Welcome to the Larry411.com Guest Columnists! April 27, 2013
In my travels to the best film festivals in…
Devon Bostick might not be a household name, but he should be. This prolific Canadian actor’s resumé rivals that of any major Hollywood star. He’s done 22 feature films, 10 TV movies, worked on over a half dozen shorts, and appeared in almost 50 television episodes in his career. Oh, did I mention he’s only 21? And he started doing all this – not at 4, or 6, or 8 – but at 10 years old. That’s close to 100 film and television productions in 11 years. Yet somehow he found the time to talk to me about his latest project(s).
We first met at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September 2006, where his film Citizen Duane had its World Premiere (see my review). That picture made my festival Top 10 and year-end Best of 2006. His short film Aruba was in the 2006 TIFF lineup as well. In 2007 he was back in Toronto with two acclaimed feature films: Fugitive Pieces and The Stone Angel. Fugitive Pieces was nominated for six Genie Awards (Canada’s Oscars), winning one for Best Cinematography, along with five Canadian Directors Guild Awards. It wowed the festival circuit with dozens of kudos, sweeping the 2008 Newport Beach Film Festival with all four jury awards for which it was nominated. The Stone Angel was nominated for four Genies (winning two) and three Directors Guild Awards. It was honored with nominations and awards at a half dozen festivals.
Bostick’s award-winning streak continued in 2008. Iconic Canadian director Atom Egoyan cast him as the lead in Adoration, which debuted in competition at the Cannes Film Festival where it was nominated for the Palm d’Or. Adoration then had its North American Premiere in Toronto and received a Special Jury Citation for Best Canadian Feature Film. It was my #1 Top Pick of that festival (see my review) and made my 2008 Top 10 (out of 150 films). It received two Genie and two Directors Guild nominations along with several festival trophies, and Devon was nominated for a Young Artist Award.
Bostick and I got together for the fourth year in a row as 2009 brought him back to TIFF with George Romero’s Survival of the Dead following its triumphant debut at the Venice International Film Festival, where it was in competition for the Golden Lion. This Midnight Madness selection made my TIFF 2009 Top 14 (see my review) and my Top 16 Narratives of the Year. Following the screening, he was excited to tell me about a forthcoming project. He’d just booked a new franchise for Fox – as Rodrick in the Wimpy Kid series. After six films in four years this would keep him away from Toronto for awhile but Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days would go on to take in a combined $225,230,000 worldwide at the box office.
In just three weeks I’m headed back to the Toronto International Film Festival for the eighth time and, after a short absence of several years, Bostick will be back on the festival screen with The Art of the Steal. Appearing in the prestigious Gala programme, he co-stars with Katheryn Winnick, Jay Baruchel, Kurt Russell, Terrence Stamp, and Matt Dillon. He also can be seen currently with Christopher Lloyd in Dead Before Dawn 3D, the first-ever Canadian 3D film, now available on VOD and coming to home video October 1st. Not one to take a break, the triple threat actor/writer/producer has just completed Seasick Sailor. He produced this short film with a cast and crew that, no doubt, came into the project largely due to his ability to attract talent based on his years of quality work and professional relationships. Topping the list is Keir Gilchrist, whose name might be familiar to my readers. He starred in Hungry Hills at TIFF in 2009 (see my review) which also made my festival Top 14 that year (along with Bostick’s Survival of the Dead). Gilchrist’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story brought him back to Toronto for a second year in a row in 2010 (see my Q&A video) after which I selected it as one of my TIFF 2010 Top 10 and Top 16 Narratives of the Year (out of 175 films). Also starring in Seasick Sailor are Martha MacIsaac, Fran Kranz, Martin Starr, Emily Osment, Brandon Jay McLaren, Steven Bauer, and Al Sapienza. The film was written and directed by Torre Catalano, joined by cinematographer Kit Pennebaker and editor Jeff Steinkamp. Seasick Sailor features the music of The Zombies and an original score by Teddy Geiger. You can expect to see the film on the festival circuit soon.
Bostick took some time out of his insane schedule to talk to me about his latest projects and what we can look forward to in the near future on both the big and small screens.
LR: Hi Devon, it's great to talk to you again! Tell us about Seasick Sailor.
