Whistler Film Festival 2015 Interview: Meet the team from THE SUBLET!
By Jason Whyte
Posted 12/06/15 05:20:53
"THE SUBLET is a creepy psychological thriller about a young mother failing to cope with her new baby as she deals with postpartum depression in what appears to be a haunted sublet." Director John Ainslie on THE SUBLET which screens at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival. Also included in this interview is editor Jordan Crute, actor Mark Matechuk and actresses Tianna Nori, Rachel Sellan and Krista Madison.
I am excited to have you ALL as part of the 15th Anniversary at Whistler! Is this your first Whistler Film Festival experience for all of you?
John Ainslie: I wouldn't miss this screening for anything, I was there for the very first Whistler Film Festival and it feels surreal to be bringing my first feature as writer and director back. I attended the first three of four WFFs before moving to Toronto. The first time I DIDN'T attend I won a Borsos Award for Best Cinematographer for Wyeth Clarkson's film SK8 LIFE.
Jordan Crute: This is my first time going to Whistler. Many from the cast and crew are going to be at the screening, which will be very fun. During the shoot, a lot of us were housed together in Guelph. It was a great atmosphere that felt a little like a bizarre summer camp. So it'll be great to reunite with everyone again.
Tianna Nori: This is my first WFF experience and I am so excited to be in attendance. I have been to Whistler before and the surroundings are stunningly beautiful. It's a very warm and inviting community. Everything together provides a very artistic backdrop for the festival.
Rachel Sellan: This is indeed my first Whistler Film Festival and because it is my first time I will most definitely be attending our screening too!
Mark Matechuk: It is my first festival ever as an actor. I'm extremely excited to walk the red carpet with my thousands of fans cheering on. And by thousands of adoring fans, I mean my mother, through Facebook. But seriously I am very excited.
Krista Madison: This is my first time, and I couldn't be more excited! I have always wanted to come to Whistler! Add Whistler AND a film festival...what a treat! And yes, of course! I will absolutely be attending the screening. Saturday. 10:30pm. Don't miss it!
What is it about Whistler, either the festival or the town itself, that excites you the most?
John: What I found great about Whistler is with how small the village is you end up meeting everyone and it becomes a very social festival.
Jordan: I've never been to Whistler before, but I'm excited to spend a week watching films and hanging out with film people.
Talk to me a bit about how you all got your start and your previous work.
John: I feel like I'm just starting! I wrote a film called JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER which was well received and recently had a revival screening at the Arclight Hollywood as part of the Slamdance Cinema Club. Was a pretty amazing feeling to be watching the film again on a 35mm print. You quickly forget the texture and feeling that format brings to the screen with your film. That was my first film, but I had been making videos all my life. I attended the Canadian Film Centre Writer's Lab which helped me hone my craft further.
Jordan: This is my first film, so it basically is my start as for as features go. I started out cutting TV ten years ago, and continue to do that. I met John at the CFC a couple of years ago and worked with him on a couple of short films.
Krista: I started acting about eight years ago, and have loved it ever since. As many actors, I started with courses and classes at a studio. Soon I found myself at a conference in LA, and was lucky enough to take home a few awards, one being Young Adult Actor of the Year, and another a scholarship to The New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts. I continued my studies in NYC, and as soon as I returned to my hometown of Toronto, I booked my first film, THE DIRTIES. We went on to tour film festivals and that was my first film project!
Tianna: I have been acting since I was a child. I then went on and got my BFA in Acting at The University of British Columbia. This year I had the release of three movies at which I had the opportunity to lead in. All three are in the festival circuit as we speak. It has been a very exciting year with a lot of travel and celebration.
Mark: I did a lot of own writing and directing in a youtube group called Random At Best with some success then one day I decided to get serious with acting and a month later I snagged a very coveted role in a serious horror movie called THE SUBLET. I was humbled to take the role of Jeff on and I hope I played him well.
Rachel, you have not been to Whistler, but you have been to Vancouver before with some work?
Rachel: I first attended a competition in Vancouver about 6 years ago where I won my first awards. I won three; Best Actress, Best Scene and Best Commercial. After that competition I felt so 'on top of the world' as they say. I then attended college for Acting for Film and Television. Once I graduated I started booking small jobs here and there. Mostly music videos and what not, but I still got work so I wasn't ever upset.
John, how did THE SUBLET come about from your perspective?
John: Alyson Richards and I wanted to make a low budget film that could be shot in one location. She had recently moved to LA and was subletting some creepy places and that became the starting point. From there we added the elements of motherhood and postpartum. The script sat idle for a couple years before an actor friend of mine, Adam Seybold introduced me to Cody Calahan of Black Fawn. They read the script and a few months later we were on set shooting. Everything happened pretty quickly.
How about you, Jordan? I'm curious as to how you were involved from the editing side.
