I come from the land of the ice and snow, also known as Canada. Despite my home and native land’s notoriously frightfully frigid temperatures, Canada is not largely known internationally for its ability to conjure scares. Curious, since our history harbours its fair share of moments of blackness (The legend of the Black Donnelley’s, the forced internment of the Japanese during World War Two, the centuries long abuse of Native citizens, forced sterilzations of handicapped individuals) , depraved killers (Paul Bernardo, Clifford Olsen, Luka Magnotta, Robert Picton), and shooting sprees (the Montreal massacre). We can even claim our very own horror god as a native son (David Cronenberg).
But, alas, the long shadows we cast upon our own soil is not enough to assuage our general reputation of polite quaintness. Our days as the nice ones are perhaps numbered as a new crop of filmmakers begin to make their mark in the genre of blood, guts and badassness. Not conforming to our too long habit of making Tragically Hip soundtrack laden snoozefests, these axe wielding filmmakers are busily carving a place for us in the mighty genre known as Horror.
One such man is toronto based writer/director/producer Ryan M. Andrews, a horrormeister who has been called “a cut above the rest” by his peers in the steadfastly growing Canadian horror film industry. with a brand new film, “Sick” coming out, Ryan very generously took some time out of his celluloid mayhem making to answer some questions about his past, present and future as a vanguard in the horror scene:
Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Ryan M. Andrews and I’m a storyteller. My medium for storytelling is as a Director and Writer.
I read a quote from you where you said that ‘my specialty is horror’ why do you think that is? what attracts you to the genre?
I don’t want to be the “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I want to be the best at something, not everything. I’m not saying I can’t make a romantic comedy, because I can. But I specialize in horror. As for what attracts me to the genre, it’s the best genre. Period. Everyone loves a good scary story, whether it’s with family and friends sitting around a campfire or whether it’s in a dark movie theater at Halloween. Everyone likes the thrills of the emotional roller coaster ride that comes with a good scary story. Also what attracts me to the genre is the fan base. Fans of horror are passionate. People who like a good romantic comedy go watch it and when it’s done they move on, or maybe they buy a summer blockbuster that ends up sitting on the shelf, but horror fans, eat sleep and breathe these movies.
You work primarily in Canada, is it your intention to stay here as a filmmaker, or are you looking to eventually crash the border, or both?
Canada is my home and it always will be. If I need to travel somewhere for work, I will. Films are not made in one specific place anymore, they are made all over. And there is so much talent here in Canada. I love the USA and I love traveling there. I actually get played more in the USA than I do in Canada.
Is there a difference between Canadian based horror and horror from other countries? If so, what differentiates Canadian horror?
Yes there will always be little differences based on cultures and depending on where a film comes from, but for what matters, there shouldn’t be any difference. There is either good horror or bad horror. Who cares where a horror film comes from, or if it is made by a man or a woman or if it comes from a veteran or from a new comer. If it’s a good scary story and it entertains, that is all that matters. The best films are films that anyone can relate to, so no matter where you are, if it feels like this could happen to you or it could happen in your own back yard, then I think that is what’s important.
There seems to be a growing horror film community in Toronto, besides yourself, who would you say are yourpeers in this industry?
There is definitely a huge community here and the best part is we all support each other. Chad Archibald (NeverLost) and Gabriel Carrer (In The House of Flies) of Black Fawn, Jesse Cook (Monster Brawl), John Geddes (Exit Humanity), Justin McConnell (The Collapsed), Reese Evenshen (Dead Genesis)… The list goes on really. There is just so many of us and it’s our time. Ten years ago, we may not have had the same opportunities to get out there, but now we do and there is strength in numbers. The types of films we make may not necessarily be the kinds of films that the Government backs, but that’s not going to stop us. We’re gonna make our movies our way, and what matters is there is an audience for it.
I just see it growing bigger. People are taking notice of what we are doing and giving us a chance and liking us. And because of that we get more and more opportunities. I think a lot of thanks for this is owed to people like Chris Alexander (editor-in-chief of Fangoria) and companies like Anchor Bay that stand behind us and what we do and help us get our stuff out there to the whole world.
Is there a place for the horror community in the broader scene of Canadian film, or will it remain a bit of an outsider art form/community?
Hmmm, I think we’re all outsiders as people and our community may always be an outsider one as far as the rest of the Canadian film industry is concerned. It’s like when a group of cousins get together during a family function and the youngest one is always left out of the fun. Horror is that cousin. But whether you wanna call us the underdogs or whatever, we thrive in the shadows. And the audiences gravitate to that. And because of that, there is a world wide market for it. I think the fan base is here in Canada and they embrace us, but we tend to have to take a back seat to the rest of the industry. When I was down in a couple southern American states earlier this year, I went into a video store and down there I found a few Canadian independent films for rent and they were all horror, except one.
