RAMIRO: I don’t really consider myself as a writer, but more as a narrative designer who deals with screenwriting, the way you deal with engineering. It is easier for me to express my artistic vision by working this way.
CLYDECYNIC was very hard to create due to the extreme limitations imposed by the production budget. As I was writing it, I was already thinking about how I would shoot it. I had to lay down each limitation before designing any plot element or character. What is interesting is that you sometimes find better ideas while under extreme limitation. When you have infinite resources, it is easy to become lazy.
The screenplay was written over the course of four months, at night, while working on a Spider-Man video game during the day. I did my research on hypnosis outside of traditional hypnotherapy. I became fascinated by hypnosis schemes in Las Vegas. I like the idea of something that feels like magic but works for real. I’m interested in all things that trigger curiosity, and hypnosis definitely does.
Clyde’s character was created around a mechanic that I wanted to explore which was: how can we have a victim who’s also a predator. I’m fascinated by this kind of duality and contrast. I enjoy discovering a character’s layers and observing them transform over the course of a story.
At the end of the day, I like storytelling as a vehicle to play with the audience.
VIRGINIE: As a producer, the writing process is one of the most nerve-wracking for me, because it’s kind of a waiting game. I consider the script to be the foundation of a film and, without it, I feel naked as a producer. It was twice as challenging with CLYDECYNIC, because I am also married to Ramiro and was with him during all the angst of finding the right story to tell and of digging in personal experiences. When making your first feature film, you want the tone to be right, and you want to make the talent of the people making the film with you to shine. I feel like it was definitely very challenging, but we are very proud of the script that turned out in the end.
RAMIRO: I had to reverse engineer the casting process for CLYDECYNIC. I selected actors I knew and wanted to work with, and I custom- designed characters for them.
Omari Newton was first to be cast as the lead character, Clyde. Omari and I had worked together before on my first short film, and I was extremely thrilled to work with him again. Unfortunately for us, four days before principal photography, he was offered the lead role in a TV series. That made it impossible for him to be part of CLYDECYNIC. After hanging up the phone with Omari, I called Alexander Weiner right away. Alexander is an actor who was introduced to me by Omari a few weeks earlier, and for whom it was creative love at first sight. I saw great talent in him, and I was extremely impressed by his dedication and skill set. He was a perfect match for Clyde, although he was 10 years younger and of a different skin colour than previously planned.
Richard Zeman was a good challenge to write for. Being type-cast most of the time, I wanted to write something different than a cop or a Nazi officer for him. In his important stature and physique, I saw power and charisma, the basic foundation for a good seminar scheme, which I called Take the Power, Keep the Power.
Alex convinced HBO’s Less Than Kind lead Jesse Camacho to play the only funny role. Jesse and I really connected, and I basically let him do whatever he wanted with his character Kevin. Cara Raynold is another talent introduced to me by Omari. Her natural and edgy femininity was perfect for the character of Kate.
Mark Kruppa was also an important collaborator on my first short film. He was cast to play the father once Omari had to quit the project, which led to the father suddenly becoming Caucasian.
As for Francis Jr Gould, he has been a good friend of mine ever since high school. He has always been interested in acting and has a natural gift; he was perfect for Clyde’s nemesis Wayne.
It is always special the first time an actor performs my work. My animation background gave me this taste for acting. Every small nuance and detail in a performance is really gratifying.
VIRGINIE: Casting when you have no budget is very challenging. You can’t really hold a traditional casting session if there is no money involved in making the film, it’s not very well perceived. So we did as we had done before for our short films: we started with a lead actor in head, wrote the part for him and figured we would use the script as our tool to convince the other actors to be a part of our project.
For about a year and a half, we worked with Omari Newton, who was cast to play the part of Clyde, and Richard Zeman, who plays Dion Green. Once the script was final, they helped us cast the other roles by sending us resumes, shots and videos of some actors they knew and whose work they appreciated. For Kate, it was an easy fit. The moment we saw Cara we knew we had found our girl. But some other roles were much more challenging, notably the role of Elijah Nelson, Clyde’s father. Up until two weeks before we started shooting, we were still looking for the right fit, until we had a light bulb moment and contacted Mark Krupa.
Because the actors were accepting to take part in the project without being financially compensated, we signed an MIP contract with ACTRA, which made them part owners of the project. We also had one actor in the project that wasn’t part of the union, and boy did I have to use my convincing skills on ACTRA to let him be part of our cast! I am really grateful they ended up siding with me, because Francis Gould Jr. did an amazing job as Wayne.
RAMIRO: We had about 3 months to get ready to shoot and when you are a 4 person crew, it’s not much. My entire crew consisted of my producer and wife, collaborator Jonathan Simard and props designer Karine Bédard. The first challenge was Clyde’s office, where most of the “action” takes place. We didn’t have the resources to rent a location and to be able to transform it the way we wanted. The most cost-effective solution was to build a set in our living/dining room. After emptying the room, we created Clyde’s personal space where he hypnotises his clients.
For the Take the Power, Keep the Power meeting, we needed something that reflected the underground and gritty aspect of the seminar. Virginie found an old building where we could walk in freely and could use not only a big room for the main scene, but all the corridors and stairs for other smaller scenes. It was a historic building situated in Québec city, where we live.
Wardrobe was simple. Every actor brought their own wardrobe and we provided the Take the Power, Keep the Power t-shirts and hoodies. It was important to make the clothes reflect who the characters were, and give an insight into their personalities.
