Thursday, December 31, 2015

John Gaspard on "Ghost Light"


What was your filmmaking background before making Ghost Light?

JOHN: Over the years, I’ve made a number of low-budget and no-budget features, in all sorts of formats. I was one of the first to do a feature-length movie using Super-8 single-system sound back in the mid-1970s. I followed that with a Super-8 feature that was shot on single-system sound but edited as a double-system feature, which was a challenge.

In the 1980s, I did two features on ¾” U-matic video, and then in the early 1990s did two features on 16mm – Resident Alien and Beyond Bob.

Once digital video became viable, I did a digital feature in around 2001 called Grown Men, which can be streamed on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/53779809

Where did the idea for Ghost Light come from and how did you work with your co-writer, Mary Kaeding?

JOHN: I’d done some directing at a local community theater, Theatre in the Round, and was amazed at all the different locations that were packed into their building. I started thinking about writing a location-specific script, designed to exactly fit what was available in the theater.

I went through a lot of scenarios, but never landed on one that I liked. I was discussing the project with Mary – who has volunteered at the theater for years – and she mentioned a true situation, where a bunch of actors snuck into the building after-hours, in search of ghosts.

That seemed like a rich idea for a feature, so we started to hammer out an outline. We used the cast of The Importance of Being Earnest as a starting point, casting that and then using those actors to do videotaped improvs, based on their ideas of roaming through the building looking for ghosts.

Finally, after lots of prep work, we started to write the script, using the best parts of the improvs as a starting point. There are four small groups that are in the building (three sets of actors and then the Tech Crew that sneaks in to scare them), so we each did drafts on two groups and then swapped pages and re-wrote each other.

Then came the task of interweaving the four story lines, which we did by putting each story beat on its own color-coordinated card, setting up two long tables and moving the cards around until it all made sense.



Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for recouping your costs?

JOHN: The movie was made for, essentially, no money, so there is no plan (or need) to recoup the costs.

I own all the equipment I need to shoot and edit. The actors worked for free. The location (all 40 rooms that make up the theater) was donated. The only real out-of-pocket costs were lunches (on those days we worked 8 hours) and some money for a couple props.

It’s a really great way to work. There is no pressure to do anything to make the movie more “sale-able.” There are no investors to deal with. No one mortgaged their house. No one ran up thousands of dollars on credit cards. We just showed up, shot, had fun and then went on our way. I highly recommend it!


What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie -- and what did you love about it and hate about it?

JOHN: We shot it on the Panasonic HVX-200. It’s a little workhorse of a camera. It did okay in low light and recording to cards was a dream – no more running out of tape!

The only real downside was the same one everyone complains about -- you can’t swap out lens. So the final look of the movie is more “video” than I would like. But the trade-off was that the camera was affordable and it allowed me to shoot and shoot and shoot.


You wore a lot of hats on this project -- director, co-writer, editor, producer, DP. What's the upside and the downside of working that way?

JOHN: I had a really good crew while shooting, so there were not a lot of downsides. The crew was small (me, sound, production manager, and a couple PAs) but effective, so I didn’t really feel the strain of directing and shooting. And it was easy to make decisions, because there wasn’t a long list of people who needed to sign off on things. It was mostly me.


What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

JOHN: The smartest thing was working with the cast ahead of time, doing improvs with them and really shaping the script to fit them. This really increased the pace of filming, as it didn’t take much rehearsal to get the up-to-speed.

The dumbest thing was not locking down the schedule from the start. Because of that, actors kept getting cast in plays, making it very hard to schedule them. If I had come up with a more buttoned-down shooting schedule from the beginning, we would have been done shooting two months earlier.


And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?

JOHN: A couple key things. If you aren’t paying people, it’s really hard (particularly with actors) to get more than three people in the same room at the same time. So for the new movie project, we’re actually scripting it to make sure that the scenes don’t require more than three actors at one time.

Also – writing a script to fit within one location can save you tons of labor and headaches … as long as you have complete access to that location. The theater could not have been more helpful when it came to scheduling, but we weren’t the only thing happening in that space and that slowed us down.

