AN INTERVIEW WITH ROADKILL SUPERSTAR
AN INTERVIEW WITH ROADKILL SUPERSTAR (RKSS)
By Marc Lamothe
Audiences discovered them in October of 2004 at the SPASM Festival with Bagman, Profession: Meurtrier. Jarett Mann, president of SPASM recalls: “It was madness at Club Soda. People were screaming and laughing relentlessly. If I remember correctly, the film even got a standing ovation! We quickly understood that Bagman was going to be a cult classic.” The film then went around the world and thus began a beautiful love story between Québécois audiences and the collective from St-Eustache.
I met the collective in 2005 at the Vitesse Lumière Festival in Québec City. They were there at the time to show Mauvaise Dose. I was seduced by their humor and the profound bond of friendship uniting them. I subsequently had the opportunity to work with them on stage (DJ XL5 vs Total Crap: L’Ultime Combat) and on screen (Ninja Eliminator II – Quest of the Magic Ninja Crystal). Their enthusiasm is only met by their generosity. They perpetuate the art of the old school and give real importance to every aspect of the craft, from costumes to music. They managed to create a universe of their own in which homage and referentiality is an integral part of their body of work yet is treated with an undeniable signature, a tangible love of the craft of filmmaking and an innate sense of genre blending and mixed references. Their more recent short, T is for Turbo, starring Yves Corbeil, brilliantly mixes elements from films such as Laser Blast, BMX Bandit and 1990: The Bronx Warriors. The collective is now made up of François Simard, Anouk Whissel and Yoann-Karl Whissell.
Can you talk about the inception of the collective?
We all loved making films before meeting each other. François and Anouk knew each other from their Animation career program at Cégep du Vieux-Montréal. Both of them started making films together as a hobby and some of them were presented in small underground film festivals. Later, Jonathan Prévost (ex-member of RKSS), who knew François since elementary school joined the collective. 2 Morts (2002) is officially the first film under the ‘Road Kill Superstar’ handle, because we had to find a production name following the film’s selection at the Spasm Festival. This showing earned us our first Audience award and gave us the motivation to keep going and outdo ourselves. Yoann, Anouk’s brother, joined the team, initially as an actor in Bagman Profession: Meurtrier, and quickly became a integral member of the directors’ team of RKSS.
Did your studies in animation influence your work as filmmakers?
We have no film training and all we know, we learned on the field by shooting our shorts and by analyzing our favorite films as huge cinephiles. But the technique of animation gave us one of our most important tools: the storyboard. We all work differently but we absolutely need a storyboard, especially during action sequences. That’s how we approach things and it facilitates understanding for everyone involved. It also allows the three of us to come to a consensus before shooting, so we do not waste time during on set. And since we’re pretty good at drawing, we take pleasure in it!
Did you individually shoot films before all being a part of the collective?
Absolutely, each one of use already did it as a hobby and we all started editing with two VCRs in the late 90s, before editing software were made available. The first short involving the character of Bagman was shot by François and Anouk before the formation of the collective.
Can you talk about the RKSS’ first short?
2 Morts. An overlong film shot in a kitchen with tomato juice. It played Glitchfest in two parts (it was a total of 45 minutes). We probably made all the possible mistakes in that film, which is good in a sense because we learned not to do them anymore. We had no recipe for fake blood so we used tomato juice – which isn’t recommended, it looks fake and burns the eyes! We also kept all the shots we had, which is a huge beginner’s fault! Don’t be scared to cut! Jarrett Mann, who saw the film at Glitch, offered us the opportunity to present at Spasm under the condition we cut it considerably. Thanks to him, we brought the film from 45m to a much more watchable 15 minutes and we won the Audience Award at Spasm that year!
Can you describe how the collective works? Who does what?
Before, we did absolutely everything. From writing to special effects and camerawork, acting and editing. Now, we have a great crew that has become our friends. They are extremely talented and bring their expertise to the pre-production and the post-production.
Nowadays, we focus on our areas of expertise. We write and block together, then François and Anouk draw the storyboards. We direct threeways, François does the editing and Anouk and he do the old school visual effects (2D animation).
We still do the gore effects ourselves and do it quite well, but directing interests us a lot more and we would like someday to delegate the job to a better SFX artist. Since we’re a team of three directors, we prefer to argue in the pre-production stage while storyboarding, that way we know where we’re going once on stage and everything runs smoothly.
Can you talk about the origins of the Bagman?
The character of Bagman was created by François and Anouk. He was mainly a comic book character and his first name was Le Sectionneur (The Slicer). That same winter, François and Anouk shot a first short film that involved sleds, fake mustaches, plastic knives and the “Sectionneur”. Still that same winter, we made our second short when François wanted to immortalize the cutting of his dreadlocks and at that point, the Bagman had found his second name. It was a better slasher parody…
It was a couple of years later, in 2004, that Bagman: Profession Meurtier was shot under the RKSS label. He’s since gone around the world and has become a cult icon.
You have worked with Lloyd Kaufman. Can you talk about that shoot?
