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Whistler Film Festival Interview – “The Odds” director Simon Davidson

The Odds - At Whistler Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

“In “The Odds”, seventeen year old Desson’s life is thrown into chaos when he finds his best friend dead of an apparent suicide. Compelled to uncover the truth, Desson comes face to face with the dark secrets of his own complicity in Barry’s death. Delving into a dark world cloaked within a middle-class neighbourhood, the film casts an eye on the action surrounding an illegal gambling ring run by teenagers.” Director Simon Davidson on “The Odds” 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?

Actually, I have a history with Whistler Film Festival. One or two of my shorts played there a few years ago, and then when Stacey Donen became the artistic director, he brought me on for a couple of years to help program the short films. So I've been coming to the fest pretty regularly for a number of years and it's one of my favorite festivals. I'm happy to be going back this year again.

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

I took English literature in university and I loved writers and writing, but I also took some history of cinema classes in conjunction with a visual arts class where we got to make a bunch of art videos. It was during this time that I started to think film school might be a good time so I could continue writing and making videos and films.

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

I think I pretty much tried to avoid that question for the most part because when I was young I really didn't worry about my adult life too much. I wanted to be a guitarist, but then I was in a really bad high school rock band and after our first gig I knew that wasn't going anywhere. It wasn't until I was in University that I though I might want to be a filmmaker.

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

Following my last short I sat down and wrote a treatment about a kid who was involved in a gambling ring. It turned out pretty well and I showed it to Kirsten, my producer – now my wife -- and she liked it. We started developing it and it took a few years of pushing the story and characters around to get it to the script that we finally applied to Telefilm with; we had developed it with Telefilm's involvement from the first draft. This part of the process was harder than it sounds.

It all happened pretty quickly after that. We shot some test scenes with Julia and Tyler, the leads, which turned out really well and then we got the green light to go into production. My producers, Kirsten Newlands and Oliver Linsley worked really hard to pull everything together, Kirsten handling the financing and Oliver handling the practicalities of the shoot. Then suddenly we were in production.

We had a good crew who worked really hard and we shot over twenty days, which is an incredibly short amount of time and it always seemed like we were behind, but somehow we made our days and got the film in the can. Then I took a week or two off before going in to work with the editor, Greg Ng, on the cut. Our Composer, Pat Caird, was really generous and worked for about five or six weeks with me on the score, and that was a really fun process. Then we mixed and had a movie.

About two weeks later my wife gave birth to our first baby. It was a busy year.

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 Norm Li, our cinematographer, a while before the shoot; in fact he shot the test scenes that helped get us a green light. Those scenes turned out well and I decided to bring him on for the film. We both wanted to shoot on 35mm film. My shorts we done on 35mm and I wanted to continue this. But when the producers presented me with the budget for 35mm, which included only 14 days of shooting, I balked. I couldn't shoot this film in less than twenty days. So Norm, who owns Red cameras and is very comfortable with shooting HD, shot some tests with me and we became convinced that we could create the look we wanted with it.

I must admit that I loved the process of shooting on Red. The monitors were in colour and I hardly ever turned off the camera, shooting all rehearsals and printing everything. We were able to collect a lot of footage that we would never have been able to afford on film.

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

The most difficult part for me, and everyone I think, was the last week as we shot all exteriors and all at night. So our call time was 7:00pm and we shot until the sun came up at about 6:30am. It was freezing and windy and often raining. It was rough! But everyone pulled through and I was especially proud of the cast, who were total troopers.

How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings?

We've had good reactions at the other festivals we've screened at, especially from audiences. We've had some really fun Q&A's, especially when the cast has been there.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world? Did you have inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

I'm inspired by cinematographers, actors, directors and composers, but I guess I follow directors the most. Lately I've been watching the films of Jacques Audiard. Before shooting “The Odds”, my DP and I watched “Zodiac” a lot, I supposed because it was shot on HD and it has a great color palette and look for a mystery.

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 entirely sure. I think it can make a pretty big difference to a small movie's chances in the marketplace, because they can't afford to advertise so they need the free mentions in the media. I don't think it means much to movies that can afford advertising. I think it all has to do with finding the audience who will like the movie actually know it exists.

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?

I think Nike said it best. “Just Do It.” There's only one way to get a film made and that is to roll up the sleeves. Then when that one is done, roll them back up and go after another one.

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

I don't usually notice those people, but I suppose if they were behind me I would tell them to shut the fuck up and watch the film…depending on how big they were.

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?

A tie between “The Thin Red Line”, “Vivre Sa Vie”, “Andrei Rublev”, “Mcabe and Mrs. Miller” and “Come and See”. And “The 400 Blows”. And “Naked”. Also loved “The Conversation”….I failed.

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,

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originally posted: 12/03/11 06:06:28
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