To say WolfCop is becoming a cult classic even before hitting the theatres might be gross understatement.
The Saskatchewan-made horror/comedy creating film industry buzz for more than a year has been the first film to secure $1 million in funding through the CineCoup Film Accelerator program.
The Accelerator program is described as "a disruptive platform for indie filmmakers -- and their fans -- to develop, market and finance feature films. In its 2013 pilot cycle, CineCoup optioned 10 projects for development and provided WolfCop guaranteed production financing and Canadian theatrical.
"CineCoup is set to launch the second cycle of the Canadian Film Accelerator in June 2014, and is currently in discussion with global partners to expand its studio model to additional markets and verticals."
J. Joly with CineCoup said their idea was a bit radical, and that meant it was not always appreciated.
"People don't like change in an industry," he said.
Joly said the film industry is not an easy one.
"Ninety-nine per cent of you in this room will fail," he said.
The issue comes down to filmmaking being not just about the creative process, but the business side of things, coupled with a need to market, and grow a fan base.
"Lowell (Dean) is a true entrepreneur," said Joly, adding "entrepreneurs are not business people, they're visionaries."
Joly said a filmmaker must work to sell themselves to the public, and not just the film.
"If you fall in love with the filmmaker you will fall in love with the film," he reasoned.
In the pilot cycle of the CineCoup Film Accelerator, 92 teams (276 filmmakers) BRAVED an intense 12-week program in anticipation of receiving up to $1M in financing and a guaranteed theatrical release in Cineplex theatres. Led by J Joly and Brian Wideen, the program required teams of three to submit a two-minute trailer for the film they wanted to make, then embark on a series of weekly missions aimed at packaging their concept and more importantly engaging their audience. The audience voted, tweeted, shared, rated and commented on projects, and ultimately chose the Top-five who pitched at the Banff World Media Festival. WolfCop ultimately prevailed and was green lit for production.
This Saskatchewan born project featured Lowell Dean as writer and director, and Hugh Patterson, Bernie Hernando and Danielle Masters as producers; the film was shot in Regina and Moose Jaw in November, 2013
Dean is the main man behind WolfCop, its creator and writer.
"I'm a Saskatchewan filmmaker," he told those attending a Yorkton Film Festival workshop Friday at the Gallagher Centre.
Dean said he has done a number of things in the film industry in the province, but added "I always wanted to make a feature film."
Dean had directed the 2013 zombie flick 13 Eerie filmed in Saskatchewan, but said he dreamed of "a feature film with more than a million dollar budget."
But doing such a film in Canada is not easy, said Dean.
"I always found it a really big challenge to get that feature off the ground," he said, noting "no one will take you seriously unless you've made a feature."
It was the famous Catch 22 for someone new to the industry.
Dean said it came down to him having a script for WolfCop and was actively looking for a way to get the film financed and made.
CineCoup was not Dean's first choice for money and not his second, he admitted.
"We were skeptical. We didn't trust it. It was too good to be true," he said, but he added the guarantee the film would be in theatres was a huge draw. " It's why I wanted to make films."
But the process of the competition proved to be a great learning experience, said Dean, especially having to produce snipes of the film for a growing audience every week.
That was a key, added Joly.
"They had to be engaging on a weekly basis," he said.
It was a way to build a following long before the cameras rolled.
"Before we finance we want to know there's an audience," offered Brian Wideen, also with CineCoup.
"I believe in audience equity," added Joly. "I believe audience is everything."
The synopsis of WolfCop is pretty straightforward, and yes rather campy.
"It's not unusual for alcoholic cop Lou Garou to black out and wake up in unfamiliar surroundings, but lately things have taken a strange turn.
"Crime scenes seem oddly familiar. Lou's senses are heightened, and when the full moon is out, he's a rage-fueled werewolf. WolfCop is one cop's quest to become a better man ...
"One transformation at a time."
Dean said the film has various elements, mystery, horror and of course lots of humour.
"I wanted to show it could be cool, as well as stupid and funny," he said.
In terms of cool, Joly said Dean came forward with a package for WolfCop which was ideal in terms of marketing, including having built in catch phrases such as the film being "like Dirty Harry, only hairier."
It was what Joly said he hoped would come out of the CineCoup promotion; "something more commercial and market driven We are a studio at the end of the day and have to create a marketable movie."
WolfCop is scheduled to appear in Canadian theatres June 6.
While still days from theatrical release, the buzz around the film has had CineCoup announce a sequel with plans to put WolfCop 2 into production this fall.
The producers say they've had two successful screenings for international buyers at the Cannes Film Festival, and based on that positive reception, they'll proceed with a sequel.
The movie also garnered a ton of social media with such tag-lines as 'Like Dirty Harry, only harrier' and 'Here comes the fuzz', which is exactly what CineCoup hoped would happen.
Creating buzz is crucial to success for a Canadian film.
"Promoting a film is almost as important as shooting it," he said.
That is one thing Joly is completely in agreement on, and that was why building a fan base with weekly film updates was a huge part of the CineCoup contest.
Joly said it was a process of building value for all entrants over the 90-days of the contest. It was a lot of work for those involved, but "filmmaking is hard," he said.
Once into shooting Dean did have to share some control with CineCoup.
Joly said that can be trying for indie filmmakers, but they need to adapt once a company is involved. As an example he said a script needs to be adaptable calling one, in general terms, simply "a map for getting through."
"If you live and die by your words on the page you should be a novelist, not a script writer," he said.
Dean said putting the actual script online for fans was different, but added "it almost gave us more steam," because it provided fan feedback about what they found confusing, what they liked and what they didn't.
As an example WolfCop was initially advertised as a horror, but the humour confused people so the adjusted PR "to say comedy." It was a case of fashioning marketing "on how people were reacting."
Shooting the film in Saskatchewan was something Dean said he saw as important from the outset.
"I believe we can make a movie anywhere now," he said.
In Saskatchewan, with the Film Tax Credit gone, that added pressure,
"We wanted to prove we could shoot a movie anyplace," said Joly."
Dean said that tied in with his vision.
"It was always our intent to keep it here," he said.
"It was a pretty clear point going in we all wanted to shoot in Saskatchewan," echoed Joly. "We found Saskatchewan really rallied behind our little project."