Interview: David Ray, director of Fetching Cody

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You couldn't meet a more enthusiastic and a more charming person than Fetching Cody director David Ray. While calming from the adrenalin rush that followed the second screening of his film at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of last year, David was excited to talk about his work and it was evident he is very appreciative of his opportunity to be a part of such a highly-regarded festival in Canada.

Fetching Cody is his first feature film, which he wrote and directed, and stars two talented Canadian actors, Jay Baruchel (Million Dollar Baby) and Sarah Lind (Edgemont), who were happy to be a part of the project. Are you nervous?

David Ray: I am nervous, yes, but I feel good.

SBM: First of all, have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?

DR: Yeah, I was making films and running around with my dad's super 8 camera in the backyard when I was a kid -- I just assumed everyone was. When he got a video camera I would get together with my friends after school, or on the weekend, and it was like, "lets make a movie," because it was fun and easy and it wasn't rocket science, y'know? So I just kept making them and having a blast, it was a social thing for me, and I just loved creating. After high school when everyone was choosing their careers, I was kind of confused -- I didn't know which direction to go and it was such a big deal.

SBM: That seems to be a crucial time for so many people, eh? (laughs)

DR: (laughs) Yeah. But I decided to keep doing something I like doing and see how that works out. I thought that maybe I could direct a feature film one day.

SBM: You just thought, maybe it would be a possibility?

DR: Boy, I figured it would be hard and may take some time, but it was a lot harder than I expected. So I kept making films on whatever scale I could manage, y'know? A lot of them were friends running around with a video camera. I worked in the film industry. So I had these two parallel lives. On one hand, I would work as an assistant in any department I could [get] into -- camera, art department, production assistant, assistant director -- so I had that life going on. But then on the weekends or the down time, I was just writing like crazy because, well, it was free, and I would just try when I had a little bit of extra money to make these short films. Then, all of this converged over time with Fetching Cody and it's my first feature. I got to invite all of these people that I met while working on sets, y'know, in the real business (laughs) and they all came out to work on this independent Canadian thing. When you mention independent Canadian film to these really experienced crews that are used to doing bigger Hollywood stuff, they are all like, "Right on, a Canadian Independent, why don't I just come out and play?" We had a blast.

SBM: Both Jay and Sarah mentioned that they are all about the Canadian Independent films. They seem all for it, especially because of creative freedom -- everything about it. It seems like they had a lot of fun with you.

DR: It's totally collaborative. I didn't know that Jay Baruchel was Canadian, and he actually called me on the phone and said, "'I read the script and I'd liked to be a part of it," and I was like, "Okay, what's your angle? I mean, we don't have a lot of money." And he goes, "I just want to come out and have fun and do something I'm invested in." So that was the whole reason it worked out. People were all so committed for reasons other than money.

SBM: Regarding Fetching Cody, why was it important for you to tell this story?

DR: Living in Vancouver, you are so aware of the Main and Hastings situation -- it's everywhere. I wanted to tell a story that dealt with that but with my own sensibilities. I love fantasy and sci-fi -- to combine them was my vision. So I decided I would just introduce a fantastic element into an environment that traditionally is portrayed in a very stark and serious way. So I wanted to play with that.

SBM: What was that like?

DR: To juxtapose Main and Hastings with love and fantasy, I figured I might even reveal a facet of it that probably isn't often reveled, y'know? That beauty and love do exist in the alleys down there. And to me, the movie took on a life of its own and became a love story and it became a story about the trials and tribulations of life. I love the idea that you have this hero who goes on a journey because he is in love with someone and he really starts getting to know what a complex character she actually is and the love just gets stronger and deeper. I felt that was a metaphor for people who you might think of as disposable or people you might think of as losers -- you start realizing that their lives are a little more complex than that.

SBM: I think that we become desensitized. It feels almost like people choose not to remember that the people on the streets are human beings.

DR: Doing research on the downtown eastside I came across a term called "affluent neglect" and I was very surprised to know that a lot of the women down there come from wealthy families and the average age of a girl who starts working as a prostitute downtown eastside is 15 years old. When you start getting these facts together -- to ghettoize the people down there doesn't make sense anymore because they are from all over Canada and it's much more complicated than we would think.

SBM: In your film you deal with many sensitive topics. I was wondering if you felt the need to hold back to keep audiences safe?

DR: I was really lucky because I worked with producers Carolyn Allain and Christina Bulbrook. I worked with two people who made me feel very secure and allowed me to take risks and be unconventional. We'd have investors who would come in and say, "We'll give you some money if you take it out of Main and Hastings and put it in the suburb of New Jersey," but I didn't want that because you lose what got you started with the original fire. The producers would let me go with it and run with it, so allowing me to do that, allowed me to go the distance because we were all invested in it and committed to it. I had a wonderful opportunity to create which is a dream come true.

SBM: Despite the fact I have many theories of my own, I'm really curious what the red balloon means to you?

DR: For me the red balloon is a metaphor for whatever exists in our world that keeps you going. For Art, his whole journey is motivated by his love for Cody -- that's what keeps him going. You have to have something like that to keep you alive. The balloon represents the two of them as lovers and their journey -- it's playful fun. On a larger level, it is whatever inspires you to evolve as a person.

SBM: Are there a lot of parallels between you and the characters in the movie?

DR: It's funny you ask. With fantasy and Hastings, it has nothing to do with me. Although every story is autobiographical, you can't hide from it.

SBM: Any personal experiences you can compare it to?

DR: I was fortunate that I fell in love with one of the producers during the course of the project. I think that the journey the character takes -- from a very romantic sensibility of love, like "I love you, lets party", to seeing more clearly the person they're with -- is kind of like what I was going through making the movie.

SBM: Like pulling back the layers and seeing the truth?

DR: Yeah. That mature love which is so much deeper and stronger. And it's hard to see someone that clearly but it's so enriching and so beautiful. That became a theme of the story throughout my own experience. I originally thought I would time travel Main and Hastings -- it would be wacky and weird and dark and beautiful -- and then it became about responsibility, maturity, and all these things that are hard but worth it.

SBM: What's next? Any particular projects in mind?

DR: I love that you asked that question! (laughs)

SBM: Awesome! I love your enthusiasm! (laughs)

DR: I love making films in Canada and I love telling Canadian stories and I love dealing with themes that are timeless and universal. The next story I'm excited about takes place in Western Canada, in Queen Charlotte -- it's this beautiful world that's just pure wild and holds the power of nature, with old growth and huge storms.

SBM: Sounds amazing.

DR: It really is. To me, to set a supernatural thriller in there, something in the forest and bring biologists into the environment and thematically work with the idea that nature is starting to get pissed off -- a thriller, supernatural, mystery, some neat characters -- I think that would be a lot of fun to work with.

Fetching Cody is playing Friday, March 3rd at 9:45pm at Globe Cinema as part of the NSI FilmExchange Canadian Film Festival in Winnipeg.

Tags: David Ray, Fetching Cody, Canadian film

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