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Whistler Film Festival 2015 Interview: PATTERSON'S WAGER director O. Corbin Saleken

Patterson's Wager - At #wff15
by Jason Whyte

"What if you had the unpredictable and uncontrollable ability to see two minutes into the future? This is the central dilemma that Charles (Fred Ewanuick, CORNER GAS) has to deal with in PATTERSON'S WAGER. As he and his girlfriend Audrey (Chelah Horsdal, HELL ON WHEELS) discover, it's not enough time with which to do much, but it is enough to really mess up your life." Director O. Corbin Saleken on PATTERSON'S WAGER which screens at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival.

I am excited to have you as part of the 15th Anniversary at Whistler! Is this your first time here and are you coming to the screenings?

This is my first time at the Whistler Film Festival, and, yes, I am going to be attending both of my screenings with the cast!

Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and your previous movies.

Like a lot of filmmakers, I started out making home movies. In my case, they were often horror shorts, shot on a VHS camcorder and starring my brother. I went to film school at UBC (University of British Columbia). Since graduating, I have made three short films, written a bunch of screenplays, and edited a couple feature length documentaries. My second short film WHEN THEY WERE LITTLE which starred my niece and nephews as three kids who mix up a potion in their backyard, got me into the Werner Herzog Rogue Film School in New Jersey. My last short, THE VECHILE, which is about a man who tries to convince a woman that he has come back through time to be with her, played a bunch of film festivals and managed to win a number of awards. It was largely based upon the success of THE VEHICLE that I decided to take the plunge and make PATTERSON'S WAGER, my first feature film.

With that background in short films, how did your first feature come together?

PATTERSON'S WAGER exists because of the generosity of a whole bunch of people. I say this because none of the crew were paid and the actors all worked under the UBCP ultra low-budget agreement. Without these people giving their time and efforts to the project, I would still be just another filmmaker dreaming about what it would be like to make their first feature film. That being said, I suppose the film started with a script that I really wanted to see realized, along with the recognition that the only way to guarantee that the film would actually get made was to fund it myself.

Thankfully, Alex Zahara, a friend since UBC and frequent collaborator, also liked the script, and he immediately got on board as an actor and co-producer. Alex has been acting professionally for more than twenty years, and it was because of his connections that we were able to get our amazing cast. The other key ingredient was the participation of Nelson and Graham Talbot, whose exceptional cinematographic talents would, I knew, give this film the production value I needed it to have. I never could have done it without having these three key people in my corner at the onset.

While you are making a film, either this one or a short, what keeps you going? What drives you?

This is an easy one. I only make movies that I really want to see myself, so that which kept me going while making this movie, the thing that drove me to the finish line, was the promise that one day I would get to hold in my hands a copy of the movie on Blu Ray. Basically, I just really wanted this movie to exist, and I can't emphasize enough how cool it is that it does, and that not only can I watch it whenever I want, but, thanks to events like the Whistler Film Festival other people are actually getting to see it, too.

What were the biggest challenges with making PATTERSON, and what was the moment where you knew you had something special with the movie?

There were a lot of little challenges throughout production, such as finding a casino to shoot some essential scenes, dealing with the loss of a key location the evening before we were supposed to shoot there, and scheduling a 19-location, 20+ speaking-part low-budget shoot in just twelve and a half days. But, thanks to a huge amount of pre-production and a really great bunch of dedicated people, this shoot was relatively snafu-free.

Really, the biggest challenge for me was simply deciding to embark on this cinematic endeavour. It was a lot to take on, emotionally, intellectually, and especially financially. I knew that it would take an inordinate amount of my time and effort, so it wasn't something I chose to do without a lot of consideration. I had to be sure that if I DID do it I would be able to do it the right way, that whatever limitations I might be working under would never be apparent in the finished film, that I would never have to compromise my intentions.

There were two moments in particular when I knew that I had something special, both of them occurred prior to production. The first occurred even before I had seriously considered even making the movie. I had finished the screenplay, having no real notion that the movie would ever stand a chance of being made, and during dinner one night with a friend I pitched her the story. When I got to the end of the story, she actually had tears in her eyes; that was the first time I allowed myself to consider that maybe I should possibly consider trying to somehow one day shoot this thing.

