Exclusive Q&A: explore lycanthropic justice with “WolfCop” writer & director Lowell Dean
by Angela Quinton
May. 21, 2013
The CineCoup Film Accelerator competition is coming down to the wire, and while there are some real gems in the top 10, we all know which film has to win! WolfCop writer & director Lowell Dean very kindly made himself available for an email Q&A session this weekend. I think my “please move production to Vancouver and let me be an extra” begging was subtle, but I’ll let you decide – read on for 10 questions and answers with Lowell.
AQ: The script, effects & costumes and the production design for the film seems pretty evolved, based on what we can see in the trailer and the scene for the “Speechless” mission. What sort of pre-production tasks are you holding off on until WolfCop is inevitably selected as the winner in June?
LD: I love your confidence. I have yet to do any storyboarding for WolfCop. For 13 Eerie (my first feature) we storyboarded every single action sequence or moment of action. We did it with drawing, acting and action figures, which was a fun way to storyboard! I plan to board at least every beat of action, and ideally I’d love to storyboard most of the movie if our schedule permits it.
Despite its “small town America” setting, how much of the film’s aesthetic is rooted in Saskatchewan? Assuming WolfCop wins, will you keep the production there, or are there reasons you might choose (or be compelled by CineCoup’s “Accelerated Production” process) to move everything to a different province?
The aesthetic is inspired by the look and feel of small town Saskatchewan – a quaint community on the edge of a dense, mysterious forest. I think of it as Saskatchewan mixed with a bit of Twin Peaks. While I would love to film here, Saskatchewan currently has no competitive film tax credit. So there is a possibility we will have to shoot WolfCop somewhere else. It is a truly Saskatchewan story, and my dream is to shoot it here. I’m just not sure how realistic that is right now.
CineCoup seems like it’s been hands-off in terms of restricting the content and themes of the participating films. Is WolfCop likely to be rated PG-13 or R? What sort of audience will the completed film be geared for?
I want it to be a true blue horror film. An R rating. Like the films that inspire it (An American Werewolf in London, Scream). A lot of it can be mysterious and implied – which will help with our lower budget. You don’t need to have incessant violence or gore, but when you’ve got a werewolf running around you need those chaotic visceral moments of violence to really drive home the power and danger of the character. I see (late) teen boys loving this movie. They may be the key demographic. But I’m in my 30s and I really want to see it too!
How much of Werewolf Lou’s design came from Emersen Ziffle’s vision, versus input from Bernie, Lowell and Hugh? Are there any enhancements to the werewolf makeup effects that an expanded budget might permit? (not that any are needed!)
The best part about Emersen and I being good friends is we hang out often, and have talked WolfCop for a year now over coffee and makeup tests, honing the look. That has been a big advantage of shooting a teaser trailer and then having our actor Leo Fafard do a couple personal appearances as WolfCop (at our CineCoup Top 40 Party in Regina and then at the Calgary Expo for Top 15). We’ve been tweaking the whole time. I can tell Emersen a few key details about the character, and he’s read the script and he can then go and create his magic. He knows what he is doing. Emersen suggested a muscle suit, which has worked wonders for the character’s physique and overall physicality as WolfCop. I don’t think a big budget will really change how the character looks, it might just afford us the time and tests to perfect the look of him. He’s very close now to his look for the final film.
To me the advantages are he is more in tune with the character. Human or werewolf, they are the same guy. The actor needs to know the beats, and how the monster scenes tie in to the human ones – which is often quite key. WolfCop isn’t just showing up randomly fighting crime, he’s picking up the “night shift” from where human cop Lou Garou’s “day shift”. They are like an odd partnership, Lou doesn’t have the guts or maybe the ability to do his job right, but when WolfCop comes out to play, he’s finishing what Lou starts…with a vengeance.
The disadvantage of the same actor is just scheduling and logistics. It takes a few hours to become WolfCop, so you know if he’s in werewolf mode you can’t schedule any scenes with the human actor that day. I already know that will make our shooting schedule interesting!
Given the impact of social media-driven fan activity on WolfCop’s rise to CineCoup success, is there a place for fan input/interaction in the creation of the finished film?
I already have the script written and I’m quite happy with the story and it’s evolution, but I would never rule out some sort of fan interaction for the film – Iike killing someone off or a cameo, or something like that. I am making this movie for people who want to WolfCop, so if there is a rabid fanbase (pun intended) that really vocally wants something – a moment, a certain iconic shot – I want to make sure they are happy too, as long as it works within the story.
I am really impressed by the response we’ve gotten online. The WolfCop trailer has shown up on sites and blogs all around the world, and for the most part it’s all great comments. People are embracing it, and that makes me really want to do this movie and do it right and keep growing our community online. Bernie, myself and David (our social media guy) love the online aspect. We are engaging people all day long. We really are a #WOLFCOP Pack, it’s not just hollow marketing!
If WolfCop wins the competition, the film will be screened in Cineplex theatres across Canada in January 2014. What plans are there for getting the finished film in front of American and European audiences?
That will be more in the hands of the producers but if the film is successful I see no reason why it wouldn’t get to expand beyond our country, even if it’s in some sort of limited edition screening capacity or festivals. I’ve said it from the start, WolfCop is a theatre experience. That is one of our biggest strengths in this competition. This is a popcorn, late night, screams and laughter kind of movie. It should be watched with an audience.
Has WolfCop’s success in the competition and the corresponding media exposure resulted in alternate avenues for financing? If by some calamity the CineCoup prize goes to one of the other contenders, will we still have a chance to see a feature-length film starring Lou?
I’m not at liberty to discuss the financing of the movie. Prior to CineCoup (and during) we had talked to a couple producers about the project, but nothing too seriously. I am really driven by the opportunity to put this movie in theatres. I wanted to give CineCoup an honest shot first and foremost as it’s an exciting model, and I think it has strong potential for success. I will say that if we don’t win, and if CineCoup chooses not to produce WolfCop, we will keep the dream alive and explore other options for sure. I am pretty confident this movie will happen somehow. It needs to!
Last week’s CineCoup Mission (Spin Off) shows some of the ways WolfCop could exist in mediums other than film. Would those spin-offs (particularly the comic) require the film to exist first, as something to orbit around? Or could WolfCop be re-imagined as a graphic novel?
Ideally, I would prefer the feature to exist before the spin-offs, but I would entertain the idea of a graphic novel beforehand. I think that a print prequel could be fun. I already have an outline for WolfCop 2 so maybe a graphic novel to bridge those two stories as well. Or some kind of ongoing saga. Who would want a WolfCop toy before the movie even exists? Is there any market for it? That is the question I guess.
WolfCop is in the Top 10 (congratulations!). The final vote in which fans can participate is the Top 5 Vote, which runs from May 30 through June 2. After the winners are announced on June 3, is there anything more that fans can do to help WolfCop’s chances when the winner is selected by the CineCoup Jury on June 10.
Thank you! I think after fans cast all their MANY votes for the Top 5 (May 30 to June 2) then can still support the cause by having a presence online. Tweeting about us. Tweeting TO CineCoup about us. Being active on our facebook page. Posting positive comments on our CineCoup page. I think all those things come into play, and I think CineCoup will take those factors into account. Like I said, if there is clearly a large, passionate fanbase throwing their vocal support behind a project, I think it can and will make a world of difference.
As fans of werewolves and justice, we can help WolfCop make it to the top 5 by participating in the final fan vote, which runs from May 30 through June 2 – go rack up your voting points by completing fan missions now, and spread the word with the Obama-tastic “VOTE WOLFCOP” avatar and Facebook background graphics below. Many thanks to Lowell for taking the time to answer these questions!