Former visual editor recently turned short filmmaker. Bruce Wabbit is an award winning filmmaker who grew up in Wellington New Zealand with a passion for British, Irish and American cinema. He later migrated to New York City to study Film at NYU and now resides in Vancouver British Columbia.
His recent film, "Siobhan" is about a woman who falls under suspicion when her partner seemingly disappears after reporting a domestic disturbance. It was our pleaure to speak to Bruce about his film and his work as a filmmaker.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
It started with cartoons and comic books at a very young age. I always enjoyed storytelling as an art form and Saturday morning cartoons were my world. Shows like Bravestar, Galaxy Rangers, Super Ted, Danger mouse, He-Man and my favourite, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I wanted to tell stories like that. then I was introduced to my very first comic book “Daredevil”. It was like the shows I watched but on pages. So I started storyboarding my own homemade comic books. Did that from the age of 8 till about 19 until I went to New York to study film and directing.
I worked on and off as a visual editor for over 15 years until I decided to make a change and quit the film business altogether. A few people were upset with my decision, but I just wasn’t in love with it as I was when I first started. Then about 3 years ago I decided to try a new path, short filmmaking and cinematography. Nothing too serious, just for the fun of it and I did a film called “Just To Be Frank” that changed everything. I was invited to my first film festival as a director and things just took on a life of its own from there. Frank was a very indie arthouse film about a fighter who didn’t want to fight anymore after suffering a loss and battling depression. It won over 7 best short film awards along with best cinematography. Why? I don’t know, but I am grateful for the experience.
What genre of filmmaking are you looking to work on and why?
I'm partial towards crime dramas and detective stories. So anything you see coming from me and my team will always have that element of David Fincher meets Christopher Nolan influenced style of direction. There's just something intriguing about a good mystery, especially the ones you can’t tell what’s coming at the end. Like Fight Club. I love everything about the creative choices of that film!
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker?
Most people will probably say funding a project. But for myself I find it to be collaborative differences. Sometimes finding a group of like minded individuals can be challenging. People hear movie making and all of a sudden they think, big budget, oscars and Emmy nominations. I just want to create something entertaining. If it turns out to be worth something that is recognized on the big stages, then, all right. Luckily I’ve found it with my 5050 films team. We all want the same thingsso we’re able to work together towards similar goals. That is a rare thing in this industry.
How challenging is it to fund indie films?
It's very difficult if you plan on having a lot of moving parts and don’t have the resources to help get things rolling. Why I tend to keep things on the simple side and just make short films for now. I’d love to do a feature but it’s a challenge in today’s climate and I’m willing to wait for an opportunity to become available.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher and Christopher Nolan. The films that shaped me as a filmmaker are From Dusk Till Dawn(The first half),
True Romance, Fight Club and Memento. I love the way Tarantino’s characters interact with each other through their dialogue. The grittiness and gut punch of a Fincher mystery and the stylistic risks that Nolan takes with each film. When I begin a project I always try to incorporate these three things. Dialogue is something I need to work on because I tend to write how people speak in reality, not what’s grammatically correct. I wrote a screenplay once that’s written entirely in Irish slang and dictation. If you’re not Irish, chances are you won’t understand half of it. Someone joked it was harder to read than Shakespeare. That’s why it’s still sitting on my desk 8 years later. Maybe one day.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
"The Crook & Creek”. It is a period piece drama set in 1931, Belfast Northern Ireland. The film tells the story of a hostage situation between an infamous bank robber and a police inspector. The film stars Sohaib Syed as Inspector Rohan and Joseph Sharkey as famed bank robber Rauri Daly. Project is set for a 2021 release.
What inspired you to work on Siobhan?
Siobhan was developed by Joseph Sharkey and myself. We had just finished “The Angriest Man In Town" and we were trying to come up a few new ideas for what to do next. We’ve never done a thriller before and I wanted to see if it was something possible. The concept idea of Siobhan was swimming around in my head for some time and Joe and I figured it was worth a shot. We were getting everything in place and then it happened. The Lockdown period. Almost all of our original ideas had to be changed. We had to get creative. Most of the actors in the same scenes are actually in different countries who had to find ways to film their scenes themselves. Directing 8 different actors between three countries via messenger and texts was quite the experience. But with some adjustments and creative thinking, we were able to complete our project.
How did you finalize the cast and the crew of the film?
Like most directors and filmmakers today, I tend to work with the same group of actors. It’s just a matter of what role they get to play this time around. Siobhan played by Salma Allam was written specifically for that actress. Same with Joseph Sharkey’s character. Carlito Jackson who plays Matt (Siobhan’s partner) has been making films with me from the start of this short filmmaking venture. We did a short fan fiction film based on the BBC series “Luther” and have been like John and Ripley ever since. Monika Abate is another actress, writer, director I've worked with periodically over the years. The new faces this time around are Nick Burnett, Joleen Lawson and Zeinab Elashi. Nick, who plays detective Manning, was introduced to me by my best mate Joe and we had a few meetings over zoom and messenger. I loved the fact that he was a former police officer and military veteran and decided to give him a shot at the part. Joleen was another recommendation.
Originally There wasn’t a role for her to play but when we had to shift some ideas around, I was able to bring her on board with another Old friend of mine Louis Lopez. Siobhan’s mother who is played by Zeinab Elashi, is in fact the real life mother of actress Salma Allam. Being the only two actors allowed to interact with each other at the time, it just made sense to cast her in the role.
What is the distribution plan of the film and did the film receive any screenings or was it featured in festivals?
There isn’t any distribution plan in place seeing that it’s only a short but everyone who’s seen the film has expressed an interest in seeing it become a feature. It’s currently making its way through the festival circuit and has seen success at Montreal Film festival, Indie Shorts Film Fest, Kosice International Film Festival, Venice Shorts and here at Toronto Film Magazine Fest. It’s picked a few awards for best editing and Jury Choice Award. We’ve been invited to a few more and we are just waiting for the results.
Why do you make films and what kind of impact would your work have on the world?
Film making has always been a passionate hobby of mine. I enjoy storytelling in the simplest form, but with a twist. The goal is always to entertain and have fun with others who enjoy the craft. Everything else is a welcomed bonus, that I'm always grateful for. I’m not looking to change the world or make any kind of statement with the films I work on. it’s all just a fun form of therapy for me. A creative journal in which I get to tell a story from a unique perspective. I’m not really sure what kind of impact that will have. If any. My hope is always to at least have left the viewer entertained. So to quote the late great Oliver Reed from Gladiator, “I know that you would die for honor, for Rome, for the memory of your ancestors. But as for me? I'm an entertainer.”