by Tom Sasvari, March 22, 2019
GORE BAY—Dylon Whyte was genuinely surprised when he found out that he had won the Best Actor Award at the recent Berlin Underground Film Festival (BUFF), which bills itself as a “new way of consuming culture.”
“I recognized the number on my call display as Jayson Stewart of Massey,” explained Mr. Whyte. Mr. Stewart is writer and director of ‘The Philanthropist,’ a crowd-funded independent short film which was shot in Gore Bay and Massey in the spring of 2018.
“We first met formally while I was volunteering in August of 2015 as a zombie in Jayson’s short film REZilience,” continued Mr. Whyte, who would later discover that Jayson had first seen him perform as Mitch Albom in ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ onstage at Manitowaning’s Burns Wharf Theatre in 2008.
“At first I thought he was calling to discuss a role I have in his most recent independent production entitled ‘Overdue, a “pregnant” comedy written by screenwriter Marla J. Hayes which we will be filming next month in Massey,” said Mr. Whyte.
“It was either that, I thought, or a call regarding the documentary we’re co-developing about my father’s unique studio home,” Mr. Whyte said, explaining, “he then told me that he had some news to share before it ‘officially hit the internet.’ I was intrigued, puzzled and downright stunned when Jayson explained that I had won an acting award for my titular role as the Philanthropist.”
“I honestly thought I was being bamboozled by a clever practical joker,” admitted Mr. Whyte, but as he was about to discover, the accolade received from BUFF, which focuses on different, innovative and modern films and their directors, was real.
Mr. Stewart told the Recorder, “he spooked us in this film, he took the role and did things we were not expecting—he shocked us, which is exactly what you look for in actors.”
“I love that the BUFF website features Berlin’s diverse graffiti art while describing the city as independent, underground, cosmopolitan and most of all open,” said Mr. Whyte, continuing, “other than bragging rights, there was no other remuneration, gold statues or certificates associated with the award. I find this fitting for a crowdfunded project created by a collective of talented individuals. All of whom donated their time, effort and various skills because they love what they are doing. Especially since independent short films such as ‘The Philanthropist’ simply wouldn’t exist without the dedication of everyone involved.”
“Encountering support for independent passion projects such as ‘The Philanthropist’ is fantastic,” Mr. Whyte said with an enthusiastic smile. “It proves that anything is possible.”
Currently on the film festival circuit, ‘The Philanthropist’ made its world premiere at Sudbury’s Northern Frights Festival this past October and Mr. Whyte was in attendance. “It’s quite something to see your face on the big screen at a place like the Sudbury Theatre Centre, it’s almost impossible not to notice all your flaws,” he confessed with a laugh.
‘The Philanthropist’ was also an official selection and merit award winner at the Canada Shorts Canadian and International Short Film Festival 2018 held on December 15 of last year in St. John, New Brunswick.
“It’s amazing that makers of independent productions today have access to an entire world of festivals through resources such as Film Freeway which encourages and facilitates electronic submissions. When my father and I were first involved with film festivals in the late 90s and early 2000s things were far more complicated. Submissions often involved the laborious process of physically shipping hand copied video cassettes in a variety of formats,” Mr. Whyte explained.
On the only sad note, Mr. Whyte’s father, Gore Bay artist Jack Whyte, never saw the completed film. “Dad was always a fan of my acting, but the timing just didn’t work out,” said Mr. Whyte.
“He did however receive a humorously glowing review of my performance that left a proud smile on his face.”
“My goal is to remain humble through the accolades,” said Mr. Whyte, concluding thoughtfully, “in my experience awards come and go; real fun is found in the doing.”
To learn more about ‘The Philanthropist,’ as well as other productions from Laps in Judgment Films, including the upcoming independent comedy ‘Overdue’ (in which Mr. Whyte will be an actor) please visit www.judgementfilms.com.
