by Jason Whyte
At Home By Myself...With You at VIFF 2009
“At Home By Myself… With You” is a romantic comedy about love, fear and lobsters. It’s a Girl meets Boy, Girl falls in love with boy, Girl can’t leave her apartment kind of movie about a phobia-afflicted shut-in who falls for a world traveler.” Director Kris Booth on the film “At Home By Myself…With You” which is screening at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival.
Is this your first film in the VIFF? Do you have any other festival experience? Do you plan to attend VIFF for the screenings?
At Home By Myself… With You is my feature film debut and I’m proud to say that Vancouver is the world premiere of the film. I have never had a film in this festival; however I have been to the festival in 2004 through the National Screen Institute of Canada’s Features First Program. I loved it! I am very much looking forward to being at this year’s festival.
In the past my short films have played in such festivals as Tribeca, Sprockets, Atlantic, Montreal, Giffoni, Canadian Filmmakers Festival, the Nickel, World of Comedy, Reel 2 Real and the Iran International Children’s Festival.
Could you give me a little look into you and what led you to the desire to want to make film?
“Jaws” I saw the movie when I was young and it affected me so much that instantly knew what I wanted to be when I grew up – a cop! You know, so that I could hunt sharks and save the day (true story). Imagine my shock when I found out that, NOPE, police officers don’t do that. From there the logical step to what I wanted to be upon growing-up was obviously a Marine Biologist. So I could save sharks. However, this profession required a good head for mathematics. Hmmm, math.… next![/br]
Around the time of Back to the Future, The Goonies and VHS players, I started to understand that what I really wanted to do was make movies. I may not have known what that entailed, but I had it – BLAM – I was going to be a Film Director! In 1996 I moved from Ottawa to Toronto to attend the film studies program at Ryerson University. After film school, I set out to do what I always wanted to do.
Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please!
It was a cop, at first. All because of a big fish named Bruce.
How did this project come to fruition? If you could, please provide me with a rundown, start to finish, from your involvement.
The Catch-22 is you can’t make a film, in this country, unless you’ve made a film. And I was getting very tired of waiting for other project to go. The idea was to create a film that I could just do on my own. I called up my writing partner Ramona Barckert, and asked her if she would help me write an ultra low budget screenplay in a very short time with the intention to shoot it ASAP. She said yes and we made a date; I would take three days off of work, and so would she, and at the end of that time we would have a first draft of something. So we did and that was the beginning of it. A few months later my wife Andrea McCulloch came up with the idea to put a change jar on my desk at work. And with a quest to stay out of the red-tape world we began to raise our shooting budget via pocket change.
Within a year we had collected enough pocket change to make it work. We had a whole team working on the film, and we started rolling camera.
Over the two years of working on this project we documented our journey via video and written blogs on pocketchangefilm.com and with our Facebook group “I’m Making a Feature Film on Pocket Change”. With the help of the social media, the countless people who believed in a dream, and a lot of hard work we are now here at VIFF! I couldn’t be more proud, because I know for a fact that some of the backers of this film are from Vancouver.
What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it principal photography or post-production?
The biggest challenge on this shoot was being incredibly patient with the amazing people who gave their time and effort to this project. Being a Pocket Change Film means that everyone was working on this film when they had spare time, and it was very important to keep the enthusiasm and focus on the project, to keep everyone inspired, so they could stay on target. But I guess that is a compliment in a way, because everyone who put time into this picture did it for the love of doing so. And with all the challenges that we had – we had even more love and hope for this “little film that could”.
Tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.
I met Mark Bochsler in a directing workshop and never put two and two together when it came time to find a shooter. When the last DP I worked with (on my last short film) couldn’t commit the time, I received an email out of the blue from Mark.
