Inside Out Interview: Robert Kennedy

After watching Valley of the Chapstick, I had to find out more about director Robert Kennedy - he was kind enough to answer a few questions via email.

When did you start working on Valley of the Chapstick?

Last June (2005)

What had you worked on prior to VOTC?

I have made about 15 short films. The one directly prior to shooting this one was premiered about two weeks before at Inside Out. It was called "Pulling Out the Stops" --a documentary about local band "The Hidden Cameras".

How did the screenplay come about?

There was an invitational program called "REMAKE" at last year's Splice This Super 8 Film Festival. Filmmakers were invited to remake any movie they wanted. Me and my boyfriend Ryan English had watched "Valley of the Dolls" around then and by the end of it we were getting the idea to remake that film. The next morning, I hit on the idea of addiction to ChapStick instead of barbiturates and the film was born.

The schedule was so tight we shot the whole film before there was even a script! We just used a pretty vague storyboard. The actual dialogue and precise scene breakdowns, transitions etc were written late into the night _after_ the last day of shooting.

This saved time because there was nothing else to do while waiting for the film to be processed so why not spend that time writing the script! I've never worked in such an ass-backwards way before, let me assure you....

Tell me a little about the process of making the film.

Making the film was a nightmare because we had no money, no time, tons of locations and it was about 35 degrees in the shade. Poor Ryan who starred in it had to wear a business suit and a really ugly, hot wig through the whole movie. Plus we had no car and almost no budget for transportation so I bought Ryan a bicycle and we biked to all the locations in the sweltering heat carrying heavy knapsacks and briefcases bulging with costumes and props.

The interiors were brutal, too, because of bright hot lights and no air conditioning. After it was shot we recorded all the dialogue with the actors and ultimately edited it all together in about a day and a half. Ryan did the music, it was completed about 4 hours before the premiere at Splice This!

What's your favourite part of the film?

I like the sequence in the "Sanitorium

Is there anything you had to cut but wish you could've kept?

We used just about everything that was shot--but for pacing dialogue had to be cut here and there, and sometimes this made the narrative a little too perfunctory I'm afraid. Oh, and superimposed images of Pete Dako being electrocuted was cut, but I think it was only because I forgot to use that material while I was editing.

Tell me a little about your actors

Ryan has not done much acting--and even told me once it was something he is not interested in--so of course I cast him. He was a natural, and spot on--literally doing almost everything in one take. I have to say I was super worried about the dialogue since it was a crucial component of the film and not necessarily easy to pull off. But he absolutely nailed it in the recording sessions as well.

Out of the rest of the cast, Martin McNenly, Brooke Gagne and Pete Dako, only Martin is a trained actor. I knew them all socially before working with them and all three have been in previous projects. Brooke has a fantastic look and also very natural on screen. Her "agent" is Laura Cowell who runs the Splice This Festival. Pete can't really act but makes up for it with a kind of loony presence. And of course Martin has the chops and is very good-looking and has a good voice too.

What's the response been like for the film so far?

Very positive, it's been shown about 3 times and audiences laugh throughout. At the screening last night (May 27th) there was one guy sitting near me who was laughing really hysterically. After the screening, someone came up to me and said it was "perfect"--which I'm not sure what he meant, but it was a nice thing to say. It's showing again in June at the Canadian Film Centre's Worldwide Short Film Festival. I'm hoping for international exposure now and even sales.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on another film to be premiered in the "Over" program at Splice This! --23rd and 24th of June at Xspace in Kensington. Sadly, the festival is "over" after this year so check it out (www.splicethis.com). The film I am making is about a certain type of super8 "over"-ness.

What do you do when you're not making films?

I'm a film editor. There is a movie that was just released in theatres on friday about Douglas Coupland called "Souvenir of Canada" which I edited. It's really a fun film. It's mainly documentaries that I cut. I've also cut a couple for Ron Mann like "Grass" and "Go Further"--also kind of humourous and wacky which is what I like.

Keep an eye out for VOTC at the WSFF and more from Kennedy at Splice This.


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