I’ve worked in Vancouver’s film industry for 13 years now with a long string of job titles, most containing the word “assistant” in them. Once, I was an assistant to a Hollywood actor. Someone whose work I admired, an artist who took his craft serious. But what unfolded was three months of sleepless nights, insane requests and an endless glimpse into the more shallow recesses of humanity. I started empathizing with the Renfield character in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula;” just another dutiful lunatic serving the will of a bigger evil. Familiars — like Renfield — are spoken of in vampire myths. But like real-life assistants, not many people pay them any attention. But still, they compelled me. What kind of person would actually serve a life-sucking fiend? I guess anyone who complains about Mondays or is guilted into working the weekend kind of knows that answer already.
My story was found.
Aiding me on this journey was my good friend/collaborator Riley Walsh. Our mantra was to do it as cheap as possible while maintaining some form of professional integrity. We were both unemployed guys with mortgages hoping we could get a helping hand from friends and contacts. What we received was humbling; a true testament to how generous and gracious this industry can treat its own.
We conscripted Jennifer Nick as our co-producer; she got us audition space at the Men In Trees production office, spear-headed our festival circuit campaign and started researching funding grants. Riley approached Mark Freeborn (production designer of Final Destination III and X-Files II) to advise us on our design strategy. Mark and his team went beyond our expectations, giving us a literal ton of construction flats and then building our sets with them.
Riley procured a very generous Grip and Lighting package from William F Whites, a Sony F-900 camera package from Sim Video, a sound stage at North Shore Studios as well as enlisting the help of Sharpe Sound Studios for a professional sound mix pro bono. A crew of industry vets heeded our call for help: people who usually get paid $600-700 a day were coming out for us for free to do a five day gig.
What’s more, our cast was amazing. Torrance Coombs of The Tudors and jPod became our main character, Sam. The vampire was Paul Hubbard, more known as Ford’s “Random Celebrity Guy.” We had a great ensemble with Rachel Sehl, Luisa Jojic, Brock Shoveller and Art Kitching who did double-duty as our Nosferatu and a victimized Jogger.
We shot our first two days in Stage 8 at North Shore Studios, a place I went to for 4 years as an office assistant. it was exhilarating to go there in a director’s capacity. The Taylor Manor, a local film friendly and empty old hospital, acted as our vampire den for the next two days. Our last day was spent in a couple of shops in North Vancouver, ending along a picturesque boardwalk with the Vancouver cityscape as our backdrop. I was grinning ear-to-ear watching our vampire sucking blood and stealing some dead guy’s pants. It’s a rush to see something you wrote down on a computer happening right there in real life.
Riley and I set out to take this a step beyond the usual limitations we’re accustom to. We wanted to make a feature film within the short format. I guess when no one is handing you that chance, you go out and make your own luck.
I think we got it.