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Dead North Portrait Series – Keith Robertson // In the Dark

Introduce yourself and the film you worked on:

My name is Keith and I worked on In the Dark.

What was your film inspired by?

Gosh, I wanted to explore how the secrets we keep can come to the surface or affect us in ways that we might not be aware of.

What’s your favourite memory of making your film?

I guess making Doug the skeleton. Watching him go from pieces of wood to bones and then have Eli come on board and give a voice to him and make him like a fully fleshed character. I bought plans online so I wasn’t just making it up. But it took longer than expected and luckily I had the time that was required and it ended up being something that I’m interested in. I think puppetry is fascinating and I would otherwise have never like – if I just bought it in the store it would be like ‘OK that’s one puppet and that’s all I know,’ right. It’s got all of its challenges, even I restrung it a little bit today and then when Eli came in like the hand was all fucked, I was like ‘Oh no.’ There’s a lot more to it than you would think.

What was the biggest challenge you faced making this film?

Well, Pablo and Jay changed the parameters this year from films being up to 10 minutes to being up to five minutes and I had originally written a story that just squeezed in the 10 minutes so cutting it in half was a  challenge because I felt like I had such a big story to tell. In the end, it ended up making for a stronger film I think because it forced me to rethink things and figure out what are the most important points and just get rid of the other bits – just kept the funny parts hopefully.

Keith Robertson and Doug hang out at their home in Yellowknife on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Keith wrote and directed In The Dark, a film about a man with a literal skeleton in his closet, he also built Doug the skeleton for the film. Sam Hefford/SAIT)

What’s your favourite thing about the horror/sci-fi genre?

I don’t love horror to be honest so I find I end up making, at least for Dead North, almost like reactions to horror. My movie didn’t have any horrifying elements this year, aside from the fact that the character is a skeleton so it kind works in that but doesn’t follow the same tropes and stereotypes that a horror film would have.

What’s your favourite thing about Dead North?

Just having a deadline and a chance to screen your working front of an audience is invaluable because I found that I am in need of a deadline otherwise I’ll never get anything done. I’ll always be in like idea mode and thinking of how I can make something better without actually completing anything. I’d say Dead North has provided some focus for me and an audience to see what works and what doesn’t.

Is it your first year participating in Dead North?

Second year. I made BAIT last year and I won Best Poster.

What made you want to participate in Dead North?

I’ve always been interested in film but I hadn’t made anything since university so it’s been a while and I went, I guess three years ago now, just as an audience member and was inspired by how approachable it all seemed, how receptive the audience was and yeah it just seemed so funny and also so doable so I told myself the next year I’ll join the community.

Keith Robertson and Doug hang out at their home in Yellowknife on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Keith wrote and directed In The Dark, a film about a man with a literal skeleton in his closet, he also built Doug the skeleton for the film. Sam Hefford/SAIT)

What have you learned from participating in Dead North?

I’ve learned lots of things. I have learned maybe the importance of collaboration. Last year I sort of had the impression that I could do it all myself and I didn’t want to depend on anybody. I realized after making that and making a few more films in between that’s a pretty limiting perspective so this year I wanted to have more people on board and just try and get people all on the same page and play to their strengths instead of just try to do it myself.

What’s your favourite Dead North film from this year that you didn’t work on?

I only went to two of the screenings Thursday and Saturday I would say maybe Armplant by Martin because of the playfulness of it and it totally fits into the previous two films that he’s made. I don’t know if he made more before that but it’s almost like he’s an auteur with his style is that’s very consistent. It’s consistent but he’s also like becoming increasingly zany and imaginative so yeah.

Anything to add?

Because of what happened last year I have basically put my career on hold and an allowed Dead North and filmmaking, in general, to change where I’m heading. I owe Jay and Pablo a lot and I think if they hadn’t organized this festival and given us the support that I certainly wouldn’t be aspiring to be a professional filmmaker.

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