Montreal-based filmmaker Pat Kiely has screened four films in the last three years at AFF, all comedies that dare you to love them. Pat currently makes films with his sketch comedy group and many of them can now be found on-line at www.kidnapperfilms.com. AFF caught up with Pat to discuss his films, screening in Austin, future projects and Canadian comedy…
AFF: Your first trip to AFF was in 2003 with the student short film Dudley…
PK: Dudley was my second major project in film school. Our assignment was actually to shoot a 5-7 minute short with no dialogue. As it turned out, Dudley was an 18 minute, dialogue-based film. My professor tried to fail me and did everything in his power to get the project banned from the end of year screening.
Dudley is a comedy about a frustrated teenager who wants to sleep with his cousin and I was so happy that it found a home at Austin. It did a pretty good run of festivals, but Austin was definitely the highlight. The weekend I spent there re-defined what a festival could be for me as a young filmmaker. It received such a great response and I met so many great people. It was the first time I felt like I was part of ‘a film community.’
AFF: The next year, AFF screened another short you made as a student called Sharkboy which was a tribute to 80s teen films, particularly Teen Wolf, how was making that film different from making Dudley?
PK: The success of Dudley made it easier for me to convince everyone to get on board for Sharkboy. We made the jump to 35mm, which has never been done at my school in Montreal. Getting $12,000 to make the movie was hard enough. Then, actually making it for $12,000 was even tougher.
But yeah, the film drew on a lot of movies I watched as a kid. Most notably, ‘Teen Wolf‘ and ‘Back to the Future.’ Watching them as an adult brought this mixture of hilarity and respect. The latter coming from the fact that they’re actually good films, particularly ‘Back to the Future.’ Well, actually, ‘Teen Wolf‘ is not really a good film, anyway…just the whole 80s was such a great time for teenage flicks. There was this sort of formula that became cliche, while at the same time being awesome and funny in different ways.
Anyway, we infused this story about a mother having sex with a shark at a Led Zepplin party with our obsession over the 80s teen genre and there you have it: Sharkboy.
AFF: How was it moving from 16mm to 35mm?
PK: The jump was great. I actually bought stock off of a Fuji rep in a back alley. It was apparently close to expiring and the woman sold it to me for a quarter of the price. No receipt, cash in her pocket. It was pretty wild. Once that happened, I knew we were destined to shoot on 35mm.
AFF: You primarily make comedy shorts, it seems like a majority of the comedy shorts entered to our festival are shot on video and not film. The two short films screened in 2005, The Gerbil and The Song, were shot on video, do you see an advantage to shooting comedy on video over film?
PK: I definitely see the advantages with video. Things are looser, there’s less pressure, you can always roll. I’d like to say more takes, but I’ve found that actors only have three takes in them (for comedy). It’s hard to fight the staleness after that.
AFF: You made both The Gerbil and The Song with your sketch comedy group, how do you incorporate film into your live show?
PK: Usually we cut between sketches and videos in our shows. Sometimes there’s a string between them, sometimes not (if we don’t work hard enough).
AFF: Have you always wanted to make comedy films? Who or what were some of your comedy influences?
PK: In Canada we grew up with ‘The Kids in the Hall.’ That was a big one. But like any kid with a huge appetite for comedy, I watched ‘SNL’, ‘In Living Colour’ and whatever else. In terms of films, ‘Ghostbusters‘ was huge as a youngster. I feel like I know every line of the flick. But who doesn’t, right? In later years, Larry David has been a massive inspiration. For TV, he’s it.
AFF: You’re from Montreal, as far as you are concerned, do you feel like there is a big difference between American humor and Canadian humor?
PK: Not really. We both have good and bad comedy.
AFF: Do you feel like screening your films outside of Canada at festivals like AFF has shaped the way you think about playing to an audience?
PK: Yeah. Growing up on so much American cinema, I can’t help but be influenced by it. I think that a lot of narrative technique developed in the U.S. in under appreciated in Canada, especially in Quebec. There is a strong emphasis on ‘arty’ cinema up here that is okay, but can often come out ‘crap.’ While some of my films met with resistance in Quebec, they seemed to jive with the audiences in Austin. I guess Austin is such a rad place. It’s this artist mecca in Texas that doesn’ t take itself too seriously. There’s a healthy balance there. It seems that way at least.
AFF: What other projects have you been involved in outside of your own films?
PK: I’m associate producing a TV show right now for IFC which I have no creative control over. Which is a weird feeling, but whatever. Besides that, I’ve done a lot of comedy on stage. Mostly sketch, which has helped with my writing.
AFF: Do you have anything new in the works?
PK: We’ve got two features on the go. One of them is entitled ‘The WolfPack‘ and is becoming a beast that needs to be tamed. We’ve signed on with Canadian producers and that’s been trudging along for a while now. We’re also in pre-production for “Who is KK Downey?“, a comedy that our company is producing. We’re set to shoot in two months.
AFF: Do you feel like screening at AFF has helped you?
PK: Oh yeah. I got an agent in L.A. through AFF and met a lot of great people. It’s super important to get your films to festivals outside of your city and make the effort to go. For me, nothing compares to the hospitality, good times and connections made at Austin. I’m not just saying that because this is an AFF interview – I mean it.