The Take the Power, Keep the Power iconography needed special attention. I wanted it to be simple and clean, and to reflect the D.I.Y aspect of the group. It also had to be something that could resonate with the audience. Graphic designer Daniel Voyer Lessard was brought in to create all the images and iconography of the infamous seminar group where Clyde works.
VIRGINIE: We always like to keep our crew as small as possible in order to stay as independent as possible, and this time was no exception. I was the only one working full-time on the pre-production for 3 months, since Ramiro, our Art Director Jonathan and our prop designer Karine were all working on the Spider-Man video game on a full time basis at the time. We held many meetings, week-ends and week nights, to determine the look we wanted for the film. It had to be easy to create but highly effective.
One of the first choices Ramiro and I had made was to use our apartment as the main set. We had learned while shooting our first short film in 2007 how expensive locations can be and how annoying it can be to work around the opening hours. It sounded like such a great idea, but we definitely had pink glasses on. We had 800 square feet to create two main locations, house two of our actors and ourselves in addition to making the craft and establishing a production office. We built the sets with no exterior help and created custom lighting for our needs. We asked our neighbours living above to keep their 1 and 3 year olds quiet for the following three weeks and I prepared 3 meals a day for 12 people. Luckily, we live in Canada, and in January our balcony could be used as a freezer. Unfortunately, our light installations were also outside and they didn’t always love the -25 degrees celsius (-13 Fahrenheit) weather as much.
RAMIRO: Shooting started on January 2, 2012 in Quebec City, Canada. The decision was made to shoot the picture in black and white. It was more of a practical decision than an aesthetic one. Knowing I would do the entire post production, I decided that I didn’t want to spend time on color grading and color timing. Black and white allowed me to focus on composition, contrast and framing, leaving behind skin tones and color schemes.
Knowing our technical crew would consist of only two people, Jonathan and I, lighting needed to be simple and static. No changes between camera setups. The decision was made to use practical lighting. One problem we faced was light coming from outside that we could not control. Lights rigs had to be build outside so we could control the light coming from the windows. Setting up those rigs every morning at -25 degrees (-13 Fahrenheit) was an unpleasant challenge for Jonathan and I.
Every scene was shot with two Canon 7Ds, with and an average of thirteen takes per camera setup. As a director, I like discovering the scene with the actors. I like when everybody comes in with their ideas, but my kick is watching actors discovering new angles and taking decisions on the spot. I’m looking for errors and spontaneous pantomimes and unexpected facial expressions. It’s something that my animation background makes me appreciate in a performance. I’m not the type of director who is expecting something very precise from an actor. I usually discuss extensively with them about the character’s body language and persona before main photography. On set, I’m there to help the actors to give their best, and to give them a different perspective on the material. At the end of the day, I’m just a fan watching people perform my writing.
The shooting ended on time and within budget, something I’m really proud of. Through my entire career in animation, being on time and within budget was always important. I learned to embrace limitation, and how to use it as a creative tool.
After 4 weeks of shooting, we ended up with 130 hours of footage.
VIRGINIE: Production is my favorite part of the process. There isn’t really anything quite like being on set. As crazy as this shoot was, it was also the coolest experience ever. We had to have a short shoot for logistic reasons and so our schedule was spread over 22 days of shooting during month of January. It was very important for Ramiro to have the time and the freedom to shoot as many takes as possible of each scene to really make this film about the acting. The days were long, but we had such an energy going between us; it was kind of magical. We shot for three weeks in Québec city, and then we took down all the sets and moved all of our worldly possessions to a new space where we were going to go into post-production. The next day, we started the Montreal leg of our shoot at my father’s Saint-Anne-des-Plaines maple farm where we shot for 6 days straight. Our very last day of shooting took place in a fancy Laval hotel, with only Alex, Mark, Ramiro and I.
RAMIRO: With so much footage to watch and review while also working full time, a proper work flow needed it to be established.
A key scene was selected for each character as a guide on which direction to take for them. Then, the other takes would be selected to match my primary take, so the performance would be constant and fluid. With this method, it was easy to discard takes and not fall in love with a take that was very good but didn’t match the character’s behaviour and persona.
Sound is the only aspect where I couldn’t do it myself, and having good sound was very important for the film’s credibility. Serge André Amin was introduced to me through friends we had in common. After many discussions about the minimal style I was looking for, Serge was able to pull off something clean and simple. Cara Reynold’s (Kate) entire voice performance needed to be redone in ADR due to a microphone problem. We had to fly Cara back from Vancouver. Due to the complex sexual undertone of the scene, redoing the entire performance was a great challenge for Cara and a great dose of stress for me. Cara was able to prepare herself and she was able to pull it off gracefully.
Working only at night and on weekends, the film took eighteen months to edit.
CLYDECYNIC is my first attempt at a feature film. The decision to handle everything myself, from writing to editing, was a personal test to see if I had what it need to be a complete filmmaker without having the stress of spending somebody else’s money.
VIRGINIE: During post-production, people start talking about the movie as your baby because they notice you’ve been obsessing about it for about two years now, and it will soon be ready to be released into the universe.
For us post production had its ups and downs. Once the film edit was finalized, I did a lot of the sound editing to help move the process along. Our final edit and sound mixing was done in Montreal, which made the process a bit challenging since we lived in Québec city. Ramiro likes to be involved in every detail, and living 250 km away from your sound studio can be stressful.
Music is one aspect that we toyed with until the very end. For a long time, the film had no music at all. Then, Ram and Jo recorded some guitar sounds. We wanted to use more light and pad than music. In the end, the film was fairly heavy, although Ramiro and I found it funny. And so, we added some music, but very delicately.