Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne is playing on the jukebox as the waitress approaches to ask us if we want menus. The crowd of regulars are grouped around the bar behind her watching the television set and telling stories about their week. It’s a perfect setting to have a discussion about film on Saturday afternoon.
I’m sitting with filmmaker Jory Lyons, producer of the award-winning short film ‘aka Brokentooth’ and full length effort ‘Bad Movers’.
“I’ll grab a bottle of Crystal” Jory says to the waitress and turns to me: “gotta order a Crystal when I’m back home, especially at the pub.”
I agree and order one myself, and suddenly all my memories of drinking the local favourite on a Saturday afternoon come rushing back. I’ve spent many an afternoon in darkly lit pubs, playing pool and running the jukebox. But today we’re here to discuss Jory’s work, which I would encourage others to view for themselves: Bad Movers is available on Youtube [Bad Movers] and his short film ‘aka Brokentooth’ is available for free on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/177299944 with password: btooth2016).
Jory’s got a cool energy about him as he sits across from me: he is humble yet passionate. He’s also got a great sense of humour, which comes across after only a few minutes. He seems to think a lot, which is what a good filmmaker should do I guess. And he is a good filmmaker; he recently won the Best Local Film at the Scenic City Film Festival in Owen Sound, a place he once called home.
The project took him far from home, though: all the way to Attiwapiskat to capture an epic trip by guy named Oliver Solaro, a quasi-trained stuntman, motorcyclist and all around fascinating dude. “I just knew there was something there” Jory says when reflecting on his history with the enigmatic man.
As we clink our bottles of Crystal in a cheers to the weekend, we settle into talking about his filmmaking process and the difficulties of shooting the Brokentooth movie. I love the medium of film, partly because I don’t understand the process very well. For me, the process is often over once the writing is done – there is always editing, but the words never leave the page. For someone like Jory, who writes, directs, shoots, and produces, the process is just beginning when the writing is done. Luckily, for him, he’s got a great group of friends who help with the writing process by bouncing ideas off each other. His first love is comedy, and it’s easy to gather that from a conversation with him – he is a naturally funny guy who likes to laugh.
I am always interested in understanding where someone’s artistic passion comes from, in this case his love for film. He says “I was always the kid with the camera, type thing, like skate videos, bmx videos…comedy videos”.
After attending Niagara College, he moved to Toronto and free-lanced creating videos and in the camera department on indie films. It wasn’t long before he realized “I don’t want to make this guy’s stuff; I want to make my own stuff.” And so he did. He made a full length indie movie called ‘Bad Movers’ and recently, a short film and his first documentary, ‘aka Brokentooth’, a story of a man riding his motorcycle across the Wapusk Trail, which is longest ice road in the world. At one point, Lyons tells me “If you’re not prepared to be outside, you’re going to die.” I’ll take his word for it.
The following interview is shortened from its original length.
I just want to start by saying I’ve really enjoyed your films. I saw your new film ‘aka Brokentooth’ at the Scenic City Film Festival and I rented Bad Movers off Vimeo. Would you do something like Bad Movers again?
If feel like [Bad Movers] was our film school Masters class. We did it; we spent a bunch of money; we graduated. We didn’t want to be 35 when we’re putting out our first dick joke movie.
Did you back off on the humour at all?
We honed it in. It wasn’t that gross. There are a couple raunchy moments. I don’t think we dialled back; we wanted to make it likeable for everybody, but it was a bromantic comedy – it was a dude’s movie. To return to your original question, though: I do want to make another one. We all want to make something else. Depending on when we get the motivation. We just want to do it completely right this time. Because of how much of a learning experience it was, I feel like now we could do a really good one.
Are you guys still bouncing ideas off each other?
We try and I know we will. Jesse [Gibbons] is busy with his restaurant [Casero’s in Owen Sound]. We haven’t talked jokes in a long time. Matty T [Matt Taylor] has just started giving birth to kids after we shot the movie. He’s got other things going on.
And there might be some good material in that [fatherhood] Exactly – it’s definitely going to be a bit more mature. Whatever Bad Movers was, it’s in our past. It was boys being boys at the time. It was kind of a youthful thing. I’m glad you watched it by the way.
