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Whistler Film Festival 2015 Interview: RIVER director Jamie M. Dagg

RIVER, starring Rossif Sutherland - At #wff15!
by Jason Whyte

"RIVER is chase film shot in Laos about an American doctor who becomes a fugitive after intervening in the sexual assault of a young Laotian woman." Director Jamie M. Dagg on RIVER which screens as a special presentation at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival.

Congratulations on having RIVER show at Whistler! Is this your first Whistler Film Festival experience?

I am honoured to be invited! My first short film WAITING screened here a number of years ago. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend. Filmmakers I know who have attended speak very highly of the experience.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

Fear of failing keeps me going. I spent five months in Laos while making RIVER. After the first few weeks of hardly sleeping, you get into a groove. It's disgusting, but sometimes I drink Red Bull while shooting. Drinking hot coffee in 40 degree heat isn't an option.

I am sure there were a lot of challenges with the tight schedule of the movie and filming in Laos. What was your biggest challenge with RIVER, and the moment where you knew you had something?

This film definitely sits in the "more than others" category. The biggest challenge making this movie was shooting in a communist dictatorship with no film infrastructure.

I totally want to get technical with you as I really admired the look and the feel of the film, so how did you work with your cinematographer Adam Marsden?

My director of photography, Adam Marsden, is one of my closest friends. We have a shorthand when working together. We had few resources while shooting, so we had to make the most of our situation. We tried to limit shooting exterior locations to the top and bottom of the day when the quality of light is better. We embraced every bit of chaos that was thrown at us. Things at the time that seemed detrimental to the film turned out to be blessings in disguise.

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

Snow and cold.

As this is a studio release with Elevation, I am curious how the film going to show next? What is the release pattern looking like?

We are waiting to find out about our European, Asian and South American premieres. I know it is being released in Canada in March through Elevation Pictures. Our US release will be in June.

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

RIVER screened at Fantastic Fest at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. It's the best theatre chain in the world. It would be difficult to top that.

What would you say or do to someone who was being disruptive at a screening, like talking or texting, that you were attending?

I would probably beat them to death and and then go on the run.

What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?

I would say two things; One, DON'T shoot your first film in a communist dictatorship with no film infrastructure and Two; SHOOT your first film in a communist dictatorship with no film infrastructure.

And finally what is your all time favorite movie? Or film festival movie?

That's an impossible question to answer. My favourite film this year would have to be SON OF SAUL, with SICARIO as a close second. Denis Villeneuve is the best director to come out of Canada, ever!

RIVER is an Elevation Pictures release and will have a release in Canada next year. For more information on dates, be sure to visit

This is one of the many films playing at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival. For show information, tickets and for other general information on films and events, point your browser to the official website at!

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,

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 12/05/15 03:27:51
last updated: 12/05/15 03:31:02
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