Since 2012, Luke Gordon Field has worked as editor-in-chief on The Beaverton, the online Canadian satirical news site. He’s penned many of the site’s most viral articles (“Local man just wants to have a respectful debate with these Libtards“) and still writes for the website while pulling double-duty as executive producer for The Beaverton on the Comedy Network, which was confirmed for season three on June 7. He spoke with The Mutt on future plans for the series, the challenges (and potential joys) of covering Premier-Designate Doug Ford and the show’s place in the Canadian comedy continuum.
The Mutt: What comedy voices do you think influence The Beaverton and your own comedy writing?
LGF: Obviously, The Onion has been around a lot longer than us and is a huge influence on everyone who tries to write satire, whether it be us or any other TV show. That’s definitely the most direct influence and then beyond that, I’m 31, so like a ton of people my age, Jon Stewart was kind of my hero growing up. When the Colbert Report started, it started when I got old enough to stay up to watch it. So those were my two guys throughout my teenage years because it was perfectly timed for me. Those are definitely huge influences on me as a writer for the show, but also the website. Everything you enjoy influences you in some way or another.
TM: You mentioned Jon Stewart — he always talked about doing a show with intention and a point-of-view. Is that something that you incorporate in your writing?
LGF: Yeah, absolutely. When you’re doing a satirical show, the funniest joke is great. But the jokes I think work the best are obviously funny but also have a very strong point-of-view. We’re so privileged to make the show, so if we don’t use the show to push a positive agenda, an agenda for change and use it to speak truth to power and defend people who are marginalized, then really what’s the point of doing the show? So that’s always the goal, and of course you have to balance that with trying to be entertaining. You can’t just be lecturing people for 22 minutes every Wednesday night. It’s a constant balancing act, but it’s also a lot of fun to do.
TM: With things being so polarized now, especially online, do you find that when you guys do take on a point-of-view, does a kind of vitriol tend to come back at you? Say, when you go after Trump?
LGF: I mean, we’re in an interesting place in Canada because I think Trump supporters don’t know what to do with us. They come across us, they don’t know the name, they don’t know the website, so when that crossover happens it’s usually more confusion than anything else. Certainly, as much as we talk about the vitriol in the United States, Canada’s not immune to that. So when we write pieces about hot-button issues, whether it be abortion or Rebel Media, things that tend to get people very fired up, they definitely come after us and use a certain level of vitriol. At the same time, we dish it out so of course we have to take it. There’s nothing that we can really get upset about. Honestly, I don’t worry about it very much because I have a very strong policy of, I don’t read the comments. So whatever people are saying, I don’t really see it.
TM: Doing 13 episodes per season, you’re in a unique space compared to a Daily Show or even a 22 Minutes. When you guys are talking about what you want to cover content-wise, how do you balance it out? Obviously, Trump tends to take the air out of the room, so how do you balance that coverage against other shows who are covering that news on a daily basis?
LGF: Doing 13 episodes really allows you to find where your priorities are. It allows you to not spend as much time on the day-to-day craziness of, ‘Trump tweeted this’ or ‘Trump said that’ kind of stuff. You can focus more on the issues that are actually important and actually ripe for satire. And focus on the stuff that isn’t necessarily front page of the newspaper or the front page of Reddit that day. Which is the stuff that, not to sound arrogant, but it’s the stuff that matters more to people’s day-to-day lives.
TM: In that way, do you feel like you’re almost in a situation like Last Week Tonight?
LGF: The nice thing is that there have been a lot of weekly satire shows — Last Week Tonight, (Full Frontal with Samantha Bee) — it’s less of a daily thing. Obviously everyone still loves The Daily Show, but there’s also Seth Meyers and Kimmel and all these other people who are in the satire world now. So being a weekly show, we do look more to the weekly shows because like us they’re able to have that kind of broader lens in which they look at the world and not get so focused on what happened that day. I’m also a really big fan of some of the UK shows that popped up, like The Mash Report and the classics like Brass Eye. Those were also huge influences on us.
TM: Coming as a satire show in Canada and following the legacy of some of these Canadian satirical shows, how do you see your place in that continuum?
