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TIFF interview: ‘Freaks’ directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein

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Directed by Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein, Freaks opens at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept. 8, 2018.
Directed by Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein, Freaks opens at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept. 8, 2018. Photo courtesy MPRM Communications

Blending elements of genre films with strong characterizations and compelling allegories, directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein’s Freaks isn’t easily classifiable. Fans of genre films themselves, Stein said he and Lipovsky wanted to go back to the roots of those films to focus on intimate personal characterizations.

“We weren’t really concerned about which genre we fit into,” Stein said. “We just took it from Chloe’s perspective and said, ‘What is she feeling?’ We want the audience to be feeling that too. We didn’t think too much about, ‘Oh, we’re going from horror to Spielberg.’ We just felt like, ‘Now she’s in this park, and she’s never been in a park.’ We just wanted the audience to feel what she was feeling.”

In Freaks, Lexy Kolker plays seven-year-old Chloe, a young girl desperate to escape from the overbearing control of her father (Emile Hirsch). Despite her father’s warnings to stay indoors or risk being killed by those outside, Chloe escapes, eventually meeting an enigmatic ice cream truck driver named Mr. Snowcone (Bruce Dern).

Lipovsky and Stein, who had previously collaborated on a number of projects, decided to tackle Freaks as their first feature after Stein found inspiration as a young father.

“(Stein’s) son’s perspective of the world was really inspiring to us. We really connected with that. We thought it would be really cool to do a genre film from the perspective of a child,” Lipovsky said. “At the same time, it was the beginning of the Trump campaign, with the ideas around immigration and being an other and discrimination were all very rampant. We took both of those and started to combine them into a genre science fiction film.”

'Freaks' director Adam Stein said he and Zach Lipovsky wanted to tell a story about how a family deals with a situation when the world is against them. Photo courtesy MPRM Communications

‘Freaks’ stars Lexy Kolker as seven-year-old Chloe alongside Emile Hirsch and Bruce Dern. Photo courtesy MPRM Communications

Freaks boasts an unsettling and surreal atmosphere throughoutbut Lipovsky and Stein also wanted to ensure Chloe’s perspective was emphasized to the audience. To do this, Stein said the camera was kept at Kolker’s eye-level as much as possible to “see the world through her eyes.”

“We kept the camera low and close to the actors. In terms of lighting, we found this amazing house and worked with our production design team to turn it into what it became,” he said. “Our cinematographer did an amazing job lighting through the windows with natural daylight, and then at night lighting them with lanterns and flashlights – practical sources that they have in the house to get that feeling of realism.”

In addition to the film’s allegorical exploration of immigration, fear and diversity, Lipovsky said it was important for the audience to be unclear on the virtues of the characters – to question who was “the good guys and the bad guys.”

“We wanted to explore the idea that we create the monsters that we are looking for,” he said. “In the real world, there are no good guys and bad guys. There is this grey zone where everyone is kind of protecting themselves. We wanted the audience to go through that. We wanted them to get some perspective on the way that they treat others and realize what effect that might have.”

Considering the many mysteries and twists and turns present in Freaks, Lipovsky said he was looking forward to audiences getting the chance to experience the film in a setting like the Toronto International Film Festival.

“It’s really unique to be able to see a movie before the rest of the world has dived into the conversation. This is a great movie for that, because it’s really at it’s best when you know nothing about it, which is why we’ve kept so much of it secret,” he said. “Going to a film festival and seeing it before the rest of the world has seen it and can potentially spoil it for you, it’s the absolute best way to see this movie.”

‘Freaks’ plays Sept. 8, 9, 10, 12 and 16 at the Toronto International Film Festival. For more information or tickets, 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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