Bowen natives and twin sister filmmakers Sam and Kailey Spear were among six finalists, from more than 200 entries, in the Crazy8s film competition. After their successful pitch, the sisters, along with the other finalists, were given eight days, $1,000 and a production package to put together their film. The Spear sisters’ film, CC, centres around an AI nanny who attacks her employer and the subsequent investigation. The final six films were screened at The Centre in Vancouver this past Saturday. The Undercurrent caught up with Sam and Kailey after their whirlwind weekend.
UNDERCURRENT: What was it like being selected as one of the top six finalists and havingCC chosen to play at the Crazy8s gala?
SPEAR SISTERS: It was CRAZY! Being one of six selected from almost 230 submissions is such an honour. However, the moment that you are selected, you are also being faced with a HUGE challenge: “OK, so … how are we going to get this done in only 8 days!?!”
UNDERCURRENT: What was the impetus for this script – an AI nanny who assaults her employer and subsequent investigation – and why did do you think it worked?
SPEAR SISTERS: You know, a lot of people ask us this, and we don’t remember where exactly the story of CC was born. It came from so many places. We had been thinking of this story very loosely as a feature film concept a couple of years ago. We are fascinated by how AI is advancing. We also always knew the mother’s struggle was going to be the heart of the film. We are very conscious about the pressures modern society puts on women – we are under constant pressure to be the best in every arena – career and home. When the submission time for Crazy8s came around this year, we thought it would be a great opportunity to explore the characters and concepts that we had been developing around these ideas.
UNDERCURRENT:Were any crazy special effects involved in creating the AI nanny?
SPEAR SISTERS:We always knew that we would be creating a very natural look for the AI nanny. Or “AID” (Artificially Intelligent Device), as we call her. She looks human. Humans use emotion in their communication, so it is an important element built into each AID Nanny. For this reason, we didn’t have any crazy special effects for her. What we did use visual effects for were the futuristic phones. Our VFX artist Bogdan Kondruik did a fantastic job with the help of Carlos Ditersa. It was an incredible feat given the time we had and the number of VFX shots they had to complete!
UNDERCURRENT: What was the accelerated, eight-day production process like?
SPEAR SISTERS:CRAZY! Three days of shooting. Then five days to get the film edited, the sound design crafted and mixed, the visual effects completed and the colour correction done. (Well, less than five days actually, because we needed everything ready to go at 6 p.m. on the final day). No, we did not get much sleep. I think there was one night where we got four hours and 45 minutes of sleep and that was very exciting.
UNDERCURRENT: Why did you cast the actors you did?
SPEAR SISTERS:We had fanfreakingtastic actors on this film. Holy heck were we lucky! We had the exceptionally talented Jewel Staite playing the title role of CC. Once we thought of her, we couldn’t think of anyone better to play the role. We were looking for something very specific for CC. She is a robot designed to be the perfect nanny. She needed to be someone that kids would immediately like, and who parents would trust. She needed to balance being caring and fun, while also being strong, efficient and capable. She is designed to interact like a human, but ultimately she is a machine. We needed someone with the innate energy that would help bring this character to life and the skill level to pull off this unique challenge. We knew that Jewel would be perfect. She really did knock this role out of the park. She brought CC to screen with beautifully crafted nuance.
The character of Lena Howard, the mother of the child CC, was another role we were looking for a very specific energy for. When the audience is introduced to her, she is going through a very difficult time. We needed someone who could play the sharp edges and intense vulnerability of a woman cracking under pressure, while maintaining the deep sense of strength and love at the heart of her. This one was seeming like it was going to be a hard one to get right – that is until our casting director, Jessica Cameron, sent us a self-tape from Sharon Taylor. As soon as we saw Sharon’s tape we knew that we had found our Lena. One of the great joys of working on this film has been discovering Sharon as an actor.
Audrey Wise Alverez played CC’s charge. Audrey was stellar to work with. She is only seven years old but she’s a pro. She also has a spark of energy that lights up any room she’s in. It was a delight to work with her.
And, Bowen – we had Susan Hogan in this film! SUSAN HOGAN! Oh my gosh, how wonderful was that!?! Susan is incredibly talented. We had worked with her a few years ago on our grad film (shot on Bowen) and have been waiting for another opportunity to work with her. She brought such wonderfully dynamic layers to the character of Erin.
The rest of our cast included Michelle Choi-Lee as Constable Marks, Latonya Williams as Reesa, and Darcey Johnson as Oliver. They were all excellent to work with! As with our fantastic background performers who came out on our last day (who included Bowen folk Calder Stewart and Dyan Spear).
UNDERCURRENT: What’s next for you guys?
SPEAR SISTERS:Oooh, we have so many projects that we want to do! At the top of our wish list, as many of you know, there is a Hamlet adaptation (with a female Hamlet) that we will always be pushing to get done. We put it up on stage a few years ago with our gender swaps and modern setting. We hope that will happen sometime in the future. And we are writing, writing, writing. Cooking up new projects - features and TV. We have a new TV pilot script that we put on hold for Crazy8s that we need to get back to work on this week!
UNDERCURRENT:What do you miss most about Bowen?
SPEAR SISTERS:The ocean, the air, the trees, but mostly the community. This community is so special to us. To feel your continued support is amazing. It is a huge part of what motivates us and gives us the energy that we need to keep going in this crazy business. Now, this film is a special case: it really could not have been made without the active support and talent of many of our wonderful Bowen folks. We had the fantastic Natasha Wehn as one of our producers. She was an incredible force in making this film possible. Susan Hogan was there as a part of our cast. Kirby, Kial and Taja Jinnah, did our sound design. Calder Stewart came out to help in the art department and as an AID background performer. Kaitlin Hunter did our storyboards and some of our promotional art. (Honorary Bowenite, IPS Grad Kolton Babych, created branding used within the film as well as provided handmade jewellery for Reesa.) Emma Conde and her daughter and son appear in the film on posters at the nanny agency. Silvaine Zimmermann came out to work craft services. Alan Boysen donated cookies to keep our crew happy. Our parents, Dyan and Ted, helped out with catering. Lauren Spear, our sister, wrote a beautiful lullaby that plays a big part in the film.