James’ short film “WALKING SUPPLY” was awarded “Best Cinematography” at the May 2017 CANADIAN Film Festival.
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?
James McDougall: I was reading about Russian history in the wee hours of the morning and stumbled across some terrifying true stories. During Stalin’s regime, when two prisoners would escape a Gulag, they would sometimes bring along a third man whose sole purpose would be for meat if they began to starve. That idea both disturbed me, and made me want to delve deeper into that story. I identified with the third man, and started to think about how scary it would be to find yourself in the middle of the Siberian wilderness with two men who are stronger and faster, and finding out that you were brought along to be eaten. I not only wanted to write this story but I wanted to play the role of the unsuspecting victim. I really connected with that character and knew I needed to play him from the beginning. That, coupled with the fact that we recently did a huge gear upgrade at our company Mountain Man Media and Derek Barnes and myself were itching to shoot something with the new toys made for a perfect combo that got our idea into action. I was also really motivated by the challenge of pulling off something this ambitious. It’s a period piece set in the wilderness, in 1950 U.S.S.R., and in the dead of winter. As an actor this felt like a role of a lifetime and I wanted to do it justice.
From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
Well, I started thinking about making this short about three years ago but Derek Barnes and I began writing it January 2016, we wrote multiple drafts, and went to camera soon after in March 2016. We shot 2 days, broke for a month while the seasons changed and myself and the other actors lost some weight (about 20 pounds each), and then went back to shooting our final 4 days in mid April. We submitted some rough cuts to a few festivals before but our film was officially finished in Sept. 2016.
How would you describe your short film in two words!?
What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
The biggest obstacle was probably shooting WALKING SUPPLY over 6 days in the wilderness. Lots of complications can come up when shooting outdoors, especially in the winter. We were an indie production, all out of pocket and we couldn’t afford trailers or heating tents and the cast and crew were notified in advance to dress warm and that they may have to poop in the woods. Everyone who came out totally played ball and lots of the shoot felt like an epic camping trip / hike. We had to journey up steep trails, trudge through swamps, get tied off on high cliffs, and the first 2 days were shot overnight in the blistering cold Canadian winter. It was a challenge, but tons of fun.
What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
My initial reaction to the feedback was just feeling very grateful. I was really happy to hear peoples thoughts on our film and to hear that lots of people loved it and were really invested in the characters and the story was really cool and the most an actor/screenwriter could hope for. Even the constructive criticism was great to hear as we were currently developing a feature version of WALKING SUPPLY and any feedback helps immensely. I was also honoured to learn that we won best Cinematography as Derek Barnes who is my co-producer / co-writer / and the director of the short also was the director of photography and he put so much effort into the overall look of the film. He and our awesome crew really went all out in shooting this with epic drone shots, some stellar crane work, and Derek was even was tied of on a cliff standing on a ladder at one point just to grab a shot. I’m so glad Derek received some recognition for his stellar cinematography.
Watch the Audience FEEDBACK of the short film:
How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
It began when I was reading about some terrifying Russian history about how when two prisoners would escape a Gulag they would sometimes bring along a third man to kill and eat if they needed sustenance. So while the actual idea is inspired by true events, Derek Barnes and I came up with the story for WALKING SUPPLY by researching many historical facts from 1950 U.S.S.R. and coming up with fictional characters set in that world.
What film have you seen the most in your life?
Good Will Hunting
What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
What I Got by Sublime
What is next for you? A new film?
It’s been a good year so far. I’m an actor first and foremost and was very lucky to recently book a principal role on CONDOR, a new TV series shooting in Toronto. That has been an absolute dream to be apart of. I also booked a supporting role in the upcoming rom-com feature THE PERFECT KISS which is set to premiere in winter 2017. On the filmmaking front I just finished producing my first feature film, an experimental piece called LANGUAGE directed by Elizabeth Lazebnik. It is essentially King Lear performed by 11 actors who all speak a different language. The creative team behind it is incredible and we are very excited to hit the 2018 film festival circuit. And lastly, Derek Barnes and myself are working with an amazing and accomplished producer right now developing WALKING SUPPLY into a feature. The script is coming along quite nicely. I’m loving the character development, twists, turns, action, and suspense we are able to explore in a full length version. Once we are happy with where the script is at we’ll be shopping it around and hopefully returning to the wilderness to shoot sometime in the near future.
Thanks so much Matthew and your entire team at Wild Sound Festival! It’s been a joy to be apart of and it’s amazing what you do. Thanks for continuing to support indie filmmakers through screenings, feedback sessions, and just helping to get the word out about our films. I’ll definitely keep submitting our films your way and I encourage other filmmakers to do the same. All the best!
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.