Finally, small is good. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The same is true – in spades! – in low-budget filmmaking.




Ghost Light - 30-Second Preview from John Gaspard on Vimeo.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Mo Collins on "MadTV" and "Detective Fiction"


How did you get started in comedy?

MO: I don't have schooling beyond doing the Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop classes for improv. I got started by just doing it. You just start.

When I was in school I learned some improv, and then, when I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, I remembered loving improv. I saw an ad in City Pages for classes, took the classes and before I knew it an agent called and then there was a check in the mail and I thought, "Well, I guess this is what I do."

How did you like the classes?

MO: It was great, because I finally realized where I belonged, which was with fellow comedy people. I learned how to improv and how to write.

A lot people who start in improv say that it provides a bedrock of learning for the rest of their careers. Was that the case for you?

MO: Absolutely, because the biggest thing that's learned there is the work ethic, which is what has carried me through. You really had to work hard there. You had to. You worked really hard and were paid very little. A great lesson, especially if you're headed to Hollywood.

But the work ethic was the biggest thing I learned at Dudley Riggs. So any other long day that came along later, I was used to it, because I started at Dudley at 20 and it's just in my blood that you do long days when you're working. But it's play, so you don't feel it.

And the Riggs experience also taught you how to write?

MO: It did some teaching of that, yes. I still hesitate to call myself any kind of a writer, but because I do improv, I am writing in mid air. But when you learn scene structure from improv -- beginning, middle and an end -- and character development, you kind of naturally get the writing skills that come along with it.

How did you use those skills once you left Riggs but before you moved to LA?

MO: Up there I was doing commercial work and industrial work and plays.

How would your improv skills come in handing while shooting an industrial video?

MO: Well, I was fearless. Improv is theater without a net, as we used to say, so anything else just seemed easy. And safe. Which isn't as fun. But when you have a sense of humor and go into these serious industrials that you're doing, to me it was just playing another comedy character, but playing it seriously.

The first thing I remember seeing you in was a part in a dinner theater mystery show ...

MO: Oh my gosh. Does that fall under acting or that waiting tables?

Then we cast you to play Lucille Ball in an industrial video. And even though you look nothing like her, you became Lucy.

MO: Because I understand what she's doing. It's funny, I just saw her show yesterday -- I hadn't watched Lucy in a while -- and as I was watching her I was noting to myself that I know exactly how she feels doing what she was doing. I understand how she got that performance. I totally got it. I could feel her rhythm and understand what she was doing. If that makes any sense at all.

I feel that I understand comedy so well; if there's something that I've studied in my years, it's comedy. I've been in all kinds of different groups of people who have a different comic tone, and I really do believe at this point that there's any camp of comedy that I could walk into and find my way.

I can feel it. I can feel what they're doing, even if it's not me or what I would naturally do.

As a for instances, I just did a pilot recently with David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. And they're a very different group. In fact, women aren't typically a part of that group. They're comedy nerds; they don't even know what to say to women. They don't. But I got in, because I knew how to make it safe for them to let me in and feel okay and not threatened. Not rock their boat but just come in and assimilate into what they're doing, because I understand their geek comedy. I can do it too. And I think it's just because, ultimately, I am a mocking bird. That's what I'm doing. I'm mimicking what they're doing and putting it into my body, my person, my mouth.

What made you decide to move to LA?

MO: I had a two year-old son. And I knew that Minneapolis was only going to allow me to do so well. I was doing okay, making a living, paying my mortgage, but that was going to continue on an even plane, instead of an upward climb. And I didn't want that. I knew that I could do more; I just knew it. And it wasn't going to happen in Minneapolis.

So what was your plan?

MO: To make it.

So like on the top of a piece of paper: "Day One: Make it."

MO: Yes, I'm going to go and I'm going to do this and it's going to work. And with in nine months I had Mad TV.
I knew I had something. So you just do it until you're seen. By the right person. And that's what happened.

