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Sometimes dreams really do come true, as the team behind the
wildly successful short film REMOTE learned weeks ago. The Ontario-based group,
consisting of director Marc Roussel, Ron Basch (who stars, co-produced and is partners with Roussel in Red Sneakers Media) and editor/co-producer
Mark Sanders exclusively shared the news with Fango that REMOTE has been
greenlighted to be expanded into a feature, and Roussel and Basch discussed the
project with us.
The go-ahead came after what Roussel says was “a lot of hard
work and hustle,” doing everything they could to generate exposure for REMOTE
without having to put the short on-line. Finally, Sanders’ Berkshire Axis Media
(BAM) saw the feature’s potential and optioned the screenplay. According to
Basch, distribution is also in the offing, but it’s too early to reveal the
So, what is all the hoopla about? One day back in 2009,
REMOTE arrived at the Fango office, and this writer was so excited about it, it
was immediately programmed into our short-film lineup at FANGORIA’s Weekend of
Horrors in Los Angeles that year, followed by a screening at our New York
convention. The film deals with a man who turns on his TV one stormy night and
sees a young woman looking back at him; as they communicate through their
screens, he discovers she’s from the past—and is in terrible danger…
FANGORIA: What was your inspiration for REMOTE?
MARC ROUSSEL: The desire to make a horror film set primarily
in one location. I’m a big fan of Roman Polanski’s apartment trilogy—REPULSION,
ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE TENANT—and I thought it would be an exciting challenge
to create a suspenseful chamber piece. To heighten the sense of isolation, I
set the film during a severe snowstorm. Then I got the idea of the TV’s
satellite signal going out, and with that in mind, I set out to tell a familiar
story about a young woman being stalked by a faceless killer, but with a
FANG: What was the first festival where it was screened?
ROUSSEL: We finished postproduction in late 2008 and began
submitting it to as many fests as possible. Our very first public screening was
at the Great River Film Festival in Granville, Ohio on April 4, 2009. It wasn’t
long after that when you contacted me about screening REMOTE at the Weekend of
FANG: How many festivals has REMOTE played at altogether,
and how many awards has it garnered?
ROUSSEL: We’ve played over 40 fests around the world, and
picked up 11 awards. We were also nominated for a Director’s Guild of Canada
Award for Best Short Film.
FANG: Do you recall how you felt the first time you watched
it with a live audience?
ROUSSEL: Nervous. Sick to my stomach. You never really know
what you have until you see it with a live audience. As the film played, all I
could do was watch the backs of all these heads, trying to determine if they
were into it or not—so when the first “Holy shit” moment happened and I saw all
these heads lean back suddenly and heard the collective gasp…well, it was then
that I knew we had done our job right. I spent the rest of the screening
enjoying the crowd react the way I had hoped they would, and walked away from
it extremely proud of all our hard work.
FANG: Is it still on the festival circuit, or are things
cooling off now?
ROUSSEL: The film has had a good three-year run. There is
still plenty of interest in REMOTE—festivals still contact us about screening
it—but we’ve taken it off the circuit as we work toward getting the feature
version before the camera this spring.
FANG: When was the moment you realized you had to make
REMOTE into a full-length film?
ROUSSEL: Pretty much right after that first public
screening. Ron and I quickly came to that decision simultaneously. The film is
20 minutes long and plays like a minifeature. The feedback from the crowd made
us realize there was so much more to be explored with the concept and
characters. We knew we had something special that deserved a revisit.
RON BASCH: I would have to agree with Marc on this one.
Clearly, once we attended the first screening and heard the initial response,
it was evident that we put together a film that we could be proud of. I
remember when I was in Palm Springs, I was inundated with questions about it
and whether we had plans to turn it into a feature. As both one of the actors
and producers, this was exhilarating, not to mention all the invites we got to
play at other festivals after that screening.
FANG: Have you had to put other projects aside when it hit
you that you just had to make the longer REMOTE?
ROUSSEL: Oh yeah, definitely. Ron and I were averaging about
two short films a year, but when it was decided to concentrate on the REMOTE
feature, our output ceased. I didn’t want to split my focus from that script.
