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Dead North Portrait Series – Robin Young & Jade Halcyon // #Selfie

Introduce yourself and the film you worked on:

R: My name is Robin Young, I worked on the film #Selfie. It’s a small film about Susan Norman and a very unlucky night in her bathroom where some very unfortunate things happen to her. It also includes some themes including social media and selfies.

J: My name is Jade Halcyon and I play Susan Norman in the movie. Susan Norman is sort of like a frumpy character who is caught up in the superstardom and the glitz and the glam of Hollywood and she perpetually compares herself to these polished celebrities and she wonders why she can’t be like them. That’s kind of where we made her.

R: I always like the fact that like, this movie is like two and a half minutes long and we did so much character development.

J: It’s true. I was like, ‘So her name is Susan Norman.’

R: But before you were like, ‘So Robin, what do you think about Susan Norman,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know, does it really fit the character or not?’

Robin Young and Jade Halcyon costume up on the set of their film #Selfie in Yellowknife on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Sam Hefford/SAIT)

What was your film inspired by?

R: I sort of wrote a few scripts, and had wanted to do a script that was really easy, simple and inside. Last year I had done a film that was many different locations, was outside, required a lot of different actors and actresses and it was really fun, but a lot of work. So I sort of went with the idea of trying to create a really simple script, but also something very kind of classic, I just wanted to do a horror film – even though I don’t really like horror films. That was sort of the fun of it, learning more about horror films and trying to take it apart instead of having an objective view of it. In any case, I watched some horror films, specifically watched some short films that were horror films and I tried to emulate some of the things in that. I just came up with this idea of a person in their bathroom who is attacked and they don’t know until the person is right behind them and its revealed through these pictures. Pretty simple, but I got excited about the different elements in it.

J: My impression was that the guiding principles were simple and scary.

R: Yeah, exactly. I told a bunch of people beforehand that my only goal with it was that I needed it to be short and that I wanted to have a genuine scare moment, and I think I did that.

What’s your favourite memory of making your film?

J: This photo shoot was pretty awesome. We shot it in a single afternoon and honestly I thought going into it, ‘Oh this is going to be so much fun,’ but playing and portraying a character who is dissatisfied, disgusted, terrified – didn’t make for a particularly fun day, but in retrospect I’m really glad that I did it, and I had a great time and I’m proud of the final product. I don’t know if I have a specific, but everything about it I’ve loved.

R: Even with that said, Jade and I are roommates and we’ve known each other for three years, and we generally have a lot of fun no matter what we do together. In that we were laughing all the way through and throwing ideas back and forth, it was a really fun environment. Because it was such a simple film and such a simple thing, it made it really easy to do that. Jade was throwing ideas at me and we were doing different stuff and, ‘Maybe we can do this,’ or, ‘Maybe we can do that.’ I’m trying to think of a specific thing, but I don’t know.

J: Honestly, the ketchup was really up there for me.

Robin Young and Jade Halcyon costume up on the set of their film #Selfie in Yellowknife on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Sam Hefford/SAIT)

What was the biggest challenge you faced making this film?

J: I don’t know that there were too many challenges with this film, in my impression, mostly because the principles were simple and scary. We – or Robin didn’t even decide that he wanted to do this until like the week before we shot it. There was no script, we had a hiccup finding a camera the morning we shot it, but then we got a camera.

R: Would have been a pretty big challenge if we hadn’t gotten a camera. That would have been a really big obstacle we’d have to overcome.

J: True, but it wasn’t. Yeah, everything went relatively well. The whole M/O was just ‘no pressure,’ and for it to be kind of an easygoing set, and we like the idea of working together because we do have a really great relationship and we’re good at problem solving.

R: It was very easy, and I didn’t feel very much pressure to make it this incredible thing because it was so spurred of the moment. There were some technical things that I was trying to work around. Shooting in a very small bathroom was an interesting thing to work around but also made it really fun. A lot of big shots were filmed with the tripod standing on the toilet or in the tub. We also had some interesting challenges trying to have the bad guy character approach from the darkness. Have different pictures taken where he’s slowly being revealed and getting that right, where you have him being shown – but not too much and just enough was a difficult thing, we had to play around with that a lot. And then I’d say also there’s a bunch of shots of Susan looking at her phone, and getting good shots of the phone – there are a few shots where the phone is blurry because of the way I shot them by mistake, so that was a bit of a challenge from a technical standpoint.

J: I guess it depends who you ask, me the actress, ‘It was amazing!’ Robin, the director, ‘Well, there was technical issues.’

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

R: Well my favourite thing in terms of shooting is just how simple the goals are. I really like movies that are trying to accomplish a very simple goal. One of my favourite directors is Richard Linklater, he has a series of three movies: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. The point in the first one is that two people meet, and they’re having a conversation throughout the whole movie as they walk around the city falling in love. There are no side-plots, there’s no real drama, there’s nothing else. It’s just, can we make a movie that’s interesting about two people falling in love? The goal is incredibly simple. I really like that about the horror genre, where it’s about being scared. It’s so much fun because it limits often spur creativity. You’ve got to do interesting things with it to make it a fun movie to watch because every single shot has been done a million times before, so I really like that about it. I think because of that specifically it works really well for short films because you can just get to the point. It’s a lot easier, I think, to get the audience to empathize with the character when they’re in danger, and I really enjoy that.