“Our next project is ‘Overdue,’ a comedy which we will start filming in Massey in April,” said Mr. Stewart. “Marla Hayes is an award winning screenwriter and author from North Bay. Dylon is one of the four main members of the cast,” he said. The 15 minute comedy film focuses on pregnant couples. The comedy centres on a happenstance meeting in an obstetrician’s office between two very different, very pregnant couples.
By Jessica Brousseau, The Mid-North Monitor
Wednesday, September 21, 2016 9:35:40 EDT AM
Locally filmed, directed and written, REZilence is about to make its debut on the big screen.
It’s been more than a year since Jayson Stewart directed his first film, and it is ready for the public.
The teaser, which is just under 10 minutes, will have its debut at the 2016 Cinefest Sudbury International Film Festival on Sept. 24. The preview, which Stewart described as having a beginning, middle and a cliff hanger (as opposed to an end) was short listed as a finalist for the CTV Best in Shorts (short film) Competition.
In August of 2015, Stewart wrapped up filming REZilence, and in the past year he has been spent time editing what was shot at the Espanola air field.
“Now that we are in the festival circuit, once we start hitting a number of festivals, we are going to be doing public showings.”
When shooting, Stewart thought the short film was going to be “very tiny” production wise.
But with sponsors, grants and donations, he was able to collect roughly $17,000, which Stewart said the film was “much more sophisticated than what we intended it to be.”
A 1:22 trailer of REZilience was uploaded online to give a sneak peek at what Stewart and 120 others were creating.
“Originally, it was 22 minutes,” Stewart said, adding he found it too wordy with not enough action. “I broke the big rule. You show it, don’t say it. A lot was edited out.”
Stewart said it was hard to edit out scenes, not because of the script, but because of the time.
“To think that filming with a large crew, invading someone’s house and it ends up on the cutting-room floor.”
However, Stewart said the homeowner is familiar with the filming process. She was understanding that the scene shot at her home was cut out.
With the public showing of REZilence finally coming, it is time to start working on the full film. However, the script has yet to be finished. A regret of Stewart’s.
“The next step is to get the script done to work with Sagamok to see what their level or partnership is and what government grants are available,” explained Stewart. “Then (we) fill in the gaps to look at sponsorship and crowd funding.”
He is hoping the REZilence clip will help boost sponsorship and donations. The project is expected to take Stewart, cast and crew four weeks to film with a ballpark budget of $250,000 to $500,000. That covers payment of equipment, cast, food, editing and insurance.
“It’s a lot more expensive than people think. We didn’t have to pay for any of the locations.”
He laughs and adds the project will still “rely on the generosity of Northern Ontario.”
If he could get big-name actors, Stewart thinks they would be able to draw more attention to the film.
Remington Louie, who played one of the male leads in the short film, will be back to finish off his role Dwayne Peltier.
“I am super excited about working with jayson again,” said Louie. “It was a great experience and its great to be around people like him who are just unbelievable in everything they do, his work ethic and personality are unparallel and I just cant wait!”
Louie added working on REZilience, Stewart and everyone involved is something he wants to be a part of again.
“Everybody that worked on the film just blew my mind how they came together and worked well together, I cant even begin to explain an experience like it.”
As to who will play the lead female, Waneeka Sainte-Marie, is unknown, but Stewart does have an idea of who he would like to cast, hoping for the current Miss Universe, Ashley Callingbull.
“She would be fantastic,” Stewart gushed, “as someone who used her crown to call out Stephen Harper and demand change for Indigenous people is incredible.”
But for now, Stewart said they will be working on the script in hopes they can start filming for August of 2017.
The Mid-North Monitor asked Stewart, as a father, whether this is a movie that parents should bring their children to see. While he is unsure what the exact rating of the film would be, he wouldn’t recommend bringing any little ones to the screening.
“There are some f-bombs and some blood and gore. The feature would be higher rated. It would be darker and nasty while telling a compelling story.”
He added it is “less gruesome than what you see in the Walking Dead.”
