about the state of the union as it is about marriage. Myles’ screenplay skillfully explores the themes of truth and false illusion in a time when racial and economic disparities were sensitive topics of discussion at the dinner table and family stability was the status quo.
“Albatross” is on the cusp of the sexual revolution. The 1960’s was a period of profound societal change. The young and educated were shaking up the status quo and there was a dramatic shift in traditional values related to sex and sexuality. Sex became more acceptable outside of heterosexual marriage. Gay liberation and “free love” created a counterculture that shaped a generation. The phrase “black is beautiful” brought pride to black culture and identity in the 60’s. And LSD became the psychedelic drug of choice.
But “Albatross” is an anomaly. Just before the Baby Boomers rocked the world, our two couples are teetering with society on their own. Our characters break with tradition and explore their own sexuality, racial bias and use of drugs as therapy. Our filmhas the patina of old money and good breeding until you look at the fine cracks just below the surface and the fractures can no longer be ignored or swept under the carpet. Myles is a genuine storyteller and has great aesthetic vision for his movies. When Myles told me about his plans for writing and directing his first feature film during a global pandemic, I was concerned about how he could pull this off within the restrictions of mask-wearing and social distancing! I must have said, “Really? Are you sure”? But I should have known that he was dead serious and we were about to embark on a very special and ambitious project. How do you cast a filmon Zoom? How do you rehearse with actors wearing a mask? How do we protect the cast and crew every day and stay on budget?
Thank goodness for our smart and resourceful Canadian team of producers and crew! We were blessed with extraordinary actors fromToronto who brought life and dignity to these complex characters. And because of the tenacity, vision and talent of Myles Yaksich, we pulled it off!
– JENNIE LEW TUGEND
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.