An interview with Swan Song director Chelsea McMullan about their Rogers Best Canadian Documentary nominee on Karen Kain’s Swan Lake.
An Interview With: Corey Stanton
February 11, 2019
Update, February 13th: Robbery wins the Victoria Film Festival’s Best Canadian First Feature prize.
Nobody can call Toronto filmmaker Corey Stanton an underachiever.
How many directors are also medical school grads? Yet Stanton, 26, decided to swap medicine for movies.
He wrote, directed, financed, and produced Robbery last year. The heist drama is his first film, the screenplay inspired in part by Stanton’s physician training.
Robbery centres on Frank (played by Art Hindle), an aging career crook with rapidly progressing dementia. He’s fresh out of jail and his estranged son Richie (Jeremy Ferdman), who hasn’t inherited the old man’s skills, shows up desperate to tap into Frank’s fading knowledge base. He needs some schooling from Frank to pull enough big-money jobs to pay off a punishing gambling debt.
Stanton and Ferdman were in Victoria, British Columbia in early February to screen Robbery at the 25th edition of the Victoria Film Festival, which unspooled a fest-record 156 Canadian and international indie titles this year.
Ask Stanton about the making of Robbery and it seems he did just about every job on the film, like some sort of Canadian Shane Carruth. He scored the movie and created the music using digital tools. He did the editing, using pseudonyms for both credits. He even became the on-set medic and helped supervise a weight loss regime for Ferdman, who dropped 40 pounds to achieve the scavenging “stray dog” look Stanton wanted the character to have.
Ferdman says he was glad to do it. The two have been friends for several years, and Stanton wrote the part of Richie for him.
“I always told (Ferdman), let me get my MD and as soon as I get out, I’ll write you a movie,” says Stanton. “He’s immensely talented and I didn’t see him getting the parts he deserved.”
It’s paying off. Ferdman was nominated for an ACTRA Awards Outstanding Performance – Male for his role, and at Toronto After Dark last fall, Robbery picked up the Best Canadian Feature film prize, with Hindle also taking home Best Supporting Actor.
According to Stanton, Robbery‘s dementia storyline was based on family experiences and his work with patients. The memory test Frank repeatedly takes involving remembering and repeating random words is one Stanton used often in his medical training.
The frustration and anger patients experienced when “they were trying to access something in their brain and couldn’t find it,” became a natural tension-builder for Robbery.
“I always thought (dementia) was an untapped cinematic area,” Stanton says. “You can make up stuff all you want, but it’s very hard to beat reality.”
The film takes several twists because of this, but Stanton says Hindle played his role with gusto. “We never wanted to make it clear or deliberate whether or not (Frank) remembered something.”
The 12-day shoot took place primarily in Innisfil, north of Toronto. When a May windstorm led to a power cut, Stanton opted to use natural light rather than lose a day.
His parents supported his choice to be a filmmaker instead of a doctor, an acceptance that soon evolved into collaboration. Stanton’s mother, Maira, cooked meals for the cast and crew, while his father, Jeff, worked as production manager and did the driving. Sister Tara, who works at Bell Media, handled the social media for the film, while his younger brother, Tyler, was creative consultant.
Stanton is awaiting distribution for Robbery, working with IndieCan Entertainment for domestic deals. APL Films is the international sales agent.
Meanwhile, he has several ideas for features, but Stanton says his next film will be a medically based thriller: “Something I can speak to authentically.”
“My background in medicine was a such a huge part of my life, I think it will be part of everything I create,” Stanton adds. “I just happened to love something else more.”