Your new movie First Night
- in a few words, what is it about?
roommates call the police to complain about their neighbour, three officers
show up. Things do not go as they should, to say the least.
With First Night
being about police gone bad - does it in any way mirror your own feelings
towards the police force, and other sources of inspiration when writing the movie?
script was based on an emotional reaction I had in late 2012 (when I wrote
it) that was prompted by actual situations I witnessed first-hand at the
time. Up until then I had a very standard, I guess you could say, view of
the police and law enforcement in general. I tended to see it as necessary
for our society to be functional and not degenerate into utter chaos, but
I also understood (obviously) that there is always the constant flaw that
you have in everything: these are human beings (my favourite TV show is The
Shield, so I was never overly naÔve).
admit that I became MUCH more cynical, weary and critical at that point. I
still keep an open mind but like it or not your views and attitudes can
shift a certain way based on personal experiences.
than an actual view on the police force though, is that I based the two
main antagonists of the film on types of people (actual police) that I see
on a regular basis, mainly where I work (I work in a gym). I see guys like
J.P. and Moses and to think that guys like that constitute who is supposed
to Ďíserve and protectíí is scary and depressing.
be precise though, I based First
Night on actual dream I had, which was obviously a
direct reaction to my experiences at the time.
Night does get pretty violent at times - so what can you tell us
about your approach to these scenes, and was there ever a line you refused
I came up with (dreamt) the plot it was what it was without necessarily
being a specific genre or style, but I WANTED it to be categorized as much
as possible as a horror film, so I specifically wanted to use elements that
are conventionally used in the (much-maligned) genre. I wanted it to be
violent and graphic and to have nudity (the lack of money prevented it to
be as graphic as I originally wanted, as well as last-minute problems with
the FX guy, i.e. he didnít show up).
area where I stopped short was with the sexual assault; I had no intention
of going any further there.
What can you tell us about your overall
approach to your story at hand?
logical, I think. I had an endgame in mind, and I just wrote it so as to
get to that conclusion as logically as possible. Characters are
introduced, the situation is set, the characters interact in a way as to
make the situation escalate, leading to the inevitable conclusion.
than the basic plot (which is essentially the dream I had, which is the
conclusion of the film), I started with figuring out the characters, how
many there would be, their personalities, so that would help determine how
they would act in the story, making it become what it was.
there, I think, is my overall approach: that the characters drive the
story more than anything. And despite my wanting it to be a horror film, I
never want to force the style or mood (for better or worse).
Do talk about your key
cast, and why exactly these people?
actually wrote every character with a particular person in mind. Iíve
been working on independent and underground films for a few years and
Iíve made some contacts over time, so when I cam up with the characters
I immediately thought of who I wanted for the role.
Verret was always going to be Rich, since I had actually came up with that
character for another project I was planning but didnít do and he was
going to play him. Matthew Saliba and Andrťe-Anne Saliba were talking
about moving away to Toronto at the time (Iím in Quebec) so I wanted to
do something with the both of them before they left. I had met Sandra
Foisy on a short and got her contact info, then saw her in a performance
of Macbeth so it was a no-brainer for me to want to work with someone that
good. Rounding out the main cast is my brother, who wanted to be in my
were all my first choices and they all said yes. No auditions. Alina
Gotcherian, who plays Jodie, was a late addition. I had worked with her on
a short, I asked a few people in my contact list and she accepted.
What can you tell us
about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
could write pages about the shootÖ I learned a lot. I wrote a series of
posts on "Things Iíve learnt doing a no-budget/DIY/underground
film", there was so much material to be taken from the experienceÖ
notably, there was a last-minute cancellation of the shooting location
which I wasnít prepared for and completely threw me off (I spent days
preparing a shot list with my assistant director based on that location,
which was all but scrapped because of it). Because of that I found myself
not really knowing what and how we were going to shoot on a given day, I
was a nervous mess on the first day especially. I was pretty much saved by
my assistant director, who was much better than I was at problem-solving.
ended up shooting at my apartment which is NOT meant to have that many
people in it at a given time. Itís a situation I donít wish on any
filmmaker (or his cast and crew!). Be careful who you trust.
canít speak for the cast and crew, though Iíve had some of them
earnestly thank me for the opportunity, but for me I was pretty much a
wreck for most of it. For what was essentially my second short (the first
being a simpler 48-hour project), it was actually pretty ambitious for
someone with little experience such as me! Once the shoot was over (six
days total, though not all full days), I was physically sick due to the
can say that some people seemed to be having fun though!
few words about audience and critical reception of your movie so far?
submitted it to festivals and online reviewers and so far Iím really
happy about the reaction! The written reviews in particular are awesome to
read, the reception is very positive. I keep my expectations down but all
of them so far have had positive things to say about it, some immensely
had its premiere at the 2014 Mascara & Popcorn Film Festival and it
got three awards: Audience Choice, a special jury mention for Best
Screenplay and a Best Actor award for Robert Verret. Thatís extremely
future projects you'd like to share?
done two shorts since: a 1-minute quickie just to get back into it called Apartment 32
and a 10-minute short called Bonne Personne
(Good Person) which is in post right now, my first (mosly) in
French. I have plans for a feature-length called The Human
Sketch, weíll see what happens with that one.
What got you into
making movies in the first place, and did you receive any formal training
on the subject?
been a film freak all my life. I studied it in Cegep and went to film
school but only started working on projects about 5 years ago after having
abandoned the idea of becoming a starving artist (go figure), mostly as a
sound recorder and boom operator.
live and breathe film, mostly. Always have. I only made my first short in
2012 (not counting student projects), Iím a late bloomer.
training that really matters most is the experience Iíve gotten and
continue to get working on projects, my own and other peopleís.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to First Night?
of independent and underground projects as a crew member, such as various
projects directed by Joe Rossi and Adam Kelly Morton. A few bigger
projects as a P.A. (like X-Men: Days of Future Past) but thatís not something I seek
out, though when Iím offered paid work, why not?
a director, four shorts since 2012.
would you describe yourself as a director?
is the best way to put it. I think I still lack discipline in
pre-production as Iím a compulsive procrastinator. One person on my last
shoot said I was very "hands-on", but Iím not sure what she
meant. At first I was very open to suggestions but I find Iíve become
more "I know what I want and Iím not changing my mind2 over my
last two projects.
who inspire you?
Carpenter, Brian DePalma. More lately, Ciaran Foy really blew me away with
what he did on his film Citadel.
Your favourite movies?
to break down. Iíll mention Blow Out since I have DePalma in mind, but
itís one of many. David Fincherís Seven is up there as well.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
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enough for someone who loves the horror genre and dark subject matter I
tend to have the biggest dislike to films that I find are irresponsibly
gratuitously violent, which are more in the action genre than the horror
genre in my opinion. I hated John Frankenheimerís Ronin for example, and
The Wild Bunch. I know, weird.
movies that are incompetent are also obvious, like Elektra
and Ghost Rider.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Only a Facebook page:
too poor for a website!
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
could write a lot more about this film! This was really enjoyable, thank
you for the opportunity!
for the interview!