Creativity can set someone apart from a crowd, that much we know. However, for Ryerson film students Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman, taking a new angle on the way films are made could be the difference between spending $3,000 to zero on your film – and it could get you to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
“I think it’s the cheapest movie in TIFF. The only money we spent was on beer and pizza. We didn’t spend any money on sets or anything like that. We shot on webcam,” says Woodman. “It was a really thrifty filming experience.”
Twenty-three-year-old Cederberg and 22-year-old Woodman produced and directed Noah, one of the Ryerson student films being featured in TIFF’s Short Cuts Canada program this year. Noah takes place completely on a computer screen, following the main character, Noah, through the difficulties of his relationship on Facebook, and the aftermath of a breakup through Chat Roulette. The film is ultimately an experience of what it’s like to live inside the computer of an average teenage male, jumping from LOLcats to Youporn to Facebook chat in a matter of seconds.
“I wanted to do a movie about Chat Roulette for a long time because I was obsessed with it,” says Woodman. “I was writing a script in Tara Cates’ class about Chat Roulette and then one day, Patrick suggested that we could do the whole movie on a computer screen. Then we basically started to confine ourselves to thinking how we could make something like that interesting.”
Now in their fourth year at Ryerson, Woodman and Cederberg have been making films together for two years. While in their third year, Noah was chosen by Ryerson professors as one of the top four films from the TIFF student show case, which meant it would go on to be featured in the 2013 festival. There are around 700 films submitted to TIFF every year in the hopes of being featured in the shorts programme.
Cederberg and Woodman both say that the TIFF experience is “amazing.” It consisted of spending two days at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, eating cornish game hen at a fancy open-bar restaurant, but most importantly, meeting the TIFF programmers and film makers in the industry from all parts of Canada.
Both Woodman and Cederberg are now just enjoying the fruits of their labour. They both jokingly agree that the biggest challenge faced when putting the film together was dealing with each other, yet agreeing on something they were both happy with was crucial.
Fake Facebook accounts were made for all the main characters, but there were some approved cameos made by real-life Facebook friends in the film. However, Cederberg and Woodman were the ones who did all the typing while characters interacted via chat on the screen.
“We spend two nights just choreographing. We sat with three or four laptops around us, just trying to capture everything in one take, if we could,” says Cederberg.
“We didn’t want to put our actors through that because it was pretty tedious,” says Woodman.
The last part of the film making process was adding the music. After watching it a couple of times in silence, it was agreed upon that music was a must.
“It was really weird. For certain parts, we’d say ‘Oh, we can do a rap song here!’ but then we thought that we couldn’t have words in a song if you’re already reading words on the screen,” said Woodman. “We went through thousands and thousands of songs. We both have really big itunes libraries.”
An entire night was dedicated to choosing the music Noah would play on his itunes that went according to his moods as different events happened on the screen.
Unlike the social media obsessed protagonist in the film, Cederberg has a bone to pick with Facebook, and thinks issues revolving around the site have more to do with the way society uses it.
“My biggest issue with Facebook is that it’s giving people the ability to cultivate a personality for themselves that may not be completely honest,” says Cederberg.
Conversely, Woodman believes that Facebook does have its positives as much as it has negatives, such as using it as a tool to communicate with family overseas. But, he also believes that it has the Christmas card effect—one that shows only the positive side of one’s life.
“I think it’s making people a different kind of social. People now have a heightened respect if they want to meet face-to-face or telephone. The same way when you’re really excited when someone sends you a hand-written letter,” says Woodman.
“There is even that distinction, funny enough, when a person on Facebook sends you a chat, and not a message, but it’s a lot more than a wall post. An email is more person than a wall post or a message. It’s more personal than a text, but less personal than a phone call.”
Though Twitter was never brought up in the film, much promoting has been done for the film through a fake Noah Twitter account. The character rants about how much he hates that the film is out, while letting you know exactly where and when the film is playing.
Cederberg and Woodman plan to enjoy the rest of TIFF and see where it may take them. Ideas for films are cooking, but mainly, they are working on an album for their band, Shy Kids.
The question everyone’s asking, however, is whether or not they will make another film in the same style, since Noah was such a success.
“I feel like we’ve said what we needed to say,” says Cederberg. “Maybe we’ll move onto something bigger, newer.”