I had done a play called Cabin Pressure, with a bunch of women from Minneapolis. We collaborated on this project, a really quirky comedy that we put together and put up on a stage out here. A casting director saw my character and she just jumped on board the Mo ship. She told the Mad TV casting people about me and I got the audition.

I knew, when the audition came, that I was going to get it.

How come?

MO: Because that's exactly what my resume is. It's exactly what I do. I was ready for it. Everything I had done had prepared me for that audition.

I knew, because I had taken a leap of faith, that I would be rewarded. You don't take such big leaps without rewards; I don't think the universe really works like that. I just knew it was going to work out.

It's funny, there were six auditions, and during the fifth one they sent me home early. And I thought it was a horrible mistake. I went home and I was crying and I thought, "They've made a terrible mistake. I'm going to get this. Somebody made a mistake."

Why did they send you home?

MO: Because they already knew they were going to cast me and didn't want to waste any more of my time that day. But I just wanted to stay and play. I wanted to show them more: "I've got more!"


How did the first show feel?

MO: It was thrilling and terrifying, because television wasn't something I knew, at all. I didn't know how television worked; that wasn't something I had experience at from Minneapolis. Commercial work is not television.

Things like, when the first AD starts the countdown ("Five, four, three ...") and then he doesn't say "One." I didn't know that he was just being quiet. And I had the first line, the first entrance in my first scene, and I didn't know. Nobody told me how that works.

I decided to fake it 'til I make it. And it worked out fine. But that was a learning process.

How were you used and how did you want to be used and how did you influence how you wanted to be used on the show?

MO: There's a lot of nuancing my position on Mad TV because there are politics involved and I'm a nice Minnesota girl and an easy doormat. I had to stand on my talent because I wasn't a squeaky wheel as far as saying "Use me more!" That kind of stuff. "How come she's got this and I don't?" I just wasn't that person. And I watched as that didn't work. I watched as the squeaky wheel got the oil and that was really hard for me.

This was where I started to see that Hollywood didn't always function through talent. That talent wasn't what always propelled one forward and upward. And that's a really, really tough lesson. And potentially fatal to a career. But I decided not to let it kill me.

I learned how to stand my ground enough, and stay nice at the same time. And I let my work ethic, my non-complaining, my always showing up with my work ready and my characters full-bored. I kept growing my arsenal of things I could do and add to the show. And I kept growing. And the audience started to pick up on that and writing into the show and saying, "She's good. More her."

One of the things that sets you apart -- and above -- others in your field is your absolute commitment to each character you played. How did you build and grow that ability?

MO: I really love playing characters and taking them as far as I can. Really it's just a self-discovery that's happening within the performance. I'd get a script and there would be an image that would come to mind or a voice or something -- a character just starts. And by the time I'd chosen a wig or wardrobe or whatever, you're looking in the mirror and you see this character emerge. And that's fun. It's dress up. It's play time. And I'm just really good at playing.

Did you ever get to a point where you thought, enough already, I've got no more characters in me?

MO: I did always try to do something, even if it was just for three lines in a scene, I would think, "I'm going to make a person here, that fits in this scene and serves this scene."

On one of my last shows there was this scene and I thought, "I'm just going to go at this completely differently. I'm not going to think about an internal person. I am just going to make one of the ugliest faces I can make, I'm going to throw on the ugliest wig that they have, and just do that." Because a lot of people come at characters from that external place; they'll throw on some character glasses or whatever. But for me, there's a person in there that I can kind of feel when I read a script.

But in this case I went at it completely externally. It was really fun, I was like a kid, just making faces with this wig on. And it turned out to be a really fun character that people loved. Her name was Carol Fitty and I did her for a game show sketch. And then when they invited me back, after I'd left the show, they had me do her again.

So even in my trying not to do a character, a person emerged, which is pretty funny. And it was really fun for me to go at it so differently.


Were you in a position to bring in ideas for characters and sketches?

MO: You had to. You had to every week. It was part of the job. You'd dip into the writers room, pitch ideas, talk about a character or a thought. You had to do that.

