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Whistler Film Festival Interview – “Marilyn” director Christopher Petry

Marilyn - At Whister Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

“Robbing banks, running from the law, rock n roll, and falling in love. “Marilyn” is written by Paddy Mitchell in Leavenworth Prison. Right there is why I had to make it and why people should watch it.” Director Christopher Petry on “Marilyn” which screens at Whistler Film Festival, 2011 edition.

Is this your first film in the Whistler Film Festival? Do you have any other festival experience? Do you plan to attend Whistler for the screenings?

This is my first film in Whistler and my cast and crew can’t wait to get up there and celebrate the premier of this movie. So far everyone from the festival has been very accommodating and cool. This is the first festival I’ve been to that has actually organized meetings with possible distributors and other industry personnel. I am very impressed with that. There are also some other great films being screened and I plan on catching as many as I can.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to wanting to make films.

I’ve been a writer in some fashion my whole life and I love movies and TV almost to a point of obsession. I just love telling stories and I moved to Vancouver to just be around movies with no chosen direction at all. I attended Capilano Film Studies and then I started out as a production assistant on Smallville in the first season and began making movies on weekends. I made it all the way up to 3rd AD when one of the shorts I directed (“When Jesse Was Born”) started winning awards.

One of “Smallville’s Executive Producers, James Marshall, took notice and asked if I wanted to be his assistant and by the end of Season 5 of Smallville I was calling action on second unit shoots. By Season 9 I was an associate producer and rotating director. I kept making projects on weekends and holidays and “Marilyn” is the latest by product of my love affair with Indie Films.

Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please!

When I was little I wanted to be Carl Rackie. He was a tough guy villain in “Youngblood” the hockey movie with Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze. Keanu Reeves was their goalie. I wanted to be Rackie, a hockey tough guy. That all stopped when I started writing poetry though.

How did this whole film come together? Please give me a run-down, start to finish, from your perspective.

Oh man, you need a book. I’ve been following this story about Paddy Mitchell and the Stopwatch Gang since I was little. My dad grew up in the same neighborhood as Paddy and always told me stories about this gentleman bank robber. Paddy is a big time folk hero back in Ottawa. I was visiting my father about seven years ago and he introduced me to Paddy’s best friend, who introduced me to Paddy’s son Kevin, who put me in touch with his dad in prison. Paddy and I started writing each other letters and he eventually sent me this script that he was working on. It took me a few years to get it up and running, but I was able to put together some great people and we had great cast sign on and great musicians… we had Allison Mack in a recording studio with Swank 3 months before picture, rehearsing and laying down original tracks for all the music and songs in the movie. Then just before we went to camera, Paddy passed away and would never get a chance to see what we were accomplishing. We paid for this movie by begging, borrowing, and every favor we could swing. So many amazing people helped bring this movie to life… It takes so much patience to adhere to quality when you don’t have the money to spend. It really is all about the team and people you surround yourself with when you set out to accomplish a project like this. You live and die by the people around you, and I’ve had amazing people around me every step of the way.

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 love this question. Bruce Borland is one of my best friends and one of the most underrated cinematographers in this city. His work ethic is remarkable and his talent is stunning. We knew we wanted a 70’s look like “Easy Rider” and “Vanishing Point” but we wanted docudrama type camera work. So we did loads of film tests before hand and that’s where we did all our experimenting. We purchased an old Krasnagorsk Super 16mm wind up camera from Poland and then used reversal film for our opening sequence. Bruce fashioned a little pole handle so that he could run with it during all the chase sequences. Then for the rest of the movie we used an Arri SR1 Super 16mm and made sure the film we used was never fresh or new. We wanted scratches and hairs and are they ever in there; hairs just a wiggling away. Love it! For some inserts and pick up’s we actually used a Panasonic GH2 digital camera, which once the footage was treated with the proper filters, it cut in seamlessly!

Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making this film? Also, what was the most pleasurable moment?

The hardest part was the patience to see it through to the end and never give up. We hit too many roadblocks to count both financially and emotionally. But amidst all that it was just something I new I wouldn’t give up on. I cared too much about it. The best moment was the feeling of that anvil lifting off your chest when a story you had to tell is complete, then cracking a beer and kissing your family.

How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings? If this is your first festival, what do you expect at the film’s screenings in Whistler?

This is our world premier and I hope no one throws a tomato.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

As I mentioned before, Dennis Hopper’s “Easy Rider” and movies like “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry” were inspirations for me cinematically, but as far as tone and the flow of the story went, I used Craig Brewer and movies like “Hustle & Flow” and “Black Snake Moan” for inspiration. I love the relationship the characters have with music in his films and I wanted to emulate that connection to music with the characters in “Marilyn”.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

That’s tough to gauge these days. It’s a strange time right now with so many platforms available to audiences. Trying to find the right audience for your project and the right medium to distribute it is changing so rapidly, that following the effects of good or bad press is probably pretty hard to calculate right now… But in the end, good press and people who like your story, no matter what medium or how much money you have, is always going to be better than press that says it deserves “one tomato”.

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?

Do it. There is no right or wrong way. Just get’er done.

What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or making noise at a screening of your movie?

If they are smaller than me, I lob my popcorn at them. If they are bigger, I shrink sheepishly into my seat and then talk about what jerks they were when I get into my car later.

A question that is easy for some but not for others and always gets a different response: what is your favourite movie of all time?

City of God.

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

Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com



link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3332
originally posted: 12/04/11 06:24:55
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