The film that I have been working on for almost a year and a half has finally reached a stage of comfortable completion. “How To Drown A Wolf”
During the winter of 2014/2015 for whatever reason I felt this strong desire to make an abstract film. I had dabbled in abstraction before but never really gone full tilt. Inspired by the colours of films like Spring Breakers and 2001: A Space Odyssey while spiritually guided by films like Animal Collective’s ODDSAC or anything by David Lynch, I started shooting bits of random imagery here and there. The first footage I got was of snowflakes.
After a month or so of just compiling disjointed visuals I finally put together the script. Which ended up being about 3 pages long.
I’d worked with Grace (Munro) before on “Sweet Dreams” and I knew that she would be perfect for the part in this. Originally, after auditions I had chosen to go with Kyle Bell as the lead opposite Grace.
We ended up shooting a good deal of the intro portion of the movie with Kyle, but unfortunately due to scheduling reasons, he wasn’t able to continue with the project. So we scrapped the footage and began again. This time, casting JD Smith as the lead man.
Over the course of about 3 months we shot bits and parts, here and there of what eventually would become the film. In a way I’m glad we did end up recasting as JD added something special to the role that I had not even intended.
Most of this film was just JD and Grace. We did one scene at Mel Lastman Square in North York with Terry Tyler. This scene was particularly fun as we had Terry mouth his lines at double speed so that we could have the scene play out in slow motion and still sync with regular speed audio.
There were a handful of other shoots that were done separately to those with JD and Grace. The first of which was the belly dancing scene with Stacie Noel and Rick Cordeiro. We shot this in the green screen studio at Centennial College. This shoot took a day and was loads of fun. Stacie had figured out a belly dance based on an early version of the track “Meat” that I had sent her prior to the shoot.
Another stand alone shoot was with Terry (Tyler) at Burnett Park. This was a real trip down memory lane for me for a couple of reasons. One: I shot “The Picnic” in that same park with Terry two years ago. Two: I ended up using the “Baphomet” mask that was never used in “Sweet Dreams”. I told Terry to dance around like an insane beast. He did for a bit but then he got extremely claustrophobic in the mask so we were only able to film in short bursts.
The last stand alone shoot was actually filmed in Haliburton Heights, Ontario. I found a wolf reserve online and wanted to get some shots of real wolves for the film. I called them up and let them know my intentions. They were very accommodating. I drove up soon after on what was the morning after a terrible thunderstorm. When I arrived after the 3 hour drive, I was told that all of the wolves had run off into hiding due to the weather. Utterly disappointed I decided to wait around just incase one or two decided to come out anyway. Lo and behold, two wolves came out for just about 5 minutes which was all I needed.
The music in the film took a long time to develop. I had created demo recordings of all of the tracks before I had even begun filming but each time I put the visuals and sound together I had a new sense of inspiration for the sonic textures. The songs became vastly different to what they had started as, much more dense and layered. Very psychedelic.
On the other side of the camera, I had some great help. Zack Alexander, Ruben Meitardjian and Xavier Lewis all helped out with camera work and managed to capture some amazing moments.
In terms of the effects used for some of the more “trippy” bits, I spent a lot of time trying out various looks. I really love the way overlaying images looks but I also wanted to experiment with colour which is where ink drops and nebulas started to make their way into the mix.
We also had some practical “trippy” effects, such as the shot where it appears that the world is moving in reverse around our two main characters. The reality, obviously was that Grace and JD had to walk backwards through the intersection. It was actually fairly funny to see peoples reactions who were unaware of us even making a film. Ruben made a little cameo in that part too.
The trickiest shot in the film of course was the last one. Or at least it seems that way. We got it right on the second try. The scene was actually shot in reverse as one take, anyone that rides the TTC across the Don Valley bridge would know that the trains going eastbound look out towards the south side of the Don Valley. So instead of going from west to east, as it appears in the film, we were really going east to west. Grace and I hopped on the train at Chester, one station east of Broadview, where JD was waiting on the bench. We lined up the doors so that when the train stopped he would be in view. We then let the the train doors close again and Grace and I continued across the bridge to Castle Frank (one stop westbound). It was a good thing it only took two takes since it was extremely time consuming taking the train back and forth each time.
Hopefully people respond well to the film. It’s really just a fun ride. Make what you will of it, it’s clearly up for interpretation. To me it’s about relationships and how you can be suffocated through not just deceit but through worry as well.
It was a great time working with so many talented people and I hope to get the chance to work with everyone again!