“The Last Halloween” caught me by surprise. Living in a world where holiday horror films seem to be coming out in droves, this short film stands out extraordinarily as a well done piece. Marc Roussel, a talented writer and director, headed up the project with his compatriots: co-writer Mark Thibodeau and producer/ star Ron Basch. The film has been getting awesome reviews and has been accepted into a handful of festivals so far, including the Twister Celluloid Film Festival in Cork, Ireland, where the film will open up for “The Evil Dead” (1983)!
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KW: Alright, lets start with this. Marc- you have A TON of awesome credits in various positions, editor, dp, director- what did you start out as and what made you step up as the ringleader (director)?
MR (Marc Roussel, director): I’ve wanted to be a writer-director since I was about 13 years old and I have to thank Mark for this life-long passion. When we met at 9 years old, I was just your average casual viewer with a love for sci-fi and horror movies. Mark introduced me to the magic of movie-making with his prized copy of Tom Savini’s book on special effects make-up, Grande Illusions. We bonded over that book and it wasn’t long before we were shooting Super 8 movies in our back yards.
When I finished film school I quickly realized that no one was going to hand me money to make my first feature. I figured the best thing to do was get myself a job within the film industry here in Toronto, and the next best thing to actually directing a film was editing them. I’ve worked on many features and TV series and learned a lot about story-telling that I applied to my writing and so I began making short films again for the first time since film school.
I love editing but directing was always the ultimate goal. As a writer-director I get to shepherd a project from script to screen, building the film from the ground up with talented, like-minded people who believe in and trust me to guide them to a finished film we can all be proud of.
KW: And you’ve been collaborating with Mark for quite a while now. Do you feel that "The Last Halloween" is the best thing the two of you have done together? Are you guys working on anything upcoming together?
MR: “The Last Halloween” is the best piece Mark and I have written together, absolutely. It’s our love letter to all the movies we grew up loving and to our favourite time of year. It’s not the first time we’ve written a film around Halloween night. The first short film we collaborated with Ron on, “Sweet Tooth” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuHihxQQp8U), was set during Halloween and we also have another short film script called “Moonface” set during our favourite pastime.
MT( Mark Thibodeau, co-writer): I’m very proud of the way the film turned out. I think that technically “The Last Halloween” is definitely a bit of a step up for us. There were more locations, more performers and a lot more moving parts – including a shot achieved through the use of an aerial drone! Also, working with underage union talent posed some serious challenges, such as much tighter deadline regulations, which means that when things go wrong – as they invariably do – you’re working double-time to play catch-up. For instance, on the first night of shooting, due to some generator problems, it really came down to the wire. Thankfully, we had an incredible crew, so it all worked out in the end.
KW: Now, Ron, you’ve also been working with Marc and Mark for a while as well. What is it about the relationship that you three have onset that keeps the collaboration alive and successful?
RB (Ron Basch, producer/ actor): I think what’s great about the collaboration is that they will have the story and script solid come time to shooting and we are able to use that to do our work on the day. If Marc isn’t getting what he wants he will let you know which gives me as an actor a great deal of comfort. Mark just likes it when we stick to the vision that’s been set out and we do our best to ensure that.
As a producer/actor it can be difficult separating the jobs on set and thankfully Marc and I have two producers we trust that allows me to take a backseat while in front of the camera. Greg Machula and Jessica Menagh ran a tight set and made sure I wasn’t inundated with production details so I could concentrate on my performance as Jack. They were our backbone and helped us assemble a talented and efficient crew.
KW: With "The Last Halloween" starting out on the festival circuit, what kind of response have you been getting from people who have seen the film, and is it what you all expected?
MR: I never really know what I have until the film is out there for everyone to see so I try to keep my expectations low because you just never know. It’s so subjective. We don’t just make films for ourselves. We make them for an audience that we hope enjoys the same sort of movies that we like to make. Now Ron and Mark on the other hand have been nothing but confident with this project from the get go. Luckily we’ve had very positive feedback from everyone who has seen the movie, which makes me very proud.
RB: Being an avid filmgoer I am objective and unbiased normally about our films and I have to say this one is getting some great responses. In the little time that it’s been released on the festival circuit we’ve managed to garner praise and wonderful reviews thus far. To answer your question, I have a great feeling about this film and it far exceeded my expectations in every aspect.
KW: With your collection of shorts growing, are you guys planning on doing a feature anytime soon or continue with shorts?
MR: We will always make short films. I love the challenge of compressed story-telling too much to give it up completely, but the time has come to get our first feature film going and we are working towards that now.
MT: We have ideas, treatments and scripts for both short and feature length films in various stages of completion at this point. Hopefully we’ll get to collaborate on a feature together in the very near future.
RB: I always say this is our last short and then Marc sends me another short film script/idea. Hence how “The Last Halloween” was made. So I will say it here… the next one is a FEATURE!
KW: Marc and Mark, how did you come up with the idea? It seems that "The Last Halloween" starts in the middle of a longer, crazier feature film- what is the backstory to the idea?
