Since its screening at Calgary International Film Festival last year, Ferocious has been a huge success in Canada and is currently on its second run, with its Saskatoon premiere a sell out.
I decided to bite the bullet and send Robert a message on Twitter asking if he would be interested in doing a quick email interview for this blog, and he very kindly agreed.
Me: I’m very excited about Ferocious, and my fingers and toes are crossed for a UK release…as it’s done so well in Canada, do you think it will be available to watch in other countries as well?
Robert: Yes, it has sold elsewhere and though theatrical may or may not happen in the UK, VOD will definitely head that direction at some point soon. Thrillers have a world wide audience, really. Everyone can understand and get behind someone in jeopardy, regardless of what country they come from. Having such a gifted cast will make it all the more real for everyone who sees it.
Ferocious has done very well in Canada since its release and is on its second run, did you ever imagine that it would do as well as it has and what do you think made it so successful?
It has done well, yes. I would say mostly from the aggressive marketing, the willingness of the cast in helping promote the film and the concept itself. Marketing has been made infinitely easier for independent films thanks to digital shooting and digital projection. Even cutting a trailer is a significantly easier process, not to mention substantially less expensive. Social networking is great for word of mouth and could eventually replace traditional distribution.
As far as why people seem to have responded to it, I’d point to the cast. We were very lucky in having such a strong ensemble from all different legs of life and experience. And all Canadian. KIM COATES, naturally, from SOA, but look up his filmography. The guy has been in everything (I’ll go on more about him below). AMANDA CREW is just waiting to explode…a very talented woman with a huge (and thankfully subtle) range. MICHAEL EKLUND, who I cast in my previous film–WALK ALL OVER ME–is exploding as I type these words. Being the villain in The Call with Hallie Berry probably doesn’t hurt things. KATIE BOLAND as Tess was freakishly good in a way that I don’t even know that she realizes. And DUSTIN MILLIGAN as Leigh’s manager, Callum, played the cheesy LA manager to a t, expanding on what I had written and adding some lighter touches to the darkness.
Kim Coates is a brilliant actor, was he your first choice for the role or did you have other people in mind?
I actually did have other people in mind and never thought we would land Coates. Now of course I can’t imagine anyone else being in the role, but at the time, I remember thinking I needed an atypical antagonist…someone who can be menacing without resorting to the usual cliches associated with antagonists.
What is he like to work with? The character seems pretty intense!
To say Kim is intense in Ferocious is an understatement. In front of and behind the camera. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. He energized me and everyone within a five metre radius. Kim is a great collaborator and a friend to his fellow cast members. He wants to ensure they’re okay before he even worries about himself. His energy never hits a lull. He’s always ready to go. Honestly, can’t think of a better person to play Salvatore than Kim.
Going back a while, when did you decide that you wanted to work in film and what steps did you take to achieve your goal?
The first realization that I wanted to make films came when I was in Junior High School. But the reality of it potentially being more than a hobby, not until I was 20. Schooling was a step, but that’s never enough by itself. Volunteering on other people’s shows was an asset, helping me learn what I wanted (and more often, what I didn’t want) to do. It also helps set yourself up in a network of others striving for similar goals. Everything after that point–more than 20 years ago–is based on persistence. You have people saying no to you, in one form or another, on a weekly basis…if you continue in spite of this, you have a leg up over your fellow filmmakers.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far and what are your goals or dreams for the future?
Honestly, there hasn’t just been one. It’s nice to see your work in a video store. Or it was, back when there were video stores. And it’s nice to hear people comment on your work when they don’t know you’re the writer or the director. But best of all is building up a core of solid actors that I can go to in a pinch and get an answer from as to whether they’d like to be involved on a new project or not.
What types of films do you watch for inspiration and is there a particular director that inspires your work?
Kubrick is my favourite director, hands down. His work reveals new layers every viewing. But for inspiration, usually something within the genre I’m working in at the time. It could be Blood Simple, Shallow Grave, Shadow of a Doubt or it could be Say Anything, Harold and Maude or Bottle Rocket. A huge variety, really. Recent favourites that I’ve gone back to or have seen for the first time have been, Lake Mungo, Sunset Boulevard and High Noon.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring filmmaker, what would it be?
I mentioned it above, persistence is the key. There’s a test you can give yourself. If you’re thinking of movies, story lines, writing them down into log lines, treatments and outlines, rewriting them, telling others about them, going to sleep with them in your head and planning towards the day when you do that exact thing for a living, you will have a huge leg up. It’s never been easier to make films, whether shorts or features. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from them and get good, honest feedback on everything. Not from your friends, not from your enemies, but from people with a good, constructive response. Learn from their responses and feedback and make every project, whether a new script or a new film, tighter and better than the last.