After Sudbury, the short film will be viewed in North Bay during the Northern Freights Festival. Come 2017, Stewart is looking at holding public viewings.
REZilience is about a man named Victor “Doc” Murdoch who is training a young pilot, Peltier, to fly an illicit plane route to haul contraband materials out of Serpent Lake Reserve. But, a military experiment gone wrong has the pilots in a land overrun by the undead.
After After months of preparations, the filming of REZilience has come to an end.
From Aug. 4 to 7, Jayson Stewart has been surrounded by a cast and crew as he began directing his first film.
The big scene, which called for roughly 60 zombies, was filmed at the Espanola airfield. The Mid-North Monitor caught up with Stewart as he began preparing for the final shoot that night.
“It’s been wild!” he said.
Like most events or productions bumps and hiccups occur, which Stewart said had happened with last minute drop outs. However, the film gods were in favour of Stewart and all vacant spots were filled.
“Fake it until you make it,” he joked as he prepared dinner for his crew. “Working with people who know what they are doing on the same set as people who have no clue is a challenge. But at the same time it affords you a lot of training opportunities.”
Filming had taken longer than he anticipated, saying it was due to losing key people in the grip and gaffer (lighting and electrical).
The loss lead to crew members taking up more responsibility on set. He had joked that you wouldn’t normally see a producer making food, or his camera operator looking after the lighting.
“Lighting has taken up most of our time,” he explained. “With it being night shots, there is a lot to light and (there) is no natural light out here.”
Stewart commended his crew, saying they have been incredible and pulled beyond their weight.
Tents and trailers were on set, which provided some sleeping arrangements for cast and crew.
Remington Louie, the lead actor from Winnipeg, had spent the night before in a trailer on the airfield.
“The country side is gorgeous,” said Louie. “I don’t know if you been to Winnipeg, (but) it doesn’t look like this.”
Louie, who just finished filming Road of Iniquity, wasn’t the first actor cast as the character Dwayne, but fate intervened when the first actor had to drop out, and Stewart contacted him four weeks ago.
“He contacted me about coming out here because something happened,” Louie explained. “It was short notice, but here I am today.”
Louie said the script and the concept of the story are “awesome.”
“The metaphors he is trying to incorporate into it is fantastic,” he said.
Lending a hand for the film were some experts who shared their knowledge and skills to create a realistic short film.
Eddie Jeanveau spent the week creating authentic sounds for the film. For example, he recorded the zombies making sounds so the actors voices were in the film rather than a stock sound.
While Stewart worked on getting dinner ready, Patrick Gervais was on site preparing to make the scene gory with special effects. Chantelle Bowerman and Alysia Topol were two of the creative masterminds responsible for transforming the actors into the walking dead.
The Espanola Flying Club allowed Stewart to find the location shot in “his backyard.”
He said the location is prime for filming as there had been no disturbances throughout the processes.
Once filming wrapped up early Saturday morning, it was time for Stewart to take a break from REZilience.
“I’m taking August off for my family,” he said, adding they had come out to visit him on set.
The next project he works on will be a more private one as he celebrates his anniversary with his wife.
Come September, he will be back in the arms of REZilience to finish the post-production of the film. Afterwards, he plans to shop the short film around to gauge interest and hopes to set up a public viewing.
At the cold, undead heart of REZilience is a social conscience.
Jayson Stewart is director of what's billed as the first ever First Nations zombie movie, a feature about a handful of survivors trying to escape an outbreak, caused by an evil corporation, at a fly-in reserve up north.
REZilience will deliver more than enough guts and gore to satisfy fans of the genre, Stewart said, as well as a strong socio-political message.
"For those who like action, there's going to be a lot of action, for those who like zombie movies, yes, there will be gore, and for those who like character-driven films, you get very invested in these four characters and in wanting them to survive and to pass on this knowledge as they uncover it, so there's also the thriller side of it, too," said Stewart, a schoolteacher and head of Laps in Judgement Films, which begins shooting a proof-of-concept in the Massey area next month.
