When Jayson Stewart set out to make his first film, he didn’t expect it to reach the heights it had in just a few short months.
REZilience, which is categorized as an Indigenous zombie horror film, will be the first full-length film to come from Stewart as well as a first of its kind in what Stewart called a saturated market of zombie movies.
“It’s a unique story that people want to see on the big screen.”
Although filming for the full motion picture has yet to start, the 10-minute teaser that Stewart and his crew put together has gained them recognition surpassing the borders of North America.
Stewart, along with cast and crew, have lit up the big screen in Mexico and India, as well as parts of South America and Central America.
“It’s wild!” Stewart exclaimed.
“I did not think that the film would have any traction with film festivals because it is not a complete story,” he admits. “It’s only a snippet of a larger narrative. I submitted it with the hopes of getting one or two pickups.”
To date, REZilience has been picked up and shown 14 times and has won two awards. The film took home the bronze award at the Spotlight Horror Film Award in December and won the inaugural Larry Dohlstrom Northern Ontario Horror Short Award during last year’s Northern Frights Festival in November. Attached to the film is also a dozen laurels (nominations).
“Having those laurels attached to the shorts will only help solidify funding and interest from key players in the filming of the feature.”
He estimated funding to be around $300,000. Stewart said a few changes have been made to tighten the budget and cut a few costs.
Joining him on the film is Joyce Cyr, a producer/actor out of North Bay. Cyr, who is part of the Directors Guild of Canada, has worked on reality TV show’s the Amazing Race Canada Season 3, and Beauty and the Beast season 4, as well as features Suicide Squad and Kodachrome.
Cyr said she was impressed that REZilience had a new twist “on the usual zombie story.”
“I am also particularly pleased that we have a strong female lead character,” she said. “That is something that is in high demand right now.”
She added, “there is a clear demonstration of First Nations culture throughout the film using high-quality consultations for accuracy.”
“As a woman of Métis heritage, she adds a level of credibility,” Stewart explained. “Other than lacking an Inuit voice, it’s a model relationship of reconciliation. White director, Métis producer (and) First Nations cinematographer.”
Cyr said it was Stewart’s passion for the film that led her to teaming up with him.
“Jayson’s passion was the first thing that struck me, as well as his tenacity at marketing that passion every chance he got,” she said. “I heard his vision, read the script and realized that this was a project that I would be proud to be a part of. It is a very exciting project to be working on.”
According to Stewart, Cyr would be in charge of the budget and legal work, as well as bringing her own touch to the film.
Although nothing is set in stone at the moment, Stewart is planning on launching some fundraising initiative via a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign, and a new website and budget to aid in applying for grants.
“It’s like expecting a child, but one you have been carrying for nearly a decade,” Stewart jokes when asked about future film dates. “We don’t have a date set yet. My hope would be to (film) the first three weeks of August.”
But if funding falls short, he said he may have to push the date back to August of 2018. The film will be shot 85% with local scenes with 100% of the film shot in Northern Ontario.
“We do have some reserve scenes that we will probably need to film in Sudbury as we need a medical lab and a corporate board room.”
When it comes to getting his crew established, Stewart has received letters of intent from a stunt coordinator, special effects makeup, a director of photography, a camera operator, and up to 30 zombies ready on standby. Stewart said he plans to use a small and tight “well-trained crew” once filming commences.
The trailer for REZilience, which starred Remington Louie and Douglas E. Davidson, can be found on YouTube. The film is dedicated in memory of Jessica Southwind-Holmes.
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