Well I’ve been telling people to watch it. I told my brother so he’s seen it too.
It was funny. I would definitely watch it again.
We really liked the script. The script was gold. We worked on it and worked on it and I could read it all day…and we figured once people saw it they would appreciate it. I thought it was a much better read than it was a movie, because…well, we didn’t have experience making movies. We were sold that if we made it, people would see the script and be like: ‘hire these guys to make movies’ Kind of backfired. [laughs]
I want to switch gears a little because I definitely want to talk about aka Brokentooth, and ask you how you decided on that story. How did you meet Oliver (Solaro)?
I met Oliver through Jesse Gibbons. [Oliver] was doing the ice stuff [videos of his extreme motorcycle trips across ice roads] back then. We talked and had some drinks, and he was trying to convince…me and Jesse to come make movies of him, and I always knew something was there so we kept in touch forever. I was like ‘who is this guy’? Who’s the guy behind the videos that he’s making?
Do you guys still keep in touch?
All the time, man. All the time. We’re buddies now.
Did you go for the whole 21 days?
No, I just went to Attiwapiskat. I didn’t know what was going to be in the video. I didn’t know if there was an ending and the initial plan was that he was going to go up and pull this sleigh full of all his gear out onto polar bear ice… and he was gonna try to get his bike across the sea ice. But everyone we talked to said it was impossible. The plan was just constantly changing.
I like the ending though. The ending’s cool.
And he shot that himself. But honestly, when I put that ending on, I thought ‘this is the only ending that works’. I really wanted ‘this man is nuts’. I asked John Fearnall that when I was there [Scenic City Film Festival] and he was like: ‘it was perfect’
How was shooting up there in the far north? What kinds of technical difficulties did you run into?
I brought a couple cameras, brought a drone. The scenery was epic. Just desolate and that’s what I wanted. But it was so cold that the Go-Pro batteries couldn’t last a minute. We’re doing these almost-hit-the-drone-in the face situations and I was thinking this footage is going to be like epic right? Just dope, dope, dope, and we get back to where we’re staying that night and it’s like ‘you put it in and you get the lift-off and then the battery cuts’. So we were out there doing all this stuff and it wasn’t even recording. It was just the biggest bummer. So that was a big tech problem.
Another thing is the lenses. The rings shrink into the lens, so where my focus is now has shrunk and crushed in so now it’s attached to my zoom lens so that’s why some of the footage looks shitty but there’s nothing you can do about it. They’re stuck together so early on I just decided that I’m just gonna roll with it to see if it turns out. And it wasn’t perfect. You see it as a shooter and you think ‘I failed.’
But it kind of adds to that sense of harsh, extreme conditions though. Was there a point when you thought “I’m not going to do this. It’s too f—ing cold?
The first night in Moosenee we had a weird thing. The original plan was to go to a place called Cochrane and go from there and then hopefully the next day go to Otter Rapids. That’s where the winter road starts…that’s when we were going to start shooting the actual documentary. But his muffler was falling off and he just decided to go for the winter road with his trailer, which wasn’t part of the plan. And it was dicey. For the first 2kms we’re seeing trucks and cars just buried on the side of the road so the first couple of times he hits the brakes the brake lines go and his muffler came off in the middle of the night. He got under the car and we’re in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. I was with Tim [Ashley] and it was his first time north of Barrie so he was like ‘what the hell’s going on?” And he went in the forest and got all these trunks of trees and he put them between the trailer, Oliver and the Jeep and used them as a jack to jack the car up. He was kicking it and climbing under the car with it propped up on twigs. It was really kind of uneasy. Me and Tim were just kind of like ‘what the fuck’ We were filming it, and I was like this is weird.
Ya not only was he risking his life, but if something happens to him, you guys are fucked.
And honestly dude that should have been the doc. The cameras on us being like what the fuck. It was a trip! Other than that it was smooth sailing. He was on his bike, we were in the car. He’s an intense guy right!
How did you get it down to 11 mins? You must have had a lot of footage.
I had a cut that was half hour long… of all the crazy shit that went on, but…there’s no linear story I can tell without completing the whole trip with him. So I just picked as many little scenes as I could to give a narrative. I mean it’s Oliver man, he’s crazy! I think everyone’s okay with 11 mins. You can watch a bad 11 min film and not be angry, but if you watch a bad 40 min thing, you’re just like grrrrrr!
