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Marina Antunes [Interviews 01.26.15] Canada post apocalyptic scifi adventure

This morning, hours before their world premiere at Sundance, I had the chance to chat with François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell, the trio of writer/directors better known as RKSS and the hive mind behind the highly anticipated PA movie Turbo Kid, the first clip from which we posted on Friday.

We turn back the clocks a few years and talk about their experience with the anthology project ABC's of Death, the challenges of shooting a post-apocalyptic movie in Montreal in debilitatingly cold weather, signing on Michael Ironside and the experience of Sundance.

If you're in Park City, you can check out the movie tonight at 11:59 P.M. at the Egyptian Theatre but if you miss the world premiere, Turbo Kid is playing a few more times this week. Check all the screening times and get tickets here.

Yoann: Hello, I'm Yoann.

Anouk: Hiya I’m Anouk

Francois: And I'm Francois.

Thanks so much, guys. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today. How are things going in beautiful Sundance?

Francois: Amazing. I mean, beautiful festival, and they've been taking care of us like we're very lucky. It's great. Everything is crazy.

And you guys are getting ready for your world premiere today, right?

Yoann: Yes. At midnight.

Wonderful. Best time to see the movie from what I've gathered.

Yoann and Francois: Yeah.

We haven't had a chance to see the film so we can't really talk specifics, but I wanted to turn back the clock a couple of years to the beginning and the short film that you guys put together, and sort of leading up to that, how you guys met each other, how you came to work together, and where this crazy idea came from to begin with.

Yoann: We've been working together for over ten years. We've been doing shorts together for over ten years. And we're actually a family. Anouk is my sister, and Francois and Anouk have been a couple for fifteen years.

Anouk: Yeah, we met in elementary school.

Francois: So yeah we always worked like that as a team and we like to keep that spirit of making film with friends and that's how we began. And yeah we love drama movies, we did a lot of horror and action, but we never touched post-apocalyptic movies, and we liked it.

What was it specifically about post-apocalyptic that sort of spoke to you? Was there a movie or just an aesthetic?

Yoann: There were multiple movies. When we were younger we loved those types of films like Mad Max and even the cheap Italian ripoffs of those films that had such an amazing heart to those films. They're so endearing. Films like The Last Barbarians-

Francois: The New Barbarians.

Yoann: The New Barbarians.

Francois: Yeah, we like the cheesy music, and we like the awkward suit with big shoulder pads and everything. I really like that aesthetic. And we never really saw a post-apocalyptic movie with bikes, with BMX bikes, and we like the fact that it's kind of a Mad Max movie but with a low budget.

Can we talk a little bit about your experience with the ABCs of Death? Because your short was, for my money, one of the best ones that I saw. It Didn't quite make the cut, but it kind of worked out better for you guys in the long run...

Anouk: Absolutely. We ended up learning so much more than being included in the anthology because we got the attention of the producer of the ABCs of Death. So that's how it all started.

Francois: We could say it was hard. Like we thought we had good chances to win, but yeah, at the end I think it was so much better than the short. Making a feature was the goal that we wanted to do for a long time. Yeah, so we're pretty happy.

The one time that- I'm doing air quotes- "losing" actually works out for the best. Because nobody really lost.

So this idea for Turbo Kid is something that's been brewing with you guys for a while. When you did the short, did you already have the concept for the full movie and this was sort of a way to sort of get attention for the full film or did you have to take what you had with the short and expand it after the fact?

Yoann: No, what happened is that Ant [Timpson] asked us if we wanted to turn the short film into a feature. Of course, we said yes. But we had no plans to turn that particular short into a feature. We started writing it from scratch. It's loosely based on the short. The short doesn't have a very intricate story.

Francois: It's just a fight scene. We knew that we had a great concept, a cool fight scene and special effects. That's what we're good at. But the big challenge was to - we knew that we needed a heart to the story. We needed the audience to connect to the characters and love them. So that was a big challenge. And we didn't want to do just a gore movie and like the same as the other. We wanted to have something unique to stand out.

I'm curious about when you get the call or how it comes about that Michael Ironside becomes involved with the movie. I assume that this is like a dream and then it happens and then you have a huge party.

Francois: That's kind of crazy. The funny thing is we wrote the character thinking of Michael Ironside, that it would be so great to have him, but it probably won't happen. And then when we were at the Toronto International Film Festival at a party and he walked in. He wasn't supposed to be there, but he said, "Oh okay, fine, I'll go to that party." And he just walked in. And we saw him and we looked at each other, "Oh my God! Michael Ironside is here!" We talked to our producer, "We need to talk to him about Turbo Kid," and she took our hands and put us in front of him, and she said to him, "These are filmmakers. They want to pitch a movie to you," and she left.

