Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: Meet the team behind ORDINARY DAYS!
By Jason Whyte
Posted 12/02/17 13:48:27
"ORDINARY DAYS is a thriller that falls on the backdrop of the disappearance of a college girl, told from three different perspectives. Act I is from the parent's POV and how they deal with the disappearance of their daughter, ACT II is from the POV of the detective put on the case, and ACT III is from the girl's POV and what happened to her. Each act is directed by a different director and the whole is cut together to make one complete story." Director Kris Booth speaking on behalf of the film ORDINARY DAYS which screens at the 2017 Whistler Film Festival. The film is directed by Kris, Renuka Jeyapalan and Jordan Canning. Renuka also joins us on this interview!
Welcome to Whistler Film Festival! Are you planning to attend WFF for your screenings?
Kris: Yes! Looking forward to it.
Renuka, I hear you are back at WFF this year? Tell me about your previous experience here at the festival.
Renuka: I previously attended WFF in 2014 when I was in a program called Women in the Director's Chair. WIDC is a development program for female directors and allows 8 directors to attend WFF in order to take part in an industry immersion experience. It's a great festival and I'm looking forward to attending again.
What is it about Whistler, either the festival or the town itself, that excites you the most?
Renuka: What I love about WFF is its emphasis on Canadian features. When I last attended, I was very impressed by how much of the program consists of Canadian content. I saw 10 movies that year and 8 of them were Canadian! It's great to have domestic films supported and featured at the festival.
Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and your previous work in the industry.
Kris: After attending Ryerson in Toronto I started off doing shorts. They traveled and picked up some shiny paper weights. From there I wrote and directed my first feature film AT HOME BY MYSELF...WITH YOU which premiered at VIFF 09 and that opened a bunch of doors. Eventually leading to writing projects and directing TV.
Renuka: I attended the Canadian Film Centre's Director's Lab at the start of my career and made a short film called BIG GIRL that did very well. It won best short at TIFF and traveled the world. Since then I have written/directed two more shorts and in the past couple years have started directing episodic television such as KIM'S CONVENIENCE & MURDOCH MYSTERIES.
How did this whole project come about for you?
Kris: That is a big question because as this project is about point of view, as is my answer. But the quick version is that I know Ramona Barckert, the writer, and about thirteen years ago the project came on my radar. Chapter skip to the end of 2015 I got a call from my agent saying that the movie was going forward and three directors are going to be attached. I was very thankful that I was one of those directors. When asked what Act I wanted to do I answered ACT II. It scared me the most. For years before I looked at Act II and I didn't like it. But Life happened, I became a father, and lost a father, and all at once I understood Brightbill and knew I had to tell his story.
Renuka: The project came to me via my agent, Glenn Cockburn at Meridian Artists. He wanted to create an opportunity for some of his emerging directors on his roster to direct. He had a script by another one of his clients, Ramona Barckert, and thought that it was an ideal script to produce with three directors behind the helm since the story is segmented into three discrete sections. So along with Jordan Canning and Kris, I was one of the directors and we were able to create something quite unique.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee are we talking about here?
Kris: I love coffee, so let's not go there. The other questions are tough though. The 10 years ago me could pull something out of the air and make it sound cool. I don't know how to answer it but I will give it my best shot, though. I love movies. Like, LOVE. I love making movies and asking questions with visual language. But I also understand that I don't know anything about a lot of things and so I want to learn from the artists around me. From this movie I wanted to make it about the character that I relate to. Someone who is strong at what he does but life is asking big questions of him and when you realize that life is bigger than you, what happens? Can you help others out and be in your power? That connection to others is important in finding out who you are. Maybe I still can pull things out of the air?
Renuka: There are some very high highs and very low lows in filmmaking. Most of them are lows! But what gets me through is knowing that each day is different and you just don't know when an opportunity will arise. One day you might feel like you have no idea what you're doing or how it will work out and what keeps me going through those dark days is that it can all change the next day. You just have to keep going. It's what Scarlett O'Hara says at the end of GONE WITH THE WIND; "After all, tomorrow is another day." You just have to believe in that.
