Will Canon is something of big deal. He’s young, a lil bit of a fresh air and definitely one to watch in forthcoming years.
After a hat full of critically acclaimed short films and a stink at the prestigious Fox Searchlight Pictures, Will started work on Brotherhood, his debut feature and an extension of his first short film Roslyn.
Brotherhood is heading to DVD on the 31st January,so we decided to sit him down and have a chat about how the film came to fruition, handling the pressure of his first feature film and the act of university hazing.
Hecklerspray: Let’s get to it. You’ve based Brotherhood on your first short film Roslyn. I’d imagine most of our readers won’t have seen it so could you first give us an idea what it’s about?
Will Canon: Well it’s all about a fraternity initiation that goes awry. But in the short film the fraternity brothers discover that they’ve made this horrible mistake and are able to correct it before things get bad. But in Brotherhood, the brothers discover that they’ve made a horrible mistake and aren’t able to correct it, and all hell breaks loose because of it.
HS: Nice, so you must have changed some things though, that’s cheating otherwise.
WC: The biggest thing that I did was to open up the world. The short film is pretty contained, mainly because it was only 8 minutes long. So there was only so much that could be done. But in Brotherhood, the audience gets to spend an entire night with these characters. It’s a very intense, action-filled night. People who have seen it really enjoy the ride that the film takes the audience on, but it’s not a ride you would want to experience in real life.
HS: Of course, no one wants to see a boring university film. But that whole fraternity pledge idea isn’t something we have over in the UK.
WC: The whole institution of a fraternity and the idea that someone would go through the initiation process where you’re subjected to physical and psychological challenges is something that doesn’t really take place outside the United States I don’t think. Saying that I think the thing that is universal about it is that it’s really a film about pack mentality and how people behave in a group when a crisis happens.
HS: Like a Lord of the Flies mentality?
WC: Exactly. When there’s a crisis, and people have to make split-second decisions about crucial things, as humans we have a tendency to follow the loudest or most charismatic member of the group and not the member of the group who actually has the best solution. That was a dynamic that really interested me and something that I think is found not just in fraternities, but is a dynamic that’s universal.
HS: Is the hazing ritual something you’ve had to endure before?
WC: The actual hazing component isn’t something that I had to go through in a way that comes close to what these characters have to go through. I was never in a fraternity. I played sports in high school and college, so there was a little bit of hazing that was involved, but nothing that rises to the level of what the characters in the film have to go through.
HS: Where does the inspiration come from then?
WC: The original inspiration came when I was in film school at NYU. I had a number of friends who were at other schools and had gone through the process of joining a fraternity and since I hadn’t done it, I was very curious about what it was like. Anthropologists who have looked at fraternities talk a lot about the idea that the brothers who are doing the hazing are acting out the aggression that were acted out on them. They are now scapegoating the new pledges for the frustrations and humiliations that they felt when they were the ones who were being hazed and humiliated and so it becomes this cycle that repeats itself and I thought that was really interesting. I thought it was a part of human behavior worth exploring and is, by no means, only found in a hazing context. I also want to add, I’ve been asked a number of questions recently about what I personally think about fraternities and my take is that fraternities aren’t good or bad the same way other institutions aren’t good or bad. It’s about the people in fraternities and sororities that determine the type of institution that it is going to be.
HS: I think most people agree that the step up from short film making to feature films is never easy. There’s more pressure, tonnes more planning, so what aspect did you personally find the most challenging?
WC: Probably the physical aspect of production was the most challenging. I met with several directors before I shot Brotherhood and tried to get as much advice from them as I could before I started. Everyone I met with said to make sure you really take care of yourself while you’re shooting. They said to eat well and to get to the gym before production starts so you’re in good shape for the grind that is the production. When you’re making a film, you’re in a constant state of exhaustion and there’s so much stress involved that you never really rest until shooting is over. So the actual physical toll that the production process took was probably the most challenging.
HS: That being said did you find anything straightforward on the shoot?
WC: I wish there was something that I thought was easy, but it was all pretty challenging. When you’re making a film, you’re creating a very specific unified thing that doesn’t exist until the cast and crew come together to make it. Each step of the process is such an important one and each step requires such attention to detail, that there wasn’t really anything that I thought was particularly easy.
HS: Go on, we’re giving you the floor, who’s that one guy who seemed to go above and beyond to help you create this film?
WC: I was really fortunate to have many people working on Brotherhood who really went above and beyond the call of duty. If I had to pick just one, it would be Doug Simon. Doug and I wrote the script together, but his contribution to the film and his insight goes way beyond the writing process. Doug also has an understanding of the filmmaking process and was literally involved in every step of that process on Brotherhood. I could go on and on about Doug. He’s a great writer and an even better person and I don’t get to talk about his contribution nearly enough, so I really appreciate the question.
HS: You’re still new to this directing lark, what advice would you give to those who are also trying to break it into the film business?
WC: Really listen to the advice of the people around you, but ultimately make sure to trust yourself. There’s a quote by Billy Wilder that sits on my desk that says, “Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.” I could not agree more. As a director, if you are making the film the way you want to make it, then you can survive the mistakes you make. But you can’t survive other people’s mistakes. My feeling was that this was my chance to make a film and the film would either sink or swim based on my decisions. I wasn’t going to let someone else’s decisions compromise it.
HS: Once you’re done with this hazing lark what are you up to next?
WC: I have several projects coming up that I’m excited about. I’m finishing up a new script with Doug Simon which is a thriller that takes place in the financial world. The other is a film adaptation of a five-part comic book series called Forgetless that was written by Nick Spencer. Nick just had a big article written about him in USA Today actually, and deservedly so, because Forgetless is fantastic and Nick is a talented guy.
This interview was by James Wright who we threatened to beat-up and send on weird errands so he could join our pointless frat group.