Indie Film

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

Interview with the Antagonists | Actors | 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 less than a week 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 the Antagonists of the film joining us for an exclusive three-person interview. Joining us we have Russell Eresmas who plays Tyler, Sabrina Anderson who plays The Little Girl, and Darrell Portz who plays The White Knight.

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When you first read the script what were your initial thoughts?

Russell: It was very funny and like nothing I had ever been involved with before. I remember reading the script and thinking “I’ve got absolutely no lines…It’s perfect!” Silent films are so rare nowadays, and it was great to be able to see I Phub You being made and be able to take part in it.

Sabrina: It looked funny, as in Ha Ha!  And the little girl role looked cool and fun to play. I liked that I didn’t have words to say but could ‘act’ through a phone!

Darrell: When I read the script for the very first time, I was intrigued by the project.  I was excited to do a film that was all about the visuals.  With it virtually void of dialogue, and meant to represent the old style silent films of the 30’s, I was pumped for an opportunity to perform in a different way than I am used to on stage or on film.  As an actor, I always want to try and do something different and unique.  This was definitely a project that was outside of anything I have previously done.

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Edmonton Legislature Building

Silent film acting is much different than “talkie films” How did you prepare for acting in a silent film?

Russell: I would love to say that I stopped talking for a whole week, but I genuinely believe that’s an impossible task for me to accomplish. I LOVE to talk, almost as much as I love eating, breathing, and Anna Kendrick. I really just tried to approach it like I would any other role. Only difference being I had to keep my mouth shut with super glue and do way more eyebrow exercises than usual.

Sabrina: My mom showed me a clip of a Charlie Chaplin movie, as well as a clip Justin had shared called ‘Battleship Potemkin’. It was interesting to see a movie in black and white like in the olden days.

Darrell: My character has no dialogue.  All of my intention has to be portrayed through body language and facial expressions.  With it being a comedy and reminiscent of the early silent films, I knew that many of the actions would need to be “over the top”.  I have never had any experience with clowning, and so that aspect of the performance would be new to me.  I watched a number of early films, and especially Charlie Chaplin’s work and tried to incorporate his style of movement into how I thought my character would react and move in certain situations.

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Battleship Potemkin Stairs
The White Knight

 

All three of your characters are obsessed with technology in one-way or another. What did you think about in terms of your character’s obsession with technology? Do you relate to your character at all?

Russell: I’ve always been a proponent of putting down your phone when you’re in public or with friends and family and really trying to live in the moment. Having said that, I’m also a huge tech nerd. I follow all the latest news on technology and gadgets, so it’s a bit of a toss up for me. I’ve definitely been guilty of being on my phone a lot, but I do try as much as possible to stay away from my screen when I can.

Sabrina: I kinda relate to the little girl, I don’t have a cell phone, and definitely not a flip phone! Those are soooo last century! I do have an IPad Mini and sometimes lose myself in watching YouTube or playing games.

Darrell: I have this mild obsession that when I leave my house, that I may have forgotten to close the garage door.  As I drive away, I will ask myself if I actually did close it, even though, I watched it close only seconds ago.  This is my compulsive anxiety.  For this character, I tried to imagine a more severe version of that anxiety related to my phone and what I would miss if I did not have my phone or was not actually looking at it.  Was something going on in the world that I need to know about?  Are people liking my videos or social media posts? Oh wait, maybe that is not too far off from what I am really like!

Social Media Phub

 

Sabrina, you are the youngest actor in the film. How was it being on set with all of us “old people”? 

 Sabrina: It was fun! I taught Skyla and Darrell how to play Game Pigeon games.  I beat them at Battleships and Connect 4.  I love working with ‘old people’ as I learn lots of acting stuff.

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Growing up in this advanced age, do you have any activities that you like that don’t rely on technology?

Sabrina: I like to do Track and Field, and Swimming. I like lots of sports stuff.

I also like to play with my friends. We build snow forts and have snowball fights. I like to read books, my favourite series is Harry Potter. I also research crazy facts for my YouTube series ‘Did You Know’!!

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Darrell, you were the oldest person on set (even though you don’t look it!). You’ve got to see technology change better than most of us. How has it changed and what are your views on it?

Darrell: I was the oldest person on set.  I have watched technology advance through my life.  I remember as a child having a black and white TV with only 3 channels and no remote.  I had a “Pong” video game.  I was in grade 11 when my school first started offering computer classes.  I was in the military when the first “brick” cell phones came out.  Before that it was pay phones.  I grew up in a time when if you were not home, you could not be contacted.  You had to listen to the taped answering machine message when you got home.  I remember serving in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq / Kuwait war that I had no means of communication back to family and friends other than sending letters.  WOW, I am old!  I think I was about 30 years old before I got my first cell phone.  To see that advancement in technology from that first phone to what I have 20 years later, is astonishing.  Who knows what mobile devises will be able to help us do another 20 years from now.

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Do you relate to your character at all?

Darrell: Yes, I hate to say it, but I am obsessed with technology.  I love gadgets and phones and electronics.  I love the ability to have technology at my fingertips at all times.  I am one of those guys that feels naked when I don’t have my phone with me.  I love knowing that I have information at my grasp at any time.  I love the internet.  That said, I do prefer to have human contact.  I would prefer to use my phone to call someone rather than text them.  Even better would be to call them to meet for a coffee!

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Do you have any memorable stories from being on set?

Sabrina: I liked watching Skylar being sassy in her scene.When we filmed at the Edmonton Legislative on Day 2, I really liked playing Pokemon Go with AJ and Russell.  AJ found a squirtle nest which was awesome. It was also really cold so we hung out in Darrell’s car.  This was fun because it was warm, but also cause he had the biggest bag of trail mix I have ever seen! I ate loads of it!!

Russell: The last day of filming was tough for many reasons. First, I didn’t start my day off with my venti caramel, skim, extra shot, extra-hot, extra-whip, sugar-free macchiato so that was extremely difficult. Second was obviously the weather. It was a huge shift in temperature from the day before. It felt like Mr.Freeze from Batman was hugging me, and I’m talking about the Arnold Schwarzenegger Mr.Freeze where he makes all those funny puns, so you know it was cold. But despite the cold weather, everyone was in really high spirits and those are the kind of shoots where you really appreciate being surrounded by amazingly talented and hard working people.

Darrell: I shall never forget our final day of shooting.  The weather turned cold and we are all dressed in our wardrobe from the earlier “warmer” shooting days.  How fun was it to huddle together in a vehicle, then run to set, do a take and then run back to the vehicle to warm up again.  The looks from people out for walks at the Legislative Assembly grounds, all bundled up, were priceless.  Of course me running around dressed in foam armor likely would have earned a few head shakes, regardless of the weather conditions

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What is your favorite silent film?

Sabrina: Does watching a scary movie with the sound off count?!?! If so Superman vs Batman was pretty intense and I turned the sound off!

Darrell: I am a fan of horror.  A few years ago I directed the stage play Bram Stoker’s Dracula (by Steven Dietz), during pre-production I watched a few older films and absolutely loved the 1920’s silent film Nosferatu.  It is an artfully disturbing vampire film that tells a brilliant story, all without dialogue.

Russell: Well some of the silent films I have watched are the ones where you forgot you muted the TV and you’ve been watching The Devil Wears Prada for 42 minutes with no sound. I haven’t watched a ton of actual silent films, but I do really enjoy anything with Buster Keaton, especially The General and Sherlock Jr. I would love to see silent films of that era make a reemergence into modern cinema, and I think I Phub You is a prime of example of how it can work in this day and age.

Batman vs Superman
Nosferatu 1922
The General Buster Keaton