Compelling art often goes through a transformative process from conception to completion, and such is the case for local filmmaker/musician Brian Sepanzyk’s 80s inspired slasher short film, Compulsion.
It was initially envisioned as a musical project with friend Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists, Sumac, Erosion). The pair share a long history of collaboration as seasoned veterans of the Vancouver music scene, so working together on this was a natural process.
“Nick has an understanding of mood that makes writing with him such an incredible experience,” says Sepanzyk, who has also directed a music video for Yacyshyn’s band, Baptists.
Prior to Compulsion coming to fruition as a short film, the duo began collaborating on a synth-based music project that harkened back to the works of John Carpenter and Wendy Carlos. As musical ideas began to formulate, it evolved into the idea of shooting vignettes as a visual accompaniment to the live performances. Both Brian and Nick share a mutual love for the aesthetic of 80s slasher films, so this would serve as the basis for the visual aspect of the project.
“I came to the realization that if we were going to shoot all of these, why not combine them into a short film?” says Sepanzyk.
From there, the final product began to take shape and the entire process took a little over a year with the shoot itself took place over a span of six days.
Executing a short film with logistical and budgetary restrictions can present its share of obstacles, such as casting capable actors, finding and acquiring access to adequate locations, and perhaps most importantly, managing to “tell a story in a shorter amount of time and get people to be invested in the characters.”
The decision to cast first-time actor Andrew Drury (Baptists, Erosion) in the lead was a bold one. “He essentially had the whole film riding on his performance,” says Sepanzyk, but knowing Drury well on a personal level and through his musical projects left no doubt in the director’s mind that he was the right man for the job.
Conveying subtext and varying emotions on screen with essentially no dialogue while managing to not overact in order to compensate is no small feat, and according to Sepanzyk, Drury “absolutely nailed it.”
Compulsion has garnered an excellent reception, with renowned director Gareth Edwards (Rogue One) on record praising the film’s atmosphere and music. Now the process has come full circle, as Sepanzyk and Yacyshyn have decided to bring their original vision to life with a live scoring to accompany the screening of the film.
Compulsion will be screened with a live score on November 30 at the Ellis Building (1024 Main St) in Vancouver.