Saturday 1 November 2014

Interview with Chris Dymond

Chris Dymond is a Toronto-based Canadian filmmaker who grew up watching movies, then earned a degree in English. Chris wrote and directed the 2012 romantic comedy In Return.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born, raised, educated and continue to live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I grew up in a family of five. My dad is a still-life artist and college professor of Information Technology. While we were growing up, he’d paint in his home studio during the day and teach Art classes at night. My mom worked as an office administrator, so she’d be at work all day and be home with us at night. There are four years separating my brother, sister and I (with me being the eldest), and I’d fight them tooth and nail to decide what we’d watch on TV.

Where did you go to school?

I was accepted into film school, but decided to attend Victoria College at the University of Toronto for an Hon. B.A. in English, instead. My Dad’s advice at the time, “You don’t need a degree to write movies.”

When did you first take an interest in movies?

Movies were a part of my childhood. My parents never took our family on vacation, primarily because we were little hellions in the car, so watching movies in the theatre and at home was one of the big things we’d do as a family… in order to keep the peace.
   Also, we were fortunate growing up in the west end of Toronto because there were two local movie theatres only a 5-minute walk from our house, a review theatre that was a 5-minute bike ride away and yet another theatre that was a 5-minute drive away. Now that I think of it, there were also 3 video rental stores all within walking distance. Anyway, the first film we all watched together in a theatre was Spaceballs and I've never looked back.

• What was your first paying job (in any field)?

I delivered the evening edition of the Toronto Star newspaper when I was ten years old, until I was about fourteen or fifteen. It was a great first job—I’d read the daily comics, sports scores and movie reviews/what’s playing.

Your first film, In Return, was made on a budget of less than $125,000. How did you keep it so low?

Keeping the costs below $125,000 was a testament to two outstanding producers—Mallary Davenport and Will Woods—and a dedicated crew and post-production team that believed in the project and worked for well under their usual rates.
   However, the biggest factor for the low budget was that In Return was part of the ACTRA Toronto Indie Production program (TiP), which supports emerging Toronto filmmakers by providing ACTRA members at below scale. We were a Class II Production with a total budget under $125,000.

You shot scenes of that film in prime Toronto locations such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramics and the CN Tower. Was this done guerrilla-style or did you have all the paperwork in place?

No, this wasn’t an Escape From Tomorrow-esque production. It was all on the up and up. However, we only had a few hours in each of these locations so the pre-planning before shooting was so important because there was no room in the schedule or budget to get a second chance or day. We shot it in eleven-and-a-half days over 
three weeks with only one RED camera.
    Fortunately, we shot in the AGO and Gardiner after-hours, so we were able to shoot without interruption or worry other than time. However, we shot in the CN Tower during operating hours, which was intense as busloads of tourists kept arriving making it quite the challenge for our sound team. For Terrazza Restaurant and Shop Girls, I knew the owners of both and they were so gracious giving up their spaces for the shoot during off-hours.

Given that the big trends in film today are action and horror, what attracted you to write and direct a romantic comedy?

I enjoy romantic comedies. Really, I do. I enjoy watching indie films like Tiny Furniture, Drinking Buddies and Safety Not Guaranteed. I was also attracted to the fact that I hadn’t seen a romantic comedy set in Toronto. Toronto is used often as a substitute for New York or an anonymous American city. I thought I could contribute.

Over the last few years, romantic comedies have been superceded by ‘bromance’ stories. Do you think that trend is likely to continue?

I think romantic comedies are alive and well. Films like Silver Linings Playbook, Ruby Sparks and Enough Said are all great. The endings are subtle reminders that it could still work out. Ultimately, from what I’ve read and heard, film executives, agents, filmmakers and filmgoers are simply looking for fresh takes on stories and genres. I think the relentless pursuit of finding new labels for the marketing and classification of films is a trend that will continue.

What is your all-time favourite romantic comedy?

The Apartment (1960).
I also love a short film by Francois Truffaut called Antoine and Colette. I love Truffaut.

What are three things you wish someone had told you about filmmaking when you were starting out?

1. Be prepared to direct ADR.
2. At times, filmmaking is a “hurry up to slow down” process. You continuously work to meet various deadlines and then there’s this excruciating period of anxiety where you’re waiting for answers and all you can do is wait… Then wait some more.
3. Eat healthy food and stretch when on-set.

If you had to suggest just one screenwriting book to a newbie writer in Adelaide, which one would it be?

The first one I bought was Dave Trottier’s The Screenwriter's Bible. It’s very straight-forward and unpretentious. That said, there are podcasts like Chicks Who Script and Scriptnotes for tips, advice and industry musings. 
   Oh, but I would say that every aspiring writer should get a Twitter account and follow people like @briankoppelman, @lexialex, @mysteryexec, @mysterybritexec, @adelscreenwri and others who consistently tweet out articles, advice and observations. But be warned, Twitter is highly addictive.

Besides The Apartment, what are your ten favourite (favourite, not ‘best’) movies of all time?

Hmm… With apologies to Bette Davis, Bogart and Welles
400 Blows (1959)
Swingers (1996)
Clueless (1995)
Pickpocket (1959)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Uncle Buck (1989)
Rear Window (1954)
Goodfellas (1990)
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Jackie Brown (1997)
What’s next for Chris Dymond?


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Unknown said...

Another generous director willing to help other filmmakers with honest advice.

I'm definitely going to get that movie!

Unknown said...

There is a comment on IMDB that the trailer and the movie are unfindable. The movie is not for sale in Amazon. There is a comment on the website that "IN RETURN found distribution with eOne and is now available on VOD and iTunes."

Does this mean I can't get a physical DVD of the movie?