A set of three short films shot in one room each, The House Series has been attracting a lot of attention to writer and director team Jordan Canning and Jody Richardson. Bedroom in particular. It received glowing reviews at the Toronto Film Festival and was winner of the Atlantic Film Festival’s Best Atlantic Short category.
When did you first get the idea for The House Series?
JC: Last July is my guess. Here On In was the short I had in the festival last year. Ah, good old Here On In. I love that film, and I met Jody through that film, and I have a special place in my heart for it.
But darned if it didn’t get rejected from almost every festival I sent it to…
JR: It’s the weirdest thing.
JC: I understand. But it still sucks, and it still pisses me off.
JC: It took so much money, and so much time. It was the biggest budget I’d ever worked with… It took roughly a year from start to finish. And in the end I had this sweet little film that got seen in a couple of festivals and there you go. I was thinking if this is what I want to do—if I want to make films—how am I going to get any better if I can only make one a year? If it takes this long to pull the funding together, pull the crew together, shoot the thing, edit the thing…
JR: Post, post, post…
JC: I’ll never learn. And after Here On In, all I wanted was to learn and get better at directing, get better at working with actors, and get better at constructing a story.
So Jody and I were talking at some point. I was ranting about this…
JR: You were weeping at the time.
JC: (laugh) Yeah, I was probably crying.
JR: The House series was basically to cheer Jordan up. (laugh) “Sweetheart, this is what we’ll do. Fuck them! We’ll make it ourselves, and make stuff that comes from the script, and write it specifically for actors so no one has to audition and we’ll write things that people really want to make, then everybody will get something out of it. That’s what we’ll do.”
JC: Besides me crying through the whole thing, that’s where it came from. “All right, what can we make that won’t take a year? Let’s write stuff that doesn’t need a lot of money to make, we don’t need gear for, we don’t need a crew for, we don’t need locations.”
We started thinking of ideas for scripts with production in mind right from the beginning.
Why make three films? Why not just one?
JC: The House series was never about making films with an end in mind. No festivals or anything. We never thought of them as films being festival worthy or whatever. They were more conceived of as exercises.
JR: That’s why it’s been such a fairy tale.
JC: I bought a camera for shooting and editing. It was just for a learning experience. But after Jody wrote Bedroom, the script set the bar so high and all the stars aligned and we got Robert Joy and Megan Jones on board…
JR: We looked at it as we don’t have any money to pay our actors but we’re going to write roles so the people involved will have something they’re really proud of at the end of it. And for us it made us work really hard, because we were saying “I can’t pay you but we’ll have something at the end to be proud of…”
JC: With all three of the films we have relatively unknown actresses. Megan Jones is a doctor and she’s also an actress, clearly, but you know? She’s a doctor by day and has mostly done theatre—and by God, if she doesn’t hold her own with Bob Joy through this whole thing. She did such an amazing job.
JR: Robert Joy did an interview up in Toronto, he said this really awesome thing: “In LA I’d never get a shot at a character like this. I would never get to play a guy like this in a bigger production.”
It was writing really meaty and strong characters for the actors to make up for the fact we weren’t paying them and to make the experience a pure collaboration.
The combined ensemble of hard work everyone put in—it was a really lovely thing.
You two are a couple—how is it to work together?
JC: Generally 100% awesome.
JR: We talk an awful lot about the stuff that gets done and then try to be as honest as possible about if it is. Bedroom is the first film script I had ever written. Then Jordan did what she did, and worked with these two incredible actors (Megan Jones and Robert Joy), and then shot it that way and created it.
For Bathroom, I wanted it to have a totally different voice. Bathroom had to be very violent and vicious and verbose. Jordan shot the thing herself, jumping around the bathroom—two women and just her. We filmed all the movies in our house, and I left that day, so it was the three ladies working in the house. Through these things we kind of built a trust and sensibility because we went to two poles. Total stillness in Bedroom to insane erratic-ness in Bathrooom.
Some people wouldn’t be able to talk as openly or be as critical of their partner’s work as they could with others. They might feel tempted to flatter the other person…
JR: I’m sure that will happen eventually.
JC: Someday you’ll want to flatter me! (laugh)
JR: Because I never support her at all, in the slightest.
JC: He’s obviously joking, because we’re each other’s biggest fans. That’s what it feels like.
JR: Without a doubt.
JC: We trust each other’s tastes and we trust each other’s opinions. We believe in each other’s talents.
JR: I was talking to somebody else in a different capacity about this. We trust each other’s taste, and that’s unbelievably important. To trust somebody’s instincts, that’s really important. It’s so difficult to grow in the same direction and have that trust.
I’ve been in many, many different creative environments when you don’t have that trust, you can just hear the death knell… When you don’t trust the person’s instincts any more.
JC: Whatever they do creatively, if you think it sucks, my God, get out.
JR: We were talking with the band The Pathological Lovers about that, and saying because it’s good right now, and because there’s a lot of trust—those are the times in life when you have an unbelievable responsibility to produce as much as you possibly can before it sours. You hope you can have this love, and keep going like this as long as it’s possible. And you have this responsibility to get everything you can out of it. So we’re working, and we’re working hard.
Bedroom will play at the Quick N’ Dirty screening on Thursday, Oct 16 at the Majestic Theatre. 10pm.
Kitchen and Bathroom will play at the By Fresh, By Local screening on Saturday, Oct 18 at the Majestic Theatre. 12:30pm.