The process of producing independent films

Image provided by Cameron Tremblay
Image provided by Cameron Tremblay

An interview with Cameron Tremblay

By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor


Independent filmmaker and New Westminster resident Cameron Tremblay has been producing films basically since film school.

Shortly after graduating, Tremblay and fellow graduate Nick Szostakiwskyj began working on their first feature film, and, with executive producer Samantha Carly, they released the chilling horror movie Black Mountain Side, which came out on DVD and in many online stores earlier this year. Their production company, A Farewell to Kings, is currently working on its next feature film. In an interview, Tremblay was happy to give some insight into the process of producing independent films.

Black Mountain Side, for which Tremblay was both director of photography and producer, is about a team of archaeologists who become isolated in Northern Canada after making a strange and ancient discovery. Tremblay said the feedback he’s been getting has been generally pretty good, although “It’s sort of a polarizing film. There’s people who either love it and get it and they can’t stop talking about it, and then there’s people who really don’t like it, because it’s a very slow movie… It’s not your typical horror film.”

Tremblay’s second feature film, which has the working title Hammer of the Gods, just wrapped up filming this past August. “That was a bit of a rollercoaster, but now we’re in post-production, and that’s a whole other fun thing to do.”

He can’t reveal too many details yet, but he was able to give a brief pitch: “It’s about this fallen-from-grace rock band that had some success with their first record, and then they had another record that didn’t do so well, and now they’re trying to find their sound and find themselves again. They basically take a trip, a spirit journey if you will, through the Canadian wilderness, and encounter a little more than they expected.”

Like Black Mountain Side, Hammer of the Gods is a horror film, and Tremblay believes that fans of their first film will likely enjoy the second as well—especially with the new experience gained from producing Black Mountain Side.

“The first feature film was a lot of experimentation, and I think we learned a lot, during the making and also during the post-production. You learn a lot about the distribution side of things, the business end of things, which is the less interesting side.”

Tremblay can’t confirm when the movie will be released, as there’s still a lot to be done. “It’s quite a long process,” he said—for Black Mountain Side, the film premiered at film festivals in the summer of 2014, before its wide release earlier this year. Comparing the two, he said, “there’s a little more finishing that needs to be done on [Hammer of the Gods] than there was on the last, especially with the aspect of creating original music for the band… and then once that’s all done, it’s a matter of getting it to festivals, and getting it out there, and finding the right distribution partner, that’s the last step. But it’s all very slow, because then once you get a distribution partner, to an extent you work with them, but ultimately it’s up to them to decide when they want to release it.”

But he definitely feels like the process is simpler the second time: “The path is there, and now we know how to follow it,” he said.

Aside from his own films, Tremblay has also worked in a variety of smaller roles in production, including on TV shows Psych and Fringe. “Prior to filming Hammer of the Gods, I was scouting for a couple TV shows, and that was a bit of an interesting role; it’s definitely different, but it’s fun. You definitely have some creative aspect in that role, you’re very much working alongside the locations team, and the locations team is working directly with the director […] I definitely prefer doing my own stuff, but it’s all fun.”

Other than his own projects, Tremblay said he really enjoyed working on Fringe, although there was a downside: “The hours were insanely long, and it was hard work that way. If you’ve seen the show, it’s almost always at night, and that means the crew is almost always working at night,” he said. “As far as one of the funnest shows to work on, [that] would have been Psych. Just a good working environment, and almost all of it takes place during the daytime.”

As for advice for students and aspiring filmmakers, Tremblay said, “If that’s their goal, their dream is to tell a story and to make a film, then I would say, ‘Absolutely, go for it.’ It’s definitely a labour of love, and if you have a passion for it, there’s definitely a way to tell that story.”

He believes that getting into filmmaking has become easier in some regards, but harder in others. “I’d say the technology of actually capturing the image has come a long way, has become way more accessible with digital cameras.”

“I would say it’s harder in some ways, because accessibility creates oversaturation, so it becomes harder to stand out in the oversaturated market. On the bright side, there’s a huge demand for new media constantly, so there’s always avenues opening up, and people trying to fill all those avenues.”

Filmmaking is immensely fulfilling, he said, especially once you have a finished product to show. “It’s super rewarding to watch it with an audience and get reactions. Black Mountain Side was very fun for that; I can’t wait to see people react to the next one.”