Was that scary?

Yoann: It was a little bit, but at the same time we wanted him to love the film so much. We were pumped, and he really digged our pitch. He asked us to send him a script. And when he received it he called us back in, and he said, "I'm in. I love this script. I want to do this."

That's awesome! Moving a little bit into the production side of things, how long did you guys shoot for?

Yoann: We shot for twenty-two days, and it was eight-hour days, so it was a very, very short time to be able to do everything that we wanted to do. It was a really intense schedule.

Francois: And we had a pretty ambitious script, and it was very cold. Like we had the worst spring in Montreal in seventy years.

Oh wow.

Yoann: It was pretty cold. We would get -20 Celsius on some days.

Oh dear. So obviously that's one of the special challenges of shooting an ambitious project in such a short schedule. Did you have other sort of roadblocks that came up? Because I would assume that a movie that has this specific look, it probably takes a long time to prepare the sets and costumes and everything else. How did that all come together for you guys?

Yoann: It was pretty good. On the last week before we started shooting we lost a major location where we were supposed to film over sixty percent of the film. One week out. So it was a pretty intense moment to try to find some place to replace it, but we ended up finding a place that was great and looked very fantastic. So everything came out great in the end.

Anouk: The art department made miracles finding those locations at last minute.

Yoann: Oh and they made miracles because we had a snow storm. Our studio shooting was supposed to be two weeks after, but we had a snow storm so we couldn't film outside so they built them [the sets] in like no time. It didn't make them late. Amazing, amazing.

Francois: Yeah, and it was cool because we were able to bring some friends from our short onboard. And we met also the very talented and professional crew members. Everyone was like very pumped to do like this pretty crazy and unique movie.

Anouk: And everybody was asking to come on set everyday even though we were done for the day. And we were like super big things we needed to do, but everybody was always super happy.

I think it's great how you guys finish each other's sentences, and you're kind of all- it's like a hive mind. And working together for ten years I guess that sort of develops, but how does that work on set? Do you find that people connect with that easily or is that hard to get used to having three directors all giving you direction? How do you guys work?

Yoann: Well, you put it perfectly. We do have a hive mind, and it's pretty amazing. Like we truly share one brain. And the way we work on set is that I go on and usually talk with the actors. Francois will be on the technical side with his story board. And Anouk is the director of directors. She makes everything happen.

Did you guys do your own special effects since you come from a background of animation and special effects? Did you do all of the work yourself or did you guys bring in artists to help you with that as well?

Yoann: We brought in artists.

Francois: Actually it was the first time that we didn't touch any effects. Kind of weird. It was hard because I wanted to put my hands in the fake blood.

Yoann: We did a little bit.

Is there any reason specifically why you decided to sort of step back from that this time around?

Anouk: It's because we would have never been able to really concentrate on direction. I think if we did both we would be overwhelmed.

Yoann: It was such a short schedule that our minds needed to be 100 percent.

Anouk: And we also wanted to have better FX than we can manage, but I think it was cool to have a professional come in and take over.

Can you guys talk a little bit about finding out that you were going to be at Sundance and how that all came together for you?

Yoann: That's really crazy. We were in New Zealand.

Francois: Yeah, we were on post-production for three months in Auckland, and yeah, one morning very early Anouk received the call.

Anouk: Yeah, it was the rep, and he said, "We're going to see each other in Park City in January." We were excited because I think we didn't expect it. We dreamt we would get in, but we didn't want to have false expectations or anything, so it was like such an amazing surprise.

Francois: It was incredible. We were jumping on the bed with our pajamas.

Yoann: It was so great, but at the same time the deadline was really short and suddenly we had to finish the movie in a lot less time. Six weeks?

Francois: Six weeks.

That definitely adds added pressure to get things done. Did you guys manage to finish the film to where you like it or are you going to be doing more post-production once the film premieres?

Yoann: No, no. We have it where we like it. It's always hard to stop playing with your film I believe. So we still would love to tweak some things and change some things so maybe we will get to it. No but the film is -

Anouk: Yeah, we're really happy with it.

Francois: We're very proud, and like everyone on board in Auckland and here was so motivated to finish the movie in time because they really like the project.

Anouk: Yeah, they did superhuman work really.

Yoann: Yeah, everybody came together and said, "Yes, we're making it. Let's do it."

That's awesome, guys. Congratulations. You represent Canada well out there. Best of luck with the premiere tonight.

Yoann, Anouk, Francois: Thank you so much.

And hopefully we'll be seeing the movie really soon!

Anouk: Yeah, we hope so.

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