A Conversation with Young Filmmakers, an event hosted by BrockTV, allowed Brock University students interested in pursuing careers in film to meet with and question respected professionals in the field. Left: Tim Doiron ; Right: April Mullen answering student questions in the Skybar Lounge; they encouraged, gave advice and discussed personal experiences with the students.
On Sept 24th, an intimate group of Brock University students gathered in the Skybar Lounge. A Conversation with Young Filmmakers provided excited film-enthusiasts the opportunity to meet with two accomplished independent filmmakers and actors. April Mullen and Tim Doiron, the creators of the production company Wango Films were invited by Brock TV to host a question and answer period with Brock University students that held specific interests in the film industry.
Despite both of the accomplished industry professionals being young, they have established themselves extremely successfully in their field. In fact, Mullen is the only female to ever direct a stereoscopic 3D feature film as well as the youngest director to accomplish this feat.
Doiron is extremely well respected and has experience in writing, producing and acting in all Wango-made films alongside Mullen. Doiron and Mullen are both from Canada (British Columbia and Ontario, respectively), which gives them a specific love for filming in Canadian cities – notably, Niagara Falls.
In their newest film, Dead Before Dawn 3D, filming was done entirely in Niagara with locations used around St. Catharines, Port Colborne, Niagara Falls and even Chippewa. Even though the film does not necessarily reflect the day-in-the-life of a Niagara citizen (with all the zombie-killing and all) seeing familiar backdrops in a film of this acclaim is always noteworthy.
The film itself is a genre mash-up, mixing comedic elements with the gruesome blood and violence that is a staple of the horror and action genres. The film follows a gang of unlikely heroes through a single night on the run from zemons. “Zemons” are half demon, half zombie and all terrifying. The cast is particularly exciting for a smaller budget production, including Devon Bostick (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and the legendary Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future).
“Working with Christopher Lloyd was absolutely inspiring. We learned so much,” said Mullen when asked about her experiences with the veteran actor. “It was really intimidating at first, but he was always so dedicated to the project. Even when working in the middle of a heatwave, he was still totally focused and on cue.”
Dead Before Dawn 3D is currently scheduled to be released in Canada on Oct. 30th, with a special Halloween-centric premiere scheduled that night at the Cineplex Odeon at the Niagara Square in Niagara Falls. Mullen and Doiron will both be at the premiere and will host contests and games, including a costume contest.
Although Canadians have to wait until the end of October to get their final impressions of the film, it has been screening in American theaters since September and the film had premiered in Russia over a year ago.
“It’s kind of backwards that this Canadian production somehow made it to Russia before Canada,” said Doiron, “But we’re thrilled that the audiences at home finally get a chance to check it out.”
After discussing their new film, the two filmmakers opened up the floor for student questions. Questions ranged from ‘how to get actors to be in your film’ to ‘what was the most embarrassing moment on set’. Overall however, the students picked their brains as to how to get started in what seems like such an intimidating and competitive industry.
“If you’re getting into film, there is no better time than right now,” said Doiron. “With the emergence of newer, cheaper and easy-to-use technology, we are really able to see the democratization of filmmaking. It no longer takes a professional, instead, we see creative filmmakers entering (and winning) film festivals with videos taken on their iPhones”.
“It’s not at all like it used to be in the industry,” Said Mullen. “Since the rise of YouTube and reality television, the general public is far more used to seeing increasingly less polished products. That means that even if a feature film doesn’t have the biggest budget, people will be able to look past the framing and still recognize a great idea. In the end, I feel a good idea will always win out.”
Much of the discussion about their work on the most recent film revolved around the stereoscopic 3D elements. They recounted challenges with the new technology from overheating cameras to having to adjust every shot in order to find a pleasurable viewing depth of field. Although the 3D seems to be a lot of work, it truly gives the film a unique hook, being the first true Canadian 3D film.
Another hook that the directors were very proud of was the idea of the aforementioned “zemon”. They found the phrase really stuck in peoples’ minds and gave the film a unique feel.
Although zombie-centric films might be saturating the current market, two years ago during production, it was a different story. “We thought we were being so original including zombies,” joked Mullen, “and then they announced The Walking Dead. In the end though, we kind of released alongside World War Z and The Walking Dead so it all worked out fine”.
In their final advice to those interested in film making, Doiron said, “Just go out and shoot something. If you have a good idea, passion and are willing to work as hard as you possibly can, then you can get your work out there. Get involved with film production even as a volunteer, you can learn so much just by going out and really participating.”
For more information on the film, Dead Before Dawn 3D as well as the latest on contests and other projects by Mullen and Doiron, follow @DBD3D on Twitter.