You have a new film coming out, “Sick”, what’s it about and and when did you shoot it?
We shot it during the fall of 2011 in and around the Toronto area. The film is a classic Romero style zombie film. In other words instead of being just another shoot ’em up over the top zombie film, SICK focuses on the drama and the relationships between the characters. Zombies help tell the story, not zombies are the story. The film takes place two years into the zombie apocalypse, so we’ve already passed all the insanity of the outbreak and we focus on the remaining survivors struggling day to day. Specifically on three people who’s paths cross and they are forced to seek shelter for the night and they have to get past their trust issues and work together in order to survive the night.
The film stars the best indie talent in Toronto (Christina Aceto, Richard Sutton, Robert Nolan, Jennifer Polansky, Sandra DaCosta) as well as horror scream queen Debbie Rochon. And though it is a violent and dark story, it’s intelligent as well. There is a heavy scientific element behind what makes our zombies tick. Though most films feature zombies as cannibals, it is a common pop culture reference all over the world that zombies eat, what else, brains. Since we created our own zombies for this film (not quite going the route of Romero zombies, or 28 Days Later zombies) we decided to go in the direction of our zombies eating brains, and we actually created scientific reason – based in real life science – as to why zombies eat brains.
You have several films under your belt previous to ‘Sick” , such as “Black Eve”, how would you say you have evolved as a filmmaker from the time you started?
I think I have evolved mostly, in being to take more chances and do bigger things. With each project I have continually been able to grow. My first couple films, though they have won awards in various film festivals, I more so see it nowadays as me experimenting and learning and developing my craft. Obviously providing for my family is a top priority but I am an artist through and through and money is not my primary motivation. Creating art that entertains people is. If I just wanted to make money, than I would do something different and earn a steady pay cheque. Instead I have spent ten years growing as an artist so I can be a better storyteller.
I will always be learning and growing, if I didn’t there would be no point of continuing on, Black Eve was definitely a huge accomplishment. We shot that film is 6 days, which for a feature is generally unheard of. Even shooting SICK over a 16 day shoot seems rather fast, but I surround myself with great people and that is what makes all the difference. While making SICK, I was able to work with DoP Michael Jari Davidson, who I was able to sit with all through pre production to create the exact look and feel I wanted to tell this story written by myself and Chris Cull.
What are your must see horror flicks?
Well we all know the classics: The Shining, The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, But my three personally loved and highly recommended horrors are: Jacob’s Ladder, In The Mouth Of Madness and Rob Zombie’s The Lords Of Salem.
These three films are brilliant. I was lucky to see The Lords Of Salem when it played at the Toronto International Film Festival and when it comes out next year, I highly recommend it.
But for all those horror fans out there who have already seen all of these, perhaps you need to get familiar with these great Canadian horror films: Warren Sonoda’s 5ive Girls, Rob Stefaniuk’s Suck, Gabriel Carrer’s If A Tree Falls, Silvia & Jen Soska’s Dead Hooker In A Trunk.
What is your next project? Are you writing, in pre-production, etc?
I am always writing. I have literally dozens of screenplays written and ready to go. Specifically right now I have three of those scripts in different stages of development/pre production. I am also working with some amazingly talented people that I am humbled to be able to work with. These people motivate me to up my game and those are the best people to surround yourself with. Jessica Cameron is a talented actor/producer who is one of these people. We will be working together a few times in the near future.
I also am working on a project with a few other directors, who I greatly respect. I’m also going to be working again with Producer Cengiz H. Fehmi who fell in love with one of my other scripts even before we went to camera on SICK, so that one is in the pipeline to go to camera in the near future. One of the things I love most about working in this genre, is I can do numerous films without ever copying the same style. I’ve done found footage, 80’s style slasher, art house/David Lynch stlye, the list goes on. With the upcoming films there is an epic haunted house project involving bikers and a marijuana grow op. There is true story about a witch. There is a husband & wife psychological thriller. And there is even a road trip/grindhouse film that involves a Nazi mad scientist. So this genre allows me to constantly be telling different stories.
That last one I mentioned is a for a film called Save Yourself, which plays up the four stereotypes of women in horror (in an intelligent way) as a road trip brings them face to face with a Nazi mad scientist.
Where can we check out “Sick” ?
SICK will be having a couple screenings in the near future in the Toronto area, and then it will start hitting
other film festivals shortly after that. The best way to keep up with that is by joining/liking and following the
facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sickthemovie
SICK facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sickthemovie
Black eve fb page: https://www.facebook.com/BlackEveMovie
SICK trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLH8jU_61Nw
Twitter: @SickTheMovie & @RyanMAndrews1
Interview: Ryan Andrews (Sick)