By Stacey Gillard
Several months ago a friend of mine messaged me to tell me he was directing a movie and to ask if my sister and I would be willing to volunteer some time to help him out. I’ve never been involved in anything of the sort but jumped at the opportunity, making sure to add the disclaimer that it would all be very new to me. On a rainy Saturday morning in Vancouver I walked into the Russian Cultural Centre and found myself amongst a hive of activity and more cabling and equipment than I’d ever seen before. My friend, Ryan Curtis, soon found my sister, Kerry, and I standing around looking lost and asked which one of us was good with computers. I took a large step back and Kerry was being whisked away to learn the ins and outs of being a Digital Imaging Technician (DIT). Ryan’s wife, Jacqueline, approached me and asked if I would like to assist her in her role as Set Decorator, which sounded fascinating to me so I immediately said yes. And so began my journey working on Weirdo Hero.
I’ve never considered myself artistic but under the tutelage of Jacqueline I found myself settling into a really enjoyable role and my creative juices flowed. Between us that weekend, and with Jacqueline’s detailed concepts, we constructed a locker room on the side of a stage and an emergency room was formed in the kitchen of the cultural centre!
The second weekend of work for Kerry and me happened to also be the weekend filming wrapped. We took over an office of a cleaning company and Jacqueline and I transformed it into an insurance sales office. One of our more enjoyable moments was trashing a “file room” by throwing reams of paper around it – we both found it quite cathartic! We were meticulous about the details of the set decoration, never knowing exactly how much would be in a shot or how tight that shot would be so ensuring we covered all bases. From placing wrestling figurines on the desk our hero, Frankie, would be using to adding sticky notes reminding other staff members to clean up after themselves in the kitchen, the details were important and my anal retentive tendencies finally came in very handy!
Being involved in the set decoration meant I was immersed in the front line of movie-making and as a first-timer working on set it was intriguing to watch the cohesiveness of the whole crew. Even us newbies quickly learned where we were supposed to be and while we each had our own well-defined roles we moved around and with each other with ease. While everyone was volunteering their time many of the crew were well-established in the industry, but I was never made to feel like anyone had more importance than anyone else, which just enhanced the intense feeling of camaraderie on set.
The star of the movie, “Ravenous” Randy Myers, could not have been friendlier. While it was his first acting role Randy is well known in the ECCW, a professional wrestling league in Western Canada. Many of his fans showed up for the filming and it was fantastic to watch him interact with them. He’s a very humble and approachable man, as well as exceptionally talented, and the depth of emotion he tapped into for the role had me wiping a tear or two away while watching filming.
Watching the actors work was fascinating for me, having had very limited exposure to the behind the scenes workings of film or television. The patience with which they repeated scenes to get it just right, or to make sure the right coverage was shot, was impressive. Alongside this was the professionalism of the crew, enhanced by director Ryan’s laid back approach. Any time the energy dropped someone would jump in and make us laugh and bring everyone back to the task at hand. Not easy to do at hour 13 on a Sunday night!
One of the most entertaining moments was watching the ever amazing Briana Buckmaster at work. Jacqueline and I had built a small security station in the lobby of the office building for her scene and were fixing things around her as she rehearsed. Even from her rehearsal we could tell how hilarious the scene would turn out and we weren’t disappointed. The entire crew had to fight really hard during the takes to not giggle out loud at her performance. The minute Ryan called “cut” the room was filled with hysterical laughter.
The movie itself brings an important message, one that is particularly close to my heart. The main character is battling depression, even as his life seems to have everything he needs. Suicidal thoughts and self-doubt consume him in the form of a cartoon hare, Harold, who is voiced by the talented Ty Olsson. For the bonus features on the movie the cast and crew were interviewed about our personal experiences with depression. After I told the interviewer about my own battle with anxiety and depression I was asked if I was okay with that being broadcast. The whole point of the movie is to highlight the stigma attached to mental health issues and I knew that if I wasn’t willing to open up about my own struggles I was missing the message.
Weirdo Hero is a beautifully written and shot movie, a perfect balance of heart-wrenching drama and dark comedy with the often ethereal sets adding a dreamlike quality to our peek inside the mind of Fabulous Frankie Myers. Even if I had not worked on the movie and developed the relationships with cast and crew that I did I would be compelled to watch it.
Weirdo Hero premieres in Vancouver on August 31st with a red carpet event and Q&A at the beautiful Rio Theatre. As of right now tickets to the event are still available and I’d love to see some of you there!