DB: Seasick Sailor came about through frustration last year when my friend Torre Catalano and I almost got these features that we wrote off the ground. It all fell through and Torre wrote Seasick Sailor as a way of venting the frustration through the main character Penna, who has a job to do but doesn’t really want to do it. He's this kid who's really really good at his job and, while he doesn’t want to do it, he learns that’s life and we all have a job to do. So it’s about his struggles.
LR: You’re the producer on this. What exactly was your role?
DB: He brought me the script once he wrote it, right away, and then he said he wanted Keir [Gilchrist] to do it. Keir is a good buddy of mine from back in Toronto. So I brought the script to Keir and convinced him to read it. Then I went around to all the other actors I knew who I thought were great for the project. Everything fell into place that way. Since then I’ve been over Torre’s shoulder telling him what I think is good, which may help him or not, I’m not sure! But I’ve been there from the beginning, just bringing in people that we’d been wanting to work with. Then it came to the scouting for different places. He brought some great crew members in. We needed to get a good cinematographer so we got Scott Pennebaker, who’s amazing. We just started filming and it all came to life!
LR: I should mention that I saw Keir’s film Hungry Hills at TIFF in ’09 which was the same year as Survival of the Dead that you had there…
DB: Oh yeah!
LR: And then in 2010 he had It’s Kind of a Funny Story at TIFF and that’s when I met him, along with his mom, family, and friends. They invited me to the afterparty and we had a blast. Then I heard that he wasn't going to act anymore!
DB: That’s the thing, Keir’s always been a really interesting guy and he’s very specific about what jobs he chooses to do. And this was written for him so we were just praying that he liked it. Even though we’re good buddies you never know what the artist thinks vs. the friend.
LR: I remember we talked about it at the time and you said, “Well I’m gonna drag him out of retirement. We’re gonna work on something!" So a couple of years go by, then I saw that you were doing this and you got him working, just like you said you would!
DB: Yup! He’s been doing some stuff here and there. I know he did a really cool TV movie called Delete, with Seth Green and Erin Karpluk from Being Erica, and he’s working now on a thriller and other stuff. But yeah he had a little bit of a hiatus there and you know we always wanted to work together again.
LR: Yes, I see he’s doing a film called Dark Summer.
DB: Yes, Dark Summer, that’s right. Yeah, he’s very excited about that.
LR: So when did you start working on Seasick Sailor?
DB: It was about the end of last year we got started, and in early 2013 it all came together over the span of six months, I’d say. I was sent the script and then the cast was the next thing for me. You know I’m an actor and I like working with good actors, so that was most interesting to me --all the cool people that we could get involved in this project. We scouted at the Herald Examiner, which is this cool building in downtown Los Angeles. It was amazing, just the different sets we found there. Then it started to come to life. Two weeks later we started shooting and we shot it in three and a half days.
DB: Yeah, and it was crazy how the cast and crew came together. I’ve worked on about 60 projects as an actor and a few as a producer but this was one that I was just so happy with, timewise, how everything was just flowing creatively and the production...time was a big deal because you don’t always have that much of it, especially when you’re dealing with blowing up people’s heads and stuff like that.
LR: Ha! And probably not a massive budget, either.
DB: Exactly. It was a shoestring budget. Everyone that came in was doing it because they had a real passion for it -- which you hear a lot -- but this was really really a passion project because everyone was just doing their job to their best extent. I couldn’t believe some of the results that we got even down to our set decorator, Jess, who’s so amazing. Some of the sets just really came to life. But it was cool just being behind the camera and seeing all these components come together in a kind of Kismet way.
LR: Let's talk about the cast, because there are some incredible names here.
DB: We've got Keir Gilchrist, who we’ve been talking about, from United States of Tara and It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Then there's Martha MacIsaac, who’s the lead in Superbad. I’ve always been a fan of hers. I worked with her on Dead Before Dawn two years ago, and it’s coming out now.
LR: Yes, in fact, I just posted a little teaser they put out.
