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Director interview: Michael Peterson on ‘Knuckleball’

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Knuckleball
Knuckleball plays Oct. 18 at Imagine Cinemas - Carlton in Toronto and is now available on iTunes and VOD. Photo courtesy GAT PR.

From Calgary-based director Michael Peterson (Lloyd The Conqueror), Knuckleball is a gritty and exhilarating thriller centered on 12-year-old Henry, a young boy who finds himself in a terrifying situation after his grandfather suddenly dies in the middle of the night. Knuckleball, co-written by Peterson and Kevin Cockle, has been described as “Home Alone” meets “The Shining.”

Peterson spoke with The Mutt during the Knuckleball’s Oct. 18 screening at Imagine Cinemas – Carlton in Toronto. This interview has been edited for length.

THE MUTT: So to start off, what’s the film about? How do you tend to introduce the concept to people?

MICHAEL PETERSON: Well, there are a lot of different ways to talk about it. The elevator pitch is that it’s an R-rated Home Alone. I think on the surface that’s true, but hopefully there’s a lot more going on with it. It’s a dark thriller that seems to also connect with some of the horror crowd. It has some horrific things in it, but I would really describe it as a dark thriller.

TM: Some really positive reviews coming from a number of outlets so far – what’s your reaction to the positive press?

MP: Well, it’s pretty flattering that you put this thing out there and people are responding to it more or less in the way you hoped they would. 

TM: You talked about that Home Alone comparison – do you think that adequately prepares audiences for what transpires in the film, or is that just a starting block to catch people’s attention?

MP: I think that’s really what it is. It’s a quick and cheap method to transfer information really quickly. It’s really something different, but it’s just that that film is so iconic. If you’re making anything with a kid in danger, where the kid has to defend themselves, you’re going to end up with that comparison anyways. So it might also be a way to control the conversation so people can either disagree with it or agree with it.

TM: With your protagonist being a child, what sort of challenges does that raise in terms of creating tension but also keeping things grounded and believable? Because obviously we need to be able to believe that this child is capable of fighting back. In the writing process, how did you deal with that?

MP: Well, the idea was, how would a 12-year-old – not your average 12-year-old, but a pretty smart 12-year-old, a capable 12-year-old – be able to deal with this? So we wanted to make it within the realm of possibility. Obviously, it’s still a movie, but that was an important consideration. We didn’t want to veer too far into the world of the fantastical, or like an ‘80s action film. We wanted to keep it somewhat grounded.

TM: Why did you want to explore how a kid would handle a situation like this?

MP: It’s just probably dealing with my anxiety of being a parent, is really what it is. You hope that your children will be able to deal with the world outside on their own and be safe and happy.

TM: I’m not a parent myself, but the world these days and all the crazy stuff going on, you still worry about the world-at-large. Did your experience as a parent with a kid growing up in this world influence how you approached this movie?

MP: Definitely. My kids are a little bit older now, but they’re still young. They’re around the age of the kid in this film. Yeah, I mean, you think about that. You hope they are making good decisions if they see something that isn’t right.  Underneath all of that there is some other themes that are at play, like what happens if someone grows up with the absence of love and that’s normalized? How does that warp your view of the world? How do the bad things that every family has, how do they resurface and come up again, even if you try to protect your kids from those legacy-type situations?

TM: So those are heavier themes than you might find in a typical thriller.

MP: Yeah. They are there if you’re a parent when you watch the film, but I also don’t think you need to pay attention to them to enjoy the film. If you don’t want to engage in that, you don’t have to. The movie also just functions as a thriller. But you can also get a deeper experience – that stuff exists within the story and the characters in the film.

TM: Obviously, Lloyd the Conqueror was a comedy and this is a completely different beast. Did you find the transition between the two genres an easy one to make?

MP: I think the similarity between the two is you’re dealing with very visceral types of emotions. You don’t have to deal with it intellectually – either something is funny or something is frightening, and that’s how I think comedy and horrors or thrillers are similar. As a director, your ethic is to the story. Whatever the story is, you want to tell it the best way possible.

TM: I want to ask about Michael Ironside. He’s got one of those all-time great voices. What was that experience like and how was he able to complement the vibe you were going for?

MP: He was a really great collaborator. He’s someone I grew up admiring as an actor, so to get a chance to work with him was something of a highlight for me personally. I also think he fit that role really well. There were stories that he told me about his dad, not directly related to our story but character traits that he described to me that, once I heard them, I decided to put them in the script. I think it became a way for him to find a really personal connection to that character.