Did you like doing that?

MO: Yeah I did. It scared me a little bit, too, because I felt like, they're the writers and who am I?

But you'd been writing on your feet for years. Why would you find that intimidating?

MO: Because I'm also insecure and will over-think something when I'm not on a stage. So I'd think, "This will be funny. I'll take it in tomorrow." And then the insecurity goes, "That's not funny, they're not going to like it, they're not going to get it." Whereas, if I'm on a stage and I'm doing it in an improv sketch, I know I can make it work. It's different telling, I'm much better at showing. It can be intimidating.

At what point did you decide to leave the show?

MO: Six seasons felt just about right. And I think you should do something else before Hollywood thinks you can't do anything else. You can get really trapped in the sketch world and once you do sketch, they say, "Oh, you're a sketch actor. You're not an actor." Especially if you're a woman.

What attracted you to doing Detective Fiction?

MO: It was something other than comedy and it was a lead. I needed it. I wanted to try that.

You have to look at yourself and see where you're at, get a gauge on how you'd do in something like that, so you know what you need to work on. And I certainly need to work on a lot after I saw it!

Really? I thought you did a great job in that film -- very real, not a caricature at all, but a real person in real pain.

MO: I thought I could have nuanced it a whole lot more. I was being, maybe, too polite on the set in terms of making choices that I would have thought would have been stronger, but I didn't want to rock the boat. And I was learning, too. I was learning.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bank Tangjaitrong on "Till We Meet Again"

What was your filmmaking background before making Till We Meet Again?

BANK: I went to film school and received my Bachelor’s degree at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. At the time I was mainly interested in production design and art direction, so a lot of the projects I worked on were mainly from a design perspective. During this time, a lot of our projects were shot on 16mm or 35mm film.

After that, I moved to New York to attend the New York Film Academy and had the opportunity to direct my own short films. The first short I directed That Girl, That Time (2011) went onto screen at San Antonio Film Festival. My next short Night Porter (2013) went onto screen at Massachusetts Independent Film Festival where it won the award for Best Actor including nominations for Best Short, Best Director, Best Writing and more.

Most of my film education was not actually through film school but just through watching films on my own time and having the curiosity to look up older films and study other director’s filmographies for inspiration. I worshipped the films of John Cassavetes, Woody Allen, Francois Truffaut, Mike Nichols, Hal Ashby, Richard Linklater and many more so these guys ultimately became my film professors at home.


How did you get connected to the script by John Matton and Alix Purcell and what was the process for getting it ready to shoot?

BANK: I had met John while going to film school at the New York Film Academy. He was studying in the acting department while I was in the filmmaking department. I worked on a shoot where he was an actor and at the time I was on the camera team. During breaks we would bond about our love for Thailand and talk about our travels. Since then I’ve casted John as an actor in many of my projects and we ultimately became fast friends.

A few years ago John approached me with a script he had. It intrigued me because it was a travel film that had a realistic portrayal of an ailing relationship at its core. Over the years while the script was in
development, I would talk with John about how we could turn this feature film dream of ours to a reality and the changes that needed to be made in order to accommodate our minimal resources and the realistic approaches that was needed for the picture.


How did you cast the movie and did the script change much once you had your cast in place?

BANK: One of the things we agreed on was that John would play the lead role of Erik. After creating the character and knowing Erik so well, I knew he could do it. So we didn’t have to cast that role. He turned out to be a good fit for the role and I couldn’t see anyone else playing that part.

As for the female lead, we had an open casting call and looked everywhere for the character of Joanna. Finally, we decided to audition Linnea Larsdotter who was John’s girlfriend. Linnea is an incredible actress and knew Joanna in and out after living with the script for years. Us three would ultimately become the foundation of Till We Meet Again. As for the rest of the cast, we did online auditions and received several hundred submissions.

After months of watching tapes, we finally found everyone we needed: Emrhys Cooper, Astrea Campbell-Cobb, Timothy Hickernell and Elly Han. These four actors brought in a breath of fresh
air to the picture. Some of the finest actors I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They brought so much of themselves into the film and I couldn’t be more grateful for their contributions.