DB: It’s goofy! It’s Canada’s first 3D film, and it’s really a cool take on the zombie theme. They're zemons, so it's not just another zombie film. I worked with [MacIsaac] on that. I’ve always been a fan of hers from Superbad as well, and her husband wrote [Seasick Sailor]. That’s how we met. I met Torre, her husband, because I worked with her on Dead Before Dawn. We had such a great time on that -- and I now live in her old apartment! It’s really funny how all these things just came together. But she’s amazing in it. She plays the girl that the main character, Penna, has an interest in. He doesn’t really want to go to work because he wants to spend some time with her. We also got Brandon Jay McLaren from The Killing and Graceland, Emily Osment from Hannah Montana and a new show called Cleaners, Steve Bauer from Scarface, and Ray Donovan. I met him when I was acting on and associate producing A Dark Truth in the Dominican Republic. We had a few scenes together and we just had a good time on that. So I asked him to come on board, and he brought so much weight to the character. Then there's Al Sapienza, who’s in about 200 film and television productions -- he’s in Sopranos and House of Cards, and Fran Kranz from The Cabin in the Woods. I met him on Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules where he played Bill. We had a great time on that. I’ve also been a fan of his since The TV Set, which was a really great indie, so I brought him on board for a role. There were just so many different roles that even if they were for one scene people were interested. I had a feeling that if they liked the script then they’d all decide they wanted to come on board...which is exactly what happened.
LR: You got Teddy Geiger as a composer! I love his music. I saw him in The Rocker and I went online and looked his stuff up and fell in love with it. You got him to do some of the music for the film. How did that come about?
DB: Teddy is Torre’s cousin! One of the scripts we were going to shoot last year was about the relationship between Torre and Teddy, when Teddy was traveling the world as a rock star/teen heartthrob. I listened to some of the score recently...it’s so beautiful and cinematic. I just saw another trailer that Torre put together and we’re excited to release that soon. We're just finishing up some sound issues for the film and then we’ll be submitting that to festivals. And there are some companies that are interested in a feature.
LR: So when do you think post-production will be done and the film will be ready to get out on the festival circuit?
DB: Hopefully post-production will be done Monday, and then we’ll be able to submit it to some festivals like Sundance. Oh, I forgot to mention...we have Martin Starr, as well, who is amazing, from Freaks and Geeks and Knocked Up. I met Martin at the Sundance Directors Lab. He’s another actor I’ve been a huge fan of, and we just hit it off as friends. I’ve wanted to work with him forever so he plays this role Bookbinder. He's kind of an older version of Keir who has the same job and passes down some wisdom to him.
LR: Okay, give us a little synopsis -- as much as you can say without giving anything away.
DB: The story’s about Penna. He works for the guys that clean up the mess for the casinos. They go after people that have a debt and owe some money because of card-counting, or losses...they go after those people that owe these casinos money. So they’re the underground business behind the casino. Keir is just an unsuspecting, innocent looking kid but he has to get involved with these people and then either kill them or break their legs or go after their families. It’s this really dark but also sweet film about a boy who doesn’t really want to do his job -- he just wants to meet up with this girl -- but he has to kill people in between.
LR: Now I’m headed off to TIFF in about three weeks, and I know you’ve missed a few years. My first time there was in 2006. That was when I first met you with Citizen Duane -- you were only 14 -- and then I saw you with Stone Angel in ’07 and again in ’08 with Adoration, which was my favorite film of the year. That's when I met your parents -- very cool people -- and then Survival of the Dead in 2009, so that was four years in a row. You and Kevin Zegers were kind of setting the record. But we missed seeing each other for a few years because you were off doing some big Fox film, the Wimpy Kid franchise. But now you're back at TIFF with The Art of the Steal, which is in the Gala programme, a huge film. Tell us a little bit about that.
DB: It’s awesome! And you're right, I’ve actually been kind of down about the whole TIFF thing because I had six films over the span of four years there, and I always loved going. Then I went to do the Wimpy Kid, so that took up a lot of my time. Once we finished the Wimpy Kids, Jonathan Sobol, who wrote Citizen Duane, called me up and said that there was a role in his new film The Art of the Steal. It was for a role named Ponch, a 40-year-old Asian man who tells Jay Baruchel and Matt Dillon and Kurt Russell that they’re basically like the old Oceans 11 and they’re never going to be able to get this job done. I was like, "Okay that’s very interesting, obviously we need to rewrite the description." But the phone call went on with some more ideas for the character, because I was clearly not a 40-year-old fat Asian man.
