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.
There Are No Fakes is a shocking journey into the world of art fraud
Some of the best documentaries of the past two decades involve hard left turns – films that begin in one direction but end in another due to events that unfolded during production. There Are No Fakes, directed by Jamie Kastner, joins that select company of documentary as its comedic opening slowly morphs into something much darker.
There Are No Fakes centers on the work of Norval Morrisseau, the Indigenous Canadian artist of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation, sometimes referred to as the “Picasso of the North”. Morrisseau, who died in 2007, sought to remove forgeries of his art from the marketplace, establishing the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society in 2005.
After Kevin Hearn (of Barenaked Ladies fame) buys one of Morrisseau’s paintings, he starts to doubt its authenticity and discovers a bizarre feud consolidated around Morrisseau. It’s this conflict, and the dark secrets hidden beneath it, that form the backdrop of There Are No Fakes.
Kastner (The Secret Disco Revolution, Free Trade Is Killing My Mother), who was friends with Hearn in high school, learned through conversation about Hearn’s ongoing lawsuit surrounding the Morrisseau paintings. It became clear to Kastner that such a story would be perfect for his next project.
“It was almost unbelievable. There was so much crazy stuff in this story, I couldn’t quite believe it,” Kastner said. “I told him if I was going to proceed with it, though we were friends he would have no editorial control. As a journalist, I would be talking to both sides, and he agreed.
“I went off on my own doing my own kind of digging and research. Lo and behold, everything he told me and then some turned out to be the case.”
As the story unfolded and as Kastner continued to meet a succession of larger-than-life characters, he found himself shocked at what he uncovered. Bringing footage back to his editor provoked a similar reaction.
“He’d say, ‘Holy f***!’ Then I’d do another one, and he’s quite an even-keeled guy, and he’d say ‘holy f***,’” Kastner said. “So it was a series of ‘holy f***’ moments. I tried to recreate that experience for the audience.”
Documentaries can often unfold much as expected, with a known story dictating the outcome of the production. But given the fluid situation surrounding the events of There Are No Fakes, Kastner followed the story as it led him, knowing he had been handed an incredible gift.
“It’s definitely a privilege and a responsibility (to tell this story). You’re dealing with the legacy of one of our most important artists,” he said. “You wind up dealing with very serious issues of abuse of different kinds, so I felt a real responsibility.
“You have to handle it very carefully as a documentary filmmaker. It really is so unique and unusual and special and horrific and inspiring and a whole range of things that you don’t usually get in one film.”
There Are No Fakes made its world premiere at Hot Docs 2019, receiving highly positive reviews. Kastner said the film provided fascinating insight into the legacy of Morrisseau, touching on multiple problems still at play in Canada.
“It’s a very dramatic story. People can’t believe that they’re real people. They seem like characters out of some HBO series or something,” Kastner said. “I think it’s a very entertaining, edge of your seat, jaw-dropping type of story that happens to be a documentary.”
There Are No Fakes will screen at multiple locations throughout Canada in July 2019. For more information, click here.
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Isabelle brings psychological terror to an idyllic neighbourhood
In a quaint New England neighbourhood, a charming young couple (Adam Brody and Amanda Crew) find the perfect home to move into. But what they find in that home complicates their dream to start a family, as darkness and paranoia emerges in director Rob Heydon’s Isabelle.
Following in the footsteps of other psychological horrors such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, Isabelle comes from a screenplay written by Donald Martin (Milton’s Secret). Having grown up watching genre films like The Omen and The Shining, Heydon approached the project looking to put his own stamp on psychological terror.
“Reading the script, I just got into it cold. Then once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down,” Heydon said. “I thought a lot about what other references it could be like and how I could help bring something to the story and the storytelling.”
Much like other films in the genre, Heydon’s intention for Isabelle was to emphasize the psychology of the terror as a priority. That meant slowly building up the characters and introducing new elements throughout the runtime of the film.
“In a sense, it’s trying to tell a story in three arcs and build the audience’s expectations up to the third act,” Heydon said. “We used the combination of cinematography and editing and music to bring the audience into the mind of the main character and have the audience experience what our main characters are going through.”
The strength of the cast – which includes Brody, Crew and Zoë Belkin as Isabelle – was essential given the nature of the material. Brody was the first to sign on, but other cast members took longer to materialize.