LGF: Yeah, there’s such a great legacy of satire in Canada. I’m not sure enough young people appreciate that 22 Minutes was doing their thing way before Jon Stewart came along. We certainly want to carry the torch and carry on the great tradition of those shows, including Mercer obviously, but we also thought there was room for something that was a little bit sharper and a little bit younger in outlook. I mean, I’m 31 and my writers make me feel ancient. It’s a nice way to appreciate the tradition that came before and do our own thing. It’s not exactly the same as what came before, but we want to pick up on what the shows that have been so successful have done.
TM: So, I gotta ask you about Doug Ford.
LGF: [Laughs] Oh, god.
TM: Especially considering you’re located in Ontario. Are you excited for the prospect of covering him or are you exhausted already?
LGF: I actually am excited. With Trump especially, who is kind of clearly a parallel for Doug Ford, that first year was so insane that I think what you’re seeing now is a bit of Trump fatigue. I think with Doug, it’s going to be similar in a sense that that first year is just going to be nuts, and then after a while we might get sick of talking about him. But right now, it’s very much in the mindset of, ‘What could happen next? This is exciting! Terrible, but exciting!’ I am excited to satirize him and go after him. Don’t get me wrong, I hope he turns out to be a great premier and there’s nothing really to make fun of, but I think the odds of that are pretty slim.
TM: This new season of The Beaverton, any changes in terms of format? How do you see it evolving?
LGF: I think you always want to keep improving, unless you’ve created an absolutely perfect TV show. I’m very proud of the show and think the best thing we did from season one and season two was made it a more topical show, made it more relevant to the news of the week. I certainly think we can continue improving that while also not forgetting those issues that aren’t necessarily front page but are still very vital. But I think we’re definitely going to introduce new segments, we always want to be on the lookout for new talent and new voices we can add to our writing staff as well as our cast. We’re still in the very early stages of working on season three, but it’ll definitely continue to evolve and grow which I think every show that gets lucky enough to get renewed has a responsibility to do.
Follow Luke Gordon Field on Twitter.
CUFF 2019: Director Rob Grant on the tension (and dark comedy) of HARPOON
Adrift on the seas on a luxury yacht, three friends find themselves stranded without food or supplies and quickly realize their survival is less than assured. An official selection at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019, Harpoon will make its Canadian premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) April 28.
The Mutt spoke with director Rob Grant prior to the film’s screening at CUFF. This interview has been edited and condensed for length.
THE MUTT: Can you tell me a bit about the genesis of Harpoon?
ROB GRANT: I had a great relationship with my producers (Knuckleball director Michael Peterson and Kurtis Harder) from a film called Fake Blood. I pitched Mr. Peterson on this idea that was a mix between Polanski’s Knife on the Water but by way of Seinfeld characters on the boat. I grew up in Vancouver, and the original idea was, “Well, I spent a lot of time on a boat, we could go take a boat out to the ocean and try to isolate ourselves out there.” Once a budget came into play and the idea grew, suddenly we were shooting the interiors of the boat in a set in the middle of freezing winter in Calgary, and shooting the exteriors on a boat in tropical Belize down south.
TM: Was it difficult for you to balance those comedic elements and still find a way to ratchet up the tension?
RG: It was very difficult, and there were a lot of discussions about that. When you have to give the elevator pitch, you have to say: “This is the genre and this is what it means.” But I subscribe to the logic that in life you can feel in one moment that you’re in a love story and the next minute in a horror movie, and that’s the way real life actually works. But it seems a little more rigid in movies. We were aware of potentially disrupting viewers’ experiences of watching the movie. (We thought) a movie could, or should, be multiple things at once. We’re willing to accept that there’s going to be some audience members that are going to reject that as a movie experience, but we wanted to try it.
TM: Can you tell me more about those influences you mentioned? I’m curious about how you mixed something like Seinfeld with more traditional thriller elements.