Jordan: From my perspective the movie came about very unexpectedly! I'm sure that's not the perspective of anyone more involved in the development. John and I were working on another project together, and I had been reading a script he had for another completely different thing. One day he texts me to say he had a really interesting meeting and we should get some drinks to talk about it. I think it was less than six months later that we were going to camera.
Tianna, how about you? How did you come into the outstanding lead role in the film?
I auditioned my butt off! I have never wanted a role so bad in my life until reading this script. The dramatic psychological element to it grabbed me by the gut and I couldn't walk away until John said yes!
Mark, how about you?
I thought the whole movie process was well quite arduous. It's a low budget feature so everyone is working with such passion and if you ask for a break people just stop and stare at you. So in conclusion I would say the lack of breaks made me almost walk off the set everyday.
So for all of you, what keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much Red Bull are we talking about here?
John: Depends at what stage! When I am writing there is definitely a lot of Jameson in my blood stream and the occasional Red Bull if I have procrastinated myself into an all-nighter to meet a deadline. Once I start shooting I stay pretty sober and focused. I do tend to overdose on those Acai Emergen-C vitamin drinks if that counts? I try to stay hydrated and avoid eating anything that might make me sick during production.
Jordan: I like working with people. Doing the nitty-gritty work of editing a film is fun, sure. And to be an editor, you have to take some sort of weird pleasure in fussily moving edits around on a timeline, but the real fun begins for me when a director is sitting down with you. Nothing is more rewarding than bouncing some ideas off someone and seeing where they go.
Tianna: The art form. It always has been for me. It's an entire team of people who are passionate about the project at hand who want to bring single pieces of paper to life and there is something so beautiful in that.
Mark: What keeps me going through a movie is the fact that I have to go to work and DO MY JOB WELL every time I am on screen. As an actor, if you don't come to work prepared it really, really shows. One day I didn't have my lines that well memorized and the crew had to stay a couple hours overtime. I never wanna do that again. And as for coffee, at least four a day. You tell yourself "No, it's gonna make me look irreversibly tired later! Stop!" But the caffeine monster spins a tight web.
Krista: Confession. I am a complete sugar fiend! I love sweets, candy and sugar. What kept me going was the candy in the craft truck at this shoot.
Rachel: Doing movies keeps me going! I just always remember the sacrifices we all made to be here. When I say we all made I mean my family. They are and always will be a big part in my success because they allowed me to prosper as much as I have. They believed in me at times when I struggled to believe in myself. That is what kept me going, the love from my family and friends. I have not worked on too many films, but when I do work I give everything I have and I always remember my family that brought me here and made me who I am today. When I was young what kept me going was watching the leading ladies kill their roles in a film. They inspired me and I eventually would want to inspire as they have.
From directing as well as editing, Iím curious if you had your respective challenges when working on the film?
John: The biggest challenge was trying to make a movie part time. Paying the mortgage at a day job and spending time with my family while making a movie and trying to develop the next one can be a serious challenge. It takes a year of your life and you're not getting paid so you work a day job and do your best to focus on your film after ten o'clock. You sacrifice sleep so a lot of days, just getting out of bed can be a challenge. Making movie has always come easily to me. It's life that I find challenging.
Jordan: As soon as I read the script, I knew we were going to do alright. The script was solid and had a real confidence to it. With a low budget film, you're always going to be stretching your resources and packing the shoot schedule as tight as it will go. So my only worry was whether or not we'd be able to pull it off! Editing on set was a huge asset, because it allowed us to check and make sure every scene was working and had the shots we needed before wrapping the set.
Tianna, this is a very complex and difficult performance from you. I was wondering what your process was like after being cast and your biggest challenges?
I was cast in the movie about two weeks prior to going to camera. Since I am in almost every scene, I knew I wouldn't have down time on set to go over the script so I memorized it like you would a play. With minimal preparation time I worked every day with John on the character and our mutual vision for Joanna. Since I'm not a mother I wanted to make sure I did the respectful research on postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis so I would really do justice to women who have suffered with it. It was a very deep, dark place to go and I had to maintain character for the entire shoot. There is a scene in the movie where Geoff, played by Mark Matechuk, and Joanna are in the kitchen and he is trying to force medication on her. I knew in that scene she had completely lost herself to THE SUBLET and everything connected.
Rachel! Krista! Mark! What were your challenges with your respective performances in THE SUBLET?
Rachel: Any feature film is exciting and challenging. For me unfortunately, I have not had much time on a set or worked long hours day after day but I'm sure there will always be something that will drive me through a scene. It's hard to answer when you are not exactly sure what could bring you there, but at least I know no matter what I am going to make it there. I honestly believe that for me, it was trying to maintain this "nasty girl persona" I had to rock. The french accent made it both difficult in that I had to incorporate it into this "mean girl personality", but also a little easier due to my French Canadian background. My friends and family will always see me as a "sweetheart" or "too nice" so trying to not be those two things was very challenging. It was my first time playing this type of roll and I loved how the on screen dynamic developed between Tianna and I.
