A young woman has to overcome her personal demons while dealing with the grief of losing her father in a feature-length film by students at Garibaldi secondary.
But it is her version of demons that adds the element of horror to the 75-minute psychological thriller called Wear Your Rue, written by Garibaldi drama teacher Michael Hanlon.
He wrote the 13-page script over two weeks in August last year and approached students in his advisory in September about making it into a film.
Advisory is not a class, but an interest or activity that students voluntarily go to for 20 minutes every day.
In Hanlon’s advisory, the students watch old movies from the 1930s onwards.
So, Hanlon wanted to do something fun, where the students could learn outside of the classroom.
Twenty students worked on the movie, from acting to camera work to editing to assistant directors, with most doubling up on roles.
They filmed their first scene the last week of September and went all the way to the first week in May, editing as they went.
Grade 11 student Paul Butterworth was an assistant director who also acted in the film.
“It was a silent part, but yes,” laughed Butterworth, playing down his role.
“If you think that zombies are a hard role for people to pull off,” said Hanlon adding that there are no zombies in the film.
“But, for purposes of comparison, they are not unlike zombies,” he continued.
Butterworth also helped with much of the editing and was there for second opinions on any artistic choices.
He would set up tripods, haul equipment around and help find locations.
He also had to carry the umbrella to shield the expensive school equipment from the elements.
“Paul undersells his umbrella role,” Hanlon said.
“We’re filming outside, a lot of times in inclement weather,” he added. “So somebody has to be there. It’s a thankless job to keep that equipment dry, but it’s an important job,” he continued.
The students spent over 70 hours working on the film including meetings, rehearsals and the actual filming.
There is no scene without lead actress, Grade 12 student Victoria Dufficy, in it.
Dufficy is not new to acting.
She has performed in stage productions with SPECC-tacular Productions in Maple Ridge and with the Garibaldi Interdisciplinary Arts Academy at school.
This is her first lead role in a movie.
“Film is much more subtle. On stage, everything you do has to be really big so everyone can see it and exaggerated. And film is all about the simpler little details,” said Dufficy.
Grade 12 student Cooper Johnson played an antagonist in the film and also let the group use his house for filming.
“It was a lot of work,” Johnson explained, adding that it was physically demanding.
“There were a lot of times where like, not just for myself, but for all of us, that we were out in cold,” he said.
“It’s not like how most movie sets will have multiple different costumes and a place where you can keep warm and stuff. We’d be out for three or four hours just in the cold,” he continued.
“We actually had to lay down on the snow,” quipped Dufficy.
“I had to jump into a frozen lake,” he said, smiling.
Mya Kovach, also in Grade 12, was another assistant director who was in charge of coordinating filming dates and contacting everyone.
She was interested in joining the Wear Your Rue crew because she would like pursue her interest in the film industry.
“I found it the most fun sitting and watching people do things around me,” she said.
Kovach also lent a hand, physically, to the production.
“The scary hand is accredited to Mya,” said Hanlon.
“Who’s rocking that rocking horse? Mya. Who’s shutting that door? Mya,” he laughed.
The students agree with Hanlon that the film is most comparable to work by David Lynch in that it is horrifying without any jump-out-of-your-seat scariness, but confusingly unnerving.
Butterworth also likes to compare it to the 2014 horror film called It Follows, by David Robert Mitchell.
“Stylistically, they are very similar. It Follows is a very slow moving film that lingers on shots a lot, which is similar to what this film does in a lot of ways,” he said.
Hanlon has also paid tribute to shared experiences at the school.
In 2012, the school lost two former students and a teacher.
“It was a hard year,” said Hanlon.
“There was Crystal Weaver,” he said, who passed away after a deadly car crash in Maple Ridge, who he had taught five years in a row.
“And about a month after she passed, one of her friends who was very cut up by her passing, passed away. And he had graduated the year before Crystal,” he said.
As the school grieved, Hanlon started finding spoons in his classroom, explained by a letter that read: “ When you are having a bad day or your school’s having a bad year, gather some friends and draw on some spoons. Hide them in your favourite English teacher’s classroom and add some weird inexplicable element of mystery and perplexity.”
“[The students] were just trying to lighten the atmosphere in the wake of something that was just awful for us. It turned out to be this thing that lasted for years,” said Hanlon.
In the film, spoons are the most important object.
The main character, Anetta Samantha Sara, finds spoons along her journey.
“They lead her to understanding her grief,” explained Kovach.
“They are her vessel forward,’ she said.
Trailers for Wear Your Rue can be viewed on YouTube.