The tale of two Dylans: ‘40 Below and Falling’ — pushing the boundaries of 3-D film

It wasn’t quite minus 40 when I sat down with Edmonton-based filmmaker Dylan Pearce to discuss his latest feature film “Forty Below and Falling,” a romantic comedy set in the vast winter landscape of a northern community. Pearce told me that he felt very fortunate that, during the 30-day, January-February shoot in the Edmonton area, the cast and crew did not have to brave the film’s titular temperature.

“We actually had some warmer weather than expected,” Pearce said, and joked, “I thought about changing the title of the movie, but ‘20 Below and Falling’ doesn’t sound as good.”

Dylan Pearce, director, "40 Below and Falling"

Dylan Pearce, director, “40 Below and Falling” (Tom Gunia)

 

Some might think it unusual that Pearce has chosen Edmonton to be the hub from which he is building his directing career. For many, the goal of establishing oneself as a filmmaker in Canada is only viable if you are willing to live in Vancouver or Toronto and ready to struggle amidst the throngs of other aspiring directors and producers. But Pearce, who started making movies in high school in his hometown of Windsor, chased his dream to Alberta to attend Red Deer College film school. For him, the challenge of convincing people that “you can make movies [in Edmonton]” is one well worth tackling. In fact, Festival City has not only turned out to be the place where he has found a supportive community to aid him in pursuing his craft but, with this latest project, also a creative partner who is equally inspired to make a mark on the Edmonton film scene.

Joined by Dylan Reade, the stereographer on the film, it quickly became apparent that the two men share more than a passion for filmmaking. Both have great admiration and respect for everyone who made a contribution to getting “40 Below and Falling” made.

Dylan Reade, stereographer, "40 Below and Falling" (Tom Gunia)

Dylan Reade, stereographer, “40 Below and Falling” (Tom Gunia)

 

“This really was a team effort,” Reade told me. “Many of the crew members had to don more than one hat in the process of making the movie.”

For Pearce (known on set as “Dylan 1.0”), the journey of “40 Below and Falling” began over two years ago when the script, by Calgary writer Aaron Sorensen, made its way into his lap.

The story follows Kate Carter (Jewel Staite of “Firefly” fame), a teacher who leaves her job in a remote Northern Canadian town and is struggling to get back to the big city in time for her wedding. Along the way she meets a gruff, handsome stranger, Redford (Shawn Roberts, “Resident Evil” film series) who reluctantly helps her. In true romantic comedy fashion, it doesn’t take long for hijinks to ensue. Our determined heroine stumbles into a host of adventures, from snowmobile chases to a grizzly-bear encounter, all the while just trying to get to the church on time.

Much like Kate is undaunted in her desire to get to her fiancé, Pearce was determined to make “40 Degrees and Falling” and to break new ground by doing it in 3-D. It was through this vision that he met Reade (“Dylan 3.0”), the man who has happily joined Dylan 1.0 in his dream to one day make Edmonton the centre of 3-D filmmaking in Western Canada.

Pearce acknowledged, however, that a 3-D romantic comedy was a hard sell at first. Stereoscopy is normally reserved for action films. More difficult still was that his budget for the movie was built using a 2-D financing structure. As a result, he met his fair share of doubters during the development process.

Pearce, though, is not one to shy away from a challenge. Although forced to make a “3-D film on a 2-D budget,” he remained resolute in his belief that his romantic comedy could help 3-D transcend convention by using the technique as a “storytelling tool.”

When I asked the two Dylans why they chose Edmonton as their base, it was Reade, a world-class expert in 3-D and IMAX systems, who quickly jumped in to espouse the rich history that the craft has in the area. And he would know. In 1985, Reade worked as a production assistant on the first 3-D IMAX film to shoot in the city (“Transitions”) and hasn’t looked back since. His career has spanned the globe. Among the many far-reaching and remote locations to which his IMAX work has taken him – Antarctica for “Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure and the jungles of Sumatra for “Born to be Wild,” where he discovered the perils of labouring in the heat and the joy of working with orangutans. While Reade considers the latter his greatest filmmaking adventure, he is ready for his next important journey as a groundbreaking innovator in Alberta film.

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Filming “40 Below and Falling” (Tom Gunia)

 

“I’m motivated to create a pool of specialization (in Edmonton) and facilitate projects in whatever way I can,” Reade told me.

While this fearless stereographer would go anywhere to work with orangutans again, he said that “40 Below and Falling” provided its own exciting challenges, including the grizzly bear, fighting the elements in below zero temperatures and working with a new 3-D camera system that was specifically built for the making the film.

