One festival film that ought to be brought to our attention is Canadian director Jason Butler’s Mourning Has Broken. It is screening as we speak at Eau Claire. It is 77 minutes long and was made with a budget of under $1,000.
This morning, The Butler brothers (Jason and Brett) were part of the industry event Micro Budgets alongside North Country Cinema’s Kyle Thomas and Cameron MacGowan and Common Chords’ Deric Olsen, among others, bringing to light independent small budget filmmaking which seemed to be of trend at this year’s CIFF and will likely become the new thing amongst our modern day storytellers.
Butler and I didn’t get the chance to meet but got the chance to exchange a few words via email…
Here’s a glimpse into our little chat:
BeatRoute: So, watching the film felt like watching me and my pet peeves collide on screen: the four-stop driver who can’t seem to drive, that car parked so close you can’t even get in your own car (how many times has that happened…), the know-it-all neighbour who can’t shut up and the people in the theatre with their cellphones on and the babies crying. It made me pleasantly laugh at how accurate each of these situations are in every day life. Would you say these are pet peeves of your own too? Is Mourning Has Broken in a way a critique of society, a satirical look into the way we carry ourselves?
Jason: The pet peeves are definitely our own but we hope are universal as well. We hope the character can be a bit of a cathartic vessel to deal with things that aggravate us in society in a way that we can really only fantasize about. I’d say it is both a critique and satire of society. With the advent of new media, there seems to be a cult of celebrity and self-importance that has grown exponentially in the last few years. People are so busy building their own legend that they forget the basic societal norms that allow us to carry on together. Plus we are angry bastards who like to have a laugh and we thought this story would be a perfect vehicle to express those things and have a good time doing it.
BeatRoute: A thousand dollars to make a film does sound almost unbelievable but with Mourning Has Broken, you’ve obviously proved us all wrong. Were there challenges in the way? How did you overcome these challenges?
Jason: The challenges were everything that you’d deal with in a normal set but with these restraints, the only way to beat them was to get creative. The majority of the film was shot guerrilla style, so we were shooting amongst traffic, we were shooting in open stores. Background people, cars, etc. were out of our control. But that was part of the fun. It created a real us versus the world environment amongst the crew that helped us charge to the finish line. It was a non-stop adrenalin rush, storming locations, get our shots and get out. We just had to trust our instinct and hope people liked the sandwiches we were making for them!
BeatRoute: Can anyone make a film for under $1,000 if they put their minds to it? What would you suggest to indie filmmakers who’d want to go down that road?
Jason: I think what this challenge proved is that it is possible. Filmmaking is a difficult task no matter what the budget but I think the idea behind this challenge was that you don’t have to wait for someone to give you the go ahead to make a film. What I’d suggest to filmmakers is to shoot, make films, that is the best way to learn, to work your creative muscles and hone your voice. In the end it’s about storytelling. Don’t let obstacles stand in your way to tell your story. Figure out ways to get around them or go through them.
BeatRoute: Break it down for me – What did the $1,000 cover?
Jason: Here is exactly how we spent our money: It’s $250 for Robert Nolan, $200 for Michael Jari Davidson, scripts $23, wardrobe $23, props $78, Tim Horton’s $37, Costco $246, gas $108 = $999
BeatRoute: What are upcoming projects for you? Will they consist of keeping the whole $1,000 concept going?
Jason: We have a few micro-budget ideas in the hopper, and have some people we’d like to work with in that field but we are actually looking to work with a much bigger budget for our next project FIRST ROUND DOWN, which will offer up many different challenges. The fun thing about working with no budget is there is no one or group that will ask you to compromise. You just have to answer to yourself. We are looking forward to finding new ways to tell our stories in the best possible way.
By Claire MiglionicoCameron MacGowan, CIFF 2013, Claire Miglionico, Common Chord, Deric Olsen, film, independent cinema, Jason Butler, Kyle Thomas, Micro Budgets, Mourning Has Broken, North Country Cinema, small budgets, The Valley Below, YYC