Interview with Justin Kueber | Writer & Producer | I Phub You | STORYHIVE | Edmonton Film Production

Our Storyhive funded short film I Phub You is officially complete and sent in to Telus. We are three days away from the February 6th release, so we are going to be posting a series of interviews with the people that made this film happen (cast, crew, etc!) so you can get to know us a little better. We are going to be asking about their process and their take on the film.

Today we have Justin Kueber, the writer and producer of I Phub You joining us today to talk about his process.  Justin Kueber is a St. Albert native that took an interest in filmmaking at the age of 13.  After graduating from St. Albert High School in 2008, Justin began studying History and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. With the tools Justin learned at his post-secondary institution, he set out into the world of filmmaking forming Guerrilla Motion Pictures in 2012. Since graduating in 2012, Justin has written/directed/produced various projects including; The Path (2014), Who Killed Mary Sue? (2017), I Phub You (2017) and directed an episode of Airport Below Zero which premiered on the History Channel in October 2016, and most recently, his first feature film shot in the badlands of Alberta, On the Rocks (2016). Kueber also served as an adjudicator at the 2016 Edmonton Short Film Festival. Kueber’s next feature film will be a coming of age story set against the backdrop of the electronic dance music scene. 

Justin Kueber

When did you write I Phub You?

Draft 1 of I Phub You was actually written in one day, December 9, 2015 and it was just going to be a fun project to shoot with some friends over the winter. We soon found out this film would require a much larger budget, so it was put on the shelf and never really looked at again until a year later, when Dianne Mahoney asked me if I had any scripts lying around for the newest Storyhive competition. I showed her the draft and she was like “WE NEED TO MAKE THIS!”, so she assembled the team (Shannon, Sam, Dianne and myself) and here we are 5 months later. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Dianne.

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Did a lot change over the course of writing/re-writing?

A lot changed from Draft 1. What’s that old saying? The first draft of anything is crap. What you see in the movie is the result of countless rewrites, trying new ideas, and some great brainstorming sessions with my NSI Mentor, Rudy Thauberger who gave me that “A-Ha! Moment” and really helped me focus and fine tune the story. Thank you Rudy!!

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What inspired you to write I Phub You?

I was out for a coffee with my girlfriend and I noticed a group of young people all sitting together at a table, not communicating but rather, playing on their phones. There was a piercing silence between them. Super awkward. My girlfriend thought it was hilarious and I joked to her that if she ever did that to me I would make a movie about it!

It was such a vivid image that stuck in my head well into the next day. While I was walking around the track at the gym, it kind of just dawned on me. That needed to be the opening scene of a movie.

The more I thought, the more I realized you see this consumption with technology (specifically phones) pretty much everywhere. What you see in the film is things I have witnessed first hand in real life (yes, even the urinal scene and yes, it was equally as awkward). Inspiration came from all these observations that I wanted to address in a unique & fun way. Those young people at the table were silent, when people “phub” they are silent. I realized the film should be silent to drive home that parallel. Yes, my personal love for silent film and my burning desire to make one may have come into play just a bit too.

This ultimately led to my own personal logline “a love story that is a love story to silent cinema”.

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One aspect that is always commented on is how unique this script/story is. What do you think makes it so unique?

I think it’s so unique because it is a modern take on the silent film. Our setting is present day and it is addressing present day issues, just told silently.

It works because the main character, Kurtis, is trying to discover what it means to communicate in a world obsessed by technology. Literally everyone in this world communicates by phone and is so consumed by it. So in a sense, they are silent already. Kurtis can’t communicate with anyone/they won’t listen to him unless it is by cellphone. He yearns to find someone who he can go for a walk with and communicate face to face.

I really wanted Phub to hold onto those feelings of nostalgia while also being important and relevant. And, at the same time, light hearted and full of modern takes on fun gags that you would find in a silent film (Chaplin, Keaton, etc).

I Phub You is about technology and the evolution of technology, so there’s tons of references to silent films that helped evolve filmmaking as a medium and pushed it to where it is today: A Trip to the Moon, Battleship Potemkin, 2001: A Space Odyssey (not silent but the utmost important film about technology) And, of course, some of my favorites too. It’s a movie about movies.

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What is your take on technology?

Good question. Technology is evolving faster now than it ever has in any point in history. It’s exciting, especially in the world of medicine, but it is also kind of frightening. The more accessible the technology is and the more society is consumed by it, the less human we are becoming. I guess my outlook on the future is a little bleak; I’ll stop (laughs).

Which part of your script were you most excited to bring to life and why?

I had an absolute blast writing this script so I was just excited to see the entire world come to life. To be honest, I didn’t think this film would ever get made, as I did not have the funds to finance it personally. I am so incredibly grateful for Storyhive and Telus Optik for providing us with this once in a lifetime opportunity to make this film. Seeing it from its inception to final finished product is just so…it’s a great moment. Words can’t describe it. It’s special. Thank you to the Storyhive Team & everyone who voted for us!    

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Let’s switch it up a bit and talk about the production. How did it go? 

It was one of the best productions I have been a part of in my few years of producing. We had the best team! A lot of people claim they have the best team…NO, TEAM PHUB was the best team! (laughs).

Everyone did such an amazing job; Shannon who did a magnificent job directing, the actors who brought these characters to life so beautifully, the background talent who took time out of their day to lend us a helping hand, our selfless hardworking crew, grinding day in and day out, and Geoff Manchester (who composed our music) absolutely blew my mind with his genius score. 

The best part was that everyone was positive, even when it was freezing on our last day of shooting, and just incredibly fun to be around. I hate when sets are super serious (of course there is a time and place) but at the end of the day, we are getting to live our dreams as filmmakers so let’s have some fun, combine our creative minds and make one hell of a film!

I remember saying goodbye to the cast and crew at the Boston Pizza after the last day of shooting and feeling pretty sad that it was all over. Our little “Phub Phamily” was truly a dream cast and crew.

I hope the audience has as much fun watching the film as we did making it.

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What is your favorite Silent Film?

I love silent films but if I had to choose one that is my all time favorite it has to be Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. It is such a beautiful film; F.W. Murnau is at the height of his career and made something that just is the epitome of the perfect silent film. And Janet Gaynor is so damn adorable and just simply the best. In fact, Janet in I Phub You was named after her. Now you know! 

Janet Gaynor
Sunrise Silent Film