Q: I really enjoyed your latest film, END OF THE LINE. I was about as disturbed by the cult members as I was the demons. I thought it ingenious that you basically had them in the "zombie roles", sort of transformed by their mis-beliefs. How did the idea for the film come about?
Thank you...Well I've always had issues with religion, any religion... I was lucky to be raised in a non-practicing Catholic family, so I could make up my own mind and not be too brainwashed as a child. As a young adult I abandoned the idea of religion completely.
So now, even if I understand why people follow them (most never had the choice, the various dogmas were drilled into their heads as kids by their family), religious beliefs are quite ridiculous to me, as they are to most people who use logic, science and common sense in their daily lives. For me someone talking about the "supernatural" elements of their religious beliefs and wanting to be taken seriously, cannot understand that when you aren't "blinded" by faith, their stories are the equivalent of someone wanting to be taken seriously about Elves, Leprechauns or Santa Claus...Religions are children stories that adults refuse to grow up about...Tom Cruise is right when he says that Scientology is just mocked today because it's a "new" religion...Two thousand years from now (if humanity didn't blow itself up) there will be no difference between the 4000 year old Bible and the 2000 year old L.Ron Hubbard books or even with "the lord of the rings" if some people decide today to start a religion around it and call it a holy book as well.
So the parallel between Zombies and extremists of any religion was very intentional. Extremists are terrifying, as you cannot reason with them. Imagine being in front of a suicide bomber who just can't wait to blow himself up to go to heaven and be with his 72 virgins (I hope they have a lot of spare sheets up there). Religion is a very scary weapon used to control the masses, gain money and political power and is either run by lunatics or crooks that use it to fuel hatred and ignorance. Unfortunately religion is one of the saddest inventions of humanity. And after 9/11 people were very quick to demonize radical Muslims, but this kind of behavior is not limited to that particular religious belief. History has shown us, that no religion is immune to killing in the name of one God or another. The inquisition, Jim Jones, The Order of the Solar Temple, David Koresh, 9/11 and the Aum Shinrikyo Japanese cult that carried out the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subways were all very sad inspirations for my film.
Q: Before it hit DVD it showed at quite a few film festivals. What was your most memorable experience of that? Any amusing stories?
Number 1: Well the fact I managed to get into the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival, was quite an achievement in itself, as it is right up there with Cannes and Sundance in importance. And I told this story before in the making of documentary and on my commentary track on the DVD, but at the Toronto premiere, a fight almost broke out, a spectator was so offended by the baby scene, that he started yelling to other people that they were "sick" for staying and enjoying this blasphemous film. People yelled back for him to shut up and he eventually left. I was so nervous I hardly noticed what had happened (I wasn't close to the action).
Number 2: Would be my hometown Fantasia showing inn Montreal where I got a standing ovation and won a prize. Also having a trip paid with my lead actress to Spain for the San Sebastian horror fest was great, even if the spectators are very different then back home, they continuously talk during EVERY movie and make jokes even if they like the movie. Luckily I had watched that happen to many other movies before mine, so I was well prepared and did not take it personally. I would have been so pissed off if I hadn't known.
And on a personal level my trip to Austin Texas for Fantastic Fest, was very memorable for I met tons of great people and fellow filmmakers and even got to meet the great George Romero who has been a huge influence on my films.
Q: You are a horror director in Canada. How difficult/frustrating is that in terms of getting financing and distribution for your films?
Well I'm sure making films is difficult anywhere, the biggest problem in Montreal is zero private financing compared to the US, so unless you do the kind of movies the government likes to finance (not horror) you are going to struggle and have to pay from your pocket.
Q: What is your background as a filmmaker? What films would you say influenced you the most?
Pretty typical, film and comic geek as a kid, some college in cinema studies, dropped out to make my first self financed feature at 19 instead of continuing school. Then working on various music videos, corporate/industrial films, commercials, movie trailers etc to make a few bucks, while making my own films.
The films that had the biggest influence, there are so many depending on the age I saw them...Star Wars, Superman, Raiders of the lost ark, Halloween, Evil Dead, Clockwork Orange, Shining, The Exorcist, Dawn of the Dead, Suspiria, Scanners, Howling. Later on, Lynch, Polanski, Cronenberg, the Coens, Von Trier, Tarantino, Haneke, were a huge source of pleasure and inspiration.
Q: What is it specifically about "the horror film" that grabs you?
As an adult I enjoy all types of films, but the kid in me loves horror, sci-fi, fantasy, super-heroes etc. And it's the kid in me that still pulls the strings creatively. So even if I don't see many horror films now (they're all mostly remakes anyhow) I am still very attracted to the dark side when I write and the pleasure of hearing an audience scream is the equivalent of a stand up comedian hearing laughter. It's quite a rush!
Q: If someone asked you to do a remake or a sequel would you do it?
Yes...As I'm not in a position career wise to be "picky", if someone offered me a big budget Hollywood remake, I would gladly do it. Of course like everyone, in an ideal situation, I'd rather do my own films on a bigger scale. But I understand the logical financial reasons behind all the remakes...People can bitch and moan all they want (or do as I do and just not see them) but the economic realities are that big budget movies cost a lot and need everything they can get to help sell them, like the instant recognition of a "brand name". The Dawn of the Dead remake could have been just a new zombie film (since it keeps almost nothing from the original) but the name Dawn of the Dead is worth money, it legitimizes the film, so instead of being just a knock off, going the remake route gives it that extra push. Let's put it this way, if I had a script about people with psychic abilities it might not get made, if the people who own the rights to Scanners had the same script, it could get a green light a lot easier.
Q: What is your next genre project?
I wrote a horror film in French last summer that I will be trying to get official government funding for the first time, but even if it works out it would take about 3 years. But since they have NEVER financed a horror film before, the odds are against me, even if there seems to be signs of hope...We'll see.
But to not go crazy in the meantime, I will probably go all Kamikaze and lose all my money AGAIN by making another self-financed film very soon.
And this will take every once of courage I've got, because it gets harder every time to go the self financed route, because I'm no longer naive and I've been burned many times before, and lost a lot of money with all my films, even with END OF THE LINE! Regardless of all its good reviews and festival prizes and fan support, the bottom line was that it was a financial disaster for me. As the market for smaller indy films has crashed, due to a glut of indy films and piracy. I learned this the hard way, by selling my film directly at markets like the AFM.
So for every BLAIR WITCH PROJECT or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, there are literally thousand of films now (of variable quality) that are made every year on all kinds of "low" budgets, lets say from $5000 to $500,000 and most of these films have and will LOSE money for the people who actually paid for them.
So why do it again...Well because time goes by too quickly and we have just one life to do things...This it baby! If you're counting on an after life to finally do the things you always wanted, you're betting on the wrong horse. So it's already been 5 years since I shot END OF THE LINE, and I have licked my wounds and saved up a few dollars (working long hours at my day job). So now, instead of planning to invest in a nest egg for my old age, I will very unwisely spend all my money again making another film.
Why? Because I have to...I need to tell stories and express myself creatively, even if it pains me in many ways. But I guess, since I don't have kids and I don't believe in God, it's my way of giving "meaning" to my silly little life. When I'm not making movies my life is emptier. I just wish I could do more of them.
As for what the actual movie will be, well it's not written yet, but I have some ideas. All I can say for now is that it will be a horror film and religion will also play a big part. I will keep you posted.