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Whistler Film Festival 2014 Interview: AFTER FILM SCHOOL director Joel Ashton McCarthy

AFTER FILM SCHOOL at Whistler Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

'AFTER FILM SCHOOL is a dark, comedic mockumentary with a sprinkle of musical, investigating the question 'What happens after film school?' For these young Vancouverites it is a dark yet comedic combination of depression and debt as they attempt to make the most controversial film of all time. A year after graduating from film school, Adam thought he would be directing blockbusters, but he and his classmates are not where they hoped they would be in their careers or lives. When his best friend, the only one of the group to find industry success, commits suicide, Adam sets out to produce his dead friends' final script. After Adam assembles his crew of film school friends to make the movie, he realizes the script is extremely depressing. Still determined to make a fitting tribute, Adam decides to turn his dead friends' melancholy drama, about a disgruntled student who goes on a killing spree, into a musical comedy romp entitled 'High School Shooting: The Musical', and hopes to transform his own career in the process.' Director Joel Ashton McCarthy on AFTER FILM SCHOOL which screens at the 2014 Whistler Film Festival.

Is this your first Whistler Film Festival experience and are you going to attend your screenings?

This is actually my second Whistler Film Festival experience; In 2012 I had a short film I produced called SLEEPWALK in the student short works screening. But this year I am here for the full festival and I am bringing an army of people who helped bring this movie to life.

My favorite thing about the Whistler Film Festival is that it really takes over the community in Whistler. I find most film festivals in big cities seem to only exist within the film venues, but at Whistler it seems that everyone you run into is there for the film festival. I ski about as well as I dance, so let us leave it at that.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also what have you worked on in the past?

When I was 10 years old, my friends and I decided we wanted to make stunt videos. Every weekend I would steal my moms' camera and we would go out and do dumb dangerous stunts for the camera, and I would edit these videos together with 90s-era punk songs on Windows Media Maker. After a while I started to fall in love with the craft of filmmaking. I was lucky enough to discover a field that I really loved the process of contributing to and I never grew out of it.

I am most known for co-directing, editing and producing TAKING MY PARENTS TO BURNING MAN, a feature length documentary released earlier this year. Before that I made a ton of short films, music videos and commercials. My most successful short films are WHY DOES GOD HATE ME and GOODBYE; but ever since BURNING MAN, I have been mainly interested in making feature films. They destroy your social life, romantic relationships and give you a ton of stress; but there is something magical about dedicating a year or more of your life to work on big projects.

How did this movie come together from your perspective?

AFTER FILM SCHOOL has the essence of the kind of comedy I love and a story that became oddly personal, and very real in the process. Most people who know me well will be able to draw a number of parallels to my personal life. To paraphrase Sacha Baron Cohen in a televised interview, 'I like to make movies that I want to watch, and I guess I have a pretty fucked up sense of humor.' That quote motivated me to write something that was bold and did not pull punches.

What was the biggest challenge, or challenges, in making the film?

The biggest challenge is probably having no money to shoot the film. The second biggest challenge is the fact that the film had a huge cast and it was a nightmare to schedule. I guess I figured since it was a mockumentary everything would be so easy to shoot, but then the script got way too ambitious. We dove into the deep end and were lucky enough to pull it off. Somehow we managed to shoot scenes with tons of extras, stunts, VFX and guns with our limited budget and resources. I had no idea how supportive this filmmaking community really was until we decided to take on a project out of our league. We could NOT have done it without the ridiculously huge amount of people who rallied behind us.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?

I guess the best way to describe what drives me would probably be my fear of becoming irrelevant. I have always believed that I had to keep making movies or I would never be able to make movies again. Also I go crazy if I am not working on something I am passionately in love with, so I am lucky that way. My roommates and roommate buy Red Rave energy drink by the flat; hopefully my success brings me up to Red Bull status sometime soon. Sadly for many of the women who have known me, I am so career focused that I am practically un-dateable.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?

I would say my favorite moment would be right after we wrapped principal photography. It was like being a diamond thief in a getaway car, all you can think is 'I can not believe we got away with this.' I knew I could figure out the post thing, but once we finished shooting all our ambitious scenes it was an amazing feeling.

Tell me about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on/format and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

Charles Chen, my director of photography is one of the best collaborators I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Him and I have shot multiple commercials, short films and travel documentaries together. Our communication is flawless. I can spend five seconds telling him the shot we need and he will give me exactly that shot, or bring an even better idea to the table.

Since the film was a mockumentary we decided to shoot it primarily on Canon 5d MKIII cameras, but all of the scenes that exist within the movie within the movie were shot on the RED Scarlett with elaborate lighting set ups to give it more of a cinematic look. I was the director of photography on BURNING MAN, so I knew a lot about justifying the documentary style in the film. When you have characters engaging in a private conversations, the camera has to seem hidden, and when a character does something unexpected the camera has to look like it was not predicting the move. It is a difficult dance, but as long as the sound and story are well put together people forgive strange cinematography.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie in Whistler?

I can not wait to see how a real audience is going to react to this film. With comedy it is so difficult to create because if you know the jokes really well, by the time you shoot and edit them you do not know if they are funny anymore. It will be interesting seeing what parts people find funny, and what parts people find offensive or off-putting. I think with this film it is quite possible that some of the humor will cross the line with some of our audience members and offend. I think an offended audience member is always better than a bored audience member. I remember when the THE WOLF OF WALL STREET was released my Facebook feed was filled with people complaining about how they were offended by it and how I could not help but have that primal urge to rush to the theatres to see it for myself.

After the film screens in Whistler, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to show?

The film will actually be available for a two-week window steaming online at starting at 8:30pm (pst) on Friday, December 5th. After that we will be doing a Vancouver premiere at the beginning of February. Beyond that, we have submitted to a bunch of film festivals so hopefully it will get to do some traveling and find a distributor who is willing to gamble on our film.

If you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?

Sounds unambitious, but I would have to say the Rio in Vancouver. which may also be the site of our Vancouver premiere. It is a great 400-person theatre that most of my closest friends and family live near and I would love to show the film to the people important in my life.

What would you say or do to someone who is talking or texting during a screening of your film?

I am far too Canadian actually deal with that head on. But if I was so bold, I would like to snap that phone in half, or bend it if it is an iPhone 6, and tell them to eat a bag of dog shit.

There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?

Do it! Stop making excuses. I have found in my short career that there are two types of people in this industry; those who do, and those who talk about doing things. Be someone who is willing to jump into the deep end, and make the film you want to make. The social game that comes with filmmaking is great place to succeed if you are phony and untalented, but I believe that the cream with always rise to the top if you are an actual talented filmmaker. But hey, if you can schmooze and be a filmmaker at the same time, all the power to you.

And finally what is your all time favorite movie?

I can not pick a favorite movie, its too difficult for me. But here are a list of filmmakers who always inspire me: Edgar Right, Trey Parker, Sasha Barron Cohen, Quentin Tarantino, and Richard Curtis.

Be sure to catch AFTER FILM SCHOOL at Whistler Film Festival on Friday, December 5th, 7pm at Millennium Place, or Sunday, December 7th, 2pm at Village 8 Cinemas.

This is one of the many films playing at the 2014 Whistler Film Festival. For show information, tickets and for other general information on films and events, point your browser to the official website HERE

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 on my Instagram at jason.whyte!

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 12/06/14 11:49:24
last updated: 04/10/15 15:21:10
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