So what’s the film festival circuit been like for you?
So it’s produced through the company I work for right now, Ribbet Inc. I talked to Lisa [Taylor], the executive producer and…we [had a small budget] so we could send them out to 17 different festivals.
So we’re here [Scenic City Film Festival] and…the New York one was a good one [Brooklyn Motorcycle Film Festival]. There’s an indie one called Where’s the Horse and we got short listed for some LA cine-fest thing; we just got added to one in Berlin. They’re not crazy prestigious but it’s nice to have an audience. It’s nice to have other people watch it. There’s still six or seven coming up that I think we have a decent shot at being in.
Do you actually like the physical act of filming or do you like the storytelling aspect of it?
You can’t have one without the other. It’s really fun to shoot cause that’s when you get the people and the energy. You work it out to get what you want. And the gear’s fun. We’re all gear heads.
In Bad Movers you co-wrote, co-edited, directed, and co-produced. Ideally where do you want to be?
It’s tough man. I want to just keep working and find people who share the same kind of thing. You can get everything done by sharing roles with a few people as long as everybody’s solid and committed. It also depends on the project. I always say I want to write and direct, write and direct but, I’m a gear head too so I like cinematography. I really enjoy the whole process. Editing and directing in post production is where you find the story and I also feel I have a knack for it.
Is there one director/writer that’s had a big impact on you?
Do you know Broken Lizard? They did Super Troopers. And Sandberg’s crew the Lonely Island guys. We’d watch those guys and just love them so we wanted to kind of emulate [them]. What I realize now is that none of us are actors [laughs]. Then Will Ferrel movies – Old School, and Anchorman. You know in Anchorman when they have that stand off? It’s just so weird, but it just plays. It’s just goofy enough. And that’s what I think Bad Movers was.
I can see that cinematography influence in your short film. I really enjoyed the long shots, I thought you captured his character well.
Ya, I’m really into that now. With aka Brokentooth, I wanted to make it look as nice as possible.
And that comes across. And especially with only 11 minutes – you’ve got to capture someone’s attention.
Or you have 15 hours and then you can just pick 11 minutes of the best shit! [laughs]. But you also want to make it look decent ‘cause that’s where you get work man. A lot of it is about keeping doing what I’m doing to keep working. If you’re in an interview and they like it [your stuff], they’re like ‘do this for mine’. It’s like ‘well this is an Attiwapiskat documentary and you’re a dentist’s office downtown, um I’ll give you my best’ [laughs].
In talking about ‘keep doing what you’re doing’, what’s the next project?
There’s a couple things….just like some random sub-cultures of Toronto that I’ve noticed that I’m interested in breaking into. I also want to do something completely different. Just like expanding stylistically to show what [I] can do.
And film has the ability to get into those undercurrents and take on a culture and subculture to help people understand. Like the Great Lakes surfing scene.
It’s funny about this Great Lakes [surfing] thing man, I’m glad you brought it up [see interview with James Carrick on Rrampt for reference here] because I’ve been thinking about doing the doc about that culture since I’ve been interested in it. Someone’s gotta film these guys man. That one that came out [On Days Like These, We Must Surf] was well done, but I feel the opportunity to cover the subject on a broader scale.
And that was a short one.
Well, it was 8 and 1/2 minutes and I think you’re going to see more come from that because it’s the new scene, the Toronto surf scene. It feels like right now we’re on this wave [pauses and laughs] ah shit, I didn’t mean to say it. But we are. And I’m not saying I’m not one of those guys ‘cause I just joined it last year. I was impressed with Brian Hunt – he had some drone footage at the Huron Classic Surfing thing.
I think everybody’s gonna want an angle on it so I think you’re gonna see a lot of short little things. Like say this surfing thing has reach.
You may be tapping into a community who wants their story told…maybe some of them don’t want the story told.
Ya, that’s the thing isn’t it.
You can find out more about aka Brokentooth at the following link: http://www.brokentoothdoc.com/
Interview conducted by Jesse Wilkinson of Rrampt