Photo By: Josh Loewen and Alex Sykes
Sunny Days Ahead is a short comedic film that was written and produced by Josh Loewen and Alex Sykes. Loewen is a graduate of the dramatic arts program at Brock University and Sykes is a fourth-year student in the same program.
The film follows the loveable protagonist Walter (Loewen) as he imagines his future. The film is playful and optimistic, a love letter to innocence, childhood, and life itself. The acting is theatrical, and the script is sincere.
Loewen began making the film after thinking about the ideas he’d be interested in exploring in his art.
“Joy was interesting to me,” said Loewen. “How do we make joy in regular things? Because regular life is fascinating.”
His fascination with small moments of joy comes through in the film, especially in scenes between best friends Pete (Sykes) and Walt.
Walter as a character has a clear voice in the film. His expectations are stereotypical and simplistic at times but the film itself is a complicated reflection on life. The writing may be comedic, but Loewen allows for somber moments of reflection. The pacing and quality of the film are helped by video footage of the stunning natural scenery of the Niagara Region.
I was able to see the project when it was not quite finished at The Suitcase in Point. Loewen was part of the Nest Residency program where he was able to work with mentors on this project. Since then, it has been shown at the Hamilton Fringe Festival and the Niagara Film Festival.
“[The Suitcase in Point] was an important part of making some of this happen and I think they’re a big part of helping to facilitate artists coming out of Brock actually making something with their degree,” said Loewen.
Loewen had applied to the Nest Residency with a different project idea. As the pandemic dragged on, doing a live, in-person theatre performance became less and less likely.
“I wanted to do a whole project, not the beginning stages of a project, so for me in order to do the whole project the way I wanted to it needed to be something that was digital,” said Loewen.
The premise of the story came about when he was sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Pen Centre with Sykes, going over ideas.
“[We] talked for a long time about a lot of stupid ideas, and the idea of doing someone’s life story kind of felt like it stuck,” Loewen said.
The next stage of the project was inspired by Loewen’s mentor, Ron Peterson, who suggested that he incorporate variety into his storytelling. Instead of doing a couple scenes in different styles, Loewen and Sykes decided to tell every section of Walt’s life in a different style. The styles include conspiracy videos, the “draw my life” YouTube trend, a game show, sketch comedy, western, and even a song about puberty sung by an animated asparagus. This experimentation seems to accurately capture the randomness and creativity of a young person’s mind while ensuring that there is never a dull moment.
Both Loewen and Sykes have a background in theatre. However, that doesn’t mean that they were unprepared to take on filmmaking.
“Balancing a frame isn’t that different from balancing the stage. It’s a lot of the same ideas,” said Loewen.
Though Loewen would not have made a film if it hadn’t been the only option, he’s hoping to continue to use the skills he learned in the process.
While there are no new showings of the film scheduled as of right now, Loewen and Sykes have submitted the film to other festivals, so anyone interested in seeing Sunny Days Ahead can look out for those down the road.