Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: TRENCH 11 director Leo Scherman
By Jason Whyte
Posted 12/09/17 08:30:17
"TRENCH 11 is a WW1 set thriller. It's a men-on-a-mission situation that turns dark and horrific once the Allied team descends 100 feet below ground into a hidden German base. From then on it's a psychologically tense, suspenseful and violent ride until the end!" Director Leo Scherman on TRENCH 11 which screened recently at the 2017 edition of Whistler Film Festival.
Great to have you at Whistler Film Festival this year! Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and your previous work in the industry.
I started out as a training Assistant Director on feature films. I had the good fortune to work under Paul Schrader and David Cronenberg. I then started directing my own work, beginning with a super low-budget feature that I begged, borrowed and stole to make. I moved into television with various directing and writing assignments and was able to co-create my own show called COCK'D GUNS. Over the years I have directed a bit of everything; multi-cam, hidden-cam, documentaries, commercials and feature films.
How did this whole project come about for you?
The inspiration was, simply, war is hell. And WW1 was arguably the most hellish of them all. The period has always struck me as an appropriate setting for a dark and scary film. My co-writer Matthew Booi is a bit of a WW1 expert, specifically the underground battles fought beneath the trenches. Matt worked on a British documentary with one of the world's authorities on the subject. Once Matt and I got started on the script I brought the project to Tyler Levine who worked tirelessly for years to get the film made. Walter Gasparovic, Martin Katz and many others joined the team and we eventually got financed.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?
I am motivated by a deep passion to make great films. I grew up watching classic cinema that was made before my time and there is something truly powerful about making a film that stands the test of time. I am chasing my idols' work and driven to make films as good as theirs.
All projects are challenging in many ways, some more than others. What was your biggest challenge with TRENCH 11, and the moment where you knew you had something?
I think the biggest challenge was getting the film financed. It required a lot of people to believe in my vision and potential given that TRENCH 11 is the biggest film I have made to date. Beyond that, actually shooting the film was a major challenge. We were constantly figuring out how to maximize our budget because the film is quite ambitious in terms of scope and as a team we needed to be smart and strategic about where to spend money.
I think that after the first week of shooting I started to feel good. We were graced with an excellent cast, all of them truly fine actors, and once I saw them fully inhabit their characters the film started to take real shape.
Iím about to get on the technical side of things, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie and how it was shot!
The film is period so that certainly influenced the way my Director of Photography Dylan Macleod and I approached things. I wanted to shoot the film with more of a retro style, namely 70s American cinema. So we decided to go widescreen, which then determined the type of lenses we would use. Dylan and I both prefer a more organic look and Dylan suggested we mix Cooke lenses with a unique set of lenses he owns called DS Optiks, which are vintage Russian lenses that have been rehoused.
Given the amount of low light situations we were going to be in Dylan suggested we use the Red Weapon as our camera, which I was very happy with. From a camera movement point of view, I have always adhered to the philosophy that you pick your moments. By being static and simple with certain scenes it enhances the emotion and energy when you get frenetic and go hand-held.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Whistler?
Other than getting some skiing in? In all seriousness, I have heard nothing but incredible things about the festival, both in terms of the passionate audiences as well as the strong industry presence.
After the film screens here, where is the film going to show next?
In terms of festivals I am not sure but we will have our Canadian theatrical release sometime in the new year.
If you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?
The original Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood. We actually played LA Screamfest in October and screened the film within the TLC Chinese Theatre complex but we played in one of the newly built theatres right next door. To play in the original theatre which holds 950 people where STAR WARS premiered, among others, would be quite something.
What would you say or do to someone who was being disruptive at a screening you were attending, even if it was your own?
If a blow dart with a strong sedative was an option then I might have to use that.
What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?
In the immortal words of Samuel Beckett, "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."
And finally, what is the greatest movie you have seen at a film festival?
Seeing Jonthan Glazer's UNDER THE SKIN at TIFF was something else.
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 the festival Instagram Stories at jason.whyte!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com