The last thing we wanted to do was just whip something together quickly. I took
my time writing it, figuring it out. It’s an intricate story with multiple
timelines that had to be handled carefully. Expanding the story meant rethinking
the rules of those timelines. It needed to be sophisticated enough for a
feature without being so convoluted that we would lose our audience.
BASCH: It was definitely a “good” setback. Marc has always
been the creative force behind our work, and I knew it was for the better to
leave him to do what he does best. Fortunately, I was still working as a
represented actor, so my thespian life wasn’t put on complete hold.
FANG: Have you had any feedback directly from the fans
asking for a full-length version of the story? Or was it a combo of the fans
and the reviewers over the years?
ROUSSEL: Sure; almost always after a screening, someone will
come up to us and say how he or she wished it were longer. The on-line bloggers
and critics have been great to us, some even going so far as to say they
thought the short would make for a good feature. Those comments gave us the
incentive to move forward.
BASCH: I have yet to attend a festival where I wasn’t
approached as to whether or not REMOTE was in development for a feature, and if
this was just a prelude to what to expect.
FANG: The fact that REMOTE is making this leap is rare, and
something short filmmakers dream about. How do you feel about this?
ROUSSEL: Lucky, but it didn’t come without a lot of hard
work and hustle. Ron and I have been promoting the short for years, doing
everything we can to get it seen, to build up a fan base without resorting to
putting it on-line. One of the producers, Mark Sanders, and Berkshire Axis
Media, the Canadian production company he works for, saw the potential in the
short becoming a 90-minute movie too, and optioned the screenplay. Now we are
greenlighted, financed and moving into preproduction. I think that says a lot
about the quality of our work, and that we can create something that’s
entertaining, thought-provoking and, dare I say, commercial, on a budget.
FANG: Tell us about the process of taking a successful short
and expanding it into a full-length feature. How does one begin? What does it
take to get a green light?
ROUSSEL: With a short, you have a small window of time to
tell your story. You really have to cut to the chase, so there is very little
room for character development. So with the feature version, I saw a chance to
expand on them. I also wanted to play with the theme of redemption and second
chances and take it further than I did in the short. Thankfully, our producers
felt the same way.
FANG: What were some of the greatest obstacles you had in
developing the feature?
ROUSSEL: Keeping the essence of the short while expanding
it, making it less self-contained. It was important to open it up, give it some
breathing room with richer characters and additional storylines. We wanted to
preserve the elements of the short that really worked while also creating new and
FANG: Do you have distribution lined up, or are you just in
the early stages of planning that?
BASCH: In today’s economic times, in order to get a film of
this magnitude to camera, with all its technical complexities, we realized we needed
strong producers on board with a proven track record and established
relationships with distributors. Thankfully, we were fortunate in more ways
then one. Mark Sanders is not only one of the producers of the feature, but
also a colleague. We have produced many shorts together, and have forged a
common bond and goal of making the best product possible. Various territories
must be sold in advance in order to ensure investment requirements are met.
We’re in talks with several at the moment, but until the logistics of
territories are on paper, we can’t say which distributors will be acquiring
what. Having said that, REMOTE is fully financed and will go to camera as
FANG: Do you have any advice for other short filmmakers who
might want to take their work and create features from them?
ROUSSEL: Make sure your core concept is strong. If you can
build on that foundation, then it might be worth expanding. It’s been done
before, successfully, with DISTRICT 9, GRACE and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, to name a
FANG: What is the REMOTE feature’s projected schedule?
BASCH: We’ll be shooting by spring 2012, with a finished
film ready for festivals by late summer. Everyone involved feels the movie can
easily play the top festivals in Toronto, Berlin and Venice, as well as
topnotch genre fests like Fantasia and Fantastic Fest.
FANG: Did you ever imagine way back when you started the
short that you would come this far? Is this like a dream come true, or do you
just feel the pressure—or is it a combination of both?
ROUSSEL: This is something I’ve been working toward since I
was 13, so yeah, it’s a dream come true. With every film, whether it’s a short
or a feature, there is always pressure to deliver on time and budget. But Ron
and I are always up for the challenge.
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