J: Normally the horror and sci-fi genres aren’t necessarily genres that I watch, but I think what I particularly appreciate now that I’ve participated in Dead North, is that with sci-fi and horror and filmmaking in general I guess is just suspending reality. It’s like what can you imagine, and trying to figure out ways to create that. I was really impressed with the breadth and diversity of people’s creative projects at Dead North. It was my first year attending and I was blown away by all the things that you can do within a single genre – there were no two films that were alike from what I saw. That’s Dead North for you, yeah.

Robin Young and Jade Halcyon costume up on the set of their film #Selfie in Yellowknife on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Sam Hefford/SAIT)

What’s your favourite thing about Dead North?

R: There’s a lot of things I really like about Dead North, I really love the fact that there is a really broad experience level. There are some films that are incredibly intricately done, beautifully shot, incredible scores, it’s really amazing and the next one you see is shot in an afternoon or is like genuinely very campy or there are issues with continuity or something else, but that’s sort of the fun of it. Its using different parts of your brain or you get to be entertained in different ways. At one time you’re getting totally sucked into this movie and the next time you’re just enjoying it because you can see the structure and how they made it because there’s so much stuff there and it’s very visible. And I really love that about it. And being a filmmaker I really love that its so accessible to everyone and that’s why you have so many of the other kinds of movies because Dead North clearly does so much to provide mentorship and to make it very clear that they want amateur filmmakers and new filmmakers because they want this to be their entrance into the industry or even just as a hobby.

J: Yeah, I also love the accessibility, the opportunity, the creativity, the diversity. I also like the sense of fun. Like Robin was saying, particularly the accessibility. I haven’t done theatre since middle school, so to be able to act in a movie and see myself on the big screen – how cool is that, and anybody has the opportunity to participate. I think it’s also really great in terms of community building, relationship building and creating a sense of this common experience that we can all partake in. It’s something that kind of creates this social cohesion which I think is really valuable as well. Yeah, this shared experience, it’s one of the things that makes living in Yellowknife so great and totally worthwhile.

Is it your first year participating in Dead North?

J: Yes.

R: Last year I participated, I was the director of another film called The Raven. That was a very different film. It was a weird, historical drama that was narrated with a poem. Sort of a Robert Service-esque poem. It was about a character who moves up here for the mining industry and is very miserable.

Robin Young and Jade Halcyon costume up on the set of their film #Selfie in Yellowknife on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Sam Hefford/SAIT)

What made you want to participate in Dead North?

R: Last year it was because I had this idea I got really excited about. I had written this poem and it just immediately – one of those immediate ‘Aha!’ moments where you’re like ‘This is going to be a film, and I know how it’s going to be shot, and I know how I want it to go,’ and that got me really excited so I worked really hard to make that go through all the way. I really enjoyed the experience, it was super fun. Everything about it was really great, I had never done filmmaking before but it was really awesome, so I took that experience and figured ‘Everything that was hard about that experience – I want to do the opposite this year, but still make a really fun film,’ so that was what made me want to participate again this year.

J: I think for myself honestly, it was because it was so simple and straightforward. It was in my capacity of things to accomplish – I’ve been recovering from a concussion for two years now, so it’s great to be able to have creative endeavors that I can partake in that are manageable. There was no huge script, it was just an afternoon and by the end of the afternoon, I was done. That’s all it was, I don’t know that I would have been able to take on much more, living with a disability at that moment and I think working with Robin, I appreciate the communication style and relationship that we have so it was just another thing that made me want to do it, I liked the idea. In life, I like to do creative and new things. And it’s encouraged me to do it again, I don’t know if next year, but in the future, I’d like to participate again.

What have you learned from participating in Dead North?

R: I’ve learned a lot of stuff. I would say the biggest things, apart from technical stuff – which is very true but very boring, I would say that I learned a lot about working with a team on something you’re very passionate about. How to maneuver that, especially when you’re not paying people – they’re volunteering their time and they need to be invested and they need to care about it and feel like it’s their thing, but at the same time, you have to lead the way and have your vision. A lot of that was last year, but this year as well – recognizing things that I wanted to do and what I was willing to compromise on and things I wasn’t willing to compromise on, things like that.

J: I think for me personally, it’s given me a bit more self-confidence to put myself out there and to take advantage of these opportunities, like ‘I can do this, and it can go well.’ Also, I think having seen the films for the first year, I didn’t fully comprehend what Dead North was and now, ‘Oh, that’s what Dead North is, I get it.’

Robin Young and Jade Halcyon costume up on the set of their film #Selfie in Yellowknife on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Sam Hefford/SAIT)

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

J: This is a tough question because I feel like there’s a few. I loved Maison du Bonheur. I loved CariBOO! Because it’s so silly. I liked a lot of them. The really weird sci-fi, end of the world, flashing images “The world is overpopulated.” That was, what was that?! (Fractal Violence)

R: I’m cheating and pulling up a list of the films.

J: I only saw the ones from our night so I don’t know them all. I like Bejede as well. I’m just naming them all, and you’re like, ‘Eh.’

R: I think Elisabet & Baltasar, The Master, it was so beautifully shot. And Fractal Violence because that really caught me off-guard, it blew me away, like ‘I feel really uncomfortable right now.’

Anything to add?

J: Not really, thanks for doing this!

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