DB: Maybe I am, I don’t know! So we started to do a little work on that, and then I came back to Toronto for a day. I got to work with these awesome actors. I've known Jay Baruchel for a bit and he’s amazing. I’ve always been a fan of his. I was just so thrilled to go back and do this day on the film. And it’s going to be very funny from the vibe that I got just from being there that day.
LR: I hope to see it! You also did a film called Small Time that’s finished now. Tell us about that.
DB: Small Time’s amazing. It’s written and directed by Joel Surnow. It’s his first feature but he created 24. It's this father/son story -- Chris Meloni is my dad and he runs this used car lot. He's a car salesman with Dean Norris from Breaking Bad. It's like a timeless piece -- you can’t really tell if it’s the 70s or 80s, or 60s, but it’s a story about this father who can’t really get to spend much time with his son. Once he graduates high school he wants to move out of his mom’s place and live with his dad and work on the car lot. It scares his father at first, but then he allows it, and my character Freddy embraces the role as a car salesman. But then I become this sleazy person that my father was afraid I would become. And it’s about that struggle, and that relationship between father and son.
LR: Seeing as how you do about 10 films a year I know there’s more that you’re working on, or will be. Is there anything you can talk about publicly?
DB: There's Small Time, which we talked about, and Dead Before Dawn 3D, which is out now on Xbox and some other devices. I can tell you that I’m in a CW pilot called The 100. It’s a midseason pickup so that should be coming out in January or so on the CW. It’s a very cool sci-fi futuristic story. It takes place 100 years after a nuclear radiation apocalypse. 12 space stations form this one unit in space called The Ark and everyone’s been living up there for 100 years, but their resources are starting to disappear and run out. So they have a last minute idea to send 100 of their juvenile delinquents down to Earth to see if it’s inhabitable again. I’m one of those juvenile delinquents.
LR: That sounds like a lot of fun!
DB: Yes, we shot that in Vancouver and that’s going to be a really great series.
LR: Alright, we'll watch for that! Now, you said you’re you're going to get on the festival circuit with Seasick Sailor. I get asked a lot about short films and what's the purpose of having them out there -- what can they accomplish. What do you hope will happen with the film besides playing film festivals?
DB: When Torre first wrote it and then we started to do it we never really thought of shooting it as a feature. We’d just tried to get two features off the ground with a great cast, just like the one in Seasick Sailor, and there was a lot of trouble with just getting money from people. So we just wanted to shoot this as a short. But as we got the script out to people more and more of the response would be, "Why aren’t you making this a feature?" Because the story is very unique and compelling -- and sort of shocking -- so once we got that reaction over and over again, and we saw how the footage was coming out, we started to talk about it. So we hope to make the feature sometime next year. The short film we’ll be submitting to festivals, but the purpose will be to show people, "Hey, we can run a large crew and we can create a product such as Seasick Sailor that is artistic and will make people think and has amazing talent in it so please help us make a feature!"
LR: Yes, and show people you’re not just an actor and a writer but you’re also a producer.
DB: Yes, yes. That’s really been a new thing for me as well, after moving to L.A. and just making some great friends and different connections out there -- but I really just wanted to work with great people and people that know what they’re doing and bring it.
LR: We should say for the people reading the interview who might think you’re middle-aged that you're only 21. And you’re being modest because, from what I can see, you’ve got about eight shorts, 22 features, ten TV movies, and then at least 50 TV episodes on your resumé! So where do you hope to go? Are you going to continue acting? Do you want to direct?
DB: I'll always continue acting -- hopefully I won’t get bored of it! No, I love acting. It’s what I do. But I hope to move into producing and writing. I have a bunch of different writing projects that are out. I’ve sold a web series to McG’s company Wonderland -- I can’t say much about that. But I just hope to continue to write and produce and then hopefully direct -- but one thing at a time. I just love the whole industry and I like moviemaking and working with really talented artists -- so that’s the plan.
LR: We’ll look forward to Seasick Sailor. And The Art of the Steal at TIFF.
DB: Me too!
LR: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today.
DB: Thank you for all your support over the years!
CONNECT with Devon:
CONNECT with Seasick Sailor:
OFFICIAL SITE AND TEASER: seasicksailormovie.com
CONNECT with Dead Before Dawn 3D:
OFFICIAL SITE: deadbeforedawn3d.com
CONNECT with The Art of the Steal:
The Art of the Steal premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Here is the official trailer:
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In my travels to the best film festivals in…