All projects are challenging in many ways, some more than others. What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment where you knew you had something?
Kris: Letting go of expectations of what I felt needed to happen and go with the flow, particularly during editing of the movie. The second part of that question was when I had beers with Michael Xavier, who plays Brightbill. When I sat down with him and got to know him and I found out that we had a lot in common. We both connected over a separate but similar life experience that I felt would be the key to Brightbill. It was he and all the other actors I was able to work with that really blew my mind! Seeing those artists work told me that we had something, more than something.
Renuka: The section I directed in the film, CARA, was extremely contained. I don't want to give away too many spoilers, but for the most part my section had one actor, one location, and very little dialogue. So my biggest challenge was figuring out how to make those scenes dramatic, tense, and emotional under all those restrictive elements. We had a fantastic actress who played Cara. Her name is Jacqueline Byers and she just hit it out of the park each day performance-wise. She was outstanding and we had a great time working together. I knew that if anything her performance would be compelling to watch. put together in the editing room. And our editor, Aren Hansen, did an incredible job. Once I saw that first assembly, I was so relieved that my approach to the CARA section of the film held up.
I am about to get on the technical side of things, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.
Renuka: I have got to be careful here because again, spoilers! But the nature of the section I directed meant that the shot design needed variety in order to be compelling to watch, but I only had access to very little additional elements like ocations, actors and dialogue in order to yield that variety. I aimed for a grounded and visceral feel by varying the shot design. Our cinematographer and I, Mike McLaughlin, used both hand-held and locked off shots and probably stayed on longer lenses for the most part. My main goal was for the shot design to not be overly stylish and draw attention to itself. I wanted the characters and specifically our lead actress' performance to be fore-fronted and for each shot to illustrate her varying emotional states. So Mike and I really tried to get creative with angles and composition. If you breakdown the shot design of the CARA section, each shot reflects her emotional state and our main intention was to align the audience with what she is feeling and experiencing.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Whistler?
Kris: How the audience takes in the experience. To see if they participate with the film.
Renuka: I am just excited to see the film with an audience and to hear their reaction. Whistler will be my first time watching the film on a big screen and with an audience, so I'm very curious to see how it is received.
If you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Kris: I am a one screen cinema screen kind of guy. A movie house is my favorite place to be. I know that I would love to play at the Royal in Toronto because I feel we would have a great crowd. But originally I'm from Ottawa, and there is a movie house there called the Mayfair. I saw every film I could there when I was young. AND it is still going. I would show anything I ever do there if they would have me. One screen and no sound from the other cinemas creeping in. Magic.
What would you say or do to someone who was being disruptive at a screening you were attending, even if it was your own?
Kris: I remember at the premiere of Jurassic Park back in 1993 I was sitting in the front row and some people were talking behind me. It was a part of the film where it was quiet so their voices carried. It pissed me off, so I said, "Yo, shut the fuck up". and the entire audience, and remember that this was a Jurassic park size audience erupted in screams of support! I guess these people were pissing off everyone!
What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?
Kris: Forgive yourself everyday and write your own script.
Renuka: If this is what you want to do, commit to it 100% and don't give up.
And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen?
Renuka: The greatest movie I have seen at a film festival also happens to be one of my all-time favourite films, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE by Wong Kar-Wai. I saw the film at TIFF. It is a gorgeous film and by one of my favourite filmmakers.
Kris: JAWS, it's Jaws, no need to finish this question..... It is JAWS.
Read my review of this film and many others playing at WFF this year in my preview article by clicking HERE!
This is one of the many films playing at the 2017 Whistler Film Festival. For showtime information, tickets and for other general information on films and events, point your browser to the official website at whistlerfilmfestival.com!
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 my festival Instagram Stories at jason.whyte!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com