MT: It started out as an idea for a short comic story, which itself was sparked by a dream, which is how I get a lot of my ideas. In this dream, I was a kid again, trick-or-treating from house to house. But there was some kind of awful, world-historic conflagration taking place at the same time. And yet my costumed cohorts and I continued along in our quest for sugary treats. I woke up, wrote the idea down, and showed it to Marc before I’d even finished the first page of the comic, to see what he thought. We both agreed it would make a fun short, so together we banged out a script in a couple days.
MR: Mark came to me with the idea, which was the comic book script and a rough layout of the 8 pages of panels, and I was hooked. I mean the title alone, “The Last Halloween”, was reason enough to get involved. It’s my favourite time of year and his idea for the setting was perfect. The script came together very quickly. It was the biggest short film we’ve written to date. To be honest, I didn’t know how we were going to make it but Ron assured me it could be done and he was right.
KW: Ron, what were your first thoughts reading this script? Your other projects were not necessarily spooky, or in the horror vein. Was this a jump for you? Were you given back story for your character, or did you create it?
Ron: I remember Marc sending me the script while I was abroad. He sent it along with a little blurb about how it’s just a script and it’s big budget so it’s likely we can’t pull it off. I read it and immediately was drawn to the character of Jack. I wrote him that evening and said we will get this made and I want to play Jack. Marc has always written in the genre vein so I knew where he would want this character to come from. We discussed the character at length, he told me his thoughts and I shared mine and spent the two months leading up to production preparing for the role. He gave me freedom to make it mine and I think I managed to do Jack justice.
KW: The poster is incredible, as are all of your marketing photos and trailers! Can you speak a little about your marketing approach?
MR: Brett Lamb (http://www.brettlamb.com), who’s created all our posters, really nailed this one. It evokes our film’s setting and tone beautifully and I wanted the trailer to do the same without giving anything away. That’s the hard part when marketing a short film – not giving away the outcome. We are currently building the film’s website and the approach we are taking is that this Halloween will be the last Halloween. A countdown to the end on October 31st!
KW: The interactive website idea- similar to “Take This Lollipop”- is an awesome idea and one that definitely gets your audience to really become a part of the film- just not a dangerous part! Without giving away any spoilers, you guys implemented some awesome practical effects! Can you share some secrets about your effects crew and who came up with the designs?
MR: We brought on a Toronto based make-up effects house called The Butcher Shop, who are Ryan Gerard Louagie and Carlos Henriques
(http://www.thebutchershop.ca), to bring our creatures to life. They’ve done some really great work on our friends films (Familiar, Sick) and came highly recommended. Before “The Last Halloween” we had some minor prosthetics that our head make-up artists would create for our other short films but this film was different. We needed some heavy design work done and these guys took Mark’s early concept drawings and expanded on them. They only had one day on set with us (the film was shot over 3 days) and had four big make-ups to do. They had a solid team of assistants and delivered some badass monsters for Ron to react to. It was a crazy, fun day and I hope to get to do more monster work in the future. Watching them come to life brought me back to that first day Mark showed me Savini’s Grande Illusions.
KW: That is so cool! All three of you have had experience in the film world, and awesome projects that you have worked on. What can we expect from you guys in the future, and what advice can you give to those who want to be filmmakers?
MT: For the time being, I can’t really claim to be part of the film industry, insofar as I have never been paid for anything I’ve ever done in that industry. Get back to me in three years and I’ll let you know. If I haven’t become gainfully employed in the industry by then, I’ll probably have to give up.
MR: Well we can’t let that happen Mark! Our company Red Sneakers Media is co-producing Fatal Pictures’ short film called “HEIR”. We’ve been big fans of their provocative short films “Worm” and “Familiar” and are excited to be working with them. We expect that to go to camera this summer after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Ron and I are also developing a feature length version of our award winning short film REMOTE (https://vimeo.com/29814386) and Mark and I are writing screenplays for future projects.
As for advice – if you want to direct films go out and make one. Start small and make a few short films first though. It’s the best way to figure out whether you’ve got what it takes to make a feature. You can’t do it alone so surround yourself with supportive people like I have.
RB: I wouldn’t trade it for anything! If you’re passionate about filmmaking then by all means make films. Try and surround yourself with people that possess different attributes and qualities in the industry. If you’re going to make movies you have to have all the bases covered and you won’t if all you want to do is direct or act… you see where I’m going with this? You can’t do it alone. You need a team. I love making shorts but it’s time for us to do what we’ve been preparing ourselves for all these years… making a feature.
Well, I know I will be one waiting for that feature! Thank you guys so much, and best of luck on the festival circuit! You can check out more about “The Last Halloween” and where it will be screening here: https://www.facebook.com/thelasthalloweenshortfilm
BTS photo by John Nicholls – Left Marc Roussel (writer/director), Right Ron Basch (actor/producer)
BTS photo credit John Nicholls – Left Marc Roussel directs Ron Basch