The Cres­cent creeps

Direc­tor Seth A. Smith’s fea­ture film looks at the af­ter­life from the end of the earth.


Nancy Urich and Seth A. Smith have been mak­ing art in Nova Sco­tia since they were teenagers, first as mu­si­cians in Bur­docks and then in Dog Day. Smith’s dis­tinc­tive vis­ual art, much of it cre­ated as half of the de­sign team Yorodeo, has adorned years’ worth of record cov­ers and posters, while Urich’s ad­min­is­tra­tion skills and grant-writ­ing prow­ess be­came qui­etly leg­endary amongst the peo­ple who need that sort of in­for­ma­tion.

For the past few years they have been mak­ing films, in­clud­ing 2012’s woozy fea­ture Lowlife and the 2015 short I Am Com­ing to

Paris to Kill You, which made it nearly to Paris when it screened at Cannes.

This fall they are the talk of the fes­ti­val cir­cuit with The Cres­cent, a low-bud­get creeper about a wi­dow (Danika Van­der­steen) whose son (Woodrow Graves, son of the film­mak­ers) seems to have a con­nec­tion the area’s var­i­ous, and pos­si­bly dead, weirdos. This week, the film had its world pre­miere at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val. Its gala screen­ing at FIN is on Septem­ber 17.

To­day it’s still Au­gust, Urich’s birth­day, and the cre­ative part­ners, who are mar­ried, are in a drive-thru pick­ing up some juice for their lead ac­tor.

“We just de­cided to put to­gether a very small film that we could do on a very low bud­get,” says writer-direc­tor Smith, once he’s parked the car. “It was writ­ten at a time when we’d just had Woody. We had a few deaths in the fam­ily too, so it was a weird time when we were think­ing about mor­tal­ity and how pre­cious ev­ery­thing is.”

The Cres­cent is set in a beau­ti­ful south shore house that looks like it’s com­prised of geo­met­ric shapes, tri­an­gles mostly, with lots of glass. “I was look­ing for a lo­ca­tion that had that end-of-the-earth look,” says Smith. “It has that in­fi­nite ocean hori­zon, which is just so beau­ti­ful.” It sits on a cres­cent of land jut­ting out into the ocean. “A lot of peo­ple spot it,” says Urich. “It’s spot­table.”

Van­der­steen, an artist and mu­si­cian in Old and Weird and Build­ing Con­fi­dence Through Play, makes her film de­but with a quiet, nu­anced per­for­mance. Her co-star is a chatty charmer who was none­the­less two years old dur­ing film­ing. “It was a big party at­mos­phere for him. It was so many peo­ple play­ing with him all the time, he was hav­ing fun,” says Urich, adding that the scarier movie’s tougher scenes—ghouls, loud noises, vi­o­lent ac­ci­dents—hap­pened with a stand-in. “I was next to him—any­thing that looked scary or was a mon­ster hap­pen­ing, he didn’t ex­pe­ri­ence that. There was no mon­ster chas­ing him, ever.”

The pair hopes to grad­u­ate to big­ger bud­gets mov­ing for­ward, though what they’ve man­aged to achieve with The Cres­cent is a di­rect re­sult of spend­ing two decades work­ing in the arts in Nova Sco­tia. “You have to get it done,” says Urich. “Just do it.”

“You have to have grit, and you have to keep push­ing,” says Smith. “Mak­ing a movie is just like mak­ing an al­bum, but it’s like mak­ing 20 al­bums at once.”

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