So what comes next for Dylans 1.0 and 3.0? On many productions, when the cameras stop rolling, the crew disbands like merry circus performers, but together Pearce and Reade are in for the long haul on their 3-D rom-com. Already in the midst of the editing process, Pearce will continue his directing duties in the cutting room and Reade will slip on another hat to become the post-production supervisor. The film is already sold in some markets and set to be delivered as early as April, so both men have their work cut out for them in getting “40 Below and Falling” on to the big screen. And, as one would expect from these Dylans, there’s no long break on the horizon.

Pearce and Reade are already collaborating on their next project, a documentary called “Building Edmonton,” which explores the city’s architectural history. It’s no surprise, of course, that it will be filmed in 3-D, as these two intrepid pioneers continue to blaze a trail for both Alberta film and 3-D storytelling.


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Interview: Tal Zimerman on his documentary ‘Why Horror?’

“Why Horror?” – the title of Tal Zimerman’s film – is a question horror fans have been asked by friends and family alike throughout their lives. This film will put that question to bed. Zimerman brings audiences an adventure in horror, dotted with interviews from the “who’s who” of the genre, and a trip around the world to answer the question posed in the film’s title. I had the pleasure of interviewing Zimerman shortly after the sold-out screening at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

Why make “Why Horror?”

There are a few reasons. One reason is that, as an actor, I was sick of waiting for projects to come to me. So I thought it would be a good idea to approach a production company and try to start something from the ground up. We decided on “Why Horror?” after a few conversations where I was asked why I liked horror so much, and I didn’t have a straight answer. I just had a bunch of interesting observations on the genre and we all thought it would make for a good, original (documentary) with a lot of potential.

Can you pinpoint exactly when and what it was that turned on the horror switch inside you?

Watching “Summer School” (1987) at age 12 was big for me. I instantly fell in love with Chainsaw and Dave. They became my heroes. In the same mall as the theatre was a magazine and tobacco store, and I bought my first Fangoria immediately after the screening. A few months later, I saw “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) on home video and that was like a religious experience. I changed as a person during those two hours. It’s like Andy Nyman says in “Why Horror?,” “It was like my proper bar mitzvah.”

At this point in your life, what are you afraid of or view as horror?

I guess it’s the same as it’s always been; bad things happening to my family.

“The idea was to show that horror, or dark storytelling across a variety of mediums, is a (form of) human expression.”

The film helps break the stigma of horror as a “loners’” genre and goes on to display large community involvement. Do you think there is still a mainstream stigma attached to horror and, if so, why?

Things are definitely changing for horror as it moves toward a more acculturated, accepted language of storytelling. But there will always be some people who, no matter what, will never understand art or its function. Many horror fans are curious and imaginative, and if you’re one to take everything at face value, you probably won’t get horror. There’s also the traditional marketing of horror itself, which has done quite well by injecting the experience with the perception of danger. For example, in the 70s the distributors of “Snuff” (1976) advertised real on-screen death, and it turned out to be a double-edged sword. It was a brilliant marketing campaign – that, as history shows, couldn’t be fulfilled – but made everyone associated with it, from producers to theatre owners, complicit in murder, as far as the public was concerned. That’s the kind of thing that makes stigmas hard to shake.

You traveled the world making this film. What was it like to see how different cultures and societies approach the genre?

The idea was to show that horror, or dark storytelling across a variety of mediums, is a (form of) human expression. So seeing how other cultures do their thing was extremely fulfilling. But, really, everything points to cinema. The reason I can travel anywhere, speak the same horror language as anyone out there, is that cinema travels well and has been the most influential in fostering a tangible, global horror culture.

Can you tell us about a standout moment you experienced during your travels?

The horror bars in Tokyo. I would advise every horror fan on planet earth to stop what they’re doing right now and book a trip to Tokyo. All three of (the horror bars) made it into the film, and the crew had to drag me out kicking and screaming. I never wanted to leave.

Out of a plethora of possibilities, how did you choose whom you would interview about horror for your documentary?

We tried to go broad, with accessibility in mind. So a lot of the interview subjects are people I know personally. Then we picked based on who would be in Toronto and shooting during two Fan Expos, and (the Toronto International Film Festival) meant that a lot of people were in our vicinity. Most of our Japanese interviews were suggested and arranged by our fixers out there. But we wanted to really mix up the disciplines, so we hired a researcher who found a lot of the academics who were largely split between London and New York.

Your family members are real scene-stealers. What was it like to involve them in this project and how do they feel about the finished product?