RG: Hitchcock’s Lifeboat was definitely in there, as well as Polanski’s Knife in the Water. But I had to still find the dark humour in it, and Seinfeld came up specifically because as much as we all find the Seinfeld characters enduring, they’re very much in it for themselves. They’re worried about their own outcomes. So I tried to use a lot of that. As much as these people like to say they’re looking out for each other, the second it becomes a survival story they’re all kind of in it for themselves. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia was another one, not only for mixing drama and humour, but definitely because the narration was less focused. It sets up what’s going to happen without speaking to much on the nose about what you’re about to see.
TM: I understand there’s some great gore and effects in Harpoon. What was your approach to that, and what effect do you think that has?
RG: I’ve explored the effects of violence in cinema with Fake Blood, and this was an extension of that. The entire movie, these people speak very casually and aloof about the things that potentially will need to be done without actually considering what that entails until suddenly when it happens. I felt like it would be a good idea to make sure that was extremely violent and horrible, not only because we’ve been teasing up to this moment, but I do believe there’s a certain element that people do not consider the actual realities of having to do something like that. So it’s very shocking, very brutal, it’s like, “ha ha ha this was all funny to discuss” and now that it’s happened it sucks the wind out of you. That was a very intentional decision.
TM: What do you think Harpoon does in a unique way when compared to other similar films? What do you hope the audience walks away with?
RG: I hope when people leave the cinema that it wasn’t the movie they were expecting, that it was a little bit of a different take. I do think it’ll challenge them depending what their expectations are. I just hope they’re expecting something interesting in the genre, and that they’re along for the ride.
Harpoon makes its Canadian premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival April 28. For tickets, click here.
Click here to read our roundup of 9 Canadian films playing at CUFF 2019.
CUFF 2019: The story behind Uwe Boll, the so-called “worst filmmaker” ever
Director of the critically-maligned video game adaptations Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead and BloodRayne, Uwe Boll has long held a unfavourable reputation in the film industry not only due to the perceived quality of his films, but also due to his antagonistic response to his online “haters.”
But a new documentary, F*** You All: The Uwe Boll Story, seeks to better understand the firebrand filmmaker, diving into Boll’s past through a series of interviews with colleagues, critics and Boll himself.
The Mutt spoke with F*** You All: The Uwe Boll Story Vancouver-based director Sean Patrick Shaul prior to the film’s Alberta premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival April 27. This interview has been edited and condensed for length.
THE MUTT: How did you first become acquainted with Uwe Boll?
SEAN PATRICK SHAUL: I first met Uwe Boll on the set of Assault on Wall Street. I worked as a crew member with him. Seeing him work was so fascinating. The way he directed was like no one I had ever seen before. He was such an interesting guy. That was almost 10 years ago and I ended up working on a TV show that was shooting in his restaurant. That was how I came across the idea for the documentary. The idea was to look at someone who is widely known as the world’s worst director. It was more asking, “Why was he considered that? How did he get that title, and whether or not he was.”
TM: As his persona on the internet developed, did that mesh with what you knew of him? Did you feel he was being portrayed in a way that was inaccurate?
SPS: I had seen some of his movies and I understood the reputation he had. He also fuelled that himself through the internet, engaging with all of these trolls and these critics. He takes it head on, which is fun to watch. But I had no idea what he would say when I pitched the documentary to him. Within five minutes, I realized we had a lot in common. He was excited about the documentary, excited to have that side told of it.
TM: How does Boll feel about being referred to as the “world’s worst director”?
SPS: He thinks it’s very unfair, which I guess I would agree with. Art is subjective, so it’s hard to say whether something is good or bad. But I think he’s also aware of the type of movies he was making. He didn’t think he was making The Godfather. He knew these were video game adaptations movies, so his expectations were low with those. But he has made more personal films (since then), but he already had this black cloud following him around. It stalled his career in that way. I thought that was really interesting – he made 32 movies, but by his fifth movie, people had already written him off.
TM: Why do you think Boll feels the need to respond to his trolls and his critics online?