Finding the right cast for any film is difficult. There are a lot of people out there acting for all the wrong reasons and with false intentions. Promises of fame and fortune cloud their minds, which inherently affects the work. This cast was different. I’ve never met actors more dedicated to their craft, more pure in their intentions of performing and simply being. As directors, we owe so much of our craft to actors, so to be able to land this cast was just a joy.

The script naturally changed with the casting process as the dialogue and material were ultimately catered to each individual actor and what they would bring onto the project. Our actors would give suggestions and we would always try everything out.

I’m a big fan of improvisation so we would always try the material many different ways. We’d tweak the script on the go and adjust lines as we went along. I find this to be an incredible way to work as it keeps everyone on their toes knowing that any idea they may have could make it into the final cut. Everyone’s brain was always working thinking about that “what if?” moment. I live for those moments. It’s the sign that everyone understands the material but wants to make it better.

This working style became the truest form of collaboration as ideas were coming from left and right. However with a lot of ideas, not all of them will work and will fit the mood and tone of the picture, so everything had to be filtered through me. It’s important to hear out ideas, but it’s most important to know whether it fits that singular voice of yours or not.


What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie -- and what did you love about it and hate about it?

BANK: We shot the majority of the film on two Red Scarlets. The reason we had two cameras was due to the heavy improv nature of the shoots and also the time constraints we had.

The two cameras were used on almost all dialogue scenes, as I wanted to capture the most authentic reactions to the improv as much as humanly possible. Also, because of our low budget, we weren’t able to stay in a location as long as I would’ve liked to, so having two cameras was very handy in speeding up the process. One camera would capture the main chunk of the scenes while B camera would pop out to get some B-roll of the space, cutaways, inserts, etc. Because of this we were able to shoot an insane amount of scenes in a day.

The Red Scarlet was a great camera for the project, it was able to handle everything we were doing out in Thailand including the extreme heat and torrential downpours. I would say the only downside of the Scarlet was the size. When you work with a low budget you’re not able to get permits to shoot in every single location so some of the locations called for us to be a little bit more discreet and the Scarlet at its smallest form is still a relatively large camera so that created some minor issues for us. But for the quality it’s able to produce, the size of the camera is hardly a worrying issue.

At the end of the day the camera is only as good as the people behind it. Our cinematographers Lance Kuhns and Travis Bleen were just a thrill to collaborate with. They were able to capture the heart and soul of the film and much more. I’ll forever be grateful for their hard work and what they’ve accomplished. Lance and Travis happened to be my close friends from Full Sail University so it’s such a pleasure to be able to collaborate with them years later on our first feature film. Keep your friends close but your film school friends closer as these are the people you’ll end up working with in the future.


How much did the story change in the editing process and why did you make the changes you did?

BANK: The story changed a bit mainly in structure and dialogue but the core and heart of the film remained intact from script to screen. A lot of scenes were cut due to time. Our initially rough assembly clocked in at almost 3 hours, so naturally we looked back in our timeline and weighed the pros and cons of each scenes and whether they were truly moving the narrative forward or they were just “fillers.”

During the editing process my editor Max Tersch (who was one of the veterans of our team, thanks for taking a chance on us!) and I would sit and experiment with sequence and scene orders. While cutting we would also find scenes that didn’t translate well onto screen from paper. A scene that looked good on paper but then when finally shot and edited didn’t seem to fit would ultimately be left on the floor.

On the other hand there were also scenes that needed to be added that weren't in the original script. So we would schedule additional days to add in scenes that would gel the lengthier sequences together or fill in missing exposition from the original screenplay. Also, due to the heavy use of flashbacks, we needed to present them in the right order at the exact time to achieve the highest emotional impact, so I experimented a lot with flashback orders.


What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

BANK: In my opinion the smartest thing we did during production was to shoot a majority of our Thailand shoots in the city of Pattaya. Due to our extremely low budget, we weren’t able to have a road trip movie that would require the cast and crew to move along to various locations that were far apart from each other because that would prove way too costly.

