For his first feature, “Brotherhood,” director Will Canon used the exploitation films of the 70s as a launching pad, then put his own spin on a familiar genre. “Adam Buckley finds himself having to rob a convenience store on the last night of pledging a college fraternity. But when the initiation ritual goes horribly wrong, and every subsequent move proves disastrous, Adam must find it within himself to take a stand to save a friend’s life.” [Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]
Editor’s Note: This is one interview in a series profiling directors whose films are screening in the Narrative Competition, Documentary Competition and Emerging Visions sections at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.
Director: Will Canon
Cast: Jon Foster, Trevor Morgan, Arlen Escarpeta, Lou Taylor Pucci
Producer: Chris Pollack & Jamie Patricof
Screenwriter: Will Canon & Doug Simon
Cinematographer: Michael Fimognari
Editor: Josh Schaeffer
Will Canon on his background and the making of his feature, “Brotherhood”…
My name is Will Canon and “Brotherhood” is my first feature film. Before I made “Brotherhood” I made a handful of short films. One of those short films, “Roslyn,” was the springboard for “Brotherhood.” I made the short at NYU and it was really helpful when I started trying to get “Brotherhood” made because I could show it to people and says, “If you like my short then you’re going to like the feature. If you don’t like the short, then you’re not going to like the feature.”
At the time of the short, I had it in my head for some reason that I wanted to make a film about a fraternity initiation, but I didn’t have a specific story in mind. I was in Texas on a break between semesters at school and a lot of my friends from home were in fraternities, so I was asking them questions about their experiences and one of my friends said, “There’s one this thing, supposedly it’s never really happened…” And he went on to describe what turned out to be the set-up for the short and eventually the feature.
I knew that I wanted the film to do two things. First I wanted it to really be entertaining and have the twists and turns of a fun genre-film. And then underneath that I wanted there to be personal touches that really resonate and make the film feel real. A lot of my favorite directors came out of the Corman exploitation films of the 70’s and I’ve always thought that one of the most exciting things you can do with a movie, especially an independent one, is infuse personal moments into a fun, entertaining genre-film. It really resonates with me because you’re entertaining an audience, but you’re doing so while exploring personal themes.
I think the biggest challenge for most independent projects is financing. We were looking for financing in the middle of the worst economic situation in a long time. I think the fact that we were able to get the movie made speaks to the job that the producers did and to the determination of the entire team.
I think South By Southwest audiences will dig the film because it’s a fun, entertaining, suspenseful ride. When I think of films and filmmakers that I associate with Austin, I think of guys like Tarantino, Rodriguez, Linklater and those are the guys whose films I grew up watching and who we referenced for “Brotherhood.”
Canon on his influences…
The idea that I really wanted to keep close to me as we made the film was to be bold. I wanted our decisions to be bold, brave decisions. So the films that meant the most to me were films by directors that I think do that. Paul Thomas Anderson’s films meant a lot, particularly “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.” Joe Carnahan’s film “Narc” is a favorite of mine as a film and is also an inspiration because the filmmakers really went through it to get the film made. Michael Mann’s film, “The Insider,” meant a lot because Al Pacino’s character fights so hard for a principle and he won’t compromise when everyone around him is compromising and leaning on him to do so as well. That film was inspirational in a lot of ways, but the story is so inspirational to me because of how far the character is willing to go for something he believes in. There’s a pretty direct correlation with the process of filmmaking because it is neither a quick nor an easy process and there are plenty of opportunities to compromise along the way.
What he’s got in the works…
My co-writer, Doug Simon, and I just finished writing a comedy pilot for a TV show called “Subs.” It’s about a group of high school friends that don’t know what to do with their lives after college, so they move back to their hometown and start substitute teaching while they figure things out. One of the ideas was, what would the characters from “Dazed and Confused” do after they finished college? We thought it would be great to see them right back in school as subs. The other project that we’re working on is a feature. It’s a thriller that is compressed into one day the same way that “Brotherhood” is, but it takes place in the financial world.