What was your filmmaking background before making The Rainbow Kid?
KIRE: I'm been trying to make films since I was around 8 years old. I use to make shitty kung fu films with my parents camcorder. That led to mimicking other films (ie. Pulp Fiction), which eventually led to film school.
I graduated from Ryerson University's film program in 2007. After university I made a few short narrative films (Animal Control, Rainbow Connection). I also made two feature docs (Only I Know, The Last Pogo Jumps Again).
Where did the idea come from and what was the process for writing the script?
KIRE: I was on set one day for my first short film Animal Control and in between set ups, the idea just came to me. I have no idea how or why, but I remember turning to one of my friends on set and saying, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a movie about a guy with Down syndrome who went off and looked for the end of the rainbow?" No one took me seriously and we all just laughed it off. However, the idea stuck with me, I just couldn't shake it. That's when I knew it was the right idea.
Writing the script was a long and draining process. I worked on it, on and off, for about 4 years. A lot of research went into the script, everything from exploring various cultural rainbow mythologies, to working with people who have special needs. It was important for me to bring as much authenticity to the project as possible.
After 20 rewrites, tons of feedback, and acquiring the assistance of 2 story consultants, we ended up with our shooting script.
KIRE: It's hard for any film to get made and this one was no exception. It was a tough sell and many people constantly questioned me about why I wanted to make a film like this.
We were fortunate enough to get two arts council grants which got the ball rolling. I pitched in a bunch of my own money and we did two crowd funding campaigns. The first one was unsuccessful. We also went through the Actra TIP program, which allowed us to use use union actors at a highly discounted rate.
Between those four things we were able to get the film shot. That was always my plan. I firmly believed that if I could just get the film shot then I would be able to find completion funds, that people would realize what we were doing, and that people would finally get on board. Once we got a solid cut of the film, we applied for completion funds through Telefilm Canada and got it.
KIRE: I knew I wanted to go Actra (which is the Canadian Union for actors) but the only person on their roster at the time who had Down syndrome was Dylan Harman. Because of this, they allowed me to open up the casting process to non-Actra members and I auditioned people from all over Ontario. However, in the end, I went with Dylan. Not only did he have the most experience but he really understood the character.
A lot of the supporting cast were people I wanted to work with (ie. Nick Campbell, Julian Richings, etc). I just offered them the parts and they said yes.
In regards to the other actors with special needs, I casted a bunch of people I knew from an organization that I've been working with for the last five years called DramaWay. I basically wrote those parts with those specific actors in mind.
The script didn't change too much after we were cast. The meat and arc of the film stayed the same. However, we incorporated a lot of improv along the way. If certain lines weren't working then I'd just get Dylan to do it his own way.
What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie -- and what did you love about it and hate about it?
KIRE: We shot on the RED. I didn't have any problems with it. Everything looked great.
How much did the story change in the editing process and why did you make the changes you did?
KIRE: The first act of the film changed quite a bit. We played around with Eugene and his mother's relationship.
Originally, in the first mom scene there is long conversation between him and his mom. We cut it all out. Now the mom is basically comatose. It ends with Eugene putting out her lit cigarette. I think that action alone speaks volumes about their relationship. More than any dialogue could do.
We also wanted to get through the first act as quickly as possible, get Eugene on the road, and out on his adventure. The first act is bleak, so the sooner we could get the audience on the adventure the better. We really adopted the "less is more" approach and cut out a bunch of dialogue and moments that were slowing things down.
We also cut out some of the rainbow mythology stuff. Some of it just wasn't working with people.
KIRE: The smartest thing I did during production was embracing any moments that were mistakes.
One example of this is when Eugene is sleeping. 90% of the time when Dylan is sleeping on screen, he was actually sleeping. Dylan gets tired very easily and he has the ability to just close his eyes and draft off into dream world. So we would just roll on that.
The scene where he's awaken by the old lady, Dylan was actually being woken up on camera. He had no idea what was going on, which made that moment so much more authentic.
KIRE: I could write a book on everything I learned while making this film.
The biggest thing I learned was to embrace the fuck ups or happy accidents while filming. Of course within reason. But there's something so much more genuine about a moment that's a bit off.
Also, if opportunities arise, take advantage of them. Don't be so married to an idea that you can't see a great opportunity or moment that presents itself.