The second moment, the one where I REALLY knew I had something special, was during the table read. Having all these amazing actors; Fred Ewanuick, Chelah Horsdal, Alex Zahara Michelle Creber, Garry Chalk, Anne Openshaw, Gillian Barber, Tom McBeath all sitting around a table reading my words was quite surreal, to say the least. It was also a huge affirmation that making PATTERSON'S WAGER was one of the best decisions I had ever made.

I totally want to get technical with you now because I am curious about the look and design of the movie and how you achieved it visually.

I didn't want this movie to have some of the trappings that low-budget indie films often have, such as bare bones lighting and shaky hand-held camera work. Rather, I was determined that the aesthetic and production value of PATTERSON would be as good and polished as any other film you might see in the theatre. I set out to accomplish this in two ways.

First off, I engaged the services of Nelson and Graham Talbot, twin cinematographers whom I have known since they were students at Simon Fraser University, which is where I currently work. Since graduating a few years ago, they have become very accomplished, having shot, to date, several feature films and commercials. Earlier this year, their WHEN PIGS FLY Doritos commercial aired during the Super Bowl.

The Talbots know how to light well and light fast. They're super efficient, great collaborators, and a real pleasure to have on set. I had worked with them on my previous short, The Vehicle, so I knew that we had a similar approach to filmmaking; we're always looking to get the best shot possible, and we are not willing to move on until we know that we have what we need.

The second thing I did was to storyboard the entire film. Given that we only had twelve and a half days to shoot the script which, because of the multiple locations, often required one or two, sometimes three, moves a day, I decided to only shoot what I knew I would need in the editing room. This usually meant very little coverage. For example, I may only shoot the beginning and/or the end of the scene in a master, or just get a close-up on certain lines, instead of running it all the way through. I used locked-off, carefully composed shots and deliberate camera moves, all the while figuring out beforehand what frame/movement would best capture the performances and the intention of every moment and scene.

So with all this excitement about the Whistler premiere, what are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie in this town?

The upcoming Western Canadian Premiere at Whistler marks the first time that any film I have made will have actually screened in a festival in BC, so this is a huge deal for me. This movie is a very West Coast-slash-Vancouver story, and it will be a real pleasure to share it with a local audience who will, hopefully, appreciate all of the films' local flavours.

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

I am still waiting to hear from a number of film festivals that are happening in 2016, so, hopefully, I will be doing a bit more traveling with the film in the New Year. Besides this, the film has been acquired by IndieCan Entertainment for North American distribution, which means that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, the movie will be available in a variety of different avenues and formats. I would definitely like to have some kind of theatrical exhibition in Vancouver, so that's something on which I'll be working.

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

If I could show this movie in any cinema in the world, I would hop in the Delorean, fire up the flux capacitor, and head back to a time when The Stanley in Vancouver was still a movie theatre. I saw so many classic films like The Untouchables, The Hunt for Red October, and three back-to-back screenings of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on opening day, and it would be a real kick to sit in the balcony and watch my movie in that classic theatre.

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

I don't cotton to people even whispering during a movie, let alone talking. I once got out of my seat, walked around to the other side of the theatre, and yelled at a bunch of unruly punks to shut up, so I might just lose it completely if someone was disrupting one of my screenings. Let's hope we never find out.

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

I am going to cheat here and say two things. One, work with the absolute best people you can, this includes both cast and crew, and two, be original and make the movies that only you can make.

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

I have something like twenty five films in my top ten, but if I had to choose just one I'd have to say THE ABYSS. It came out the summer I graduated from high school, and it's the movie that made me want to make movies myself. What impressed me the most about it was how utterly original it was. To present an audience with a story they haven't seen before is something to which I constantly aspire.

Don't miss the Western Canadian premiere of the film taking place Saturday, December 5th, 6:30pm at the Rainbow Theatre and on Sunday, December 6th, 6:30pm at Millennium Place.

For more information on PATTERSON'S WAGER, be sure to check out the official website and follow on Facebook and on Twitter at @PattersonsWager!

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!

[bigger]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: 12/07/15 04:26:23
last updated: 12/07/15 04:49:32
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