SPS: I think he’s a very proud guy. He’s aware of his accomplishments and I don’t think he can let a comment like that go. If someone has the motivation to go after him online, he has the equivalent motivation to fire back at them. He hasn’t really calmed down on that too much. I think he’s currently banned from Twitter for going after trolls. It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek for him when he goes after these people. He enjoys it, he likes engaging with them. It became part of his personality. As much as it hurt his career, it also helped his career in a way.
TM: In spending time with Boll, what surprised you about him as you got to know him better?
SPS: Before, I thought he was kind of an asshole, from his online persona, I thought he was just kind of a jerk. Through meeting him, I realized he’s a super sweet guy, he’s a really, really genuinely nice guy. He cares about films, he’s a real film guy. He knows all of the classics, he’s seen all these foreign films – he’s a real cinephile. But there’s something about him not being able to pull that off. All his favourite movies are the classics, but for some reason he can’t make those films himself. He was kind of handcuffed by all these tax loopholes and funding schedules, that he would have to pump these films out in a certain timeframe to get the tax credit. There’s a lot of reasons his earlier films turned out the way they did. They didn’t turn out the way he envisioned.
TM: Given that he knew the documentary wasn’t going to be all positive, why did Boll want to participate?
SPS: I think he just wanted someone who was looking at the larger picture instead of comparing him to a Tommy Wiseau or a Ed Wood. He wanted to explain himself a bit. The articles and the small kinds of podcast interviews don’t really give him enough time to explain himself, or they ask the same five questions. Almost every headline is “world’s worst director” – I think he wanted to look at something deeper. But he wasn’t shying away from that title. I told him early on in production that we’d be definitely looking at that angle and talking about it. He was more than happy to look at it. Most people would want this buried, but he looked at it head on. “I have that title, but let’s look at why.”
F*** You All: The Uwe Boll story plays April 27 at the Calgary Underground Film Festival. For tickets, click here.
Click here to read our roundup of 9 Canadian films playing at CUFF 2019.
Acquainted takes a raw and honest look at modern love
In Acquainted, a new romantic drama from Toronto-based director Natty Zavitz, high school classmates Drew (Giacomo Gianniotti of Grey’s Anatomy) and Emma (Laysla De Oliveria of The Gifted) reunite with each other at a bar and instantly connect, discovering they share some serious chemistry. Problem is, the pair are both in serious, long-term relationships.
The script for the film was partly inspired by the deterioration of Zavitz’s last major relationship, said producer Jonathan Keltz (Entourage, Reign), who also plays Allan in the film.
“(Zavitz) sent me the script almost four years ago and I just connected so deeply and was so blown away by his script,” Keltz said. “(I was blown away) by how defined his voice was. I was completely moved by it.”
Inspired by films such as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset trilogy, Acquainted is an honest look at relationships and adulthood, exploring the subject matter with introspection. Keltz said the film examines fidelity and infidelity from a judgement-free place.
“The characters are not villains or victims. It’s a raw and honest look at being in relationships, to have these type of things happen and how to deal with that,” he said. “The relationship with the self and the seeking to find out who you really are is really what’s crucial to the building of a relationship with somebody else.
“It’s about taking the time to do that work that puts you in the best position to be a partner with somebody and to be an adult in this world.”
Many of the cast and crew on Acquainted have worked in Toronto’s film community for years, making the set of the film a reunion of its own.
“In front of the camera and behind the camera, (the film involves all) kinds of amazing artists. It’s really a Canadian film and a Toronto film,” Keltz said. “It’s not trying to either hide that or beat you over the head with that.
“I think that’s done in a very unique way, and in a way that is both Torontonian and Canadian but also universally and commercially viable.”
Keltz said he thought the film would be emotionally affecting to audiences, offering perspective that could help to contextualize modern love and relationship.
“I think this is a really raw and honest and beautiful film about what it means to be in love, to be heartbroken, to be devastated, to be inspired and to try and build a life for yourself and figure out what that means,” Keltz said.
Acquainted is now playing at Cineplex Movies Yonge and Dundas in Toronto, International Village in Vancouver and at Landmark Cinemas nationwide.
Next up on The Mutt: With maturity and depth, An Audience of Chairs reflects on mental illness