We are all very supportive of each other, as you can see in the film. So to involve them was great for me because I think people need to see a strong, happy family where people like weird stuff and are supported in their pursuits. During production, when we started getting the word out, I got an email from a guy who said no one, from his family to his co-workers, understood his love of horror, and some even expressed concerns for his well-being. I think if people can see my folks and siblings supportive of one another, no matter how offbeat our tastes in entertainment are, and it makes them reevaluate their own prejudices, it could be a great thing. And naturally, my family is impressed with the final product, but my wife is sick of me traveling everywhere without her and our son!

Would you say your mother has now become a horror fan since making this film?

Not a chance!

As a horror aficionado and a parent, how will you approach a discussion of the genre with your child?

Well, lucky for me, there’s lots in place to facilitate a child’s love of monsters and creepy stuff. How many of us learned to count courtesy of a vampire? So if my kid wants to pursue monsters past “Sesame Street,” I’ll be there for him. If not, who knows? I think pretty soon I’ll have to stash my DVDs and books.

The collectables in your house are featured in the film. How much do you estimate you’ve spent amassing such a personal collection, and do you view it as a long-term investment in art?

I have hundreds of rare movie posters, lobby cards, pressbooks, VHS tapes and other assorted ephemera. I stopped counting a while ago because I can never admit to myself that I have a problem. I think knowing exactly what I have would make it very apparent that I have issues. I do believe it to be a long-term investment in art, and I’m seeing it become a reality. I have stuff that I bought in the 80s that has increased twenty-fold in value.

The film was whittled down from a massive amount of footage you shot. I’m sure we didn’t get to see some real gold. Can you tell us about some of the scenes you regretfully cut to stay within the time parameters you set for yourself?

There was a whole section talking about childhood, and a lot of the experiences interview subjects described just made me grin. Steve Niles talking about catching “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) on TV or Gary Pullin talking about getting a pack of pencil crayons from the family priest, only to start drawing severed heads and the like – that material, to me, is wonderful stuff that just didn’t need to be fully explored to make our point. And then there was Takashi Shimizu doing the voice of Kayako from “Ju-on: The Grudge” (2002), which is one of my all-time faves.

Horror has been a vital genre in Canadian cinema for ages. Which films stand out for you as paramount Canadian offerings within the genre?

You can’t talk Canadian horror without talking about David Cronenberg. Other favourites include “Rituals” (1977), “My Bloody Valentine” (1981), “Visiting Hours” (1982), “Ginger Snaps” (2000) and “Father’s Day” (2011).

Do you think that the Canadian market supports homegrown horror?

I think the fans get a distinct thrill from supporting Canadian horror. I know I do.

What’s next for “Why Horror?”

We have a few more festival screenings coming up, and then we’ll probably go to work on an awesome Blu-ray.


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Interview: Torill Kove on her award-winning animated short film ‘Me and My Moulton’ (UPDATED)

Torill Kove, Director Ida Meyn
Writer-director Torill Kove spoke with CanScreen soon after her animated short film “Me and My Moulton” received Oscar and Canadian Screen Awards nominations. (UPDATE: The film won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Animated Short.)
Much like the fine balance between the humour and poignant moments in her film, Kove moved by seamless turns between laughter and pensive consideration throughout the interview, as she spoke about the process of making the short and the personal inspiration behind it.

Congratulations to you on your Oscar and Canadian Screen Award nominations for “Me and My Moulton.” I understand that the Internet was able to share the moment of the Academy Award nomination announcement with you. How did that come about?

The group of us (from the National Film Board of Canada) in front of the (television) screen of the nominations – that was quite funny, actually, because the executive producer (of “Me and My Moulton” and the NFB Animation Studio), Michael Fukushima, had told me the day before that he was organising it and we were going to have it up on the screen in the big conference room for whoever was going to be around. Then he told me, “You know what, you don’t have to be there if you don’t want to. I can understand why this would be sort of an awkward moment.”

I decided I wanted to be there because then, when it didn’t get nominated, I could just deal with it right away with everybody who’s there and then just get on with my life!

People always say they’re surprised, but I really was! I just didn’t think (the film) was going to get nominated. Partly, it was because it just seemed crazy to be nominated three times (“My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts” [1999] “The Danish Poet” [2006, won], “Me and My Moulton”)!

We ran into trouble because we couldn’t get the big screen in the conference room to hook up to the Internet. We scrambled around to find a screen somewhere, which we did eventually. So that’s where we ended up. It was fun! I’m glad I went.