Mark: The biggest challenge was probably at the moments where I had to become a much different more violent man. In the end my character becomes someone else in his mind, a pretty sadistic person. That's fine just coming into it, but I spend a long time with Tianna being her loving fiance(in my mind, extremely effectual friend) then just one day SNAP, into another person completely. You think you can do it easily then when the time comes, you need much more to get into that state.
Krista: My biggest challenge for this film was the first scene that I shot, which was the sex scene in the film. I had never done a sex scene before, so I was quite nervous. I had to call one of my friends, who is also an actress, for a pep talk on my way to set. Once I got there though, John was so professional and made me feel comfortable. The moment I knew that we had something great, was the moment I sat in the chair at the first ADR session, and saw the first few scenes.
I love asking the techincal questions! I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.
Cinematographer Greg Biskup and I worked closely on the shot design. I draw a lot of overheads and like to lock the camera down as much as I can so that when we do move it maximizes the effect. We wanted to match Joanna's banal existence with our shooting and as her sanity becomes more complex our shooting style follows with the hopes of immersing our viewer into her confusion. I broke the film down into five stages where the shooting, as well as wardrobe & make up. We start off with mostly locked off wider shots leaving Joanna alone in the frame, follow with creeping dolly shots as she transitions and by the end we're hand-held and swish panning along with her mind.
Lighting wise, both Greg and I think the same. We like to shoot into the light and we like a practical source in the frame. Fill lights aren't that interesting to us and we try to light a wide space for the actors to play in. Flagging light can be pretty, but you can end up with a scene where the actor can't move and the performance can end up stiff.
For me, as an ex-cinematographer I'm always torn. We would still be there shooting if I didn't compromise the style to match the resources and at the end of the day, for me, performance is most important and I like to leave myself free to do a lot of takes for the cast. When you get into complex shots you spend a lot trying to time everything out and if your actor nails the scene on a take when the dolly stops too quickly it can be demoralizing and four hours later when you finally have nailed the movement your actors can be exhausted and your AD is screaming at you to go for lunch. So I tried to limit how often that happened by picking moments in the film where we needed that and keeping the rest simple. I like to block to camera, meaning that I work with the cast to figure out what makes sense for their character motivation in terms of movement and then we figure out how to capture it on camera. It takes longer to set up, but once you figure it out you can run through the whole scene on a master and catch up that way.
A big part of the visual design that can be overlooked actually comes after you leave set in the color session. We worked with AJ McLauchlin at RedLab Digital who went above and beyond and was great to work with.
Rachel: From what I have seen through ADR, it looks amazing! It seem rustic and creepy and I'm so excited for when it gets real and dangerous.
Mark: All I know is that it looked awesome when I started rummaging through the DMT's files.
Krista: Greg had a way of seeing things through his camera lens that not a lot of people can. He had a true vision of the light, the camera angles and the overall film. I saw his direction and vision for the first time in the ADR session, and everything made sense. Hilariously enough, he worked on my first film also, THE DIRTIES.
What are you each looking forward to the most about showing your movie in Whistler?
Tianna: I am mostly looking forward to seeing THE SUBLET play alongside such critically acclaimed movies. This is John Ainslie's baby and I have the deepest respect for him. I know how much he loves WFF and I am so excited to see his vision come to life in this arena.
John: I guess just watching it with an audience, which is something I haven't done yet. Excited for the cast who haven't seen it yet to see it. People work really hard on making films and it's rare that we ever get time to just enjoy the film. Looking forward to just sitting back and enjoying the festival with them.
Rachel: I'm looking forward to showing the amazing talent in this film. Tianna is amazing and such a inspiration to me, She works hard and dedicates herself to the fullest. Not too long ago I did a photoshoot with Mark and we had a blast capturing some amazing photos with his cat and glasses of wine. I have had an amazing time with these guys and I think, for me at least, they are the ones who pushed me in this movie. I definitely didn't want to let them down.
Jordan: Seeing the film with an audience is always fun. I'm going to have to resist the urge to turn around and watch the audience while the film is playing.
Krista: I am so excited to see the reaction from the audience. We are beyond thrilled to share the film with everyone for the first time in North America.
Mark: Seeing the gang again, seeing my first starring role on a big screen with hundreds of people watching me pretend...and the orgy.
After the film screens in Whistler, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to show?
John: The film will be on Super Channel following Whistler Film Festival. We are also hoping for some American and European festivals after that.
Jordan: I'd love for it to screen in Toronto, so my family can see it. My parents don't like horror, but my dad decided he'd watch THE SHINING in preparation for it.