TM:  With Knuckleball now on VOD and those screenings coming up in Toronto, what’s your pitch to folks who haven’t seen it yet to check it out?

MP: I think it’s 90 minutes of thrilling and tense, edge-of-your-seat action, with an excellent cast that bring their ‘A’ game. Thirdly, and this isn’t a reason to see it, but it’s something to hopefully be celebrated, is that it’s all Canadian. We can make really cool, watchable films that can play other countries and do well there, too.

Knuckleball plays Oct. 18 at Imagine Cinemas – Carlton in Toronto. The film is now available on iTunes and VOD. For more information, click here.

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Schitt’s Creek to conclude after next season

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The popular CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek will conclude with its sixth and final season, star and co-creator Dan Levy announced in a statement today. Photo courtesy CBC.
The popular CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek will conclude with its sixth and final season, star and co-creator Dan Levy announced in a statement today. Photo courtesy CBC.

The popular CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek will end at the conclusion of its sixth season, series co-creator and star Dan Levy announced March 21.

“We are so grateful to have been given the time and creative freedom to tell this story in its totality, concluding with a final chapter that we had envisioned from the very beginning,” Levy said in a statement. “It’s not lost on us what a rare privilege it is in this industry to get to decide when your show should take its final bow.”

Schitt’s Creek premiered on CBC in 2015, becoming one of the network’s most successful half-hour comedies ever. The show follows the fish-out-of-water Rose family, forced to assimilate into a small town after they lose their family fortune.

Though the show’s first season received mixed reviews, it grew in regard with both fans and critics over subsequent iterations. Schitt’s Creek’s fifth season, which premiered on January 8, 2019, scored a 100 per cent “Fresh” ranking on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.

The show is also among select company among Canadian sitcoms, drawing strong viewership in the United States and elsewhere thanks to distribution on Netflix and the American Pop network. Critics have reacted favourably to recent episodes, with TV Guide’s Megan Vick writing that each season of Schitt’s Creek has “gotten better and better.”

Read Levy’s full statement below.

New episodes of Schitt’s Creek air Tuesday nights at 9/9:30 NT on CBC.

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Watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short “Animal Behaviour”

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The National Film Board of Canada is offering Canadians the opportunity to watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film "Animal Behaviour" until the end of today. Photo courtesy NFB
The National Film Board of Canada is offering Canadians the opportunity to watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film "Animal Behaviour" until the end of today. Photo courtesy NFB

To get prepped for the 91st Academy Awards, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is offering Canadians the chance to check out Animal Behaviour, nominated tonight in the Best Animated Short Film category.

Animal Behaviour is a new short from Alison Snowden and David Fine, who previously won an Oscar in 1994 for Bob’s Birthday. The short is the 75th Oscar nomination for the NFB, and the first short film for Snowden and Fine since Bob’s Birthday. The 91st Oscars air tonight at 8 Eastern on ABC and CTV.

Watch Animal Behaviour below (expires tonight).

Next up on The Mutt: Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed

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Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed

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Wynonna Earp Season 3 Episode 11/12 - "Daddy Lessons/War Paint". Photo courtesy Bell Media
Wynonna Earp Season 4 is in jeopardy, according to the The Hollywood Reporter, due to financial difficulties. Photo courtesy Space

All of a sudden, Wynonna Earp is in Purgatory.

Earpers were stunned Thursday night when executive producer and showrunner Emily Andras posted (and subsequently deleted) a tweet suggesting that fans of the show may soon have to fight for it. Another tweet, posted shortly later, took a decidedly more straight-forward approach.

Andras appeared to be responding to the news that funding for the fourth season of Wynonna Earp appeared to be on shaky ground, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. According to THR, financial challenges faced by IDW Entertainment have stalled production on Season 4, despite the company being contractually obligated to deliver the show to Syfy.

In response to the news, Earpers took to Twitter with the hashtag #FightForWynonna, which at the time of publication was one of the top Twitter trends in Canada. Though Season 4 has yet to be officially cancelled, IDW has yet to commit to a start date for the new season.

“IDW is committed to continuing to tell the Wynonna Earp story,” the company said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Much like the fans, we are passionate about not only the series, but the comics, the characters and the overall message that the Wynonna Earp franchise carries. We are in the process of working out the details for how the Wynonna story will continue and will share new details very soon.”

Our resident Earper, Ghezal Amiri, was a big fan of Season 3, writing that the show’s season finale, entitled “War Paint”, was a “wildly emotional conclusion.” Read her recap here.

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