Shane Belcourt – Director and Co-Writer of RED ROVER
What Inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?
In 2012 “Mars One” announced that it was going to find funding to send four lucky applicants on a one-way trip to Mars to start colonizing the Red Planet. By 2014 it was all over the news because thousands of applicants started to send in their demo videos or talking on podcasts about why they would be willing to leave everything behind. For Duane and I, at first this seemed utterly insane; who the hell would do that? Just up and leave everything and everyone to live in a space pod, and never come back? Why would someone do this? What kind of person would apply to this? … It was impossible to not deep dive into this, which in turn, inspired the screenplay.
Why did you want to tell this story?
One my co-writer Duane Murray and I started to watch the applicant videos … they weren’t “losers” or “nutjobs”, not at all. They were dreamers with what seemed like a connective tissue amongst them all: desperation. Desperate to do something heroic with their lives. Desperate to escape feeling alone on a planet with people all around them. Something to shake their lives up, to provide for them a chance to touch the impossible from their day-to-day grinds. Um … so, they’re like Duane and I? Replace “mars” with “movies” and, um, we’re kinda the same? Once we saw the videos, saw ourselves in these applicants, and was an impossible idea to put down – we wanted to make a movie about this. You know, it’s a tragic comedy … like our lives.
How do you relate to your characters?
RED ROVER is a movie about lost and lonely people who want something magical to snap them out of their rut, to awaken a deeper spirit inside themselves that feels capped, or neglected. That desire to feel like you have purpose, your life has meaning, connection. I want to say here that this was a chance for me to explore a world and characters that I never knew existed until we started this film … I REALLY want to be able to say that here …
What influenced the visual style of the film?
I really want to say here that we looked at all of the work of Roger Deakins and Robert Richardson and sought to create a visual palette ripe with colour and light, capturing life in long explorative and innovative ways … The truth of the matter is: $50,000. That’s what inspired the visual style, a massively limited budget, which in turn meant limited working hours with the cast and crew. I would say the visual style represents our ability to survive a limited budget that required working insanely fast with mostly available light, but as opposed to going “fly-on-wall” documentary with it (The Office, etc) we tried to capture more of a classic romantic comedy feel, something more like When Harry Met Sally or A Sure Thing.
What was the most courageous decision you and your crew made during production?
The decision to work with a $50,000 budget was … was it courageous or stupefying? But, we all know how this goes: with a great cast, every day is a dream. And it was, so despite the limited resources, a small band of friends (crew of 8 people) came together and created a space for the actors to do their thing with the script. And they brought it and that was what worked so damn wonderfully. And everyone came to this project because of the script and their faith and Duane and I to get it done no matter what. That’s a courageous act on their part to trust us to pull this rabbit out of our butts.
What advice would you go back and give yourself before making this film?
If I reveal that list I’m concerned no one will attend the screening! … Look, above I noted that Duane and I related to the real-life inspiration of “Mars One” in terms of the “desperation”. That feeling that you just want to make something happen man! You just want to shake things up and make a damn feature! I was working on many documentaries, commercials, and various scripts and TV ideas that would go into development or meetings and never get to those next stages. With Red Rover, armed with $50,000 in cash that we raised, we just went for it, all within a few months. There is something wonderful about that can-do spirit, but upon reflection way past the shooting finish line … maybe some more time to raise more funding? Let me put it this way, again, the cast was AMAZING. One day in speaking with Kristian Bruun, he seemed rightfully frustrated about a delay we were having. I said to him, “you are an astoundingly great and professional actor, and whether we’re shooting with $2m or $50k, your performance is in many cases the same, it’s dialled it and playing opposite the great cast your paired with, namely Cara Gee. But for me … the difference in what I can do is markedly different.” But look, I’m extremely proud of the film and when we screen it people laugh and have great discussions about it afterwards!
What is going to surprise audiences most about your film?
From the screenings we’ve had so far, time and time again, people are most surprised by the $50,000 budget – that the film feels like a “real movie” despite that limit. I will again say, it feels that way because the entire cast is hilarious and charming as hell.