Mark had shot some short films, but his day job was to shoot the News and Doc style footage for the CBC. I knew that the only way I could get this movie in the can in a very short amount of time was if we shot in HD with someone who knew the camera. I didn’t want a learning curve. There was no time (pocket change, remember). Mark found out that I was doing this and knew the technology like the back of his hand and he started courting the project. After meeting with him a few times, having him ask all the right questions, I understood that Mark had the technical knowledge to not slow down the production. I slowly found out that there was something a little more to Mark; his drive and dream to apply an artistic quality to the picture, designing a lighting concept to push scenes forward.
Knowing that every production has its ups and downs I thought the number one reason to work with someone was the passion, and Mark has a lot of that. That is the kind of person I want to be in the trenches with.
Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world? Did you have inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?
Five years ago I would have said Steven Spielberg was my biggest influence. His films are certainly the reason why I started this adventure in the first place. Films like “Jaws”, “Raiders”, “ET”, “Empire of the Sun” really got me thinking that I wanted to make movies. I wanted to tell stories to inspire others just like Spielberg’s films did for me.
Now, no word of a lie. My greatest inspirations are my wife, business partners, collaborators, and contemporaries. I look at what is happening in the social circles that I float around in, and I see artist upon artist constantly doing inspirational things. Making films because they have to, because it is part of who they are and where they come from. This affects me on a personal and spiritual level, because I fit into that.
The second part of the question is “Did you have inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?” And the answer is YES. It was so refreshing to see Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film “Amelie” because it was my first cinema experience that told me it was okay to explore film language in this way. Besides, the American directors Joel Coen or David Fincher, I had never really seen the camera language as well communicated then in “Amelie” from the movement, colors, story, and the uses of visual FX. When I see something that I wish I could have made, then I’m like a kid in a candy story wanting everything, stopping at nothing to get it. “Amelie” was a great inspiration in the making of my film, and I don’t try to hide it.
If you weren’t in this profession, what other career do you think you would be interested in?
I think the greatest job in the world is to be a teacher. I am in awe at how powerful a good teacher is; someone who believes in you and helps you even if you are “slower” then others. I don’t know how they do it! So I would think I would want to be a teacher… however, a close second is working to protect whales.
Please tell me some filmmakers or talent that you would love to work with, even if money was no object.
If money was no object I would want to work with Ramona Barckert, Bryce Mitchell, Raj Panikkar, Kristin Booth, Aaron Abrams, Shauna MacDonald, Gordon Pinsent, Brandon Firla, Rosemary Dunsmore, Jefferson Brown, Raoul Bhaneja, Ryan Blakely and Andrea McCulloch because they all deserve to be paid way more money for what they did. However, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Kate Winslet and Pixar would be okay too!
How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?
I’m not sure how Critical/Media response is important to Large Productions like Transform….(sorry I can’t finish the name because it’s soooooo bad). But the big ‘blow’em up’ movies – people are going to see them no matter what. It’s almost like critics should stop reviewing the beasts and focus on the little guy. In the little film world critical and media response is incredibly important to the survival of the film. With no money going into advertising for Canadian film the only chance that a little film has is if others talk about it.
If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?
Grauman’s Chinese theatre…come on!
What would you say to someone on the street to see your film instead of the latest blockbuster playing at the local megaplex?
My pitch to someone on the street would be, “Hey, want to come watch the movie you helped make?”
No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start?
Surround yourself with people who are smarter then you. Then be the snowflake that starts the avalanche.
And finally…what is your all time favourite motion picture, and why?
“Jaws”, because of the scene when Martin Brody is sitting at his table, all is lost, and his son Shawn starts copying Martin’s face expression. Starts off so sad and stressed and then goes to playful and loving line “Give us a Kiss.” “Why?” “Because I need it”. To me, the metaphor behind that scene is life. And if you are lucky enough to have someone see that happen for you, like Mrs. Brody does for Martin, then it’s all worth it.
This is one of the many films playing at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. For more information on the film’s screenings, showtimes and update information, point your browser to viff.org
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2841
originally posted: 10/06/09 17:46:13