Rachel: I would love for it to show everywhere and anywhere but unfortunately not. As far as I know I believe the movie will be available on SuperChannel a couple of weeks after the festival is over.
Tianna: In one theatre in every country around the world. Now that would be cloud nine!
Krista: I really hope that it shows at Slamdance in Park City next year!
If you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Rachel: I would love to see it at the Yonge and Dundas movie theatre. I currently work at the Jack Astors Yonge and Dundas location where I meet a lot of regular movie goers. Also I have a lot of friends and family in the area so I would be able to promote myself and actually have a crew show up just for me!
John: For me, any theatre with an audience that likes it!
Krista: If it were up to me, I would show this film to our hometown crowd at the TIFF Lightbox. It is such a wonderful place for artist, actors, directors, and cinematographers to exhibit their work, it would be the perfect place to screen.
Jordan: I have a soft spot in my heart for The Screen On The Green, in London UK. It's a great cinema that isn't too uptight and is run by some great people.
What would you say or do to someone who was being disruptive at a screening, like talking or texting, at a screening you were attending?
Tianna: It is always shocking when this happens. Movies are a work of art, a manifestation of someone's vision. Not everyone is going to like everything when it comes to art. That is a given but in the very least, show respect for the work that has gone into creating the moment.
Krista: Keep it quiet! I'm trying to watch a movie up here!
John: In my head I would give them a swift palm to the back of the head, but in reality I would likely just complain about them on FaceBook.
Rachel: Honestly, I am not sure as this is my first screening. I would hope nobody would be rude like that.
Mark: They would be "ended". That's all I'll say.
Jordan: I would ask them why they are there at all.
What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?
Tianna: The advice I give myself is everything in our lives is a learning experience. I watch, I study, I do my research and I continue to learn. When going into an audition all I have is to gain. There is nothing to lose. I get to go in and practice my craft for free and if I book the role that's a bonus! But I never LOSE the role because I didn't have it to begin with.
Jordan: Things are constantly changing in this business. So be prepared to change with the times and be open to new things.
John: Yes, don't stop and always keep trying.
Mark: If you don't have an unrelenting blind belief in yourself. Then go away.
Rachel: And don't give up. I have heard that my whole life and it still keeps me going. No, I am not where I want to be yet but I know it all comes with time and perseverance and as long as I working towards my goal I can never disappoint. So like I said. Do not give up, keep going until you cannot anymore. There will be an end but the future is what you make of it.
Krista: This is not an easy industry to be in, and if you're expecting immediate success, you have to find another career. Patience and persistence can get you there though! Oh, and a genius film making crew.
And finally, what is your all time favorite movie?
John: My all time favorite film would have to be 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Blows my mind every time.
Tianna: This is always a hard question to answer because I love many movies for so many different reasons. For this movie I love and studied Roman Polanski's THE TENANT, REPULSION and ROSEMARY'S BABY. John also had me watch and download the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING for music references to listen to while filming. It was a treat to re-watch all these movies for John's vision. He is extremely well researched and I respect that about him greatly.
Jordan: I like all the classic film-nerd films, there wouldn't be any surprises there. However, it's funny to think that the first movie that ever made me think "I'd like to do that" was a kids movie from 1986 called The Quest. I haven't seen it since I was eight, though, so I don't know if it's any good.
Krista: I am such a girl, and a hopeless romantic. BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S is my favourite film of all time. Audrey Hepburn is a dream. And she happens to be all over my house!
Rachel: That's a pretty loaded question. It is so hard to choose which movie is my all time favourite, so I am going to have to split it up in small categories. First off, if I'm looking for a heart-filled movie best one that is guaranteed to make me cry overtime is A KNIGHT'S TALE. My mother and I would always watch it. She would always turn to me and say some cute little quote that referred to my career and we'd have an even deeper cry. Also any film with Rachel McAdams in it is my favourite. I absolutely love her work; she is definitely my idol so naturally I enjoyed watching her films. In terms of comedies it does not matter what kind, as long as I am laughing it's good. There is a recent one called SPY with Melissa McCarthey and she is ridiculously funny in it. Also a great action/comedy that I could watch over and over again is KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE. The movie is well done and I like the way they openly address all the classic spy movie cliches, plus Colin Firth is a legend.
Mark: THE MATRIX is my favourite movie. Festival movie is hard to pick one. One that comes to mind is the one that made me feel the most is called TRACKS. I saw it at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. It's with Mia Wasikowska and the comments on social media, reality, and urge to be free from the grid really hit me. Cried a bunch a times and I am not really a crier.
Be sure to check out THE SUBLET at its late night slot at #wff15 on Saturday, December 5th, 10:30pm at Village 8 Cinemas.
For more information on THE SUBLET, be sure to follow John Ainslie on Twitter at @John_Ainslie and check out THE SUBLET on Facebook.
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 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 on my Instagram at jason.whyte!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com