Interview: Chad Archibald Talks About Making The Drownsman

Director Chad Archibald Director Chad Archibald

We met up with Chad Archibald a day before the grand premiere of his little monster, The Drownsman (read our review HERE) at Fantasia.

For someone who started with no prior knowledge of filmmaking, he set big ambitions for himself. Constantly pursuing his dreams, Chad has produced over 140 music videos, won the audience Choice award for past movies at different festivals and now presents to us The Drownsman.

Jeremy Lefebvre (JL) : How did you go about becoming a filmmaker?

Chad Archibald (CA): I don’t really have any actual training through school. I went to school for multi-media design in 2001 and I had one film course and they taught you how to plug a camera in the computer. What was cool is that they would rent out their cameras, and I got together with some friends. Being from Guelph, you know we had nothing better to do. We would come up with new things every week, go get bikes and start mountain biking. The next week we would do something like tennis and tried to recreate tennis. We would always be coming up with crazy ideas, and then one day I think we were watching Jason X and we were like “You know what, I bet we could make a movie like this! If this can make it on there, we can do it.” We decided to write a script.

I had never been on a set or had done anything in the film industry, I was totally clueless. We bought cameras and made Desperate Souls. Ended up having to redo all the sound, re-recording every sound from dialogue to background noise in a sound booth I made in my basement. We didn’t have microphones on set and we were watching it and noticed that the sound was awful. We looked it up, and we were supposed to have a microphone. That’s how clueless we were. We ended up selling the movie to Lionsgate and Alliance Films, we ended up making money off of it. So we kept making film and going from there.

JL: I saw you had some involvement in Canada’s Worst Driver. Can you tell me more?

CA: Very small. I had done a movie called Sweet Karma, and I had hired an assistant director, this young punk kid that was working for Canada’s Worst Driver and his name was Cody. That’s how we met. After that movie, we got so close that he came on board and we made Neverlost, which premiered in 2010 at Fantasia and won the Audience Choice Award.


Director Chad Archibald

Director Chad Archibald

JL: Why horror films?

CA: Originally we started with Horror Films because we loved doing that. We grew up on horror films. I started watching horror films when I was super young. My parents saw I really liked films and they would put me in front of a movie and I be quiet the whole time, so they let me keep watching. I would go to the movie store and rent out horror films and they would call my parents. My mom would answer, “No he’s renting it for me… No, I love Freddy Cougar.” I would go and rent out all those movies. I didn’t have many friends growing up and I always kept to myself. I grew up on horror. In the indie film world you don’t need big stars to sell a movie, all you need is a good idea. Horror films are about their concepts and the stories and all the elements of the gore, the scares, and the suspense. If it’s scary, people will rent it.


The Drownsman

JL: What was your inspiration behind The Drownsman?

CA: We had just finished Anti-Social and we worked with Entertainment studio, they asked us about doing more films because the production had gone well for all of us. I think going back to my youth there was something about all the iconic supernatural horror villains. There was an anomaly in the year 2000 as they all just sort of all disappeared. Everyone stopped making movies about them. Those films were lost and I wondered why we didn’t have more films like that, with those rich villains. I always wanted to make a movie where my ten year old self would be afraid or would want to watch.

I was always at cottages growing up and it was rare that I would go and jump in the lake with everyone, I was just afraid of it, and still today I am a pretty shitty swimmer. Swimming always freaked me out, I thought “What would freak my ten year old self?” – well water for one. Hydrophobia came up and I started looking into it, finding things here and there, sooner or later I found rabies. Which is actually, in a lot of places, called hydrophobia. Whenever someone got rabies – humans – they would become afraid of water. Bring a bowl of water to someone with rabies and they will be terrified, they would just push it away. They’re afraid of water to the point that a huge part of rabies is dehydration. Rabies patients are so afraid of water they can’t drink, you actually have to have the intravenous. Hydrophobia is an insane disease that we build the idea around it. We had a character have this disease and we began to see how we could evolve this idea and have a supernatural villain.

The Drownsman

JL: What personal goal did you have while making this movie?

CA: Well that’s something I am curious about actually. One thing I wanted to do was something scary. We had never done anything scary before. We had done many horror films with gory and gross, with action and suspense, but nothing that really scares people. We had never done a film that makes people jump out of their seats. So this is our world premiere and I don’t know if it’ll work or not. It’s one of those questions I have, it’s a reason why I am sitting through it tomorrow.

Directing The Drownsman

Directing The Drownsman

JL: What was the biggest challenge facing this project?

CA: The biggest challenge in this movie is that it’s water based. Many people in the industry will tell you don’t shoot with animals, don’t shoot with kids, and don’t shoot with water. You cannot control the water, it was a nightmare. We had to build an entire set in a field because we needed it to flood and drain. We had underground tanks in this set that we had to build before we could film. And there we didn’t have running water, there was no hose. We had bucket-heaters and buckets of water.

The shoot was suppose to be done in the summer but it got pushed so it went in October for some reasons like script and what not. In lake Toronto it was like this, nice and sunny, then you would go to the field and there was about three feet of snow. Keeping everyone warm and doing a water film was a challenge. Every day there was a water scene. We would go to lunch and look at a weird scene pondering how we would go about and organize this. How to take things apart and then make sure it was going as planned, making sure that the water went the right way. If we need to have a hand come out well we needed to have the guy, but where do we put the guy? Questions like those for the entire film. There was a joke we had because it would rain or snow every day on set. We would laugh and say that The Drownsman was pissed because we were doing a film about him and that is why nothing ever worked.

Directing The Drownsman

Directing The Drownsman

JL: Can you talk to me about your collaboration with Cody [Calahan].

CA: There are your friends before you start filmmaking and then there’s the one you develop when filmmaking. Cody is one of my best friends, he’s like a brother to me now. We get each other, we bash at the right moment. Creatively, we are always on the same page. We share the same drive and passion, we trust each other and we always have each others backs. Having that is something very rare in the film industry. I come from a small town Where we have good morals in the film industry there are a lot of shitty people and the higher you go the shitter they are. The industry has changed, people have become fearful because of illegal downloads, Blockbusters and Rogers. People are just trying to survive. We is amazing is that the entire black fawn crew is a family base company, fuel by passion and hard work. To whoever we work with, we always give the most amount of respect. There’s a reason why the whole crew and cast, except a few that are out of the country and some who are on another set, are here tonight for the premiere. We go as a family and I think it’s about our relationship together, it’s the Black Fawn family.

On that note, be sure to check out a film that we hope will scare you and maybe one day we will see tiny figurines of The Drownsman. Good luck to Black Fawn Films now entering production for Anti-Social 2, we are excited to see more from them and hope that you do as well.

If you haven’t checked out our review of The Drownsman head over here and check it out!