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Whistler Film Festival 2014 Interview: WE WERE WOLVES director Jordan Canning

WE WERE WOLVES - At Whistler Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

'A film about family, fuckups and forgiveness. Two estranged brothers return to the family cottage after the death of their father and spend three hard-drinking, hard-smoking days hashing out the past, letting go of the man they thought they knew and taking responsibility for the men they have become.' Director Jordan Canning on WE WERE WOLVES which screens at the 2014 Whistler Film Festival.

Is this your first Whistler Film Festival experience and are you going to attend your screenings?

This is my first time! I have only been to Whistler once during the summer, so I am really looking forward to the experience. I will be there for the entire festival.

What do you love the most about showing movies in Whistler and Whistler in general? Do you ski?

I have never skied or snowboarded before!

Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also what have you worked on in the past?

I come from St. Johns, Newfoundland and started making films there in 2005. I made a lot of my own shorts and music videos and also worked on larger TV and feature film productions as a script supervisor. In 2010 I moved to Toronto to do the CFC Director Lab and stuck around after I finished, making more films with all the awesome collaborators I met in the city.

How did this movie come together from your perspective?

I had a number of other scripts in development but I was really feeling the itch to make my first feature. I had been carrying around this semi-formed idea about two brothers for a few years, but it was not until I decided to write the characters specifically for Peter Mooney and Steve Cochrane that the story began to take shape.

Writing for particular actors and locations has always been the way I prefer to work; From 2008 to 2009 my creative partner and I wrote THE HOUSE SERIES, a trilogy of short films that were all filmed in different rooms of our house. We wrote them for actors we knew and loved and wanted to work with, and made them with virtually no budget or crew. These films were really a turning point in my career and my development as a filmmaker.

I wanted to take a similar approach with WE WERE WOLVES. We had the cottage location and we had the cast; now we just needed a script.

When I approached Steve Cochrane, I had an outline and a couple dozen pages written. But once we started writing together, the story really took off. We spent a day breaking down the script and taping index cards onto his kitchen wall, then we divided up the scenes and started writing. We completed a draft in a very short period of time, then spent another month or so reworking it. We were shooting the film a month later. It all came together very quickly, but that is the way we wanted it. Because we were self-producing and essentially self-funding, we were able to cut the waiting out of the equation and just dive head-first into production.

What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

Before we even started shooting in Octoboer, one of the biggest challenges for me was that I was directing thirteen episodes of a web series (SPACE RIDERS: DIVISION EARTH) that was filming all through September. So I would be shooting six days a week, then prepping for the feature on the weekends. SPACE RIDERS wrapped, and twelve days later we started shooting We Were Wolves. It is actually a little hard to wrap my head around now that we are on the other side of it!

Because we were going to make this on a shoestring budget, the plan had always been to have an extremely scaled down crew. When you are only going to be working with seven or eight people, you really want to assemble the perfect team. Especially when you are planning to seclude yourselves on an island for two and a half weeks. Everyone went into the shoot knowing that it was going to be 'rustic'. That is the word I kept using. I am eternally grateful that everyone trusted me enough to come on board with this adventure. You really could not have asked for a more down to earth, hard-working and willing group of people.

We really did have so much fun. I think that feeling made up for the lack of creature comforts we had during the shoot. The cottage did not have a shower, and in the summer you would just jump into the lake to clean off. But in October, that is a little less appealing. We were extremely fortunate to get access to one of the other cottages on the island, which is where the actors slept and where we ate our meals. And luckily, it had a bathtub!

But it was not always easy. While we had initially intended to shoot in late summer, early October is when we actually went to camera. The weather, for the most part, was kind to us. But there were definitely days when it was NOT in our corner. Because so much of the film is exterior, we really were at the mercy of Mother Nature. There was only one day when we had to cancel shooting, but there were others that were incredibly frustrating. It was a constant struggle with cloud and sun. Several of the scenes are quite long, and we would take almost a full day to shoot them. This made matching light a real challenge, especially with such a small crew and even smaller equipment package. But we got through it. On our final morning we all got up at dawn to film the final scene of the movie, when the brothers paddle out in the canoe with their fathers' ashes. There was frost on the dock, but it was clear and bright. When the sun broke, a beautiful mist rose off the cold water. It was the perfect ending to our time on the island.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?

At the end of each shooting day, we would all march through the woods to the second cottage to share a meal together. Someone would light a fire, someone else would set the table, and we would all sit around together talking about the day. It was unlike any shoot we had ever been on, and we all knew this was something special.

Tell me about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on/format and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

Sam Pryse-Phillips, our amazing director of photography, is one of my dearest friends and favorite collaborators. We have worked together on so many projects and we basically finish each others sentences. He is my co-pilot. The cottage we shot in also belongs to his family, so it is really because of him that we even made this film in the first place!

We shot on a Sony F3 camera, which we had shot a couple of shorts on before and loved the look of. It is not quite as crisp as a Red Camera, but it is for that reason that we chose it. It has a bit more of a film, milky look to it that I really loved. It also helped that the camera package was donated in-kind by one of our associate producers!

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie in Whistler?

I have only heard amazing things about this festival, and there are so many great films, many of them made by my friends, that I am excited to see. To all be stuck up in the mountains together talking about films and watching each other's work? I am already feeling inspired!

After the film screens in Whistler, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to show?

We have about nine US festivals that we are waiting to hear back from, with baited breath.

There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?

Make as many films as you can so you can keep getting better. It does not matter if they cost $50 or $500,000. You will learn something new each time you go through the process.

Be sure to see WE WERE WOLVES at Whistler Film Festival. The movie is screening on Friday, December 5th, 8pm at Village 8 Cinemas and Sunday, December 7th, 4:30pm at Village 8.

This is one of the many films playing at the 2014 Whistler Film Festival. For show information, tickets and for other general information on films and events, point your browser to the official website HERE

Be sure to follow instant happenings of Whistler Film Festival on my Twitter account @jasonwhyte, including mini-reviews of films, comments on festival action and even a photo or two. You can also follow the festival on my Instagram at jason.whyte!

Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=3715
originally posted: 12/05/14 20:03:37
last updated: 12/05/14 20:10:06
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