Could you talk about the semi-autobiographical elements in the film, the inspiration for it?

It’s a story that’s put together from several smaller stories from my childhood that have to do with my parents doing things that I felt they had done “differently.” Things that I thought were kind of weird. And they centred on my feeling, “I wish my parents would be a little different,” but not different in a big way because they were really fine. More than fine. They were great!

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“Me and My Moulton” NFB/Mikrofilm

But there were those little things like my dad’s moustache and those those pesky three-legged chairs. And the dresses that my mom would make for us, which were beautiful but just kind of wrong on so many levels, if you’re 7 years old and just want to look like everyone else. They are funny, funny memories. I thought it would be nice to tie it into something that’s a bigger story about family and the dynamics of it.

Did you set out to make it for your family?

I was just thinking that I would make this for an audience. I made it as a kind of an hommage to my family but I didn’t really make it for them.

My sisters were involved in a little bit of the script-writing phase. I ran things by them to make sure everything was okay. I didn’t want to bombard them out of the blue; I wanted them to be in the loop. But I didn’t necessarily make it for them.

I made it hoping that it would resonate with all kinds of people because it touches on a well-known aspect of being a kid and having parents. And most of us have parents. That’s a large population group!

What about the Moulton itself? Is that taken from your childhood?

Yeah, we got a bike like that! I’m not exactly sure, but I think that we got it at a time when we didn’t have a car. It always puzzled me. What’s the point of having a bike you can take apart and put in the back of a car, if you don’t have a car? That was actually taken directly from history.

All of those things in the film are true, in a sense. There are just a few that I made up. The sequence of events is not necessarily right. There was no particular summer like that, where all of those things happened at the same time. They were scattered memories that I put together.

There are some spectacularly humorous parts in the film, but there are also elements of it that brush with some very touching and sad moments. Was is difficult to strike that balance?

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“Me and My Moulton” NFB/Mikrofilm

That was one of the huge challenges, that I wanted to have those sad, tender moments in there, but I didn’t want it to be a sad film. Bridging those two – the comic elements and the quite poignant and vulnerable elements – I wanted them to work together. It made it difficult to find the right voice because I did not want the delivery to be too sing-songy playful. But, at the same time, I didn’t want it to be too dark. There were still parts of the story that made me really sad while I was writing it, actually, and I thought, “Ugh! I can’t believe I’m being this sad!”

The story of the downstairs family?

Yeah, the downstairs one. But I think it’s also very sad when (the girl) is lying in bed, worrying about her dad’s moustache, and she admits that she wishes she had a mom who was at home all the time, like the mom downstairs. That stuff runs really deep with me because it’s so complicated – the longing for the parent who’s always there. That, I decided to put in the film because it was part of how I felt when I was a kid. But at the same time, it’s difficult to admit, especially for women with kids who are working. So, to me, that’s the most sensitive moment of the film – the (girl’s) envy of the stay-at-home mom.

What was the search like for the actress that you found to do the voice-over?

It was really complicated. I started out in Montreal with an actor who I really, really like. Her name is Sara Bradeen and she did the guide track. It was her voice that helped keep it together during the editing process. She just came in and she did a pretty fast read of it without that much direction from me. I’m a horrible voice director anyway because it’s not something that animators train to do. I really liked her voice. It had a nice tone to it and she was very funny! Great delivery of the lines and nice nuances in the more sensitive parts.

But the problem was that I was living in Norway when I was doing the post-production. For practical reasons, we decided that we would have to find an actress who could do both the Norwegian and the English version, which made sense to me. Also because I liked the idea of having the voice with a Norwegian accent. It would make it feel more true to me somehow.

So we only auditioned Norwegian actors. The one that we ended up choosing was Andrea Braein Hovig. She’s a well-known Norwegian actress. The reason that we chose her was because she read through the Norwegian version of the story without stopping and it was so good! She was dead on! I couldn’t have, in my wildest imagination, directed a better voice-over for the Norwegian version than she did on her own, after having just talked to me briefly about it. So we picked her based on her performance of the Norwegian version.

The English was a little trickier because she’s not used to speaking English. The Norwegian was a walk in the park, really, but the English one was more difficult. By then, I had gotten so used to Sara Bradeen’s voice that part of me just thought, “I want it more like that.” But Andrea got used to doing the English and, with practice, we got it right. The tone then was very similar to the Norwegian version, which is nice – to have the two versions be quite similar.

It’s lovely with the Norwegian accent.