“Amanda Crew wasn’t available at the same time. So it took almost two years to put together the cast,” Heydon said. “But when their calendars lined up, we also got some amazing talent to surround them. Belkin, Sheila McCarthy, who played Isabelle’s mom… we were really lucky.”
Isabelle shot in Hamilton, Ont., with old Victorian homes posing as New England. Beyond the locale, Heydon said the cost savings attained shooting in Hamilton were significant.
“In Toronto, to rent a house for a day might be 10 or 15 thousand per day. In Hamilton, we were lucky to get three houses right next to each other for 20 days for $20,000,” he said. “You just can’t find that anywhere in Toronto.”
Having initially premiered in South Korea as part of the Busan Film Festival (along with fellow Canadian horror Lifechanger), Isabelle will now open to a larger release in Canada. Heydon said genre aficionados should find much to enjoy in Isabelle.
“I’d say read what the film’s about and check out the trailer – I think the trailer says it all. And if you’re interested, come check it out,” he said.
Isabelle begins its theatrical run in Toronto June 28 at the Carlton Cinema. For more information, click here.
Next up on The Mutt: Horror materializes in unconventional ways in Things Fall Apart
Horror materializes in unconventional ways in Things Fall Apart
Those familiar with Hussein Juma, director and writer of Things Fall Apart, know that it’s somewhat fruitless to attempt to fully summarize his work. That’s largely by design – Juma himself says he enjoys injecting ambiguity into his projects.
But more than that, what’s exciting about Juma as a director is his ability to create a sense of atmospheric dread based heavily on context and character and not cliché. So horror fans on the hunt for films that are likely to surprise should take note of what Juma says about his first feature, Things Fall Apart.
“If you like arthouse cinema, things that are going to challenge you and even scare you a little too, I think this film would be for you,” Juma says. “If you’re interested in new ways to tell stories, in indie cinema and the way it can reframe things and put them in different contexts, I think there’s a lot to think about with this film.”
That unique approach to story was evident throughout Juma’s 12-episode web series Horse Mask, a surreal horror that centres around a missing daughter, a forest and many mysterious masks. Though Things Fall Apart is Juma’s first feature, he says working on Horse Mask helped prepare him, given the fact that the runtime of that web series evens out to be around the length of a feature.
Set during a dinner party, Things Fall Apart lets audiences act as a sort of fly on the wall as tensions and emotions emerge.
“Things progressively get more tense between the characters. I think there’s a good balance — there are those moments where you’re going to feel uncomfortable, there are moments where you’re going to be scared, there are moments where you’re going to feel like, ‘What the hell is going on right now?’” Juma says.
Furthering his desire to tell a story in a fresh way, Juma says he employed improvised dialogue throughout Things Fall Apart, making up 80 per cent of the dialogue. Though actors were provided with full scripts, dialogue was written in beats that guided where conversations would go.
“When we finally selected our actors, we extensively rehearsed it multiple times. That was a really cool process,” Juma says. “I had a bare-bones, skeleton idea of where I wanted each conversation to go, but these actors got so into it and took it to interesting places. (Many times) I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s great. We have to keep that.’”
The cast, which includes Chengis Javeri (one of the leads in Horse Mask), Bobbi Goddard, Gina Lorene and more, was already familiar to Juma, giving him confidence that they would be able to pull off the improvised dialogue. Juma says surrounding himself with smart, funny people led to a number of happy accidents that made their way into the finished product.
Other times, Juma says he would play off what he knew about the actors themselves.
“If I could see even a sliver of tension between them in the real world or a sliver of something in a look that I see, I can kind of harness that in the film,” he says. “I think that worked really well in terms of when I wanted to play someone against another person. Because I worked with them before, I knew things I could whisper in their ear before a take to throw them off.”
Ultimately, Juma says he wanted to make a film that he would want to see himself. Based on his track record, it’s likely that horror fans looking for a surprising, experimental feature with strong character work will find it in Things Fall Apart.
Things Fall Apart plays June 2 at 2 p.m. at the Globe Cinema in Calgary. For more information, click here.
Next up on The Mutt: The story behind Uwe Boll, the so-called “worst filmmaker” ever