Toronto International Film Festival 2020
Short Cuts
Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux

Rules for Werewolves

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As teens ransack a suburban home for food and clothing, one recounts how he got there and how desperation has changed him.

Hi Jeremy thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times?

Thanks for talking to me and being interested in our short and all the stuff you’re doing at The New Current, it’s great. I’m doing alright!

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?

I work in a few different parts of movies / tv / music videos, and I keep on managing to team up with, or find (sometimes they find me) people that are the very best. I’ve been getting the chance to make things with my favourite band, my favourite actors, my favourite novelist & screenwriter, the best cinematographers, the best producers, sound designers, composers… This is something that I feel both lucky and proud of. 

And somehow even during quarantine they are continuing to drum up fun projects for us or help me cook up my own. And so I don’t know if this time has offered me new inspiration but it has still been fruitful. I even co-directed a zoom thing that’s actually really pretty neat.

It has felt like a time to sort of pull out and see the movies / tv / music video world and my place in it from a different perspective. More than that I think it’s been getting re-taught a bit of how messed up our world and our country is in terms of inequality and injustice, and trying to understand my own issues and part in that.

More than that I think it’s been time to gain more understanding on how messed up our world and our country is in terms of inequality and injustice, and trying to understand my own part in that. 

Congratulations on having Rules for Werewolves as part of TIFF Short Cuts, how does it feel to have your film a part of such an amazing lineup of short films?

Thanks! I’m very excited to watch the other shorts. We had a chat with a few of the other filmmakers from my programme and hearing more about their projects has me very anxious to see them, especially Tank Standing Buffalo’s RKLSS. Succor was made with a crew of people I really like too and I’m looking forward to that.

What was it about Kirk Lynn's screenplay that interested you so much as a director?

Rules for Werewolves is originally a novel, also written by Kirk. It’s a masterpiece, and reading it ripped up my heart and then smushed it back together somehow both stronger and more vulnerable than before. And there’s a little spark in it that made me feel like I kind of… belonged to it? Coming of age and kids with rough edges looking for some shred of magic to cling to is the story I’ve chased around my whole life.

"Making movies is really hard and really fun, but it’s that shared experience that will sustain you." 

You have an amazing cast, how did you go about casting Rules for Werewolves?

Reading the book (and then Kirk’s feature screenplay), I always saw Finn Wolfhard as Bobert. He’s a friend who I’ve been making different cool stuff with for years (his own debut short as director, ‘Night Shifts’ – that I cut – just had its world premiere at Fantasia. It’s great.). His performances can inhabit tough and surprising and badass places, while staying so vulnerable and relatable, and then just crack you up with sudden, spur-of-the-moment humour and choices. He’s the best.

I hadn’t met Kelcey Mawema before. She sent in a tape that was super minimal, with this spooky focus, and then came in for a meeting with the opposite energy, totally comfortable and outgoing and creative. I think it’s cool when people show different sides to themselves and I guess I’m into actors who seem to be able to create multi-faceted characters. And then she kind of put this shoot on her back during production, as she had to carry this single-take dance while still making it feel fresh and somehow arcing the story, which I think she did beautifully.

Kelcey and the other Werewolves were brought in by our casting directors Kara and Kris. Their ability to combine experienced performers with street-cast kids really set up our wolfpack. And then they all kind of created it for themselves on the day, being super generous and talented and wild on a pretty crazy production.

Can you tell me a little bit about Rules for Werewolves, what was the inspiration for this film?

There’s a part of the novel that was really challenging to fit into the screenplay. It was also one of my very favourite parts. So we pulled that out and made it into the backbone of a short.

Are you a flexible director and allow for changes or do you prefer to stick to what has been written?

I think I’m pretty flexible. I try to have a strong gameplan, but I think that’s mainly so that there’s lots of room for everyone on the team to bring their own ideas and experience to it, and get funky and creative in prep and on the day. Kirk Lynn was on set the whole time, and we would kind of huddle up after shots and figure out what was working and what wasn’t, and I was amazed at how flexible and in-the-moment he was with the language and dialogue. I’d sometimes be pulling him back like, “no no let’s try it again how you wrote it.”

When did you realise you wanted to turn Rules for Werewolves into a feature film?

Kirk had written the first draft of the screenplay and we’d been developing it as a feature since before we started thinking about the short. I was excited about the feature after I finished the first 5 pages of the book!

What was the most challenging part of making this film for you?

Probably the very beginning of the movie, shooting that. There were a lot of moving parts and we were shooting on 35mm film and I really wanted to avoid that overly choreographed feeling you often get in single-take scenes. But our team, especially (cinematographer) Cole Graham and our cast and our producer Kristoff Duxbury all kind of understood the feeling we were trying to create and it ended up being very fun and rewarding.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

Being a kid watching movies like The Goonies, I always wanted to go on adventures like that with my pals. Then I got a bit older and found out that those were just films and characters, you couldn’t really do that stuff. So making them became the next best thing. And then it turns out that making them -  especially with your friends -  IS one of those adventures. 

How much has your background as an award-winning editor influence your filmmaking?

I think editing is a huge influence on me directing. I’ve gotten to work with great directors and learn from then. Also I think while editing I get to spend so much time kind of “in the trenches” with storytelling and performance and rhythm etc. I think most new directors are lucky if they get on set a few days a year, but through editing I’m working with those building blocks almost every day, collaborating with a team and seeing how it can come together to move an audience. Plus, I think it helps me be pretty confident in imagining how disparate setups will come together, the few things we really need to nail a scene if time gets tight.

Is there any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

In line with a lot of the stuff above, I’d say to try and work with, and keep working with, and keep finding, people you love. Making movies is really hard and really fun, but it’s that shared experience that will sustain you. 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Rules for Werewolves?

I guess I hope in its 10 minutes it moves people at least a little bit. Maybe to think about the magic in their own lives. Maybe to notice, (even the tiniest little bit!) that kids, the ones we are supposed to be creating a safe space for, are instead getting fucked over in a million old and new ways. And that if they’re turning wild it’s not something to try and stop; it might actually be our only hope.