This week, Refinery29 Canada celebrates Work Friends — the surprising benefits (and occasional complications) of professional friendship.
“We didn’t not fight”
The friends: Caitlin Cronenberg & Jessica Ennis
Best friends since: 2006
Their book is a photo series focused on devastating breakups, and in the process of making it, best friends Caitlin Cronenberg and Jessica Ennis came a little too close to having one. “We didn’t not fight — that’s how I would put it,” says Cronenberg, a photographer who oversaw that aspect of the creating The Endings while Ennis handled set design and wardrobe.
They first became friends 10 years ago when Ennis approached Cronenberg (then a Facebook friend and member of the same extended friend circle) about taking pictures of her grandparents’ “1950s time capsule” house in L.A. “We met at Starbucks. It was one of those amazing ‘first dates’ where we ended up chatting for hours,” says Ennis.
The idea for The Endings was born of many (many, many) conversations about life and love — especially the kind that doesn’t work out so well. Based on some solid industry connections (Cronenberg has shot celebrity portraits for years and is also the daughter of Canadian film icon, David), they assembled an impressive troupe of A-list actresses to appear in the book, including Julianne Moore, Keira Knightley, Sarah Gadon, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. In those early stages, they were 100% in sync about the creative aspects of the projects. What didn’t occur to them was to discuss expectations around the process. On that front: “What’s more opposite than polar opposites?” says Cronenberg, a self-described Type A “list person.”
“I’m a list person too,” Ennis says. “It’s just that my lists look like the chicken scratchings of a crazy person.”
They butted heads — quite a bit. “There were a few moments where I didn’t know if our friendship was going to survive,” says Cronenberg.
Being BFFs went on the back-burner for the last several months when any discussion of kids or men or anything else gave way to “just work, work, work,” says Ennis. And, in the end, Cronenberg says work was maybe the thing that kept them together: “If you look at other relationships or even close friends, you have a big fight and it’s like, ‘Screw this — we’re over!’ Because of the book, we never had that option to walk away. So here we are.”
In other ways, being best friends was an asset in a collaboration that spanned seven years, one marriage (for Cronenberg), one divorce (for Ennis), and two babies (one each). “Let’s just say that with most co-workers, you’re not going to want them rubbing your back when you’re puking from morning sickness,” says Cronenberg.
“Or even just having someone at work who can give you a really sincere hug,” Ennis adds.
The Endings came out last fall, an experience Ennis says was like giving birth to a baby. “But like a really cool baby that everyone wants to talk about,” Cronenberg adds. And like many new moms, they seem to have put those memories of labour pains behind them. Their next collaboration is still top secret, but this time around they’ll be laying out individual responsibilities from the start. “And I think we’ll hire a mediator — a third person to weight in on any disputes,” says Cronenberg. “It’s no fun yelling at your best friend.”