So we chose to film in a city called Pattaya, which was about an hour or so outside of Bangkok. Pattaya is a city that has everything from city life to beaches and mountains to jungles, so we were able to take advantage of those landscapes without having lengthy and expensive company moves. The film itself is set in a fictionalized part of Thailand and where they’re going is never really mentioned in great detail.

The most important thing is we know that Erik and Joanna are separated spatially and they need to work their way back to each other but with that geographical gap there’s also an emotional one. This geographical barrier became a metaphor that represented their deteriorating relationship that’s constantly riddled with miscommunication and misunderstandings.

The dumbest thing we did was leaving crucial crew positions empty because we couldn’t afford to hire them. We weren’t able to hire a production designer, a script supervisor, a wardrobe department, a full camera team and many other key positions for this film. This led to a lot of people wearing many different hats and created additional stress overall.

Linnea Larsdotter ultimately offered to help out with wardrobe and coordinated with the cast and myself to figure out what everyone needed to wear. Towards the end of the shoot when most of her scenes were finished and she wasn’t scheduled to act, she would also come to set and take on the role of a script supervisor. She’s a champion.

I’d also like to give a shout out to our 1st Assistant Camera in Thailand, Tom McNamara. During principal photography in Thailand, Tom was our one-man camera team, manning a two-camera shoot. Yes, you heard that right. He was responsible for a two-camera package and also 2nd AC duties such as clapping the slate. Our days consisted of him switching out lenses for both cameras and then running into the shot to clap the slate and then running back to camera to pull focus. He did this for one month and didn’t complain once. Tom you’re the real MVP.


And, finally, what did you learn from making this feature that you will take to other projects?

BANK: I’ve learnt more from this film than any amount of years in film school could ever teach me. This film was a trial and error process for a lot of people as this was literally our first time making a feature. Everything from making sure the script was ready to getting the proper funding for it.

One of the most important things I learned is to just simply hire talented people to help you achieve your goals. I owe so much of this film to the people who made it from above the line to below the line. Hire them because of their skills and then let them do their job and then marvel at the results.

If there were one particular thing I can elaborate on, it would be budgeting. Make sure you have enough funding to do the best work possible and get the best results. A lot of the struggles I had with TWMA were due to not having enough money to shoot longer, to add more scenes or to get a particular scenic location that would enhance the material. I’m not sure which filmmaker said this but this quote has stuck
with me. “ Why would you spend years and years planning a film, but when it comes time to starting, you shoot it as fast as possible?”

Patience is key in prepping for a movie. A lot of people say just go out and make the film. It’s true that you should just go for it if you have the opportunity but it’s also good to be wise and look around at all your resources to make sure everything is in place. There’s nothing worse than being naive and diving right into it and then realizing some of the pieces were missing later on. It’s important to remember that you only have one shot at it. You can’t go back and make the same movie again so whatever story you’re trying to tell at the time, make sure you have every single tool you need to tell it.

Also, have enough money towards song licensing. This will end up costing much more than you think as the numbers are solely up to the artist, labels and publishers. It’s hard to budget properly for that ahead of time when there aren’t finite numbers in play.

Don’t get me wrong, working with a micro budget is rewarding in its own right. You naturally become more creative in how to solve problems without just closing your eyes, signing a check and hoping that problem goes away. But, there are a lot of downsides to it. To have more time is a luxury but budgeting for wiggle room towards the end of the film is a necessity.

To end on a positive note, there is nothing like making your first feature film. You’ll always remember it for the rest of your life because it was your first love. Make as many mistakes as possible because you’ll learn from it and you’ll make sure it won’t happen again. But even if it does, it’s ok. It’s only a movie.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Kire Paputts on "The Rainbow Kid"


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.


Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your distribution plan for recouping your costs?

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. 


How did you cast the movie and did the script change much once you had your cast in place?

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.


What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

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.


And, finally, what did you learn from making this feature that you will take to other projects?

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.