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Whistler Film Festival ’07 Interview – "Nobody" director Shawn Linden

"Nobody" - Played at Whistler Film Festival and currently on the festival circuit.
by Jason Whyte

“NOBODY is a paranormal gangster thriller set in the 1950s. The style is a throwback to the old Twilight Zone episodes and film noir potboilers of the era, with a very modern twist to it. Instead of a mystery, I like to think of it as a kind of violent puzzle. Unfortunately, the word that would best describe the film cannot be written here, because half of it is a swear word.” Shawn Linden on “Nobody” which screened at this year’s Whistler Film Festival.

So you’re in a conversation with someone you haven’t met before at Whistler and they ask if you have a film in the festival. What do you tell them to get them to come see the movie? What’s your hook?

This one is always hard for me to answer, because the hook point of the film comes so early in the story that it becomes part of the secret, and it’s hard to properly explain the concept without giving it away. Even the synopsis I had to provide is tells a little more than it should, but there is just no other way to describe the story. During production, when somebody would ask me what the film was about, I would usually just tell them that it was about a dog that could play basketball. I guess I’m going to have to rethink that pitch strategy now that I’m trying to sell the movie…

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to wanting to make films.

I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I wrote a lot when I was young, and then fell for movies in junior high school. I took four years of philosophy and film studies in University, then spent the next seven years in the local film industry, working in the props and sets departments on shows like CAPOTE and THE LOOKOUT. I have not made any short films, and NOBODY is my first feature. I have no wife or children, but I do live with a large toothy fish who seems to hate my guts for no reason, so I’m not missing out on much.

Tell me about how this production came together and how the film was made.

NOBODY was shot two years ago, with money that was obtained privately by my brother Robin and our longtime friend Jamie Thompson. It was made with an all- volunteer crew of seasoned film professionals and close friends, and we were lucky enough to convince two established Hollywood actors- Costas Mandylor (MOBSTERS, SAW IV) and Ed O’Ross (FULL METAL JACKET, SIX FEET UNDER)- to come out and play the two leads. Our plan was to blow all of our money on shooting the film, and then use the roughly assembled footage to raise the rest of the money needed for post-production. And that’s more or less what happened, thanks to the wonderful people at Manitoba Film & Sound, who gave us the cash we needed to finish. After two long years of post production, the film is finally ready to be shown.

Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making this film? Also, what was the most pleasurable moment?

The most difficult aspect was definitely the weather. After thirty years of Winnipeg winters, I still can’t deal with it. The film was shot entirely at night, mostly outside, during the coldest part of the winter season. Temperatures got down to -40 degrees, and the scenes inside the old boats were even worse, because the thick metal hulls became big brutal superconductors for the cold. We actually had to go outside to warm up. In the film, you see lots of curling mists and fogs. Those aren’t fog machines. That’s air so cold you can see it.

After the last shot of the production, the crew got together for drinks at our home base. They were waiting for me when I got there, thirty of my closest friends. They instantly ambushed me, dragged me into one of the sets we had built, held me down and proceeded to kick my ass for ten minutes, repayment for twenty days of free labour under the worst conditions possible. Believe it or not, that has been the best moment of the film for me so far. I’ll take that kind of beating any day of the week.

How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings? If this is your first festival, what do you think you will expect at the film’s screenings at Whistler?

The film screened at nine festivals in October, in places like Sao Paolo Brazil, New York, California, Arizona and Oregon. It picked up two Best Picture awards, two more for Best Cinematography, and one for Best Actor. It has been really well received by audiences; when there were two screenings at a fest, we’ve noticed that many faces in the crowd at the second screening were also part of the first. The film is a bit complicated the first time around, and it is nice to see that some people found it interesting enough to see it twice and catch what they missed the first time. I’m really anxious to finally see how people like it in my home country, for sure. I can’t see it going much differently though; the film is as unknown in Canada as it is everywhere else in the world…

If you weren’t making movies, what other line or work do you feel you’d be in?

I would be writing, in some form or another. That’s where my background is; I got interested in writing screenplays in high school because I figured people were more likely to watch a film than read a book, and I got interested in directing because I didn’t want anyone else taking credit for my ideas. Sounds pretty silly now, but it made perfect sense when I was seventeen. There is a constant buildup of fiction in my head; if I weren’t committed to turning them into films, they would have to come out some other way or I’d likely go nuts.

If you could offer a nickel’s worth of free advice to someone who wanted to make movies, what nuggets of wisdom would you offer?

Know what you are getting into. Work on a film set before you try to run one, and learn how to take an order before you put yourself in a position to give one. In the seven years I’ve worked on film crews, I’ve seen a dozen first- time directors who have come right out of film school to helm their first major project. On the first day, he seems invincible, but after a week of gruelling sixteen hour workdays, his brains start to ooze out of his ears, composure and confidence are at zero, and the crew loses all faith in his ability to lead. The collective creative process turns into just another way to pay the bills. A film crew is like an army; and they can only be as good as their leader. So be a good leader.

What do you love the most about the filmmaking business?

That there is a respectful, lucrative and fulfilling way to play make- believe your entire life.

A question that is easy for some but not for others and always gets a different response: what is your favourite movie of all time?

The Dark Crystal.

Fore more information on “Nobody”, visit the film’s official website at nobodymovie.com. Visit the Whistler Film Festival website by clicking HERE.

Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com


link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=2313
originally posted: 12/08/07 12:39:20
last updated: 12/08/07 12:40:18
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