"But the big thing is it's also a political story, too. There are many layers to the story, even something as simple as the villain's name, Duncan Scott, who is the CEO of the DCS Group."
That's a reference to Duncan Campbell Scott, Canada's first Indian Affairs minister, who in his day advocated for the assimilation of First Nations peoples.
"The was one of the main authors of the Indian Act, which is seen worldwide as a racist piece of legislation that needs major, major work, if not dismantling entirely," Stewart said. "So we're hitting on those issues of colonization, of poverty, of loss of identity, but also the beauty and power of indigenous culture to be resilient, for language to come back and for culture to be something that shouldn't be shunned or hidden, but should be celebrated, and in this case, there's a twist where that culture actually saves their lives."
Stewart came up with the idea a few years ago, "when a writer friend and I were just bantering back and forth, throwing out as many crazy story ideas as possible.
"We never thought we'd pick up on one that could actually be worked on."
But he eventually got serious about the story and on Aug. 4, he'll join the cast and crew to film the proof-of-concept – roughly, the first 20 minutes of the film – at the Massey airfield and other locations in the area.
"We hope to market this to producers who would pay big bucks for the whole feature," Stewart said.
"Our thought on that, too, was even if we didn't get a producer interested in the whole piece, maybe we could do it as an online serial, which is becoming more and more popular, or like a miniseries-type of idea, but I think there's going to be enough interest here that we will be able to do a full feature."
Much of the film will take place in the fictional community of Serpent Lake, home to about 350 people and unfortunately, chosen by DCS as an ideal test location for a biological weapon meant to neutralize a large population by paralysing and knocking them unconscious for a period of time.
While the corporation has tested the weapon at other out-of-the-way locales, such as villages in the Congo or Latin America, its effectiveness in colder climates is unproven – hence the focus on Serpent Lake.
"What they don't realize is there's something about First Nations DNA that is susceptible to this pathogen and it paralyses them and knocks them unconscious, but the paralysis goes deeper and it paralyzes the heart and lungs, which they had never seen anywhere else," Stewart said. "And beyond that, it actually brings them back from the dead.
"Now, you have a population that's almost entirely zombified in a contained area, a far Northern reserve, surrounded by hundreds of miles of rugged bushland to get to the nearest community. There's no communication in and out, because they had paid someone internally to sabotage the only communication system they had."
It's in that situation that the lead character, Dwayne Peltier, played by 27-year-old Winnipeger Remington Louie, and aging bush pilot Victor (Doc) Murdoch, portrayed by Sudburian Douglas Davidson, find themselves at the start of the story.
Yet to be cast as major characters are a strong, young First Nations woman who has been away for medical training, a police officer steeped in traditional culture, and his brother, a local thug and drug dealer who "is an antagonist, a villain at first, but you'll grow to love him."
Most actors in the film, including the zombies themselves, are Aboriginal.
Stewart is not of First Nations heritage himself and admitted to initial fears he would be charged with cultural appropriation.
"I'm very cognizant and aware and respectful of that," he said. "Fortunately, I have brought on so many people who are Chippewa and Mohawk and Ojibwe and Cree and Kootenay, so I could rely on them and if ever it seemed like I was going astray or had a lens that wasn't respectful, that they would rein me in. And fortunately, they haven't had to do that, because maybe it's just in my DNA to be respectful and celebratory of all the people involved."
In fact, the biggest donor to the project so far has been the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, located near Massey.
"They came forward with a $10,000 contribution, so that makes them one of our producers," Stewart said. "Not only did they love the concept and the story and they loved the number of their own community members who are part of it enough to give 10 grand, but just their support of it, legitimizes it. Any worries I had about cultural appropriation were kind of erased when they gave their stamp of approval."
For more information, visit www.judgementfilms.com.
A collection of media links.