Published on May 24th, 2017 | by Craig Silliphant2
Interview – Callen Diederichs (Director – Steppin’ Out)
Steppin’ Out is the newest short from Saskatoon filmmaker Callen Diederichs, the latest adventure from everyone’s favourite 19th century gunslingers, seeking a mystical bison herd.
I’ve seen a few short films from Saskatoon filmmaker Callen Diederichs, including the inventive one take short Double Nickel on the Dime. But my favourite of Diederichs’ work has to be his ‘Gunslinger Series’ (my description, not his), about a pair of Northwest Resistant vets whose penchant for adventure gets them into all kinds of interesting trouble. He has just finished work on the latest installment, called Steppin’ Out, which is the 6th in the series.
The two wandering gunslingers, Delacroix and O’Donoghue, played by Diederichs and Charles Lemire, are often hilarious in their roles (especially Lemire’s smirky delivery). In Steppin’ Out, they seek out a mystical bison herd that sends them to strange new frontiers. That’s about all I can say without wandering too far into spoiler territory.
You can see Steppin’ Out for yourself at the premiere tomorrow (May 25th) at The Roxy Theatre, but in the meantime, I’ve had a chat with director/star Callen Diederichs. We won’t spoil the movie, so don’t worry about reading this before you see it.
THE FEEDBACK SOCIETY: I’m just going to call these guys Gunslingers, but remind me — are they just adventurers or are they specifically paranormal investigators?
CALLEN DIEDERICHS: There’s not really a single descriptor — gunslingers, outlaws, Northwest Resistance veterans, the Scully and Mulder of 19th century Saskatchewan. To be honest I play pretty loose with them depending on the context. Sometimes they’re paranormal investigators as you say, sometimes opportunistic adventurers, or noble anti-heroes. This episode sees them sink to outright coldblooded criminality for the first time.
The level of paranormality is flexible too, from psychosis caused by a sojourn in a supposedly haunted forest through to a Steam Punk era mad scientist, all the way to undead beings.
TFS: Can you go through the discography of the gunslingers? How many of them have you done now?
CD: Til the End of the Day 2010
Supper’s Ready 2011
The Trouble I Got 2013
Local Girls 2013
Showdown at Soggy Dip 2015
Steppin’ Out 2016
The continuity is really loose — the first one made would actually be the last, only Supper’s Ready and Trouble are directly linked plotwise, and Soggy Dip is a prequel to them all.
(A scene from Local Girls, starring Dakota Hebert and Diana Sawatzky)
TFS: Why do you continue returning to these characters? I love these characters, by the way. The look of bemusement that’s always on Charles’ face is hilarious.
CD: They’ve just become extensions of us at this point I think. My character often acts how I would if I lacked certain morals or self-preservation impulses. And yeah Charles’ character is mostly reacting to the stupidity of [myself] or other characters. By adding the supernatural element to the basic Butch and Sundance dynamic, there’s a lot of genre-blending and world building that can take place.
TFS: There is a twist to this movie that we don’t want to reveal. Let’s dance around it, shall we? In the vaguest terms possible, what made you decide to do this twists?
CD: It started with bring stopped by a neighbour on my way to work — he suggested I make an episode with a bison herd he knew of in the province. Given the nature of this series, of course, it would be a mystical bison herd. From there I just needed a result of encountering them and this was the stupidest idea I could come up with. And the closest I’ll come to a spoiler, now of course The Dark Tower is coming out and people will think I ripped a certain element of it off.
TFS: I wouldn’t worry too much about that. I think you’ve got your own thing going on with these characters that predates any Dark Tower hype, if not the books themselves. And to that end, your gunslingers throw themselves right into the situation, often in hilarious ways — does that say more about the characters or is it a function of getting to the point in a short film? Or does one service the others?
CD: I have a feature script of these characters and they show pretty much the same headlong abandon/lack of critical thinking. There’s a combination of boredom, greed, and curiosity that has them up for pretty much anything.
I hadn’t thought about it but yeah it does facilitate getting to the point for a short film. Although it doesn’t prevent them from engaging in drawn out monologues about Nietzsche either…
TFS: How have the technical aspects of the film grown with this iteration?
CD: I’m hung up on long takes, and this time we wanted there to be more dynamism and choreography. Getting a proper dolly with 30 feet of track really helped with that. To get really tech-nerdy for a moment, we shot in 2.5K RAW which is a fairly hi-res cinematic format. It really facilitated capturing detail in night scenes in particular and gave different colour grading options which allowed the editor to dial in different looks for the film.
But probably the most significant technical aspect was, we had electricity! Most of the other episodes were in such remote locations that we had no power so all the lighting was natural. This luxury allowed the DP to get very specific with the lighting for certain scenes, which as you’ll see suits the twist mentioned earlier.
TFS: Some of the movie was made with the help of Paved Arts (a community based organization that helps indie producers with things like equipment rental or even exhibiting work). How important is a place like Paved? How did you utilize them?
CD: Paved is an amazing resource for this city. It manages to be both an invaluable and affordable production aid for local artists of all abilities and inclinations, and an exhibition space for artists from all over the world.
At the time of the shoot, both my DP and sound recordist were working at Paved and they brought their years of experience working on various projects to my film. The majority of our top notch production gear was rented from Paved, and all of the sound and picture editing was done in their suites.
TFS: Any further info on the premiere you want to throw out there? Also, is there a place people can see the older shorts?
CD: There will be 3 other shorts to fill out the program. One is called The Sheriff by my friend John Riddell from Australia. He was my assistant director on Til the End of the Day and has had a lot of success on the festival circuit with his films. You’ll see the consonance which led me to choose this particular film of his.
Another is called The Noise by Gavin Baird who is a really interesting young filmmaker from Saskatoon. Check out his web series http://autumnsbreeze.com/ It’s a quaalude-addled trip through suburbia. I act in this new one, which is really the last capacity in which I should be involved in film.
Finally there’s the aforementioned Showdown at Soggy Dip, which was intended to be part of a compendium of films about the history of Saskatchewan, which is currently in limbo.
There will also be great beer on tap from 9 Mile Legacy!
My films are all online but somewhat hidden. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send links!
TFS: Anything I’ve missed?
That covers a lot! I’d like to encourage people to come check out some truly independent cinema that also incorporates folks from the local music and visual arts scenes. I’d also like to give kudos to the Saskatchewan Arts Board who provided funding for this film, which is not something to take for granted in this era of austerity.