After finding much success on the festival circuit during 2014 and 2015, both Lou Garou and his lycan alter ego WolfCop (played by Leo Fafard) have returned for the aptly named sequel, Another WolfCop, which recently screening during the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival.
Daily Dead had the pleasure of catching up with writer/director Lowell Dean over the weekend, and the Canadian filmmaker discussed the pressures of making a sequel, taking the ambitious route of making werewolf-centric indie horror movies where much of his budget goes towards special effects, and finding the balance between the humor of the world of WolfCop with characters and a story that audiences will want to invest in emotionally.
Congratulations on getting to come back and make a sequel to WolfCop. I'm curious, was it harder to do a second movie than it was doing the first one? Sometimes I think, "Oh, the first one has to be the harder one," but then there are the expectations that come along with trying to follow up that first effort, especially after the horror community embraced you guys as much as they did for WolfCop.
Lowell Dean: I would say that to come back and do a sequel is certainly harder, for sure. For the first one, I would say ignorance was bliss. We didn't really know what we were doing, and we thought we were doing a lot, but in hindsight, we were doing next to nothing in terms of effects and action and all that stuff. It had a silly name, but as long as it wasn't pure garbage, I thought fans would be somewhat receptive. We got really lucky, and there was a lot of kindness from the horror community shown towards us, and there was a little bit of a cult thing that grew with it, too.
For the sequel, I felt immense pressure. And it wasn’t just me, either—the cast, the crew, the producers, the effect artists, too. No matter what it was that we were doing, it had to be twice as good as anything in the original, at the very least. So, we got a little bit more money, which is awesome, but we had the same amount of days, which was 17 days, so I think that, coupled with our stupid ambition to make it twice as good, made it a less fun shoot. It was very hard, like when you're in the middle of a tornado, where you’re in the moment but you’re not sure if you’re going to survive.
You touch on something that I want to follow up on. As you probably realize, there's a danger when you're doing a premise based on something that has a bit of an outlandish nature, where if you go too zany with everything, fans may not respond to that, or the humorous setup could lose steam along the way. You guys really walked that line rather well with the first one. Were you conscious of having to make sure that there was some meat on the bones of this premise, or that if there wasn't, fans may not have connected with it as well as they had?
Lowell Dean: Yeah, for sure. I think that's why the first film weirdly was a little slow in the first half of the film, and that was by conscious design, where I wanted to earn the WolfCop part of the movie and actually having to care about a couple of the characters before we got to the face ripping and the exploding dicks and stuff. So it was important to be like, "Okay, lets create a universe," which doesn't have to be a long time. But, let's spend half an hour investing in characters before it gets silly. And for sure, a hundred percent with the sequel is what made me want to do it, was not more exploding dicks and weird stuff. Although that was fun, it was the characters. They became my friends and I wanted to know what Lou and Tina were really doing in the sequel, and where are they, and that's what kept me coming back. And to me, the gore and the chaos is just the joyous icing on the cake.
Let’s talk a little about your crew, and your cast, and being able to bring them back for Another WolfCop. Had you guys known from the start that there was another one of these to come?
Lowell Dean: Well, we pitched it as a franchise when we first approached the producers of the film, and we told them, "We think this has legs, and there's a million places to go with the potential to have many bizarre characters." But we weren't sure how they'd respond, or if they would want to make a sequel, or if that was a pipe dream for making films at this level. What happened was that, luckily, they liked it enough that when the first film was finished, they, without even telling me, put a WolfCop 2 Coming Soon tag at the end of the film, and the first time I saw the film, they were like, "We hope you're okay with this. Let's hope we make you laugh." I thought, "Oh great, now I have to make this next movie right away." Because they even put the date and everything, so it was kind of nerve-wracking, actually.
Also, there was this feeling immediately where I became really happy that (a) I know I have a job coming up and (b) it's a job I like. So I quickly reassembled the actors, and we all were game for another round.
Can you discuss the process of working with Leo on this character—or characters, really—and how that has been now through two different films?
Lowell Dean: I wrote the role for Leo, because he is Lou Garou in a way. He comes from a crew background, as in years past he’s worked on film sets and I’ve seen him as a gaffer, or an electrician, walking around sets with his steely blue eyes. He has a real presence, whether he's saying anything or not, and I always thought he looked like a wolf to me. He actually did a music video first, years ago where he played a werewolf, and that's where I fell in love with the idea of him as a werewolf in the first place.
I do a lot of stuff with practical effects because it's an obsession of mine, but I’ve been a guinea pig for Emersen [Ziffle] and all of the effects artists that I have worked with, and it's hell. I hate it. So the fact that Leo can do it, and he does it every day, is amazing. It's a miracle he hasn't killed me yet.
Speaking of effects, I feel like one of the reasons we don't get a lot of werewolf movies is because it is so hard to pull that off with practical effects, especially when you are working on an independent budget. Was that, for you, being somebody who loves practical effects, your big focus going into both WolfCop movies, to make sure that your werewolf looks as good as he possibly can?
Lowell Dean: Honestly, the makeup that we have for Another WolfCop is worlds above what it was in the first film. Emersen literally has an effects gag or shot or something bizarre in every scene. The amount that he did on the first film was mapped out on a piece of paper, but for this one, the list of the effects filled an entire wall. He covered it in hundreds of notes. So this is definitely what I would call an “effects movie.”
I shudder to even think of what percentage of our budget went to Emersen and the effects team, probably half the budget. But it was with good reason. We know the movie we're making, and frankly, Emersen wasn't happy at all with the look of WolfCop in the first film, because of time and money and the way he even designed the prosthetics and the cowl. So he did so many tests between the first and second films and there is such a consistency to WolfCop’s look in the second film that I think he's finally perfect. I even said to Emersen after watching the second film, "If we do a third one, your work is elsewhere. You'll be focusing more on the new creatures we bring in, because I wouldn't want to change a thing about WolfCop now."
Keep an eye on Daily Dead for more coverage of the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival, and check here for our previous news, reviews, and interviews for the festival.