I think it works really well because there aren’t many references to the fact that it is taking place in Norway. I really only say it once and after that there are no place names or anything like that. (The accent) gives it additional Scandinavian flavour.

Are there any differences between the English and Norwegian versions of the script?

It’s a fairly straight-ahead translation so, no, I wouldn’t say that there are any differences. But there are language nuances. There are things that you can say in a certain way in English that really nail it. In the guide track with Sara’s voice, especially the dialogue with the kids and the parents towards the end, it was dead on. She knew how to do that because English is her first language, and she knows how kids talk and was able to mimic them. You have to have a very good grip on language to be able to do that convincingly. But, by and large, it’s the same story.

The film is a Canadian-Norwegian co-production between the National Film Board of Canada and the Oslo-based Mikrofilm. In terms of the filmmaking process and production, with people involved both in Norway and in Canada, how did it work?

Every now and then it’s very nice to get together to all be in the same room. But these things are getting so easy. We work in paperless animation now. We work on tablets where drawings can happen. You put them in a file and you share it and everybody can see what everybody else is doing all the time. We talk on the phone. We Skype. We stay in touch.

The biggest hurdle is the time difference because Norway is six hours ahead. During the day in (Montreal,) you have a tiny little window where you can communicate; everybody’s working between 9 and 11 (a.m. EST), basically. After that, in Norway everybody goes home. So that’s a little difficult. But other than that, I have to say it’s a pretty smooth operation. And, of course, this is the third time we’ve done it at the Film Board with Norway so we’re getting good at it. I wouldn’t say that’s problematic at all. I think it’s working great.

Are you able to talk a little bit about being a Norwegian filmmaker and a Canadian filmmaker and what that means to you?

I feel like I have two feet planted in both of countries really solidly, both in the Norwegian animation community and the Canadian one. I live here (Canada). I don’t live in Norway but I go there a lot. Mikrofilm, they’re close colleagues and friends. I have lived longer in Canada now than I lived in Norway. In fact, I’ve lived in the same apartment in Montreal longer than the years that I lived in Norway! That’s a scary thought! I am a Norwegian citizen. I can only become Canadian if I give up my Norwegian citizenship and I just can’t bear to do that because then I could never go back.

I feel very much like I belong in both places. And I feel very much like this is a Canadian film and it’s a Norwegian film. In terms of people working on it, it’s a cut right down the middle how many are from here and how many are from there. I think, more and more, this is how people make films: co-productions, many countries involved, crossing oceans – by air preferably! The truth is I don’t know any other way to make a film; I’ve only ever done it like this.

The film screened at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and that was your first time attending. What was that experience like?

It was really exciting. I felt really special. Of course, it’s a huge festival and it’s got so many good films. It was a lot of fun. I really liked TIFF. That was really great.

Do you have anything slated for up next?

I have a project that I’d like to do next, although I don’t exactly know what it’s going to be yet.

I would like my references for the story in my next film to be more home-based in Montreal. And I can’t quite explain what’s happened lately . . . . This is kind of a weird story – I recently had to move furniture around in my living room because I wanted to hang new curtains. For years and years, we’ve had rather a big couch. We have a bay window that faces straight east from (a high) floor. For years there’s been a couch in this bay window. So I moved it away and put it in different part of the room. I realized that I never get to stand in that window and look out. I’ve never really done that before. And then I realized, “This actually kind of a nice view!” It’s not a beautiful view; it’s an interesting one. I’m looking out on one of the most densely-populated urban neighbourhoods in all of Canada, which is what we call the “Lincoln Village,” just on the western edge of town. I can see the mountain (Mount Royal). I can see the Montreal General (Hospital). If I look south, I can see Mount St. Bruno, almost. In front of me is a whole crazy jungle of these unbelievably ugly high-rises that came up in the 70s and 80s. And I was thinking, “This is my home! This is my home, in the same way that my hometown (in Norway) is my home.” I’ve lived (in Montreal) for a really long time. I have so many stories and references to that neighbourhood that I want to use it for something. Although I can’t tell you anything about any particular story, I know that’s where it’s going to be.

Read CanScreen’s review of “Me and My Moulton.”

Interview: The cast of ‘Corner Gas: The Movie’ on fans and ‘seizing the day’

Brent Butt, Fred Ewanuick, Gabrielle Miller, Nancy Robertson, Lorne Cardinal, Tara Spencer-Nairn talk with CanScreen about “Corner Gas: The Movie,” the fans and “seizing the day.”

Journalist: Jefri Knazan
Videographer: Zachary Zaza
Video editor: Stephen George


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