We were invited by Lloyd Kaufman to do storyboards for Poultrygeist. So he gave us the initial script and we had to storyboard the gore scenes. We managed to add elements to the action scenes and a few of our ideas even made it to the final cut! We were very happy when we saw the film at Fantasia, if was our first time seeing it and noticing those little details of ours. Following the storyboards, he invited us on set to help on the special effects. We slept in an abandoned church on gym mats below flying bats. It was amazing to see all these people from all over the world come together voluntarily to help out on the shoot. It was a rewarding and unique experience.
For the following shorts, I’d like for you to recall memories from the shoots and screenings you might cherish:
A WINNER IS YOU
That shoot was extremely stressful. It was for our first Kabaret Kino. Time was very limited and we had to share a camera and a computer between two projects. We didn’t sleep much, but still managed to finish A Winner is You on time. When we finally sat down for the screening is when we started to relax. It played and people laughed, which was our reward. We’re pretty proud of the challenge that was our first Kabaret Kino experience.
Total Fury was probably the most arduous shoot. It was extremely hot; we were shooting nighttime scenes in a tiny room covered in plastic wrap. Furthermore, every night, we had to stick the plastic wrap back on the wall because it would shrink due to the heat. We had in mind of making what was a parody of “torture porn” films, much in vogue at the time of the shoot. When we shot the torture scene, we found it extremely heavy and uncomfortable. To see Anouk scream incessantly like that, while being strapped to chair, isn’t really what we’re after and wasn’t much fun. Fortunately we went back to our humor for the second part and that was much more enjoyable to shoot.
RED HEAD RED DEAD
We shot Red Head Dead guerrilla-style in two days. It was one of the three shorts we shot for DJ XL5’s Hellzapoppin’ Zappin’ Party for Fantasia in 2008! We were really lucky to get the beauty shots and the sets with the trains and the boats. We had a lot of fun doing it and every member of the crew has a cameo.
NINJA ELIMINATOR II : Quest of the Magic Ninja Crystal
Ninja Eliminator 2 was a short shot especially for DJ XL5’s Razzle Dazzle Zappin’ Party in 2009. It’s the sequel to Ninja Eliminator which was shown the year before. Both shoots are probably the most guerrillas of all. The first one was shot in a day and the second took four. We went from location to location at the speed of light. François needs to grow a majestic moustache before every segment. Even if he had to wear it for longer, the second moustache was easier to wear than the first because he is now desensitized to the wearing of the moustache.
Kalashnipot was for our third Kino Kabaret. We never had the opportunity to work with our friend Eddie69 who has a compatible sense of humor. The Kabaret took place in Trois-Rivière, so it was convenient for collaboration. We had the opportunity to collaborate with a lot of friends during the Kabarets, it was really cool!
You regularly work with les Enfants Terribles. Who are they and what is the nature of your collaboration?
Les Enfants Terribles are a collective of young artists of which RKSS is part of. It groups filmmakers as well as bands, DJs and VJs. We principally deal with DBMfilms, Jean-Phillip Bernier’s company. He’s been our DP for all of our latest projects. Le Matos composes our music and Jean-Nicolas Leupi (member of Le Matos) does all our sound post. They’re all incredible and very talented.
Can you talk about the contest for which T is for Turbo was shot?
T is for Turbo was shot for the ABCs of Death contest organized by Drafthouse Films. The contest sought to determine the 26th director whose short would be featured in the anthology film The ABCs of Death, an abecedary of the ways one can die; one short per letter of the alphabet. The 25 other filmmakers are famous people within the industry, including Jason Eisener of Hobo with a Shotgun. The open letter to the contest specified the letter T and we had to do a short around that letter, which would have to include a death in relation to the chosen word. In our case it was Turbo. T is for Turbo quickly ranked at the top of the Top 10 and stayed there for the entirety of the contest, thanks to the support of the audience who decided to vote profusely for our film. The jury, which had to choose the winner ultimately, did not pick us but we walked away with the accomplishment of being #2 and #1 for audiences. We’re very proud. Otherwise, the contest opened a lot of doors and we will work hard not to miss those opportunities.
Are you involved, personally or collectively, in the making of commercials, music videos and such?
We’ve worked on various other projects outside of RKSS during the years. François worked as A.D. for a music video for Despised Icon directed by Jean-Philippe Bernier. François and Anouk worked on the special effects for a Malajube music video directed by Carnior. The three of us have directed a music video for Killwhitneydead. François regularly works on Patrick Boivin’s projects as stop-motion animator, notably on their version of the Cars 2 trailer in Lego. Lately, Yoann has directed commercials for Multi-Prêt Hypothèque’s “Votre Taux” campaign and Anouk storyboarded it as well as Rotisserie St-Hubert’s “Super Livreurs” campaign.
What are your upcoming projects?
We hope to beneficiate from the buzz surrounding our latest film T is for Turbo as well as the visibility the contest has allowed us to allow to finally make a feature film. We are more than ready to cross that line and step out of the sandbox. We also have tons of projects in mind, including Ninja Eliminator 3.
(Translation: Ariel Esteban Cayer)